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Gas mileage and roof racks?(52 posts)

Gas mileage and roof racks?Dog
Jan 4, 2002 9:20 AM
What have you all noticed about reduction in gas mileage when a roof rack is on? I seem drop about 1 mpg with a rack alone, and 2-3 mpg with bikes on. I do much better, in fact no effect at all, with a hitch rack. My car shows instant and average gas mileage, and I really watch these things.

I've heard some people suggest removing the rack any time it's not in use, or try to use a rear rack, instead.

Any observations?

pretty bad on my carFooBar
Jan 4, 2002 9:31 AM
I usually get between 29-31mpg without a roof rack. With both my mountain bike and road bike, along with the wheels, I get about 24-25mpg. I take off the rack whenever I do a long trip without bikes (which is almost never.) It gets REALLY bad in heavy winds. This summer I drove cross country and through the panhandle of Texas there were some very strong winds. Got 18mpg that day and struggled just to keep my speed around the speed limit on flat ground. I have also noticed that my mountain bike has a far more adverse affect on mileage than my road bike. I'm assuming it's due to the obvious aerodynamic differences.
Hmm. You sure about that?mr_spin
Jan 4, 2002 9:53 AM
Are you sure your data isn't skewed? Putting bikes on a rack implies you are going somewhere (duh!), and for me, that often means getting on a freeway or I-5 going 70-80 mph. That alone can be responsible for a 2-3 mpg drop.
2-3 mpg drop on freeway?morrison
Jan 4, 2002 10:10 AM
I get much better mileage on the freeway than on surface streets, even averaging 70-80. The roofrack does cause a drop in mileage on its own. Incidentally, just driving with your windows open will cause a drop in mileage, and I have been told that it is more fuel efficient to drive with your A/C on than it is to have your windows down.
Sure, at 80+ mphmr_spin
Jan 4, 2002 10:36 AM
You'll absolutely get better mileage on the freeway than on surface streets. But the gains diminish as your speed increases. You'll get better mileage doing 70 mph than you will going 80 mph. Do 90+ for an extended period of time and you better make sure you don't stray too far from a gas station!
Agreed . . .morrison
Jan 4, 2002 10:45 AM
I thought you were saying something different =)
Just a thought on all this.....John-d
Jan 4, 2002 12:00 PM
What is the maximum wind speed that the rack fixings can take with 2 or 3 bikes on the roof.

Not long ago a Porche overtook me with 2 bikes on the roof. 2 miles down the road there was a heap of rack + bikes lying in the outside lane with two very anxious blokes hoping about on the hard shoulder.

Stuff of nightmares. No racks for me.
They were hopping and I suspect hoping nmJohn-d
Jan 4, 2002 12:01 PM
I heard of this guy...Dog
Jan 4, 2002 12:03 PM
I know of someone who has done triple digits with bikes on the roof. Won't say who. No disasters.

If I didn't keep buying all this bike sh!t . . .morrison
Jan 4, 2002 12:06 PM
I could afford a car that would go triple digits!
Triple digits/Bike ejection. . .js5280
Jan 4, 2002 3:33 PM
I've done many trips out to Fruita/Moab and let's just say I've spend some time at and above the century mark w/ 1 or 2 bikes on top. I have a Thule rack with the 599XT - Big Mouth Upright rack and the 525 - Standard Upright (the ones you don't have to take off the front wheel) I do make a point though to lock my bikes to the back bar w/ a cable just in case. Sure it might bang the hell out of the car but I think it would be cheaper to fix than replace 1 or 2 completely totalled bikes. Not much help if it all strips off though. Plus my guess is my car insurance is much better than my home owners. Anyone know how insurance would work in this situation?

I actually had one of my MTBs fall off doing 30 mph when I went over some rough railroad tracks. I forgot to do the two straps and it jumped out of the clamp. Luckily the cable lock kept the bike from falling to the ground. It swung off to the side of the car, scared the hell out of me. The Bike gods were smiling and there was absolutely no damage to the bike or car!

One time, I saw two guys along a busy highway, one walking a bike, the other carrying what I thought was a frame. "What a strange sight" I said to myself. Then I saw a car off to the side of the road, flashers on, w/ an empty trunk rack. That's when it all made sense. D'oh!
comparing same conditions nmDog
Jan 4, 2002 10:11 AM
I usualy carry my bike in the trunkStraightblock
Jan 4, 2002 10:04 AM
It fits nicely in my mid-size trunk, and I don't have to worry about those pesky drive-thru overhangs or driving into the garage with the bike on top. I notice a slight drop in the mpg with the rack on, and annoying wind noise, too, so I only use the rack when I'm taking someone else.

I kind of like being able to be identified as a cyclist when I've got the rack on the car, but I really don't need it often. Besides, the bike stays cleaner & safer in the trunk, and car washing is easier, too.

When I was racing back in the '70s & early 80's I remember seeing a few nice racks that carried the bikes on top of the trunk in the normal front fork & rear wheel mounts. Anybody still make a good rack like this?
I think you nailed itDog
Jan 4, 2002 10:10 AM
"I kind of like being able to be identified as a cyclist when I've got the rack on the car, but I really don't need it often."

My bet it that describes 95% of those with roof racks. It does feel cool, especially with a bunch of bikes and wheels up there -- like your a pro team or something.

I gotta believe that a trunk or hitch rack is much better, though -- or better yet, if you are taking only one bike, actually inside the vehicle. Oh, I miss my Suburban... (now that gas is 90 cents a gallon).

Jan 4, 2002 10:13 AM
You'd think that cyclists, of all people, would recognize the value of drafting - put the bike behind the vehicle (or in it). Makes a lot of sense, fuel economy, bugs, etc.

Hmmm...I've been pondering a roof rackKristin_CLS
Jan 4, 2002 10:27 AM
This is an interesting discussion as I've been pondering some sort of bike rack...either a roof rack or a trunk rack.

I travel w/the bike in the backseat (no fold down seats). I am upset about the fact that the paint chipped thru where the brake tension adjuster was resting against the downtube on the many trips it has taken. Can driving with my bike wedged into the back seat do more serious damage? I can put some kinda tape on padding around that brake adjuster to keep it from damaging the downtube paint anymore. But I do worry about the frame being rattled around back there
No way to keep paint pristinescottfree
Jan 4, 2002 10:51 AM
Scratches in the back seat, gravel dings from being on a rack. Plus salt spray, rain and mud splatters. I say solo transport is best in the backseat or truck. Save the racks for when you're hauling more than one.
Meant to type trunk, not truck nmscottfree
Jan 4, 2002 10:53 AM
Unless you get rear-ended!!dsc
Jan 4, 2002 11:19 AM
I've known several people that this has happened to. That's why I never went with a rear hitch. Of course, I've also driven into my garage with it on top, too (mtb; the garage door actually fared MUCH worse than my bike).

Now I have a Ford Ranger, so all bikes just go on a rack in the bed.
Doesn't affect the mileage, and loading/unloading is a cinch.

Ever tailgate while scoping a bike on a trunk rack? (nm)Kristin_CLS
Jan 4, 2002 11:25 AM
Naw, I just pull up beside 'em and gawk! :O) (nm)dsc
Jan 4, 2002 11:38 AM
I usualy carry my bike in the trunkLI Biker
Jan 4, 2002 12:58 PM
I have one. Recently I asked the company for an update of the adjustments needed for my new car (you dial them in with numbers and letters specified for your vehicle). Unfortunately, I was told that they are designed to sit on the bumper and most new car bumpers are not able to hold any weight. Want to buy one cheap?
it's not the gas mileage...gtx
Jan 4, 2002 10:11 AM
it's the wind noise, dead bugs and inevitable crunching of your bike against the top of the garage or whatnot that has prevented me from getting one all these years. I like my wagon.
Another cautionary tale against roof racks...guido
Jan 4, 2002 11:43 AM
What about the stories of spare bikes carried on roof racks atop the follow cars during stage races, getting brinneled headsets from the shocks and vibrations induced through the front forks?

I've never met anyone who had that problem, but one directeur sportif in the Tour de France refused to carry his spare bikes on roof racks with fork mounts. He used the ones with which you could tie down the bikes without removing the front wheels.
speculationDuane Gran
Jan 4, 2002 11:56 AM
Offhand I can think of a more likely reason for such a decision. It is a little quicker to unstrap two wheels than to unstrap one wheel, loosen the fork connection and then attach a front wheel. When seconds matter I would prefer having the bike ready to roll once taken off the rack.

I'm not familiar with that particular problem and I don't have a reason to doubt or endorse it, but maybe the aforementioned reason is more motivating.
car suspensionDog
Jan 4, 2002 12:01 PM
With everything riding on the car's suspension, I doubt the blows to the headseat would be anything near to what it experiences while being ridden. I agree that it's the quick access that likely is the reason.

Jan 4, 2002 12:10 PM
I think the tires & suspension on the car are going to absorb much more shock than a 20mm hi pressure tire. The load from a 160-180 pound rider traveling over a few miles of pavè will probably damage a headset much more than the same bike with no load spending thousands of miles on a roof rack.
Jan 4, 2002 12:57 PM
and I guess that's why we haven't heard any stories confirming what that team driver claimed. As far as wind induced vibrations doing it, if the bike doesn't hum, I guess you can rule that out, too.
You could be right...ohio
Jan 4, 2002 1:09 PM
... about the brinelling. Wind buffeting especially at the right speed cause cause all kinds of vibrations, and car suspension is not sensitive enough to get ride of high frequency vibrations that would be transferred through the exterior metal body (not through all the cloth foam and plastic to the interior). Brinelling occurs only when the bearings are held in the same position for a long period of time, such as a straight descent or ON A RACK. So it's actually ideal conditions for brinelling to occur.

On the other hand, I've never heard of anyone having this problem...
If it's a genuine problemStraightblock
Jan 4, 2002 3:41 PM
maybe it's an indication that our bikes are spending too much time on the car rack & not enough time on the road.

I ride from my front door whenever possible. With limited riding time, I figure time spent driving to a ride start, loading and unloading the car is wasted time.

I usually ride the 7 miles from my house to my riding buddy's place. It's not an interesting ride, just thru the 'burbs & along a busy expressway, but maybe that extra 14 miles on the round trip are one reason why I can beat him on the climbs & he sometimes has trouble holding my wheel at the end of the ride.
Right on, Straightblock!guido
Jan 4, 2002 8:52 PM
I knew a guy who rode his Colnago 15 miles to meet the club rides. He was always fresh at the end, and had a nice ride home. The clubbies think I'm a little radical appearing for their rides on my bike, but I live only 3 miles away, not even enough for a good warm-up or cool-down.

Racers travel to the next city or state for organized rides, though, and as Dog said, roof racks look cool in this context. Any connection here with the local club rides?
re: Gas mileage and roof racks?pmf1
Jan 4, 2002 10:12 AM
Would you put your C-40 on a trunk rack? I sure wouldn't.

What about a faring for the roof rack?

Better yet, just buy a Suburban. Bikes are half the reason I bought a Volvo station wagon.
re: Gas mileage and roof racks?Js Haiku Shop
Jan 4, 2002 10:14 AM
couple mpg with the rack on--it's a 3-tray with 3 wheel mounts & a fairing. with the bikes on? i've found i'm pretty edgy with bikes overhead on the expressway/highways, so for longer trips i'll take wheels off and put the frame & wheels either in the trunk or across the back seat (2-door civic) and remove the roof rack.

also have a trunk rack, but haven't used it for some time. don't really care much for either, to be honest. i do like the ease of mounting bike and front wheel on the roof rack for trips across town, etc., but both trunk and roof rack have caused scratches on my car, and i usually ride to the ride (or trail), anyhow.

i'll select my next car with this in mind. either get a hitch-mounted rack similar to the roof rack mount (trays and fork mounts), or put fork mounts on a 2x4 or get a similar system for either truck bed or the back of that subaru forester i've been eyeing.

I know it's off the subject, but i'm also thinking either a truck with a bed cover, or the forester or other small SUV could act as a mobile hotel room for out of town/overnight rides, saving $40-$90 per night and making my wife more agreeable to those rides four hours from home. anybody else do this?
Jan 4, 2002 10:17 AM
Why not just get a van? Either mini or full sized. That Ford F-350 15 passenger with diesel power is looking pretty good from a cycling perspective.

gas mileage (also a commuter vehicle) nmJs Haiku Shop
Jan 4, 2002 10:29 AM
Dodge CaravanSpokeman
Jan 4, 2002 10:32 AM
I can't say enough good things about a minivan. Ours is very cool (well, as cool as a minivan can get) It's a Caravan Sport with factory 17" wheels, handling package and a torquey V6. So I don't feel like I'm giving up much in the handling dept. I can haul 3 bikes inside, no problem. Not to mention the fact that it's simply more comfortable to ride in than my car (Infiniti). The upright seating position is more conducive to long drives than a car. I can change clothes in it easily before/after races and I can haul all the crap I want to a race.

Quite a few of my buds have SUV's and they are no comparison to the versatility of a van for bike racing.

Agree, Minivans are the way to go-if you have a choice.MB1
Jan 4, 2002 12:49 PM
I've tried all sorts of racks-they all have plusses and minuses. Anything on the outside of your car is going to have exposure and security issues.

My last gasp was a pickup truck with a bed rack. Wasn't bad but when I got married Miss M didn't like having to change in the cab on cold days. We finally broke down and got a Chevy Venture long bed Minivan.

They loved us at the dealerships checking to see if we could fit 2 singles and the tandem. Now the bikes are protected from weather and road crud, secure from theft and there is lots of room for gear and to change clothes. No effect on mileage with the bikes inside.
Jan 4, 2002 1:19 PM
Revolt and refuse to drive these ugly POS vehicles. Practical schmactical.
Jan 4, 2002 1:30 PM
Oh and I guess owning a sports car makes you look more attractive and an SUV makes you more athletic?

Grow up.

PALEFACED WANNABE ALERT!!!!!!!!!!Whiteguysusingghettoslanghata
Jan 4, 2002 7:45 PM
Enough with the hata shite. Do the terms whigger or wannabe mean anything to you?

How about you get to use "hata" just as soon as you take off that light blue Polo shirt and lose the average white male lifestyle.

Here's a tip: True "playas" do not drive the Suburban down to the Megaplex to see the Harry Potter movie.

Okay Foolio?

Michael Jackson is blacker than you.
MINIVANS ARE EMASCULATING!!!!!!!!!!Real men drive real vans!
Jan 4, 2002 8:53 PM
My son and I call minivans "Girlie-Vans" !!
real men are secure enough to drive anything. nmDog
Jan 5, 2002 9:57 PM
SORRY TO HEAR YOU'VE PROCREATED!!!!!!!!!!Jackass and Son
Jan 5, 2002 10:47 PM
Shame the world must put up with you. Now we have to suffer through a sequel?

It's never too late to let someone else raise him. Anyone.
Ford Winstarmorrison
Jan 4, 2002 10:52 AM
My wife and I got a minivan and it slowly evolved from the car we used to transport our kids to my bike-mobile. Added advantage: With tinted windows, I can change clothes in the backseat in a crowded lot w/out fear of arrest.
Jan 4, 2002 11:07 AM
Doesn't that defeat the ideology of biking? That is, not needing an automobile (especially an SUV or the like). I can understand if you need to get to a race or something, you would need something to carry your bike and supplies. A station wagon would be more than sufficient or maybe even car pool with a buddy. But an F-350? That's along the lines of dandelion versus bulldozer; it's overkill. Anyway, I hope you're just being facetious.
Jan 4, 2002 11:30 AM
Actually, I meant E350, but not really facetious. I'm thinking in terms of ultra events, where you have a crew of 3 or more people, 3 or 4 bikes, several coolers, lots of water, and food for everyone for several days. Plus, room to work on bikes inside while going down the road. Maybe even room to stretch out and sleep among all this stuff.

I'd never get one if it were my main transportation. That would be a little wasteful, even for me. :-)

I think that's ideal...ohio
Jan 4, 2002 1:22 PM
When I was in Peru, I ran across the ideal setup: there are tons of old Landcruiser FJ-40s down there. Not the bikini-top jeep-looking ones like we had up here, but with a hardtop, and bench setaing on the sides behind the two front seats. So you could fold the benches up, fit a truck style fork mount rack across it and fit 3 or 4 bikes in there if you needed to. Plus you can keep a bed roll under one of the benches, then fold them up, and lay out the roll, and you've got a bed for the night. I've been looking for one to fix up myself ever since I got back, but I guess toyota never brought that model to the US.
used to sleep in a Saabgtx
Jan 4, 2002 1:45 PM
when we went skiing in Tahoe. Not sure I'd recommend it, though. Had a friend who used to sleep in his Bugeye Sprite (not skiing, though--this was down in So Cal after his parents kicked him out of the house). He's a big guy, too.

I'd recommend spending less on the car and more on decent accomodations. Hey, how 'bout the new Mini?
Your mileage may vary...Brooks
Jan 4, 2002 10:32 AM
but I get the same drop in mileage as you observe. Most times I throw the bike in the back of the pickup. If driving a long ways, and staying overnight, (say to Moab from Salt Lake area) we use the car (Ford Taurus) with the roof rack. I've never been too keen on hitch mounts because your bike becomes an extra bumper and you are relying on someone else not to hit you. I would rather rely on myself not to drive into the garage with the bikes on top (never happened yet). Also, I take the Yakima rack off when not in use because of noise and water leaking into car when going through carwash.

With three bikes, my Civic drops from 34mpg to @26-27cory
Jan 4, 2002 10:36 AM
That's on long trips at 70 or so, where drag kills you. Crossing Nevada, where the speed limit is 75 and everybody goes 80+, it's below 25mpg.
With the Yakima rack alone, no bikes, it's worth a couple of miles per gallon. It only takes a minute to lift the rack off and stick it in the garage, and I do when I'm not using it.
Just like you - I lose 2-3 mpg (nm)Kerry Irons
Jan 4, 2002 4:03 PM
Forget the rack- Get the right owner
Jan 4, 2002 8:03 PM
My car, a Honda Accord Wagon, gets 28/34mph, with two fully assembled bikes tossed right inside. Got shade and a place to sit too. No mileage sucking roof rack. No rollover risk. No bug bashed bikes. Tons of extra room for a weeks worth of stuff. Best of all, its not a minivan or SUV. This is the way to go for a great car with reliability and practicality. Detroit marketing geniuses killed the sport wagon years ago.