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What Kind Of Bike Rack Is Best For Gas Mileage?

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many of us are loading up the car or van and heading out on a family vacation this summer. But if you’re taking your bikes along with all of your other precious cargo, just how much of an impact does that have on your gas mileage?

It’s a question that’s being put to the test on a daily basis, especially in the Twin Cities where bike riding is so popular.

This time of the year, we see a lot of SUVs and other vehicles on the road with bikes hanging off of them.
It allows us to do more than just bike around our neighborhoods.

With bike racks, we can drive to the most popular trails. But depending on how much that rack weighs and where you put it on your car, it could be costing you some extra money.

With bike racks, you have choices.

There’s the hitch-mount rack, the strap-on trunk rack and the roof rack. Rick Meyer is the manager of Rack Attack in St. Louis Park.

They specialize in helping people find the best type of bike rack for their vehicle.

“It’s the best way to, you know, maximize your ability to take your bike wherever you want to go. More and more people are going toward the hitch mount because it is a lot easier to get the bikes on and off versus going onto the roof. As well as most Minnesotans already have trailer hitches from towing boats or trailers or jet skis,” Meyer said.

Consumer Reports conducted a test. They compared the gas mileage of a new Honda Accord with no rack, an empty rack, an empty rack and wind deflector, and a rooftop rack with two bikes and deflector.

With no rack, the gas mileage was 42 miles per gallon.
With the rack and two bikes, that number dropped to 27 miles per hour.

“Most people … that’s in the back of their head. Their main concern is getting from point A to point B, And what it costs in fuel economy is something they think about later on down the road,” Meyer said.

One couple who drove up from Iowa to visit family with their bikes attached to their truck, Wendell and Marj Thimmesch said they love the fact they can enjoy their favorite hobby wherever they go, thanks to their bike rack.

“Just enjoy the convenience of it. We just like getting out. We don’t pay that much attention to a couple of miles a gallon,” Wendell said.

What about driving on the highway with the rack and two bikes on it?

“I don’t really notice it, just have to watch real careful in your mirrors, you know,” Wendell said.

You will probably get the best gas mileage with the racks that attach to the back of your vehicle. You’ll have less wind resistance than with a roof rack.

The Rack Attack guys said sometimes with the roof rack, people have problems getting into garages, as well as restaurant drive-thru windows.

And with these hitch-mount racks, sometimes bikes get dirty from dust and dirt kicking back onto them during long drives.

Trunk strap-ons are the least expensive at $120 to $300.

Roof racks cost between $100 and $200, but you have to have a base rack to attach it to and they can cost
$300 alone.

And a hitch-mount rack is about $225 to $600.

More bike rack information can be found on the Rack Attack website or on Consumer Reports.

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