Cars are great. They enable us to travel long distances with little effort, whether for commuting, vacation, or just running the daily errands. But bikes are great, too, enabling you to cover distance while experiencing the world around you at a more intimate pace, and while getting some exercise, too. But the best is when the two come together, your car enabling you to do more with your bike. So what kind of features should you be on the lookout for if you’re an avid cyclist?
There are many ways a car can help your bike hobby (or habit), whether extending your range to include new riding areas or helping you hit all of the great climbs on a cross-country tour. The possibilities are endless-provided your car is setup properly for the adventure.
From the factory, there are a number of items that can help with any bike expedition, whether it’s across town to the new bike path or across the continent to the top freestyle downhill venue in the world. Items that are definitely on the “want” list include a factory-installed roof rack, or at the very least roof rails, which will make it easy to add a rack that holds your specific bike just the way you want it. Speaking of which, companies like Yakima, Thule, and Rhino Rack all make a variety of mounts and accessories that will help you get your gear where you’re going safely and efficiently.
If your car didn’t come with a roof rack or rails from the factory, or if you just want easier access to the bikes and equipment you’ll be hauling, a factory-installed or aftermarket tow hitch receiver can be just as good (or even better). Many companies make hitch-mount racks designed to hold 2-6 bikes, some of which even include a cargo tray for items like coolers, spare parts, or other gear.
For pickup owners, you can skip the roof rack and the hitch rack, and get a bed rack, which will mount the bikes upright in the bed of the truck, getting them out of the wind (which helps improve gas mileage) and also making them easy to load and unload. Alternatively, you can install a canopy or camper shell to give you a fully weather-protected space to haul your bikes and other gear—a great option for expensive bikes, or those who may want to avoid any risk of theft when parking overnight, without the hassle of bringing bikes into a hotel room. A truck canopy or camper shell can also provide a private, secure place to change clothes before or after your two-wheeled outing.
Another great feature for any bike-centric car is at least one (and preferably two or three) high-output 12-volt DC electric outlets (commonly known as cigarette lighter sockets). These will allow you to run an air compressor for airing up tires without having to break out the floor pump or frame pump, letting you hit the road or the trail that much quicker. For the off-road biker (or those who frequently ride in bad weather) you can even get a pump-driven hose system that plugs into the 12-volt DC outlet to hose your bike down, removing mud, road grime, and other contaminants before they have a chance to dry on and corrode or otherwise damage the frame and components.
If you’re looking at a newer car (from 2008 or so onward), you can often find built-in 120-volt AC outlets, which allow you to use the same air compressor or other accessories as you’d use at home. If your car doesn’t have built-in AC outlets, you can always plug an inverter into the 12-volt DC outlets to add a household-style plug. Inverters in the 150-Watt to 300-Watt range are inexpensive and widely available. These AC outlets are also great for recharging devices like cell phones, bike computers, music players, and more.
Adding any or all of these features to your car or truck will make any bike trip much more enjoyable by turing your vehicle into a base of operations, allowing you to safely and easily transport, maintain, and repair your bikes on the go.
automotive freelance journalist