Imagine this. You’ve arrived on location for your very first bike race. You’re super excited, and you’ve got everything in your car with your bike loaded on your rack. Then you realize all your riding gear is in the trunk. Can you open your trunk with the bike rack installed? Or do you have to remove it completely to get to your equipment?
It depends on what type of bike rack you have. You should not try to open your trunk with a trunk rack installed, especially if your bike is on it, as this could damage your car. However, you can open your trunk if you have a roof rack or a drop-down hitch rack.
I’ll also reveal two great rack choices if you need to have consistent access to your trunk when the rack is attached. But first, let’s take a look at whether or not you can open the trunk of your car if you have a trunk rack installed.
Trunk Racks Do NOT Allow the Trunk to Be Opened
Most trunk racks will not allow the trunk to be opened while installed, especially when there are bikes attached. That being said, you might technically be able to open your trunk, but most rack manufacturers don’t recommend it.
Trunk racks are designed to be used while the trunk is closed. The clips that attach the rack to the car’s trunk lid hook onto the top of the trunk near its hinges. The weight of the rack is supported by the trunk or hatch door, which is fine when the trunk is closed.
However, your car’s trunk hinges were not designed to hold the weight of the rack and bikes when open. They’re only intended to hold the weight of the trunk itself. So even if you could physically open the trunk, it could break the hinges. In addition, the weight of the rack could cause the trunk door to slam closed on top of you! It just isn’t worth the risk, even though trunk racks are a great deal for the price.
Trunk racks are very popular because they are lightweight, easy to use and inexpensive. You’ll often find them being used on sedans and smaller cars. Trunk rack installation is easy, so they’re great if you need to remove them often and put them in storage.
There are a few cons to using a trunk rack, though. For example, not every bike is compatible with a trunk rack, and not every trunk rack is compatible with every car. For more information on what racks fit your vehicle, check out this article on bike rack compatibility.
If a trunk rack doesn’t work for you because you cannot open the trunk with it installed, you might consider a hitch rack.
Hitch Racks Allow the Trunk to Open (If It “Drops”)
Hitch racks hook into the hitch receiver on your vehicle (if it has one). A locking pin secures the hitch so it can’t fall out while driving. When the rack is in place, it will block access to the trunk. There likely won’t be room to open the trunk, especially if you have a hatchback or van doors.
Drop-Down Hitch Racks
Some hitch racks have a drop-down feature. This feature enables you to lower the rack while it is attached so you can access the trunk space. In most cases, you can even do this when bikes are installed on the rack. You slide a lever or lock, and then you can swing the rack down and out of the way.
However, this doesn’t make it easy to access the trunk since the bikes and rack will still be in front of the trunk. These racks are heavy and cumbersome, especially when they are loaded up with bicycles. But they will be able to drop down out of the way enough that you can open the trunk and access the inside.
You can use a standard hitch rack on just about any vehicle that has a hitch installed. However, you might prefer a truck-specific option if you have a truck.
Some Truck Racks Allow the Tailgate to Open
Truck Bed Rack
You’ll have easy access to the tailgate if you have a truck bed rack. A truck bed rack looks like a standard bike rack for storing bikes, similar to the one you might see outside a school or at a park. It’s designed to fit into your truck bed and should come with hardware to lock it in place.
You’ll be able to access the tailgate easily, which you’ll probably want to use to get the bikes in and out of the truck bed anyway. Simply slide the bikes into the rack and lock them in place so they don’t move around.
A tailgate rack, on the other hand, works a little differently. A tailgate rack is a giant pad that fits over the tailgate of your truck. You hang your bike’s front wheel and fork over the tailgate and strap it down to the pad, with the rest of the bike stored safely within the truck bed. This is a convenient and secure way to haul your bikes, but you won’t be able to open the tailgate while the rack is in place.
If you need easy access to your trunk while your rack is installed, you might be better off using a roof rack.
Roof Racks Allow the Tailgate to Open
A roof rack works just like its name suggests – it sits on top of the rails of your car’s roof. Typically, you remove the bike’s front wheel and attach the fork to the rack. This type of rack keeps your bike out of the way of the doors and the trunk of your car.
There are a few particular concerns with roof racks, however. First, you have to be careful driving underneath bridges, drive-thrus, and especially into your garage. I’m sure many a bike has been lost to low-clearance incidents such as these!
You also need to be careful when opening the trunk of the car. With the trunk or hatch fully open, it may come into contact with your bike. A solid hit could damage your bike or take out your hatch’s rear window!
Now that you understand what types of racks allow access to your trunk, let’s determine what bike rack provides you with the easiest trunk access.
The Bike Rack with Easiest Trunk Access
The type of rack with the easiest access to your trunk is a roof rack, by far. And as long as your vehicle can accommodate a roof rack, it should be pretty easy to install and use. The hardest part of using a roof rack is lifting your bike to the roof of your car.
I like the Yakima Highroad Roof Rack because it holds the bike by its wheels (no need to remove them first like many other roof racks) and won’t scratch the frame of the bike. The Yakima Highroad Roof Rack attaches to the roof rails of your car. It is secure and sturdy.
But if your car doesn’t have roof rails, consider something like the Seasucker Talon, which suction cups to the roof of your vehicle. A suction cup may not sound very secure, but I’ve had very positive firsthand experience with this rack. As long as you follow the directions, you don’t need to worry about losing any precious cargo!
Choosing the right rack for your car can be a daunting task, but knowing which types of racks allow access to the trunk can help narrow it down. When choosing a rack, make sure your bike is compatible with the rack and the rack fits your specific vehicle. Always install it according to the manufacturer’s directions to keep you, your car, and your bicycle safe.