You probably don’t give much thought to your bike rack. You put it on your car, you load up your bike, and you hit the road. You might even lock your bike to your bike rack when you run inside a store to grab a few snacks or sports drinks for your ride. But what about your bike rack?
Do bike racks really get stolen?
It isn’t common, but bike racks do get stolen, especially if they are easy to steal and will bring in some quick cash. If you have a bike rack, you need to consider locking it to your car to protect it as well as your bikes. Keep in mind that some bike racks are easier to steal but there are a number of ways to deter theft.
This just scratches the surface of this topic, so let’s dig deeper.
And if you have a trunk or hitch rack you’ll want to pay special attention to the tips we cover below, because these are the racks that are most likely to get stolen.
Let’s jump in!
Is Bike Rack Theft Common?
Although it does happen, Bike rack theft is far less common than bike theft. And sadly, most people don’t even consider the fact that their rack could be stolen right off their car.
Thieves are opportunists, and if they see an unattended rack where no one will see them, they might just take it.
That being said, bike racks are very specific. They are made for particular cars and specific bikes, making them less of a target since the resale niche is very small and people in bike communities often know each other. No decent cyclist would purchase a rack if they suspect it was stolen from one of their riding buddies.
So if bike rack theft isn’t all that common, is it ok to leave your bike rack on your car?
Is It Safe to Leave a Bike Rack On Your Car?
Whether or not it’s safe to leave a bike rack on your car, largely depends on where you will be parking it, and the type of bike rack you’re using. Some areas are safer than others, and likewise, some bike racks are much more difficult to remove than others. Some even come with locking mechanisms which make theft more difficult and less likely.
It can be a pain to attach your bike rack and remove it whenever you want to take your bike somewhere. So you might be considering if it is ok to leave your rack on your car at all times.
First, you should know that some states have laws that prevent you from leaving the rack on your vehicle when you aren’t using it, so you’ll want to make sure this isn’t the case in your state.
If it is legal in your area to leave a bike rack on your car, then that still doesn’t mean you should do it, because it’s more likely to be stolen or damage your car. Read more about this topic in our beginner bike rack FAQs article.
So although you can leave your rack on your car, it really isn’t a great idea.
Which Type of Bike Racks Are Most At Risk?
There are three main types of bike rack that you can put on your car or truck. The type of rack you choose will be loosely based on the type of vehicle you drive and the type of bike you ride.
For example, a trunk-mounted rack might not be strong enough to hold a heavy e-bike, but it might work just fine for a hybrid bike.
Hitch mount racks are racks designed for the back of your car or truck. Your vehicle must have a hitch for these types of racks. The rack slides into the hitch. Some of these types of racks will fold down out of the way so that you can access the trunk even when the rack is installed.
Thule and Saris are popular hitch rack manufacturers. Unfortunately, these are easy to steal because the entire rack can be slid right out of the hitch.
The best deterrent for this is a pin lock. Instead of using a standard pin to hold the rack to the hitch, choose one that locks with a key to keep your rack safely attached.
Trunk racks are very easy to steal. Metal brackets are inserted into the top of the trunk. Straps secure the rack. The straps are very easy to cut, and the rack can be removed easily.
Roof racks typically come with a lock, making them a little harder to steal. hhese types of racks cannot be removed from the car unless you have the key to unlock them first.
However, not all roof racks lock in place (I have an old roof rack that can be removed without a key). And those without locks will, of course, be easier to remove and steal.
But, no matter what type of rack you have, there are a few things you can do minimize the possibility of theft.
How to Prevent Your Bike Rack from Being Stolen (7 Tips)
- Put it in your car. The simplest means to keeping your rack safe every time is to remove it once you reach your destination and store it in your vehicle while you are riding (don’t forget to lock the car!). Taking your rack off isn’t always practical and can be time-consuming, though.
- Keep it inside. When not in use, make sure you keep your rack locked inside your home or garage. If it is out of sight, it will be less of a target for thieves.
- Make it ugly or noticeable. A rack with a custom paint job is more likely to be noticed. If you paint your rack bright, ugly colors, people will notice it, especially if someone is trying to remove it when they shouldn’t be.
- Use a rack with a built-in lock. Ideally, you would purchase a rack that already has a built-in lock. You’ll need the key to remove it from your vehicle, which makes it that much harder to steal.
- Use a pin lock for hitch mount racks. If you have a hitch-mount rack, you’ll want to use a pin lock. Check out this little video from Saris for an idea of how they work. If your rack doesn’t come with one, you can purchase one here on Amazon (FYI – we receive commissions on qualifying sales).
- Use a trunk lock strap. If you need to use a trunk rack, you can purchase a strap lock, like this: trunk lock strap here (FYI – we receive commissions on qualifying sales).
- Use a cable lock. Another option to lock your bike and rack to your vehicle is to use a cable lock. Weave the cable through your bike’s frame and rear wheel, through the bike rack, and then lock it to the metal loop attached to the car’s frame. If you don’t have one, here’s a 6-ft cable lock from Master Lock (FYI – we receive commissions on qualifying sales).
However, with all of that said, even if you do everything right, theft is still a possibility, especially if your bike is on the rack.
Can a Bike Be Stolen From a Bike Rack?
Sadly, bikes can be stolen right off the rack, especially if they aren’t locked to it. Even worse, if your bike is worth a lot of money, some thieves will take both the rack and the bike if the bike is locked to the rack.
For example, if your bike is locked to a hitch-mounted rack, the entire rack could easily be slid out of the hitch with the bikes still attached to it. The thief can later use a bolt cutter to cut the bike lock off, then sell both the bike and the rack. Even if the rack is locked to the hitch, it may be possible to unbolt the hitch from the vehicle.
So although you should always lock your bike and your hitch, you need to know that this is only a deterrent and won’t stop a determined thief. So keep your eyes on your bike and rack as much as possible, and only leave them attached when absolutely necessary.
You may want to consider insuring both your bike and your rack. Although this won’t prevent theft, it will be a big relief if your bike (and your rack) ever get stolen.