Q:

What’s the most affordable, hassle-free bike rack?

I’ve spent the past three years getting into shape—a very round shape. I’m hoping mountain biking can help get me out of that shape. I’ll need to transport three bikes (assuming my wife and seven-year-old son come along) on my 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Most people have recommended a receiver-hitch-mounted bike rack, which seems expensive. Is there a more affordable option? Jonathan Spanaway, Washington

Jun 7, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Yakima FullSwing 4

Yakima FullSwing 4

A: I’m inclined to agree on the swing-away hitch-mount rack recommendation. Your Jeep can take a rooftop rack as well, but that will end up costing you at least $300 when all is said and done. Plus you have to deal with the task of getting a moderately heavy mountain bike up and down from the roof of a tall car such as a Cherokee.

Not that swing-away hitch-mount racks are cheap. Yakima’s FullSwing 4—a very nice hitch-mount rack with easy swing access to the trunk—goes for $440 (www.yakima.com). You can get a pretty decent bike for that. This is assuming that your wife and child go along with you, and I wouldn’t necessarily make that assumption. If taking merely two bikes, on the other hand, check out the nifty XPORT Flatbed 2-Bike Hitch Rack that’s a relatively benign $179 on Performance.com.

The cheapest solution of all is to put the bikes inside the rig. That will work for two bikes, but probably not for three and the passengers. Here’s how it works: Buy a piece of two-by-six lumber and cut it to the width of the luggage space. Then buy two or three pairs of front-fork mounts (the XPORT Universal Bike Mount is only $20 on Performance.com). Screw those in the board, and voila, a bike holder! I could easily fit two bikes that way into the back of a Mitsubishi Montero SUV I used to have, but, of course, you have to fold down the rear seat.

All in all, I applaud your decision to bike. Just be careful. I love mountain biking, and to confirm it I currently have a bruise on my right hip the size of a dinner plate (low-speed fall, hit rock on way down) and a six-inch red gash across my neck where a branch tried to strangle me. Which is to say, it can get a little hazardous. So pick your early trails and roads carefully. Or, work into better “shape" on the road, then hit the trail.

Good luck!

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest mountain bike.

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