An essential detail of bike ownership is figuring out how you are going to transport your bikes. Transportation is especially important because it needs to be figured out before the bikes arrive!
We do not have a pick-up truck (much to Tabb's dismay) so we need a bike rack for Meatball. (My car, a 2008 Kia Sportage, is named Meatball - after the NASA logo - because they are the same blue color, and I got my car right before driving it down to Houston for my summer NASA internship.)
This post has been in the making for a while. We bought our bike rack right after we bought our bikes, but it wasn't until now that I could post the finished product... installed on the car soon to have bikes in tow!
Choosing a Bike Rack
There are pretty much two types of bike racks: ones that install into a hitch, and ones that wrap around your trunk. (Technically, there are ones that let you mount your bike on the roof of your car, but that was an instant no-go for us.) We decided we wanted to have one that installs in the hitch, because we would still have easy access to the trunk, it would wear less on the car, and in general it just seems like a sturdier option. Additionally, a hitch-mounted bike rack is not car-specific! This makes a hitch-mounted bike rack a better investment, especially if we want to use it on future vehicles.
Having decided on a hitch rack, we needed to consider what other options were on our ideal bike rack checklist, and what we would be willing to pay to get them. Our first priority was minimal bike frame contact (which means we'd want a platform rack). We don't want our babies getting all scratched up! Our second priority was having access to the trunk of the car while the rack was attached. We debated getting a 3- or 4-bike rack instead of a 2, but after looking through all of the reviews and realizing we didn't need to tote 3 bikes with us anytime soon, we decided 2-bike was a better way to go. (Though, I've already wondered whether we should have gotten a 3-bike rack for friends and family that might want to ride with us!)
The first brand we looked into was Thule, probably the most mainstream option... and thus, the most expensive. We found models that met our requirements, and thought it would be worth paying the price for secure bike transportation. However, for the one we almost got, the reviews were not very promising! This had us second guessing our Thule choice. I looked into other Thule models, but wasn't as happy with them. THEN, I stumbled onto a different brand: "Swagman". Looking through the Swagman models and reviews, I was very impressed! It seemed I had stumbled onto a less mainstream, still well-known and liked option. Swagman racks are still spendy, but less expensive than Thule, and in general have better reviews.
After all of our online searches, the winner was....
"Swagman Semi 2.0 Zero Frame Contact Platfrom Hitch Bike Rack"
Why this one? Mainly the ZERO frame contact (platform rack that grabs the wheels!). It also folds back to allow access to the trunk. And had great reviews.
Installing the Rack
Ok, so we have picked a hitch rack... now we need a hitch on Meatball. I found that U-Haul had the cheapest hitch + installation packages. I believe U-Haul is pretty reliable for sturdy hitch installation, because they want you to be able to rent and successfully tow their trailers! I made an installation appointment for July 20th, but it got postponed at the last minute to July 22 (apparently a worker broke their foot). Declan and I dropped Meatball off that Saturday morning and took an Über back home to wait for the 3-hour appointment to be over. (We initially planned on walking to the park, but it was 103°F with a heat advisory so we passed on that.) By the time we got home, I got a call saying the car was ready for pick up! Ok Über, come back! And just like that, Meatball has a hitch!
The next step? Assembling and attaching the rack itself. We post-poned this step because I didn't want to drive around with the rack before we had our bikes built. BUT GUESS WHAT! Big Shark called and told us our bikes are done TODAY! 3 days early! Starting to think we picked the right LBS. I wanted to pick them up after work today... but by the time I got home, installed the rack, and was ready to go to Big Shark, it was going to be near their closing time. Instead, I took my time with the rack installation. (Though, I didn't take enough time to take step by step pictures.)
The instructions weren't as straightforward as I would have liked... but Declan and I had a good 30 minutes outside in the sun putting things together :) I sure am happy with the finished product! Check out the images (and captions!) below!