Transporting your bikes by car: safety, insurance, accidents, what you need to know

By William ROBERT
Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 07.09 – Technical

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Many of you will undoubtedly be on holiday this summer with the bikes attached to the car using a tailgate, towbar or bike carrier on the roof rack.

Last year I already published an article “The rules to be respected in European countries for bicycle racks”.

In this article, I will get into the various safety points you need to check to ensure safe transportation even over long distances, but also what the law says and what you should check with your insurance before traveling.

Most of the time, your bike that is transported on your vehicle is unfortunately not insured … nor is the bike rack for that matter.

The law allows the transport of bicycles by car, but of course not just anyway. Like any extra “storage” on your vehicle, make sure the bikes are perfectly attached to a system designed for this purpose and approved.

Of course, I will not discuss here the topic of the bicycle being transported inside the car in the trunk, which here will be considered as luggage. Although you will need to check that if you have folded the seats, the bike is adequately secured so as not to be thrown in the event of an accident. In an accident with 56 km / h, the weight of the bike we carry is multiplied by 35. So even your 7 kg bike turns into a 245 kg projectile.

A plate and visible lights

Whether your bike is transported on a platform attached to a towball like the Thule Easyfold XT, Thule VeloSpace XT or Buzzrack Eazzy 2 or on the tailgate as for Thule Outway Hanging, your license plate and lights must be fully visible.

On a bike rack that attaches to a towball, the lights and plate holder are usually integrated, so no worries. For a bicycle rack that is attached via straps to the tailgate, however, things get complicated, as it will often be necessary to add a plate holder and light reminder … which must be plugged into a 7-socket. 13 coupling bolts.

Because with rare exceptions, once the bikes are in place on the tailgate bike rack, lights and plates are hidden.

Do not exceed the limits

Each bicycle rack has limits in relation to the number of bicycles, but also in relation to the total weight and of each bicycle. At a time when electrically assisted bicycles, which can weigh more than 20 kg, are common, this point should be checked. If it is a VAE, you can for example take the battery out during the trip to put it in the trunk, it will always save 3 to 5 kg.

Make sure everything is perfectly fixed

It goes without saying, but many of us have already seen bikes that are not properly attached to their stand on the holiday route, with bikes moving in the wind. It is better, as far as possible, to arrange the bike rack at least the day before departure, rather than at a speed a few minutes before departure.

The holder must therefore be perfectly attached to the car or to the towball. Most modern models have clear indicators (visual or audible) that confirm that the system is properly locked.

For a bicycle rack mounted on roof racks, this check also begins with the attachment of the roof racks themselves, which must be adapted to your vehicle.

You must then do the same with each bike, which is attached to the bike rack, via straps or clamps. Fastening to the frame, but also fastening the wheels very often. The goal is that your bike does not move during transport, which can damage your car and the bike, but ESPECIALLY that your bike or bike carrier does not come off your vehicle while it is rolling, which can have dramatic consequences.

In the case of a roof-mounted bike carrier that secures the bike to the fork, make sure it is compatible with your type of accessory (quick release or through shaft) to avoid last minute disappointments.

For carbon bikes, it will be necessary to invest in a specific interface that makes it possible to distribute pressure of the fastener over a large area to minimize the risk of damage to the frame.

Make sure … period

Installed on the bike rack, even attached to the vehicle, the bikes are not part of the standard accessories and equipment of a car. They are therefore not covered by conventional car insurance contracts. The same goes for your bike rack. If it is relatively expensive, it will be better to choose an additional option with your insurance.

It is therefore important to take out a bicycle insurance policy for all equipment located outside, including the bicycle holder, the bicycles and the protective cover. if any. The same goes for a roof box.

Accessory or vehicle accessories and accessory warranty are often an option that you need to add to your original contract. It covers damage caused by your roof box, your bike rack, your roof rack and any item added to the vehicle after it leaves the factory: GPS, car radio, special rims, etc.

For a value of, for example, € 3,000, it costs between € 1.5 and € 2 per month, for a value of more than € 11,000, the price of the option will be € 60 per year depending on the insurance.

And since an accident is always possible, check your coverage in any case, namely:

  • if a person bumps into you and therefore damages your bikes and bike racks
  • if you lose a bike along the way and cause an accident

Mandatory lock for breaks

If you are on short weekend trips, it is very possible that you will not have to stop, on long summer hikes you will necessarily have to take breaks.

Even for a few minutes in a rest area, it is better to use a lock. While bike racks are often equipped with an integrated anti-theft cable, this is more of a deterrent than actual anti-theft. If you still have your car in view during your break, no worries, it will be sufficient.

But for prolonged stops, more serious locks will be needed. In the event of theft, the insurance company may refuse compensation if the bikes were not secured with an approved lock or if you left your vehicle and its cargo unattended for an extended period of time.

Be aware of changes in the dimensions of the vehicle

With a roof-mounted bicycle rack, the total height must be taken into account to be sure not to get unpleasant surprises at the toll or when crossing certain bridges.

This type of loading will also deny you access to most underground car parks, which are way too low.

However, in the case of a bicycle rack located at the rear of the vehicle, also keep in mind the total length in the case of reversing. Do not forget that your vehicle is at least 1 meter longer. If you have a reversing camera, do not worry, you will quickly see it when you go in reverse, but if you do not have one, be careful not to hit your bike rack or your bikes against a curb or a pole.

What’s more, if your bike rack tilts to access the trunk, where you have to give an extra margin.

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