Transporting your bikes by car: safety, insurance, accidents, what you need to know

By William ROBERT
Tuesday, June 14, 2022 7:09 a.m. – Technical

– This article has been read 5584 times. Comments: 3 .

Many of you will undoubtedly be going on vacation this summer with your bikes fixed to the car using a tailgate, towbar or roof rack bike rack.

Last year, I already published an article “The rules to be respected in European countries for bicycle racks”.

In this article, I will discuss the various safety points to check to ensure safe transport even over long distances, but also what the law says and what you should check with your insurance before you leave.

Because most of the time, your bike transported on your vehicle is unfortunately not insured… nor the bike rack for that matter.

The law authorizes the transport of bicycles by car, but of course not just anyhow. Like any additional “stowage” on your vehicle, you must ensure that the bikes will be perfectly fixed on a system provided for this purpose and approved.

Of course, I will not discuss here the subject of the bicycle transported inside the car in the trunk, which will be considered here as luggage. Although you will have to check that, if you have folded the seats, the bike is sufficiently attached so as not to be thrown in the event of an accident. In an accident at 56 km/h, the weight of the bike we carry is multiplied by 35. So even your 7 kg bike turns into a 245 kg projectile.

A plate and visible lights

Whether your bike is transported on a platform fixed on a hitch ball like the Thule Easyfold XT, Thule VeloSpace XT or Buzzrack Eazzy 2 or on the tailgate as for the Thule Outway Hanging, your license plate and your lights must be perfectly visible.

On a bike rack that attaches to a tow ball, the lights and the plate holder are usually integrated, so no worries. On the other hand, for a bike rack that attaches via straps to the tailgate, things get complicated, since it will often be necessary to add a plate holder and light reminder… which will have to be plugged into a 7 socket. or 13 coupling studs.

Because with rare exceptions, once the bikes are in place on the tailgate bike rack, lights and plates are hidden.

Do not exceed the limits

Each bike rack has limits in terms of the number of bikes, but also in terms of the total weight and of each bike. At a time when electrically assisted bicycles, which can weigh more than 20 kg, are commonplace, this point should be checked. In the case of a VAE, you can for example remove the battery during the trip to put it in the trunk, this will always save 3 to 5 kg.

Make sure everything is perfectly fixed

It goes without saying, but many of us have already seen bikes that are not properly fixed to their rack on the holiday route, with bikes that move in the wind. It is better, as far as possible, to fix the bike rack at least the day before departure, rather than in a rush a few minutes before leaving.

The carrier must therefore be perfectly attached to the car or to the tow ball. Most modern models have clear indicators (visual or audible) that validate that the system is correctly locked.

For a bicycle rack fixed on roof bars, this check also begins with the fixing of the roof bars themselves, which must be adapted to your vehicle.

You will then have to do the same with each bike which will be fixed on the bike rack, via straps or clamps. Fixing to the frame, but also fixing the wheels very often. The goal, that your bike does not move during transport, which could damage your car and the bike, but ESPECIALLY, that your bike or your bike carrier does not come off your vehicle while rolling, which could have consequences dramatic.

In the case of a roof-mounted bike carrier that secures the bike by the fork, make sure that it is compatible with your type of attachment (quick release or thru-axle) to avoid last-minute disappointments.

For carbon bikes, it will be necessary to invest in a specific interface which makes it possible to distribute the pressure of the fastener over a large area to minimize the risk of damage to the frame.

Make sure… period

Installed on the bike rack, itself fixed to the vehicle, the bikes are not part of the standard accessories and equipment of a car. They are therefore not covered by conventional auto insurance contracts. The same goes for your bike rack. If it is relatively expensive, it will be better to opt for an additional option with your insurance.

It is therefore essential to take out bicycle insurance for all equipment placed outside, including the bicycle carrier, the bicycles and the protective cover. if there has. The same is true for a roof box.

The accessories or vehicle accessories and fittings guarantee is often an option that you must add to your initial contract. It covers damage caused to your roof box, your bike rack, your roof rack and any item added to the vehicle after it leaves the factory: GPS, car radio, special rims, etc.

For a value of 3000 € for example, it costs between 1.5 and 2 € per month, for a value of more than 11000 €, the cost of the option will be 60 € per year depending on the insurance.

And as an accident is always possible, check your coverage in any case, namely:

  • if a person bumps into you and therefore damages your bikes and bike racks
  • if you lose a bike along the way and cause an accident

Mandatory lock for breaks

If on short weekend journeys, it is quite possible that you will not have to stop, on long summer migrations, you will necessarily have to take breaks.

Even for a few minutes on a rest area, it is better to use a lock. While bike racks are often equipped with an integrated anti-theft cable, this is more of a deterrent than actually anti-theft. If you still have your car in view during your break, no worries, that will suffice.

But for prolonged stops, more serious locks will be necessary. In the event of theft, the insurer may refuse reimbursement if the bicycles were not secured by an approved lock or if you left your vehicle and its load unattended for a long time.

Watch out for changes in vehicle dimensions

In the case of a roof-mounted bike rack, the total height must be taken into account to be sure of not having any unpleasant surprises at the toll or when crossing certain bridges.

This type of loading will also deny you access to most underground car parks, which are far too low.

But in the case of a bike rack located at the rear of the vehicle, you will also have to keep in mind the total length in case of reversing. Do not forget that your vehicle is at least 1 meter longer in length. If you have a reversing camera, don’t worry, you’ll see it quickly when you go into reverse, but if you don’t have one, you’ll have to be careful not to hit your bike rack or your bikes against a curb or a pole.

What’s more if your bike rack tilts to access the trunk, where you will need to provide an extra margin.

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