We all love getting into the great outdoors for some exercise, but hauling all of our stuff into the wilderness can sometimes be a pain. Luckily there are now many ways to carry bikes, kayaks, canoes, camping equipment and more. The three main ways you can get your gear from Toronto to Temagami (or anywhere in between) are with a trunk rack, a hitch mounted bike rack or a roof rack.
Trunk Racks - Trunk racks are a great entry-level rack, usually ranging from $100 to $200. A trunk rack will allow you to carry two or three bikes off the rear of your car; unfortunately, unlike some of the other racks available, it can only carry bikes. It is attached by a set of six straps which generally clip onto the top of your trunk or hatch, the side of the trunk, and onto the bottom of the trunk or hatch. The only drawbacks are that over time a trunk rack will mar the finish where it clips in, and there isn’t really any locking ability. Great for short trips around the city, or destinations an hour or two away, a trunk rack will be a good choice for a beginner or a casual rider.
Hitch Mounted Racks - If you’re looking for a little more stability and security, but don’t feel comfortable lifting your bikes onto the roof of your vehicle, then a hitch-mounted rack may be right for you. Hitches are vehicle-specific square receivers that allow you to mount racks or tow, and generally range from between $200 and $350. After you purchase the hitch, you will need to purchase a bike carrier as well. The range of prices for hitch racks is quite wide, from under $100 to almost $600 for a model that will swing away from the vehicle with all the bikes on it, allowing you to access the rear hatch. However not all vehicles can take a swing away rack -- they can only be used on larger vehicles such as SUV’s or minivans.
The main advantage to a hitch rack over a trunk rack is that since nothing is touching the finish of the vehicle, there won’t be any scratching or marring of the finish. You can also purchase ski and snowboard attachments for many of the hitch racks available. You should, however, have a sport utility vehicle if you’d like to carry winter equipment, since there is a chance you may bottom out and scrape your skis or board if there isn’t enough clearance between them and the road. One drawback is that since hitches are vehicle specific, you’ll have to purchase a new one every time you switch your vehicle. The upside is that you may be able to transfer the rack itself.
Roof Racks - The most versatile way to get your gear from point A to point B is with a roof rack. A roof rack will give you a specialized fit for your vehicle that will usually allow you to carry bikes, boats, cargo boxes and just about anything in between, with the right accessories. Crossbar pricing will depend on the vehicle, generally ranging from $300 to $400, with custom installations such as tracks on camper vans costing more. Once you purchase the crossbars, you can purchase accessories such as bike or kayak carriers. For example, bike carriers range from $100 to $260 per bike, with quite a few choices in that range, while kayak carriers range from $100 to $280 per boat. Cargo boxes are also quite popular since they can be used for skis in the winter, and camping equipment or luggage in the summer. They range from $400 to $1000, again with quite a few options in that price range.
The main advantage to roof racks is that generally they are a modular system. This means that instead of purchasing a completely new rack each time you change your vehicle, you can just change a couple of parts to transfer your rack from one vehicle to the other. You can also usually keep all of your accessories like bike carriers and use them on the next vehicle as well, making a roof rack more of a long term investment. Finally, the vast majority of roof racks can be put on or removed in 5 to 10 minutes without any tools, making them a breeze to restore your vehicle to its original look when you aren’t using them. By Craig Sandy This article first appeared in Get Out There Magazine. www.getouttheremag.com
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