This meme promoting cycling over driving pops up in various guises on the internet. At least one blogger recently checked to see if the sentiment holds water. Your results will vary.
I was able to keep bike and car separate. Well, in the beginning anyway. When I started cycling in Houston I was able to roll out of the Commerce Towers car park onto Travis Street and pedal away. Everywhere I wanted to get to was within cycling distance. That is until I decided to commission a custom built bicycle from Alchemy Bicycle Company, located at that time in Austin. As part of the process of deciding what frame material and geometry would best suit me, James Flatman wanted to see what I was riding at the time (see Jumping Into The Deep End for more).
It is possible to ride a bicycle from Houston to Austin (See Austin Or Bust, 2011 BP MS150, 2013 BP MS150 Day One and 2013 BP MS150 Day Two). But not there and back in a day, and certainly not together with my biker chick. The hybrid bike made the trip in the trunk of the car. Which was only possible because the car had fold-down rear seats. The resulting space was deep enough to accommodate the bike as long as the front wheel was removed. Most importantly the trunk lid closed without squashing anything.
I mulled over the idea of getting a bike rack on that first trip to Austin with the Trek in the trunk. There would be a custom road bike to transport to Houston in a month or so. I decided to get a Saris Bones 2. It looked simple enough to attach and remove, and would fold down into a relatively compact form for storage.
This rack attaches to the rear of the car via a series of hooks and straps. Once the rubber feet are properly positioned and the buckle straps tightened the rack sits very securely on the car. Ratcheting straps lock bikes to the adjustable arms. An unexpected bonus was that the buckle straps are long enough so that the ends can be used to tie down the wheels and handle bars to stop them spinning and swaying.
Once I linked up with the West End Six Thirty cycling group the Saris Bones 2 got more and more use. We had to drive to get to any sort of hill, and to get to the start of some of the organized rides we signed up for.
The Saris, and the car, came with us to the Netherlands. The rack sat unused for a year. All my rides started at the entrance of our apartment building. Even the starting points of the first few organized events I did were within riding distance of home. Then I did the Ronde van Vlaanderen with Eugene (see I’ll See Your JZC and Raise You an RvV!). That involved a drive to Sint-Denijs-Westrem in Belgium.
The Saris came out of storage to carry our bikes. As we drove south I noticed that I was the only one with a Saris or similar bike rack. All the other cars had either a rack on the roof or a tow-hitch mounted rack on the back. Complete with a turn signal and brake light bar and number plate. It turned out that my bike rack was illegal because the bicycles obscured the car’s turn signals, brake lights and number plate. I was also told not to worry too much about it. This being the bicycle-crazy Netherlands, the police would likely turn a blind eye. Which may have been the case as I got back to Den Haag without being stopped. I didn’t test my luck any further. I went back to putting my bike in the trunk.
I did consider a tow hitch mounted rack like this one. I had taken the car to the local dealership for a routine service. They had a rack and light bar on sale for something like €200. Which was a great price. The catch was that our car didn’t have a tow hitch and ball mount. The dealership was of course happy to install the required hardware. I was not happy to pay the €1,500 for that to be done. My bikes would continue to make do with being hauled around in the trunk.
The following year I made a return trip to the Ronde van Vlaanderen, this time with Richard. He had a Thule roof rack. We decided his compact car might be a bit small for both of us and our stuff. Which meant moving his roof rack onto my car.
A clever part of the Thule design is the huge number of fitting kits available. The racks, load bars and feet are standard. The fitting kits contain custom pads and brackets that fit the specific contours of a vehicle’s roof, or attach to an existing roof rail. The standard feet attach to the brackets.
Naturally the fitting kit for Richard’s car didn’t fit my car. A quick trip to Richard’s local Thule dealer solved that problem. Thule makes fitting kits for vehicles from over eighty manufacturers. A Thule 3049 Fixpoint Fit Kit was all I needed to attach Richard’s roof rack to my car.
I was so impressed with Richard’s Thule roof rack that I decided to get one. That led to the “Het is niet mogelijk” moment that I retell whenever I can. I went to a shop, which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, that sells Thule products. I told the salesperson what I wanted: two Thule Outride 561 bike carriers, a pair of Thule 960 Wingbars, and four Thule Rapid System 753 feet. He asked me what car I had, and consulted his computer. A few seconds later he uttered that most-frustrating of Dutch phrases. “That is not possible.”
“But it is,” I protested. “I had that exact configuration on my car a few weeks ago.”
“Nee. Het is niet mogelijk.”
There is no point arguing when faced with that phrase. All you can do is admit defeat and move on to plan B. In my case that was to go to the second Thule dealer on my list, A & P Verhuur Service, where it was possible to purchase what I wanted.
The roof rack and I made a few more road trips in the company of the Not Possibles cycling group (you can probably guess the origin of the group name). The Thule system is easy to install and remove. The feet and front fork attachment are lockable. Bikes sit rock solidly on the carriers, all the way up to the maximum rated driving speed of 130 kph / 80 mph. The only downside is the wind noise.
The Saris and the Thule racks came with us to Kuala Lumpur. The car stayed in the Netherlands with its new owner, together with the Thule Fit Kit. The racks haven’t seen any use in Malaysia. Even though I have to drive to rides in Kuala Lumpur.
My biker chick kept her car here while we were away. I could have hung the Saris off the back of her car. I see a few trunk-mounted racks around. I also see too many rear-end collisions to be comfortable driving around with my bike between the rear of my car and the front of the car behind me. So it was back to the bicycle in the trunk routine. In the meantime I was on the lookout for a car for myself.
We live in an apartment building in Kuala Lumpur. The apartment came with two indoor car park spots on an upper floor of the parking garage. All very convenient, except that the headroom clearance on the ramps between floors is insufficient for bicycles on a roof rack. That narrowed my choice of vehicle down to a hatchback with enough trunk space to fit a bicycle or two.
Which is why I drive a Perodua Myvi. Among its most important attributes . . .
Plenty of room for bicycles. I’ve transported two bikes with no problem. I could pack in three or four. This weekend I will find out if I can get the Ritchey Break-Away in the trunk without having to fold down the rear seats.