How To Lock Bike On Car Bike Rack?

Leaving one’s bike unlocked at a parking lot or on the roadside can be dreadful for bikers, even when it’s only for a few minutes. For peace of mind, bike owners often resort to different security methods. However, securing your bike securely on a car rack can be complicated.

That being said, the process becomes more straightforward when you know what exactly to do. So, in this article, we’ll share how to lock a bike on a car bike rack.

Whether you’re traveling solo or in a group, the methods discussed will surely come in handy the next time you leave your bike in your car.

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Why Should You Lock Bike To Car Bike Rack?

So, you decided you needed to get a car bike rack. That means your bike could use a little more security, which you do because it’s relatively easy to remove it from a car bike rack.

Locking the bike to the bike rack is one of the primary preventative measures to keep pesky thieves at bay.

Bike owners know about the inherent risk of traveling with a bike. Securing your valuables can help you relax and take the edge off a trip. There’s a saying in the biking community that any bike can be stolen if the thief has the right mindset and tools.

While this certainly sounds discouraging, the more precautions you take, the less the chances of your bike getting stolen.

Theft can happen in grocery store parking lots too. One can never be too safe. However, security is only one of many factors; you must get extra security accessories.

Not every car bike rack has the capability of holding your bike firmly. So, when you drive your car fast or with too much wind pressure, the bike might fall off of your vehicle. A lock can hold the bike in place better than anything.

Also, an extra lock will help keep your bike firm. Even if the bike doesn’t fall off, it may vibrate when you venture off-road. The vibration may lead to traction against the rack itself, damaging the bike. With extra security measures holding the bike tight, it’ll be safe from harm.

Related reading: How To Fit Two Bikes In A Car?

How To Lock The Bikes To The Car Bike Rack?

There are five methods to lock a bike to a car rack. Before we get into each detail, we will briefly discuss them to give you a quick idea.

Firstly, you can use a bike rack with an in-built locking system. While not the most secure or popular option within the bunch, it’s convenient and cheaper than most alternatives. When buying a bike rack, try to get one with a lock for added protection.

A passive lock strap uses a long strap to loop around the crucial parts of the bike and keeps it safe. It’s best for use in trunk-mounted bike racks.

A tow hitch way requires more effort and is harder to assemble. Think of it as a multi-step process to ensure better protection for your bike.

A U-lock is a lock shaped like a letter “U” to go around the bike’s wheels and frame and holds it in place.

And finally, cable locks are long chains and cables used to wrap around the different parts of the bike and lock the bike to the car rack.

Use Bike Rack with Built-In Locking System

Some bike racks come with a built-in locking system. The more expensive ones have higher-quality locks which are more difficult to penetrate.

Using a separate lock on top of the in-built locking mechanism works the best as you create a two-layer safety system for your bike.

There are many types of bike racks, such as hitch racks, roof racks, and more. If you want to get a hitch rack, the most popular option for bike racks, we recommend the Thule T2 PRO XTR 2.

Passive Lock Strap or a Trunk Lock Strap

Thule Passive Lock StrapThule Passive Lock StrapCHECK CURRENT PRICE

The passive strap looping system is ideal for your trunk-mounted bike rack but can also lock your bike on the roof-mounted bike rack. Although this strapping method is simple, it might not be the strongest or safest lock.

In this method, you’ll have to use a lock strap that can be labeled as either passive or trunk in the market. A long cable is used, which is usually made of materials that are flexible and thin. The cable sports a rounded rubber disc at the end. It is perfect for locking the bike to the rack, which can be an entry for the strap to be threaded in.

Here, you’ll have to place the bike frame on the rack and use the strap to create multiple loops. You’ll then have to tighten the belt and check for movements of the bike frame. As of last, you are closing the puck of the cable loop will seal the deal.

Thule Passive Lock Strap uses metal cables in nylon coverings to ensure that the straps are unbreakable and laid back on the frames. One of the ends should be looped around the nearest car door when you intend to use this strap for a roof rack.

Related reading: How To Lock Up A Bike Without A Rack?

The Tow Loop / Tow Hitch

Master Lock Python Adjustable Cable Lock 8413KACBL-12Master Lock Python Adjustable Cable Lock 8413KACBL-12CHECK CURRENT PRICE

The tow hitch way of locking up a bike on a car bike rack involves more effort; to some, it can be pretty challenging. For your hitch-mounted bike rack, securing the bike with any of the fixed parts of the car, like the bumper, can be a simpler version of the security system.

Otherwise, affix the bike with a looping cord on an external hitching system. Make sure to use a padlock for absolute protection. An adjustable, vinyl-coated cable lock like the Master Lock Python cable lock comes with keys and Velcro straps for additional steadiness.


Master Lock U-Lock Bike Lock with Key 8170DMaster Lock U-Lock Bike Lock with Key 8170DCHECK CURRENT PRICE

If you want the most heavyweight method to secure a bike on a bike rack, go for the U-lock. They are challenging to cut through and thus naturally deter thieves looking for a weak bike to snipe.

Don’t get us wrong; any lock is breakable. But you would need specialized tools to get through a U-lock. Their working mechanism involves a key removing a bolt connecting the two ends of the lock’s “U.” once that’s done, you can easily slip the lock in or out.

A U-lock can be used to fasten the bike frame to the rack, or you can get a bigger U-lock and secure multiple bike frames together.

The Master Lock U-Lock is a sturdy, easy-to-use option. It comes with two keys and a carrier bracket for simple transportation. And since the lock is under $20, it’s a budget-friendly choice too. Thanks to the disc key, users get extra protection against lock picking. It’s also scratch and weather-resistant.

Related reading: How To Lock Multiple Bikes Together?

Cable Locks

Chain and cable locks offer better security for bicycles in comparison to straps. Run through the wheels and bike frame and then across the bike rack.

Users love them for their lightweight, portable, and practical nature. However, their lightweight nature is also what takes away from their strength.

Cable locks are best for short stops. You can use them to tie a bike to a bike rack or multiple to one.

Related reading: How To Cut A Bike Lock?

How To Lock Bikes To Hitch Rack?

For this process, you need the hitch rack and extra locking straps for added protection. Many cars have a tow hook on the rear, welded to the frame. Thread a cable lock through the rear wheel and frame, and lock the ends below the car’s frame onto the metal loop.

If your cable is long enough, thread it through the front wheel.

How To Secure Bike To Roof Rack?

You don’t usually need unique methods or equipment to secure the bike to a roof rack. Check the manufacturer’s instructions, as this may differ according to bike rack type. This instruction goes without saying for every bike rack – check the user manual.

Lift the bicycle onto the rack, fasten it in place, and you’re done! You can also use a cable to run it through the bike and then inside the vehicle for added protection.

How To Lock Bike To Trunk And Spare Tire Rack?

The best method here would be using a U-lock to secure the bike to the trunk and spare tire rack, secure them to the tow hooks, and you’re good to go.

Alternatively, use a cable to wrap around the inside of the trunk rack, lead out the trunk, wrap it around the bike securely and then place the other end inside the trunk. Lock it, and that’s a tight fix.

Related reading: How to Secure Bike Rack to Car?

What Part Of The Bike Do I Lock?

Focus on something other than the frame and wheels when you lock the bike on the car bike rack. If you can nicely secure these bits, the thief will find it very hard to access your bike. A cable or chain can quickly wrap around a bike’s parts, but you may only be able to secure some of the parts if you use a U-lock.

In these cases, it’s best to get two U-locks for the job; run one through the bike rack, the front wheel, and the other through the frame and the back wheel. If you cannot afford to buy 2 U-locks, use one on the frame and front wheel and a cable for the other parts.

When strapping bikes to a bike rack, ensure all the necessary parts mentioned above are secure.

Related reading: Transporting Bicycle in Pickup Truck


As you can see, getting a bike rack with quality built-in locks is the easiest way of securing your bike. It’s the cheapest as well. However, not every bike racks come with quality locks, and one lock may not be sufficient either.

U-locks are durable, but they might damage your bike due to friction. Cable locks are safe in this aspect but are comparatively easy to cut. So, if you use a U-lock, you should use extra padding to keep the bike safe. If you go for cable locks, go for high-quality ones that are hard to cut.

As for trunk straps or tow hitch locks, their usage is rather situation-based. If you have a trunk or hitch rack, only then will you be benefited from these.

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