How to Lock a Bike to a Car Bike Rack?

Bikes are heavy and carrying them over long distances is a cumbersome process. In the quest to find the most efficient method of transporting bicycles over long distances, inventors came up with the concept of car bike racks.

A car rack is an accessory that attaches to vehicles in different ways to easily transport a bike wherever a car is able to travel.

This means one can take his or her bike on a car all the way from a city to biking trails hundreds of kilometers away with relative ease.

Car bike racks are of several different types and all options enable bikes to be fastened in different ways. Let’s take a look at some of the different racks below and then have a discussion on how to lock a bike on each of these racks.

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Car Bike Rack Types

Trunk Racks

The most popular is the trunk rack, a network of support arms that connect to the boot of a car via straps and hooks. These racks carry the cycles through their frames and can be easily assembled and disassembled at a moment’s notice.

Roof Racks

Another type of car racks is roof racks. Such racks hold bicycles on the roof of the car by locking the bike’s front wheel into place.

Unlike trunk racks that prohibit the use of the boot, roof racks enable easy access to all features of the car. One can even use every passenger door without hindrance when roof racks are in use.

Hitch Racks

A hitch rack connects to the trailer hitch that is found in almost every car. It’s easier to get a bike off hitch racks than the other two types of racks introduced above.

Cycles may either be supported through their frames or tires. In both cases, cycles are firmly locked into place to prevent swaying when moving over difficult terrain.

How to Lock a Bike to a Car Bike Rack?

The two most popular methods of locking a bicycle onto a rack both involve fastening something to the bike frame that can’t easily be cut through by thieves.

Trunk Lock Strap Method

Also known as the passive strap method, this process of securing a bike is both cheap and easy. While this doesn’t provide 100% foolproof protection against a thief, it’s a type of solution that will enable you to shop and relieve yourself in peace.

The strap used here is usually a thin long cable with a round puck at one end.

The cable is made into a loop and fastened around the frame. The loop is then tightened until the biker is sure that no room for movement remains.

Make sure that someone places the round puck inside the trunk of the car, locking the bike in place. This completes the locking process.

The straps used here are both cheap and easily available.

The only way for someone to now steal the bike is to lock pick the boot and unfasten the strap. Since the cable may also be cut using a cable cutter, it’s recommended that these straps may only be used for short durations.

Tow Loop method

Popular in online forums, the tow loop method uses cables or straps to fasten the rack to either a tow loop or a tow hook. Another popular name for this process is the tow hook method.

Some sort of tow hook or loop is provided in every car. These are fairly strong as well, as they’re designed to tow cars in difficult terrain such as mud.

Therefore, a cycle fastened properly to such a car accessory has a very slim chance of being taken away by a thief. 

Even if such an accessory isn’t present in a car, the strap can be fastened to something that is rigid and stationary underneath the car.

Make sure to never attach the strap to any moving thing such as a wheel or any part that can be easily removed (such as exhausts).

Using Bike Locks as a Mode of Protection

Another method of protecting bikes is by using either a cable lock or a U-lock. Bike parts nearest to the rack (such as wheels) can be looped with either of these two locking mechanisms.

While a cable lock can be penetrated through by plenty of tools, it will keep the burglar occupied for some time. It’s a good starter and could be enough to deter potential malicious actors from sprinting away with your bike.

The most impenetrable protection possible may be achieved by using a chain lock instead. Only breached by a sustained burst of an industrial angle grinder, chains have always earned top-notch reviews in regards to bike protection.

Read Also: U-Lock vs Cable Lock: Which Can Better Secure Your Bike?

Why is Locking Your Bike on a Bike Rack Necessary?

Most bikers don’t realize this, but it’s actually fairly easy for someone to snatch a bike from a rack.

It all starts when riders feel the need to buy something off the road, leaving their bike unattended in an empty area such as a parking lot. This need to replenish snacks and essentials may provide a perfect opportunity for someone to descend upon the car and make a clean getaway with an expensive bicycle.

Since both trunk and hitch racks only hold the bike in place, theft of an unlocked bike is fairly common.

Some level of protection is offered by roof racks since they fasten the wheels into place to prevent dislodging of the cycle on elevated terrain. However, determined thieves frequently find a way around this as well.

Therefore, merely placing the bike on a bike rack isn’t enough.

One thing that could be done to keep a thief at bay is to never leave your car unattended. However, this isn’t always possible.

Thus, theft can only be deterred by locking a bike to the rack. Bike alarms also can’t hurt.


If you have an expensive mountain bike and you live in the city, you would need to carry it on a car to far off nature trails. While every type of vehicle rack makes the process of carrying a bike easier, it presents a different conundrum.

Owing to thieves and burglars ready to pounce upon a well-presented opportunity, one must never give in to the need of leaving your bike unattended, even at gas stations. Thus, securing your bike on the bike rack should be fairly high on your list of priorities.

The three methods of locking a bike to its rack explained above will provide you with peace of mind as you begin your adventure. They’re also cheap and easy to implement.