Does a Mountain Bike Fit in a Car? Cheap Solutions & Tips


Mountain bike in a car

Outdoor enthusiasts who love to take their bikes along on excursions will agree that cars aren’t really meant for transporting bikes. Unless you’ve got a particularly large vehicle, there will be hardly any room for it.

Getting your bike to fit in the car then becomes some sort of puzzle. Some disassembly and reconfiguration might be in order to leave both your bike and car undamaged.

The good news is:

Most cars can fit a bike but it often requires you to remove one or two wheels. Create room by putting the back seats down and moving the passenger seat forward as far as possible. Make sure to use a blanket to avoid damaging your car or bike.

And if your bike doesn’t fit you can stop scratching your head because I’ve come up with an array of transport solutions for you, no matter what size of vehicle you may own. I can tell you that it is possible with a bit of prep or perhaps new pieces of equipment.

Riding in different locations is a great hobby. It lets us stay in touch with nature while staving off the boredom that comes with riding along the same trails over and over again.

However, it does come with the hassle of trying to fit your bike in your car, much like playing an unexpected game of Tetris. If you know this situation all too well, you may take a lot from the following tips below.

How to Transport a Mountain Bike Without a Rack

If you’ve never attempted this before and you’re racking your brains about how to pull it off, I’ll tell you upfront that you’re going to have to disassemble your bike to make things a little easier.

There’s no use trying to jam a fully assembled bike into your car. You might as well just slash your car’s interiors for the same effect. Some cars require you to remove the bike wheels, here’s a list of cars and how to fit your bike, I’ll be adding more along the way:

Type of cars that can fit a mountain bike
Car type Instructions
Ford Fiesta Put the back seats down and push the passenger seat forward as far as possible.
Prius Might need to pop remove the front wheel
Mini Cooper Take off the wheels
VW Golf Remove the front wheel
Jeep Wrangler Remove both wheels for the two-door version. The four-door is easier but you need to take off the front wheel or lay it on its side.
VW Polo Put the rear seats down, take the wheels off and wiggle it in on its side.
Ford Focus Should fit without taking the wheels off.
VW Scirocco You might need to take the front wheel off.

If you can’t fit your bike in your car there are a couple of options. Consider the following suggestions below, and you may just get away with transporting your bike without a rack.

Clean off Your Bike

Before anything else, use a damp rag to wipe off the grime from the wheels and frame of the bike. The last thing you want is to get any dirt on your car’s upholstery, which will be much harder to clean. Bring a pack of wet wipes along and clean off your bike after you ride on it as well.

Take off the Wheels

Taking off your bike’s wheel is pretty straightforward. The first thing you need to do is to shift down to the lowest gear so that the chain isn’t tight. Use the quick-release levers, which can be found on most bikes, to pop the wheels right off the frame.

Make Room in the Back

If your car has adjustable rear seats, make some room for your bike by folding them down. This is useful if you’ve got a longer bike. Once you’ve freed up some space, lay down a mat or sheets of newspaper. Trust me, after a muddy or wet ride, this will make for easier cleanup.

Let the Frame Sit Pretty on the Backseat

If tip #3 isn’t possible for you, gingerly place the frame upside down in the back. Make sure the derailleur isn’t touching anything. Then use the seatbelts to hold the entire thing in place. At this point, you can just store the wheels in the trunk.

Use Brake Plugs

If you’ve got a bike with disk brakes, it’s smart to have some brake plugs handy. This is to keep the levers from being compressed as you drive to your destination. If you don’t take this precaution, you run the risk of misaligning your brake calipers.

It would be a shame to get to where you had intended to go, only to find out that you can’t ride because the brakes got jammed during the journey. So save yourself the trouble of prying open your calipers to realign them or re-bleeding your hydraulic disc brakes by picking up a couple of brake plugs.

Pack Your Bike Gear Side Up

To avoid damaging your bike during the car ride, always store it in such a way that the chain, brakes, and derailleurs are facing outwards. This will keep the pressure off these more fragile parts.

Put the Wheels Under the Frame

Place the wheels of your bike under the parts that are likely to rattle during the journey to keep things more stable. Keep in mind that you want to minimize rocking and big vibrations as you pack your bike.

Unless you know you’re going to be on a smooth highway, there’s no telling if you’re going to run into bumpy roads and potholes during the ride. Doing this tip will lessen the chances of your bike or car getting damaged.

A valuable tip:

If you’re packing more than one bike, you can use the wheels as a cushion between the frames.

Use Bungee Cords or Straps

If you’re driving a pickup, then things are looking up for you. Trucks are designed specifically for transport, so you should have ample space for your bike.

But don’t just throw your bike on the truck bed. That’s just asking for scuff marks galore. Use bungee cords or soft straps to hook down your bike so that it doesn’t wobble or vibrate as much.

Wrap the Pedals

Pedals often have a rough surface to offer more traction as you ride. Leaving them unwrapped during a car ride increases the chances of them leaving scratches along with your car’s interiors. To prevent this, use an old shirt or rag to wrap them.

Use a Bike Bag

When you think of a folding bike, you think of urban commuters. What you may not know is that there are several foldable mountain bikes that can stand the beating of an off-road track, and you wouldn’t have to worry about looking like a bike messenger.

In some cases, these bikes come with a transport bag. Sometimes, you may have to buy one separately. A bike bag is very useful because not only will it protect your bike from dirt and scratches, it will completely solve all your transport problems.

They’re very compact and usually made from nylon, which is waterproof. If you’ve already got a bike that’s meant to be folded for storage, then, by all means, get a bag for it.

Can You Put a Mountain Bike in a Small Car?

Small cars are all the rage these days. They’re cheaper, take up less space, and have better gas mileage. It’s going to take some trial and error to fit a mountain bike in one of these babies, but it is very doable.

Here’s how you can pull that off if you’re opposed to the idea of getting a rack;

Take off the Wheels

Or at the very least, the front wheel. Like I mentioned before, this is very easy if your bike has a quick-release lever. If not, you’re going to have to take out your toolbox (bring it along with you) and use two adjustable wrenches.

Where the quick-release lever should be, you’re going to find two nuts. With one of your wrenches, get a good grip on one nut. Then use the second one to unwind the other nut on the opposite side.

As you loosen them simultaneously, you’re going to feel the wheels break from the forks. Voila, the wheels are detached.

If you don’t have wrenches, but somehow have a pump, you can release tire pressure to shimmy off the wheels between the brake pads.

Do this by removing the cap off the air valve, which is inside the rim of the tire.  In the center of the air valve, you’ll find a pin. You’re going to have to press this pin down by using anything you have handy – car keys, a pen, sticks, a screwdriver, wire, or even a credit card.

With this option, you will have to inflate your tires again once you get to your destination, but hey, it’s worth the trouble, right?

Protect the Seats

Once the wheels are off, carefully slide the frame into the backseat of your car. Since we’re dealing with a hatchback here, you don’t have a choice but to stick in there. Trunk space is limited and should be reserved for the wheels. You may have to adjust the handlebars, which shouldn’t be a problem.

I can’t stress enough that you should lay out a towel or some sort of protective sheet to keep unwanted debris off your upholstery and avoid tears.

If you drive a Honda Jazz or some other car with that kind of configuration, check out the Yakima fork mount. It will keep your bike frame upright and should perfectly fit in the back.

Rack Options When Your Bike Doesn’t Fit

mountain bikes on a car

If you plan on regularly taking your bike on trips, then you might as well save yourself the trouble of disassembling your bike by getting a bike rack. The best investment you can make as someone who’s trying to expand their cycling experience is the proper equipment to transport your bike with.

By using a bike rack, all the space inside your car is freed up and you won’t have to worry about muck and chain lube ruining the upholstery.

Here are the types of bike racks you can attach to your vehicle:

Roof Rack

You might have seen one or two of these along the highway. Using a roof rack is one way you can tell the world that you just can’t be parted from your bike.

Roof racks are great because they make use of the unused real estate on the top of your car and you’ll reduce the risk of scratching your car’s paint off.

Pros:

  • Your bike won’t take up space inside your car, allowing you to load more passengers or other gear.
  • It’s very stable and you are less likely to damage your car’s paint job.
  • It’s easy to access your trunk because it’s left unobstructed.
  • Can be used as a mount for other things (skis, boxes, lumber, kayaks, jet skis, etc.)

Cons:

  • Getting your bike on the rack is difficult if you’re on the shorter side. You may need a stepladder or stool if you can’t reach very far.
  • You’ll lose access to low overhead areas.
  • Increases your fuel consumption because of wind resistance
  • Subjects your bike to bad weather
  • Removing it or having it fitted is a hassle.
  • You need to buy a lock to keep your bike from getting stolen.

Hitch or Tow Ball Rack

Hitch racks are simply attached to the tow hitch in the back of a car. Some configurations allow for the transport of more than one bike.

The bike essentially hangs from the rack using a cradle made of either plastic or rubber. There will be absolutely no need to disassemble your bike if you use this kind of rack.

Pros:

  • Very easy to attach and can be switched from car to car
  • Solid connection to your car makes for stable transport
  • Can be folded for storage
  • Loading the bike on this rack is very simple, and some have hinges to access your trunk without having to unload the bike.
  • Models that have a platform are perfect for transporting multiple bikes because they hang with some distance between them.
  • The best option if you transport your bike regularly
  • Won’t make much of a difference in fuel consumption

Cons:

  • Models that include all the features can be pricey
  • Models that do not have all the features will make it harder for you to access the trunk of your car
  • Models that are intended to carry multiple bikes are on the heavy side. We’re talking over 50 lbs.
  • If you don’t install locks, your bike is pretty easy to whisk away.
  • Getting into an accident that compromises the rear end of your vehicle will definitely also damage your bike.
  • Might obscure license plate
  • Might damage paint job if improperly installed

Trunk Rack

This is the most common bike rack system and often the cheapest as well. This kind of rack is designed to be mounted on your car’s trunk or hatch using straps with hooks. There will be padding where it makes contact with the car, and cradles for your bike.

Pros:

  • The most affordable option for a recreational cyclist
  • Fit is easily adjustable and can be attached to multiple vehicles
  • Very easy to install
  • Quite light and a breeze to store, some can be folded
  • The bike is easy to load
  • You can keep checking the condition of your bike through the rearview mirror.
  • Won’t make much of a difference in fuel consumption

Cons:

  • You have to buy a separate lock to prevent theft.
  • You won’t have access to your trunk.
  • Might obscure the license plate.
  • Is only able to transport up to three bikes max
  • Bikes will rock if the straps are secured poorly
  • Might damage paint job if improperly installed

Spare Tire Mount Rack

If you’ve got an SUV or off-road rig, then you can go for this type of bike rack, which is attached to where your spare tire is located.

Pros:

  • Very easy to install and can be used on multiple vehicles
  • Not very expensive

Cons:

  • Is only able to transport up to two bikes max
  • Your vehicles’ new overall length can take some getting used to during parking and driving in narrow, winding roads.
  • Tire cover must be removed

Vacuum Mount

You can mount your bike anywhere on your car using a vacuum mount. Sure, the idea of a suction cup holding your bike rack in place seems precarious. But you should be able to avoid any mishap as long as you keep the suctions clean and you use them correctly.

Pros:

  • The bike remains stable because the suction is made out of rubber, which works as a shock spring. The setup is quiet and won’t rattle at all.
  • Easy to attach to your car.
  • Doesn’t require a roof rack
  • No need for tools

Cons:

  • You will have to wash the roof of your car before placing the mount to make sure the suction adheres properly.
  • Not the most affordable bike rack option.
  • Bikes can’t be locked and anyone can easily lift it off if left unattended
  • Some models still require that you take off your bike’s front wheel
  • For longer rides, you will have to keep stopping to check if the suctions are still secure.

Bike Transport and Safety

Here are some additional points to consider when transporting a bicycle. Remember that it must always be done legally and safely.

  1. As much as possible, store your bike inside your car to avoid damage.
  2. Don’t be stingy when buying a bike rack. You get what you pay for when it comes to quality.
  3. Lock your bikes to avoid theft.
  4. When traveling with multiple bikes, make sure they aren’t making contact with each other. If it can’t be helped, use bubble wrap or some form of cushioning.
  5. Time your trips for better weather conditions.
  6. Do routine stops to check your bike regularly during the journey.
  7. Clean your bike once you arrive at your destination and check the tire pressures and suspension.
  8. Check your state laws on road safety. For example, it’s illegal to drive in most states with an obstructed license plate and tail lights.

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Ruben

I always had a thing for bike sports and love almost anything that involves bikes and boards. I work part-time as a designer in the tech industry and work on my blogs whenever I can.

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