How to transport a bike without a rack (with pictures!)


There are plenty of reasons to transport a bike by car. And it is not necessary to own a bike rack to do so. For instance, I have owned a car for 5 years and I have only transported my bike a handful of times to race events. I didn’t need a bike rack for that. I even managed to fit 3 bikes into my small car to move flat without damaging them. So how did I transport a bike without using a rack?

Transporting a bike without using a bike rack can be done in almost any car. You first need to fold the rear seats of the car. Then, if your car is short, you need to remove the front wheel and rotate the handlebars before inserting it via the trunk.

Let’s see in detail how to fit your bike into the trunk of any car. I will explain the little tricks to make it work each time.

All 3 bikes did fit inside the car

How to fit a bike in almost any car without a rack?

To fit a bike in a car without using any type of rack, you will have to fit the bike in the trunk. To get more space from the trunk, you first need to fold the rear seats. Then, you can try to fit your bike in if your car looks long enough. If that’s not the case I will explain below how to dismount and fit the bike properly in the trunk.

The bike fits in the car in one piece

Steps to follow:

  1. Fold down the rear seats of the car
  2. Optional: put a sheet or an old rug to cover the trunk and the seats if you don’t want them to get dirty
  3. Bring the bike just behind the car (like if you are queuing being the car)
  4. Grab the bike by the frame: one hand on the triangle near the rear wheel, one hand on the front of the top tube
  5. Rotate the bike by 90° with the derailleur facing upwards
  6. Slide the bike in whole in the trunk (front tire heading towards the front of the car)
    Slide in the bike gently and don’t hesitate to use one of your hand to lift a bit the handlebar and help the sliding motion.
  7. Cover the bike with a sheet or an old rug to protect the bike, especially if you need to carry some equipment near your bike

Your bike is now in 🙂 To take it out just remove the sheet, and gently slide the bike out.

The bike doesn’t fit in the car in one piece

Steps to follow:

  1. Fold down the rear seats of the car
  2. Optional: put a sheet or an old rug to cover the trunk and the seats if you don’t want them to get dirty
  3. Bring the bike just behind the car (like if you are queuing being the car)
  4. Remove the front wheel of the bike
  5. Lean the front wheel carefully against the car body (rest it on the tire to prevent paint damage to your car)
  6. Grab the bike by the frame: one hand on the triangle near the rear wheel, one hand on the front of the top tube
    and rotate the bike by 90° with the derailleur facing upwards
  7. Slide the bike in the trunk (fork heading towards the front of the car)
    Slide in the bike gently and don’t hesitate to use one of your hand to lift a bit the handlebar and help the sliding motion.
  8. The bike is now in. You can cover the bike with a sheet or an old rug to protect the bike, especially if you need to carry some equipment near your bike.
  9. Put the front wheel in the trunk above the cover.

Your bike is now in 🙂 To take it out, take the wheel out and lean it against the car. Then just remove the sheet, and gently slide the bike out. Grab the wheel and put it back on.

/!\ Always keep the wheel at a reachable distance

What if it still doesn’t fit?

In some cars, the trunk is very narrow, you can try rotating the bike to slide the rear wheel first in and have the fork heading towards the back of the trunk. Give it a bit of an angle: the rear wheel on the rear left seat for instance and the fork heading towards the right side of the trunk.

If you still struggle, you need to consider removing both wheels before putting the bike inside the car. This is more annoying to do but actually not very difficult. I recommend putting something to protect the inside of your car if you choose this solution. This time the chain is definitely going to be in contact with your trunk.

  1. Start by removing the front wheel. Lean it against the side of the car.
  2. Then remove the back wheel. It is easy now because the bike is quite light to hold in one hand. Hold the bike using the top tube and once the wheel is out, lean it against the other side of the car.
  3. Rotate the bike to bring the derailleur facing up. And slide the bike in the trunk.
  4. Cover the bike and add the two wheels on top.

For this solution, you need to be organized. Ideally, having a buddy to help you carry the bike is best in this case.

If you don’t want to damage your bike, avoid at all cost putting it on the ground. So when taking the bike out, the same thing, have the wheels nearby, easy to reach with one hand.

Can you fit 2 bikes in a car without a rack?

2 bikes? Yes, it is possible in many cars, even small cars as long as we are not talking about a Smart 😉

To fit 2 bikes you will need to dismount both bikes’ front wheels.

This time the best solution is to put the rear wheel on top of the folded seat and have the bike heading towards the back of the trunk. The wheel should rest against one door as much as possible.

Ideally, cover the first bike with a rug or sheet. At least the wheel and derailleur.

Sketch of how to fit two bikes inside one car

For the other bike, generally, the best solution is to fit the bike symmetrically from the first one. With the rear wheel against the other passenger door. The wheel might overlap a bit with the other bike’s wheel. Just be careful to have the derailleur always facing up with nothing in contact.

Now cover the two bikes with a sheet and add the front wheel on top of the sheet.

I recommend you attach the wheels. I usually use the passenger’s seat belts to tie a knot with each wheel. You can also use a bit of rope. The idea is to prevent the wheels from flying to the front of the car if you have to do an emergency brake.

Things to remember when transporting a bike inside your car

Avoid leaning the bike against the car body

When getting the bike out of the car, or bringing the bike near the car, you might think it is a good idea to rest it against the car body. Be careful not to block the doors (to fold/unfold the seats). But more importantly, be careful not to scratch the bike or car paint. It is very unstable to keep the bike there and it might slip while you are busy doing something else. I recommend always taking the bike to a safe location: against a proper wall outdoor for instance rather than leaning it against the car.

Protect your car / your bike

Always keep one or two old covers or sheets in your car to transport your bike.

You need one piece of material to protect the car trunk and seats. Indeed, the bike chain can put grease on your car. This is very difficult to clean. But also if you ride with your bike, especially on wet rainy days or on dirt trails, your bike will be dirty when you have to put it back in the car. And it is not always possible to clean it before.

You need another piece of material to put on top of the bike once in the car. This will prevent small objects, equipment to move and damage your bike while driving.

Be careful on hot days

On a very hot day, the temperature inside the car can rise a lot if you leave your car in a parking spot. If you do so, with your bike inside, the tire pressure will increase. Hot air tends to expand and it could blow up your tires. This is especially true on road bikes where the pressure is very high.

I recommend not to leave the bike unattended in a car on a hot day. But if you have to do so, reduce the tire pressure before putting the bike inside the trunk.

Do not leave the bike unattended in the car

If you don’t want your car to be forced open, avoid leaving your bike visible to others inside the car when parked. Some people might find it a good opportunity to steal your bike.

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