Camping in Quebec

Bicycle racks

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By Jean-Luc Théberge, author of the Guide du petit campeur québécois 

There’s a tremendous variety of bicycle racks available on the Quebec market, from rooftop models to those that mount on your car’s trailer hitch or your RV.

Needless to say, each one has its advantages and disadvantages! Here’s a brief overview of the different types of racks. Start by carefully considering your needs, to make an informed decision. As is often the case, you may have to make some compromises.

Specialized stores can advise you on the appropriate model. Some of them even offer installation. 

The main models:

Rooftop

A rooftop bicycle rack may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, it must be installed properly and be of good quality, for safety’s sake. It is fairly aerodynamic.

Some of these racks also hold kayaks or skis. Keep in mind that your car is almost twice as tall when you’re carrying bicycles, so pay close attention to the height of underground parking lots, tree branches, garages, carports, etc.

Advantages
  • Aerodynamic
  • Frees up your car trunk
  • Can be left on the roof year-round
  • Can be removed when the car is sold and installed on the new car
  • Can be fitted with a rooftop carrier case, a ski rack, etc.
  • You can use your hitch to tow your trailer or tent trailer at the same time
Disadvantages
  • Fairly expensive (about $1,000 for the rack and fittings for three bicycles)
  • On many models, you have to remove the front bicycle wheel
  • Very high and fairly heavy to load and unload bicycles. Shorter people will need a step stool
  • Complicated to install and remove
  • High risk of damage to the car’s paint from the rack

Mounted on your car’s trailer hitch

All sorts of models can be mounted on your car’s trailer hitch. Some of them can hold up to four bicycles, but this adds considerable weight on the rear of the car. A good-quality rack will often avoid a variety of problems and possible damage to the car by the bicycles and the rack itself.

To avoid making the wrong choice, it’s often best to consult a specialized store. This will also let you see the latest models on the market and get valuable advice, to help you evaluate your needs and use the rack properly.

For this kind of rack, your vehicle has to have a trailer hitch, so you’re looking at an additional expense of at least $300. The rack may be installed directly on the ball mount or it may fit into the end of the trailer hitch, depending on the model. Your car dealer or a specialized store can usually advise you on this.

Advantages
  • Cheaper than a rooftop rack (about $80 to $500)
  • Lots of choices available
  • Simple to install on your car
  • You can tow a small trailer when you are not using the hitch for the bike rack
  • Very stable, depending on quality
  • You can install other types of racks (skis, etc.) on the hitch
  • Very easy to use
  • Leaves the trunk or hatchback accessible, depending on the model
  • Bicycles are easy to load and unload
Disadvantages
  • You can’t tow a trailer while using the rack
  • Requires a trailer hitch on your vehicle
  • Adds considerable weight to the rear of your vehicle
  • Less aerodynamic than a rooftop model

Mounted on your RV

Many bicycle rack models can be mounted on your RV. They can be placed on top of a tent trailer, behind or even on the front of your RV. On the other hand, they must be perfectly installed, to avoid problems.

Bicycles are subject to much more vibration on an RV than on a car, so it is essential that the rack be very well installed and of good quality. You will also need to inspect the rack regularly while you are on the road.

Advantages
  • Lets you take bicycles camping
  • You can leave the rack on your RV permanently
  • Bicycles are easy to load and unload
  • You can leave the rack at home when you’re not towing your RV
Disadvantages
  • The rack and bicycles are subject to much more vibration
  • When the rack is installed on the top of a tent trailer, you have to take it and the bicycles off to erect the tent
  • You’ll need another bike rack when you’re not towing your RV

Trunk mounted

These racks are becoming less popular. 

Advantages
  • Quick to install
  • No need for a ball mount or trailer hitch
  • Inexpensive (about $60 to $100)
Disadvantages
  • Hard to adjust
  • Often unstable
  • Blocks access to the trunk
  • Almost certain to damage the car’s paint

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