Getting your mountain bike in or on your car can be one of the last hurdles to get to the trails safely. If you're not lucky enough to live an easy or short riding distance to the trails, a bike rack system will be something you use a lot. If you only need to drive for weekend rides or holidays, you probably won't use a rack system that much at all. And that would be just one of the reasons there is such a broad range of rack types and prices around. We put a guide together which also has a lot of the racks we have reviewed in there, while also looking at the pros and cons of putting your bike in the back of your car, putting them on the roof, or mounting your bikes on the back of your car.

AMB's guide to bike racks on your car

The Yakima Fullback and HalfBack

If you don't have cross bars on the roof, or a towball or hitch receiver, all is not lost! There are a wide range of bike racks that don't require those for carrying bikes on your car. This style of rack, often called a boot rack or trunk rack (or strap on by some uncouth people) will attach via straps, using a system of straps to hook into the boot seam high and low, and often with stability straps on the side.

This is where the Yakima FullBack and HalfBack fit in. There are two-bike and three-bike models in each. The three bike options are shown here, and the FullBack 3 sells $449, while the HalfBack 3 is $399. The two bike options knock $40 off each price.

They FullBack and HalfBack are really very similar racks, with just a couple of small differences.

How do they attach?

Yakima include plenty of instructions with the rack, and there are guides online to show how to fit the racks in a safe and secure manner. They also have videos to talk you through it. They state that it is a 5 minute setup and I can't argue with that - it is pretty quick.

There are exhaustive instructions in the box

Both racks use 4 straps, two that go up, and two that go down. The rack itself folds open to the correct angle to suit your vehcile, which is set by you. It's a pretty simple mechanism where a collar is unlocked, you rotate the arm, and lock it in again. 

To save guess work, Yakima have a whole website to help you find the right setting. I couldn't find my car on there but really, the guess work wasn't that hard.

Fitting the straps is a little trickier the first time. The hooks are rubber covered metal, so they won't mark your car. Some cars might need you to open the boot to slide the hook end in. Mine had a small recess that they sat in perfectly. Yakima also supply a safety leash with the higher priced FullBack. There's a holder that sits inside the car, and a leash that secures around the rack.

Yes, the idea of your rack (and bikes!) dragging behind your car isn't pretty. But it's a security measure and might save you backtracking a few hundred kilometres if you don't attach the straps properly. Besides the leash isn't that long, it would probably just sit quite low.

 

Let's make sure you do it right! Keep the straps sitting flat, and get the rack level using the top two straps. There is an inbuilt holder to keep the excess straps in place.

The lower straps should attach to the lower boot seam, and then of course be tightened down. So the pressure of the rack pushes onto the boot panel, and is held by two points at the top, and two at the bottom. The lower part of the rack is rubber, and the dense foam pads on the top keep the rack really stable, negating the need for straps on the side.

I did find that my lower boot seam could not hold the hook, so I went way past the plastic bumper to a rubber hook on the chassis. This meant I couldn't open my boot, but it also meant the rack was secure.

 

Again, secure the extra strap length through the rubber loop. And then give it all a good couple of yanks to see that it's secure. Cinch the straps down a bit harder if needed. I'll be honest, I feel really nervous with this style of rack. But the thing didn't budge once tight!

The Yakima FullBack 3 loaded onto the car.