How to put on a Bike Rack the correct way

Bike Rack on Car

The market for bike racks caters to the diamond frame, which features a straight top tube across the top of the bicycle frame. 

Step-through bikes, once called Ladies bikes, often are missing or have an adjusted top tube on the frame to allow easier mounting and dismounting. Kids bikes also feature frames differing from the norm. If you’re trying to mount either of these, you could run into issues.

Bike racks come in three main types, which each have their own restrictions. They can hold between 2 and 5 bicycles and can be installed on the Trailer Hitch, the Roof, or attached to the Trunk.

Different bikes

Invented in the 19th century, bicycles have gone through many design changes. Most bikes today use diamond frames, which have a straight top tube. Step-Through Bicycles and Kids bikes have lowered, slanted, or absent top tubes.

Step-Through Bicycle

These bicycles were once known as Womens or Ladies bikes because of their lower top tube, allowing a rider to wear a dress or skirt during use. They have several advantages over the diamond frame.

Step-through frames are more suited for elderly and restricted agility riders. Their lower or absent top tubes allow for easier mounting and dismounting. They’re often used for utility bicycles, where the rider would have to make many stops. 

These bikes are also often heavier and more difficult to mount on a bike rack because of their design.

Kids Bikes

Kids bike frames are miniaturized diamond frames or step-through frames. Most bike racks use the top tube of the bicycle frame as a mounting point. 

This can lead to problems with mounting kids bikes because of the smaller area available.

Types of bike rack

Depending on the bike rack you have, you could face different issues. We’ll walk through the three main types, and how to mount a bike onto each bike rack correctly. 

It’s very important to note – always strap down your bikes when mounting them on your bike rack. Immobilize the tires and the handlebars so they can’t turn and strap them securely to the supports of your bike rack.

Trunk Bike Rack

This is the cheapest option. Trunk mounted bike racks are suited for use by many vehicles, mounting on the trunk, rear bumper, or hatchback. While these are inexpensive, they are more likely to cause damage to the vehicle or bikes than the other options.

On a trunk mounted bike rack, two supports carry the weight of the bike. These supports can be padded or not, depending on how much you pay.

To properly mount a step-through bike, the best option is to purchase a top tube adapter – an accessory that creates a top tube for mounting. 

If you can’t do that, mount it as best you can between the two supports – paying special attention to keep the center of gravity of the bike down. Strap it down firmly, making sure that it won’t wiggle around if you hit a pothole. Make sure you’re padding any areas that come in contact with the supports. If you are in the market, then take a look at the best trunk bike rack reviews.

For children’s bikes, there is less of a need for a top tube adapter. Mount the child’s bike onto the supports as best you can and lash it down well. 

Roof Bike Rack

Roof bike racks come in a couple of varieties – some attach to existing roof racks, such as those found on SUVs, while others mount to the upper door frame using clips and mounting feet. They can be either upright, holding the bike by the frame or pedal crank, or use a fork-mount that requires the front wheel to be removed.

These carriers shouldn’t have an issue with most step-through and kids bikes – attaching to the lower parts of the frame instead of the top tube. Their major downsides are how complicated they can be to install, as well as decreased gas mileage because of wind resistance.

Similar to the Trunk Bike Rack, always ensure that your bikes are lashed down securely, with their tires and handlebars immobile.

Trailer Hitch Bike Rack

These are the most expensive option but have the easiest installation if the hitch hardware is already present on your vehicle. These can come with either a tray that holds the bikes from their tires, or supports that hold the frame similar to a trunk-mounted rack.

The tray mount version should safely accommodate most bicycle frames without issue.

If using the support mount version, the steps are similar to a trunk bike rack. 

Place the bike onto the supports, doing your best to keep the center of gravity down between the two supports. For step-through and children’s bikes, you may need to macgyver it a little if you don’t have a top tube adapter. The most important thing, though, is to strap your bike down. An improperly mounted bike will go flying at the first pothole.

Immobilize the tires and handlebars by strapping them to the frame of the bike. Lash the whole bike down and make sure it won’t wiggle if you go over a bump or hit a pothole.

Staying safe and doing it right

No matter which bike rack you’re using, there are a few universal truths when mounting your bike for travel. No matter how well you strap it down, it will probably wiggle at some point. Always pad between your bike and anything that might scratch it. If you’re carrying multiple bikes, pad between them.

Follow these general guidelines, and you can’t go wrong:

  • Keep the bike weight balanced, and the center of gravity down
  • Always use padding to prevent scratching your bike frames
  • Mount heavier and easier to mount bikes closer to the vehicle if using trunk or hitch racks
  • Always immobilize the wheels and handlebars with straps
  • Make sure that your bike is securely strapped down to the supports
  • Make sure that no part of bike hangs below the bumper or obstructs exhaust
  • Keep license plate and rear vehicle lights unobscured


Between different bike frames and multiple bike racks, it can be difficult to know if you’re mounting yours correctly. Hopefully, this guide has helped to answer some of your questions. 

Just remember – safety first. Always assume that you will hit a pothole and strap your bikes down securely. Don’t let your bike become another highway casualty.

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