If you’re planning a cycling holiday abroad, then there’s a good chance that you’re going to need to transport a bike at some point.
Getting your bike from the airport to where you’ll be staying may be the key consideration. Or perhaps you’ll be hiring a car there, and need to work out how to move your bikes around with you as you travel (which means you might need a rental car with a bike rack).
As you know, we’ve explored various parts of the world by bike. We normally go down the route of sticking the bike in the car – but for this article, we have also done the homework on options such as car bike rack rentals, carrying bikes on cars, the best vehicle for carrying bikes inside and so on.
So you can make an informed decision about whether to rent a car with a bike rack or to approach things another way, read on. Here’s all you should know about taking a bike on holiday with you, from car rental with a bike rack, how to fit a bike in a car, the best cars for carrying bikes to using a trailer for carrying bikes.
And if that all sounds too much like hard work, we finish with some great alternative options!
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Option 1 – Rental car + bike rack
If you’ll be travelling by car at your destination, then could you rent a car with a bike rack?
(Of course the kind of bikes you’re riding are suitable for a rack – e-bikes for example may well be too heavy.)
Car rental companies that hire bike racks
In our experience, it’s not easy to rent a bike rack from a car hire company. For starters, the rental desk at the airport or in town needs to have access to this kind of kit in the first place. It would also need to fit the make and model of vehicle you’re hiring.
If you do want to find out about whether or not you can rent a bike rack for a car, it’s best to contact the car rental branch or desk directly. You could call, but we’d suggest emailing. It’s easier when there’s a language barrier (and the potential for misunderstandings), and you can also keep a digital record of communication to refer to later.
Using your own rack with a rental car
When car bike rack rental from the car hire company isn’t an option, you could take a compatible rack with you. Or hire one from a bike hire company, if that’s a possibility. Again, some emailing or phone calls will be in order for the latter.
In either case, there are a few things to think about:
Will your existing rack fit the rental car? Again this may mean contacting the rental desk, as the exact make and model of car often isn’t confirmed until you pick it up. You may require a hatchback for a rear rack, or roof bars for a roof rack, so don’t forget to ask about this.
If you’re buying a rack for your trip, it makes sense to invest in one that’s compatible with your own vehicle/s at home, as well as a hired car for a holiday.
Car rental company policies
So you want to rent a car with a roof rack. Is it possible?! We’ve detailed our research below, but the short answer is that the main car rental companies are surprisingly silent on this most practical of subjects and their policies are usually different in different locations. So, unfortunately you’re going to have to do some more digging…
The Avis website has a dedicated section for the hire of extras. Could we find any mention of a bike rack there? Sorry, it’s a no. Child seats or hand controls for disabled drivers, yes. But nothing about cycle, bike or bicycle racks.
You could contact the relevant hire desk to check. But unless they can make you a promise (and put it in writing), you’ll have to check the terms and conditions for the country you’re hiring in and, if it’s allowed, bring your own or hire a rack at a local bike rental shop.
Ski equipment, child seats and so on, yes, all mentioned on Budget’s website. But again, nothing about renting a bike rack. So unless you’re specifically told otherwise, assume you can’t rent one from them.
Like Avis, Budget’s terms and conditions are country-specific.
A search on the Hertz website, using various terms, also turned up no matches for bike racks. Only ski equipment. The Hertz terms and conditions document only mentions accessories such as child seats and ski racks.
This being the case, it’s best to assume that Hertz cannot rent you a bike rack. Unless someone at their rental desk can confirm otherwise – these things can and do change all the time.
It’s the same answer with Enterprise car rental and the bike rack. No mention of cycle or bike racks all on the website, though you can clearly hire ski racks from this company too.
We cannot find the terms and conditions of hire for Enterprise online, so you’ll have to ask directly if you want to enquire about fitting a bike rack to one of their rental cars.
Car comparison site
Car rental comparison site, Discover Cars, is a good place to start when comparing availability in your chosen destination.
Use the search box below to search, compare and book the best car rental deal for your trip.
All reliable sources say the same thing when it comes to fitting a rack to your own car. Which is – a rack can be seen in insurance terms as a vehicle modification. So as with any kind of modification, you should inform the insurer and ask whether or not your car is covered when you have a rack fitted.
Where car hire is concerned the rental company’s policy might also not cover this sort of ‘modification’ either. You’re going to need confirmation.
Don’t forget that regardless of the bike rack issue, you may also need to insure your bikes for the duration of your break, especially if they’re valuable. Don’t assume that your travel insurance covers this automatically – it probably doesn’t. More on insurance here.
Option 2 – Rental car + bike trailer
The major car rental companies – namely Hertz, Avis, Budget and Enterprise – don’t mention the possibility of hiring trailers for carrying bikes from them. Again, assume you cannot do this – unless the rental desk can confirm otherwise (and again, if they do get this in writing).
The only one of these car rental companies whose general terms and conditions we could search online was Hertz. As with racks, there is no mention of the word ‘trailer’ anywhere in their Ts and Cs. Taking a trailer away with you, though, is unrealistic, so the only option might be to hire one locally if it’s allowed.
Don’t forget that there may be insurance implications involved with doing this (see our comments on bike racks above).
Option 3 – Fit your bike in the car
Rather than thinking about a rack or bicycle carrying trailer, you may prefer to pack your bike inside your vehicle. This is what we tend to do….
If you do this, you’ll need to consider which is the best car for carrying bikes. Plus other factors such as whether or not to box up your cycle/s, where to put them, and tips to make life on the road easier.
Bike box or loose?
You can carry your bikes without a box, or you can put them inside one to make them safer. The advantage is protection. So the more your bikes are worth, the more you might want to think about using a bike box. A box will also protect the vehicle from damage that could be caused by bikes moving around inside it. As well as dirt!
The disadvantage of using a bike box is the added cost of buying one (if you don’t have one already). The other issue is space; a rigid box will need more space than a bicycle alone.
If you’re putting the bikes in the car, then you don’t need to worry about finding the best cars for bike racks. But you do need to consider which might be the best car for carrying bikes inside!
Carrying the bikes on board involves taking no rack or trailer, and nor do you need to hire one. But the next question is something to consider carefully before booking that hire car.
What size car do you need?
The best car to carry bikes inside is going to be one that can fit your bikes inside it!
But before you get distracted by measuring up, remember that you also need space for all the passengers and other luggage too. In our experience, when we’re talking about family holidays, the younger the child, the more kit and caboodle you’ll need to carry!
In most cases, a child’s bike may fit into a decent-sized car boot. Adults bikes can fit into most cars when the back seats are folded down – but do you need these for passengers?
Taking off the wheels and saddle can be a faff, but can save a lot of space. If you have quick-release wheels, though, these can be removed and refitted in no time.
If you’ve only got couple of bikes, the size of car you’ll need usually depends more on the number of passengers, rather than the bikes. You don’t need to worry so much about finding the best cars for carrying bikes inside if no one will be in the back seats.
1 or 2 bikes
Even economy cars such as a Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo or Hyundai i10 should be big enough for an unboxed adult bike with the seats folded down. Though you may like to hire a bigger car to ensure there’s enough space for everything else too.
An estate car like a Ford Focus Estate, Peugeot 308 or Renault Clio Estate will give you more flexibility and you should be able to fit in two bikes (wheel/s off) and a little bit of luggage. However, you’ll need the rear seats down so if you have three or four passengers, you’re likely to have a problem.
Anything more than two bikes and you’re very likely to need a bike rack/trailer, two cars or a full van.
The options on where to put it
The rear seat area is the main place to put bikes, with the seats folded down to make room. The boot may accommodate a child’s bike or two, but won’t hold an adult one unless you’ve taken at least one wheel off.
You could also consider the rear footwell, if there’s sufficient space there.
If you’re taking your bike in the car, then muddy wheels may equal a muddy car! Cleaning your bike first is therefore a good idea.
A pressure washer can save you time when you need to clean your bike regularly. We use a Karcher for cleaning our own bikes in no time.
- Karcher K2 pressure washer ~ 4.6 stars ~ 2 year guarantee
- Karcher K3 pressure washer ~ 4.6 stars ~ 2 year guarantee
You could also use car boot liners. If the seats are folded down, the part that normally goes up against the back seats can be laid down over the top of these instead.
Car boot liners
- Quilted boot liner ~ 4.5 stars ~ 183 x 99 cm
- Heavy duty waterproof car boot liner ~ 4.4 stars ~ 146 x 146 cm
Option 4 – Other options
Buy your own bike rack/trailer/large car and take your bikes with you
Of course this won’t work for every destination you want to go to! But it could be a potential answer if you want to go somewhere you can drive to!
Head to Wiggle and check out car bike racks, here.
Hire a bike van
A derivation of the above – how about hiring a bike van and taking your bikes with you? Maybe you don’t want the outlay of buying new kit you’re not going to use. A van will you extra space for the holiday and having your bikes stowed safely with you will likely take a lot of the stress out of things. A bike van also gives you a mode of transport and even accommodation in your holiday destination!
This article contains more information on hiring a bike van from the UK.
Ship your bike to your destination
Take the hassle out of working out how to get your bike in a vehicle and get your bike shipped to your destination separately. Companies such as Bike Flights and Sendmybag are experts in this area. There’s more information on these kinds of services in this article.
Use a bike bus
We haven’t used this ourselves yet, but we’ve heard about the European Bike Express. This has bus routes crossing Europe with a bike trailer pulled behind. Being able to load and unload your e-bike and your baggage only once, at the start and end of your trip is ideal.
The downside is coordinating with the pickup and drop off locations and relatively infrequent bus schedules compared to trains.
Airport transfers (with bikes)
If you’re booking airport transfers and want to carry your bike/s, allow time to pack these down if required. You may also need to contact the supplier to check the size of the transfer vehicle. Bear in mind that unless you’re travelling solo with a private transfer, the rear seats may not be folded down as they’ll be needed for passengers.
Folding bikes are another way to go. They’re a lot easier to carry by car. If you’re thinking about these, then it might be worth investing in one that you could also use for commuting. It might even change how you get to work each day (and could save you a small fortune).
Renting bikes at your destination is by far the easiest option if you’ll be staying in one place.
If you will be travelling around, you may also be able to hire bikes in each destination.
Have you ever rented a car with a bike rack?
Or, like us, do you opt for fitting your bike inside?
It’s not a straightforward subject, so let us know what you do below!
Our other articles might also be useful:
- Planning a bike holiday
- Flying with a bike
- Flying with an e-bike
- How to have a bike holiday on a budget
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