The Time I Installed a Bike Rack

June 28, 2016

The Time I Installed a Bike Rack

I finally broke down and bought a new bike last month. I went to a cool local shop that sells new and used bikes called Recyclist and ended up with a Trek hybrid in very good condition. It was a great experience. The salesman was knowledgeable but not pushy, and he encouraged me to take it out for a spin on the nearby trail before I committed to the purchase. Throw in a sweet deal and I didn’t need much convincing.

I’ve enjoyed my purchase a lot in the weeks since. There are some great trails in and around the Fox Cities and, indeed, the whole state. In fact, The League of American Bicyclists ranks Wisconsin as one of the top bicycle-friendly states in the nation, with more than 80 paved trails to choose from. Of course I want to try them all.

I drive a ’99 Toyota Rav 4. It’s not fancy, but it gets me from A to B and it’s good on gas. The rear seats fold down so I can get the bike in there, but it’s not ideal. And there’s no way it could hold three bikes, which is what I’d need to do if I took the girls anywhere. A bike rack was the next purchase.

To find the rack that best fits my needs I had to do some research. I don’t have a trailer hitch so I needed one that would mount to the spare tire on the back of the vehicle and also hold 3 bikes securely. The next stop was The phrase “spare tire bike rack” yielded 132 results. I automatically ruled out any rack that could only hold 2 bikes. That brought the number down to 36. Prices ranged from $69-$230 and I wanted something in the middle. Next I read reviews, paying particular attention to opinions on quality and ease of installation. Of the 63 reviews, most gave the Surco BT300 4 or 5 stars, so I ordered it and eagerly awaited its arrival.

A few days later, I was ready to go ahead with the install. First I had to figure out how to remove the spare tire from my vehicle. With this design, the mounting plate is affixed under the spare tire, which is then re-applied during final assembly. I’ve never used the spare tire and it’s been under a vinyl cover for years. After removing that, I noticed the nuts that secured the tire to the vehicle. Since I don’t own a wrench, I wondered how that was going to work. This time I referenced the Rav 4 owner’s manual, which revealed that the vehicle comes with a wheel-nut wrench secured in a rear compartment. I bought the car used so I was surprised that this was indeed stowed where the manual said it’d be.

The Nuts and Bolts of It All

Removing the nuts was fairly easy. The spare was heavier than I anticipated but I was able to remove that myself as well. Then I took the rack out of the box and looked at the parts. The instructions were fairly simple: align the mounting bracket to the holes for the nuts, position the spare over that and refasten the nuts. This is where things got a little tricky. The mounting bracket would not stay in place without being fastened with the nuts. You need another set of hands to hold it in place when you align the spare. With no body in sight I wondered if I had any double-sided tape. (I later read one reviewer did end up using double-sided tape.) But just then my neighbor happened by and I roped her into helping me. The rest was a piece of cake. You simply slide the bar that holds the bikes onto the channel and secure it with a padlock. This was something I had overlooked. But you have to have a padlock or the warranty is void and over time vibration can loosen the rack so you really don’t want to skip that step. (On a side note, I had no idea there were so many lock options and brands. That could be a whole other post. But I did choose one that’s specifically made for being outdoors so I don’t have to worry about rust, etc.)

Anyway, there were a few takeaways from this experience, not the least of which is that I’m pretty proud of myself for figuring this out and seeing it through. It makes me more confident to tackle other DIY projects. Henry Ford was on to something when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.”

Until next time, happy trails.

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