trunk or roof??
March 28, 2010 7:08 AM   Subscribe

What is the best choice of bike rack for a 2009 Ford Focus SE ?

We are contemplating buying a bike rack for our 2009 Ford Focus SE to take our bikes on 4-5 hr trips. The trunk racks seem to be cheaper, and our experience with them in the past (other cars, other bikes, shorter road trips) is that air resistance from the bikes will be lower, the bikes will be more protected from bugs, and they will be easier to access. However, the trunk rack that we had before required a lot of extra straps and tying to keep the bikes secure, so that a trunk rack seems like more work than a roof rack. And isn't the license plate (and maybe the tail lights) going to be obscured by the bikes this way?

So hivemind, what's your advice and experience on the matter? Have trunk racks become any more convenient to use in the past decade? Are we worrying needlessly about the license plate thing (We will be traveling mostly in New England and New York)?
posted by Tandem Affinity to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
I use This Schwinn Rack on my 2001 Focus SE. First time getting it on took some instruction reading and a few minutes, but with by the third or fourth time it's about a 60 second job. Leaves the license plate and all the lights visible and I've never had issues with slipping/damage of any kind on trips of any length from a mile to 400+. I think mine was about $40 at Target a year or two ago.
posted by Rallon at 7:20 AM on March 28, 2010

A trunk rack usually prevents you from opening the trunk; you'd have to remove the bikes and undo all the straps. Not a problem unless you're taking the bikes on a long trip where you might need access. After a bit of practice I found I could fit my rack (with six straps) in under five minutes, and secure two bikes in another two. Air resistance is going to be a bit less than with a roof-mounted rack, although you'll still get plenty of bugs on the seat and handlebars if they protrude above the height of the roof. I managed to hit a buzzard last week with the seat of a bike on my trunk-mounted rack.

If your license plate and lights are obscured, you might need to buy a tail board and attach that to the back of the rack; at least here in the UK that's the law (although you see plenty of people disregarding that and effectively driving without lights or visible registration plate).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:36 AM on March 28, 2010

I've used the Saris Bones trunk rack on several different vehicles and it's been fine. It can take max three bikes, and although you shouldn't open the trunk with it on, you still usually can if you are careful about the increased weight. You can position it in such a way that it does not obscure the license plate.

The cons are that anyone can take it off (whereas roof racks are sometimes lockable so the bikes are somewhat secure).
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:45 AM on March 28, 2010

If you're using a rack with any regularity I'd get a receiver hitch fitted and use a receiver hitch rack. All the advantages of a trunk rack without the hassle of blocking the trunk when in use. And the rack goes on/comes off in about 20 seconds.

Plus with the right locks the bikes are somewhat secured to your vehicle (at least as well as locking it to a public rack).

Because the hitch racks are a serious piece of metal you can get light bars to attach to the rack to duplicate the tail/brake lights though they aren't common around here. And I've never seen a licence plate moved to the rack.
posted by Mitheral at 7:52 AM on March 28, 2010

I had a 2005 5-door Ford Focus SE, and a trunk-mounted bike rack. I spent probably an hour setting it up the first time and getting all the straps adjusted.

Then I labeled each of the metal clips, using a silver Sharpie. UL, ML, and BL for "upper left," "middle left," and "bottom left," and the same for the three clips on the right.

Next, I loosened ONLY the two upper straps, so that I could carefully detach the whole thing. It helped to pop the trunk, so that I could slide the clips out a little more easily.

And presto: a pre-adjusted bike rack. Just a few minutes to get it on there, slide the clips where they belong, tighten the top straps, and go.

It didn't obscure my tail lights, not so that they couldn't be seen by cars behind. And you could see the license plate, because it was centered below the bike(s) frame(s).

(I decided against a roof rack because I'm short, and have very little upper-body strength.)
posted by ErikaB at 11:53 AM on March 28, 2010

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