As a new mountain biker, one of my first concerns was will this mountain bike fit in my car? I ride a 29er so I was very curious to see how those giant wheels were going to fit inside my car!
Regardless of whether you drive a car, truck, van, or SUV – there’s always a way to make your mountain bike fit in your vehicle. If it doesn’t fit in the trunk area, try removing the front wheel, lowering the bike saddle, laying down the vehicle’s back row seats, or removing pedals until it fits.
While transporting your mountain bike inside the vehicle is convenient because it doesn’t require purchasing any more gear, it’s not always your best option. Potential messes and the loss of interior space to bring along friends or other gear are just a few of its downsides.
Vehicle-specific tips for interior mountain bike transportation
While cars are the most common type of vehicle, they are also the trickiest when it comes to transporting a mountain bike inside the vehicle. Before heading right for the trunk, start by seeing if you can fit it into the back seat.
For most cars, this means that you’ll need to take off the bike’s front wheel and turn the handlebars sideways to get the process going. After some quick testing, it will be obvious if you need to also lower the bike’s saddle or remove its pedals to make it fit. This last step may or may not be necessary depending on the height and width of your car’s backseat.
If you’re able to fit the mountain bike in the back seat, make sure to also take a few mess prevention steps to avoid ruining your car’s interior. The bike’s chain and cogs are notorious for being greasy, so you’ll want to make sure that they are covered up to avoiding staining the seats.
Unless you’re simply moving the bike one time for a friend, I assume that you’ll also be spending plenty of time getting it dirty on trails. Bringing along additional towels, tarps, or seat covers is a fantastic idea to prevent the dirt, mud, and debris that collects on your mountain bike during rides from coating your car’s interior.
While this should be obvious, it’s worth pointing out that mountain bikes won’t fit inside every single car out there. If you’re rocking a Miata, SmartCar, or tiny coupe – then you may be out of luck getting a mountain bike inside the car. That’s not to say you’re completely out of luck for transporting them, just that it’s not going to fit INSIDE the car.
For these cars, transporting the mountain bike on the outside of the car using a roof rack, trunk rack, or vacuum mount will be your best bet.
Vans / SUVs
Due to their larger size, vans and SUVs are much easier to transport a mountain bike inside the vehicle. Depending on your specific model, you very well may be able to put the bike directly in the trunk.
Minivans often have massive trunk areas that will accommodate a mountain bike as is. If you do end up needing a little extra space, there are a few options.
- Option 1: Take off the front wheel and turn your handlebars sideways. This step alone is enough to get the bike into the trunk of most vans and SUVs. However, you will probably want to secure it in place using a bungee cord or strap to prevent it from bouncing around or falling out when you open the back door.
- Option 2: If removing the front wheel creates too much hassle for you and you don’t need all of the interior space, then try laying down your back seat. Many vans and SUVs also have split back rows. Simply lay down a portion of the seat to create the necessary space.
If you go the split row route, you may want to lay down blankets to protect the interior. If laying the bike on its side, make sure that the derailleur is facing up. This helps prevent knocking it out of alignment and causing shifting issues.
If we’re talking about storing the bike on the interior of the vehicle, trucks can actually present a tricky situation. Trucks with extended cabs make the process slightly easier because you can insert the bike directly through the back door.
Once again removing the front tire and turning the handlebars sideways will likely be necessary. Some truck back rows are very narrow and may also require pedal removal.
The great news about trucks is that they prevent an excellent backup option for storage. Hello, truck bed! While you could just toss your mountain bike straight into the back, that won’t be the best idea. A loose bike in the truck bed is bound to slide and bang around leading to damage.
A quick solution can be to use bungee cords or straps to secure it in place. However, with all that space a bike rack is also a great option. Whether you choose to buy one or go the DIY route, these bike racks are compact and fantastic at securing your mountain bike.
A cheaper (but less secure) option is a bike pad. This is laid across the tailgate to protect it from being scratched, and the bike’s front wheel is then laid across the tailgate. This sandwiching of the wheel and frame locks it in place.
The biggest risk with storing your bike in the truck bed comes down to security. Make sure to find a good way to securely lock the bike f you must leave it unattended.
How to take the front wheel off a mountain bike
Since I’ve alluded to using this trick several times, I figured it would be helpful to also provide a quick explanation on how to remove and re-attach the front wheel.
Luckily, most bikes these days come with quick releases, making it easy to take the wheel on and off without tools!
- If you do not have disk brakes, your first step will be to open your brakes by disconnecting the brake line above the wheel. For disk brakes, there is no opening process.
- Next, open the quick release lever and unscrew the nut until it is loose enough to remove the wheel from the fork.
- Lift the bike away from the wheel, or vice versa to completely separate them.
- When it comes time to re-install the wheel, place the wheel back into the dropouts making sure that it sits squarely. If you have disk brakes, line up the rotor to fit in the gap between the brake pads.
- Tighten down the nut until you feel resistance with the lever half closed.
- Use your hand to fully close down the lever. It should require enough force to close so that it leaves a temporary imprint on your hand.
- Re-attach your brake line if it was disconnected in step 1.
- Give your wheel a spin to ensure that it’s on straight and spinning smoothly.
Downsides to transporting a mountain bike inside your car
I’ve already hinted at this several times but one of the biggest downside to transporting a mountain bike inside your vehicle will be the potential mess. While there are options to prevent messes, even the most careful mountain biker will end up getting their car dirty at some point.
It’s probably too late to make this choice now, but if you’ve got an option in the future it’s always better to opt for a leather interior over cloth if you intend to transport your mountain bike inside the vehicle. When your car does get dirty, just do your best to get it cleaned up as soon as possible to limit staining or other permanent damage.
Aside from the mess, the other big downside to having your bike in the car is the loss of space. If you were planning on bringing along a few friends or extra gear, you may need to re-think where they’re going to fit now. For gear storage alone, there are plenty of great rooftop carriers out there.
In the event that these issues don’t bother you, the peace of mind that comes with being able to securely store your mountain bike inside the car makes for a huge win!
- Can you put a bike rack on any car? Yes, thanks to the variety of bike rack options available you will be able to find one that works for your car. Roof and trunk racks are the most commonly used types of bike racks on cars. However, if your car has a hitch that’s a great option as well.
- Does a bike rack damage your car? When left on for long periods, bike racks that make direct contact with the car’s paint can cause damage. For this reason, it’s best to leave them in place only during use. Occasionally cleaning the contact points when removed will also help prevent damage.
- Do trunk bike racks work on SUVs? While trunk racks can be adapted to fit different vehicles, they are often not a great fit for SUVs. This is due to their interference with automatic rear windshield wipers.