How to Lock a Bike to a Car Bike Rack (The Actual Way) 2024 Reviews

There are a lot of great car bike racks out there that have great features, but lack the security you need when it comes to locking up your bike to the car rack. When you are traveling on the road and you decide to make a stop and get out of your car, the last thing you want to be worried about thieves trying to steal your bikes. You don’t want to feel like you can never leave your bikes. Bike theft can become a real problem for cyclists. That’s why it’s so important to lock your bikes to the car bike rack.

I know what you’re thinking.

Any lock will work, right? Not exactly.

Keep reading to learn more about the best way to keep your bike secure and locked to the car bike rack.

Which Car Rack Do You Own?

First, something to consider is what kind of car bike rack you currently own. Depending on the type of bike rack you have will make a difference as to how you lock your bikes to the rack and car and what type you use. Below we’ll discuss the difference between roof racks and trunk racks.

Roof Mounted Bike Rack

The advantage to a roof rack is the location of the bikes since the bike frame attaches to the roof of your vehicle. Roof racks are generally very secure when attached to your vehicle. Roof racks also usually come with locks to protect your bikes from thieves.

Trunk Rack

With a trunk rack on your vehicle, you will likely need to purchase some sort of lock since most of these racks don’t come equipped with them. The flipside of that is trunk racks are generally a lot cheaper than a roof mounted rack. These types of racks attach to your vehicle trunk with straps.

How to Lock Bike on Car Bike Rack

Let’s dive right in.

When it comes to locking up your bike on a car rack, you need to make sure you have the right type of equipment to do so. And, you have a few options when it comes to how to lock your bike up.

Something you should always consider is removing one of the wheels and put it somewhere safe like in the car. That will certainly deter someone from trying to steal your bike.

What You Will Need to Secure Your Bike

To properly secure your bike to your vehicle bike rack, you will want to make sure you have the following:

  • Bike rack
  • Knowledge of your car: do you have a tow hook?
  • Straps to hold your bike in place on the bike rack
  • Lock(s) to secure your bike on the bike rack

Methods of Securing Your Bike

Passive Strap

Using the passive strap method, you will use either a passive lock strap or trunk lock strap. With either, you will loop the flexible cable around your bike. A stubbed end goes inside the car in either the trunk (if you have a trunk rack) or inside a passenger door (if you have a roof rack).

This is a popular, easy method of locking up your bikes to your car bike rack, but it’s a good idea to make sure that you use multiple locking systems to make sure your bikes stay safe from thieves. Of course, if you choose to only use the passive strap method by itself, the good news is that you’ve taken one more step towards security than leaving the bikes with a lock at all on the bike rack.

Tow Loop/Tow Hook

The tow loop method is a little more complicated way since it requires a tow loop or tow hook. If your car doesn’t have a towing package, it may still have a loop or bracket underneath the bumper of your car. If you don’t have one, then you could always purchase an external tow hitch, but it will be costly.

If your vehicle has a tow hook on the back of it, this is a simple way to lock the bikes to the rack and car. Using a cable lock, you can thread the cable around the bike frame and rear wheel. You then lock the ends onto the metal loop underneath the frame of the car. You can also thread it through the front wheel of your bike if your cable is long enough to do so. We’ve got some good cable locks listed just below.

Locks for Securing Your Bike

Cable Lock – Best Basic Lock | Security Rating: 3

Cable locks are one of the easiest locks in terms of maintenance and versatility. You can use them for a lot of things apart from just locking up your bicycles to your car bike rack. And, they’re easy to carry around, which makes them convenient.

Probably their biggest selling point is that they are incredible affordable, which makes it easy for just about anyone to secure your bikes using a cable lock. To use this type of lock, you will just loop it around your bike and bike carrier and then lock it up. The only downside to a cable lock is that it can be pretty easily cut through with a pair of bolt cutters, something thieves are very familiar with. To beef up security, it’s a good idea to use a cable lock in combination with a U-Lock.

  • Easy to maintain
  • Convenient to carry
  • Affordable
  • Not the most theft proof

A favorite cable lock of ours is the Master Lock Combination Bike Lock.

It’s a pretty basic bike lock, but the price just can’t be beat, especially as a starter lock. We also really like that it uses a four-digit combination for locking up your bikes so you don’t have to remember to keep keys with you when you’re out on an adventure.

On the flipside, that means the combination is preset and can’t be changed.

The lock is made from braided steel and is very strong and flexible. It’s also self-coiling for easy storage. It features a vinyl coating to keep the cable from scratching your bike. This particular lock is 4 ft. long, which should be plenty of length to keep one bike locked up.

If you’re looking to lock up more than one bike, you should consider the Kryptonite KryptoFlex Looped Bike Security Cable.

At 7 ft. long, this is a great choice for locking up two or more bikes to your car bike rack. It’s made of 10mm braided steel cable to provide increased cut resistance for any thieves out there looking to steal your bike. It has a protective vinyl cover to keep your bike from getting scratched and it features a double looped cable so that you can use it in combination with a U-Lock or padlock. It’s a bit more expensive than the Master Lock we featured above, but for the added security and length, you may have it worth it.

Chain Lock – Most Versatile Lock | Security Rating: 5

Chain locks are just what they sound like. They are steel links connected together, typically inside a nylon sleeve, with a lock on the end. The nice thing about a chain lock is that they can be pretty long and with their design, they can secure your bike to your car rack, but can also secure a number of other things as well.

Not quite convinced this is the one for you?

We like how easy it is to keep the lock on your bike since you can just wrap it around your bike seat post. To use it, you just wrap the chain around your bike frame, through the wheel, and then the bike rack to secure it.

While they can still be cut with power tools, it certainly harder to cut a chain lock than it is to cut a cable lock. The downside to a chain lock is their weight. They are the heaviest of the three locks we feature in our list, which is something to consider when looking at purchasing a lock for your bike rack. On the flipside of that, the weight could deter someone from trying to steal your bike.

  • Long
  • Versatile
  • Strong
  • Heavy

The Kryptonite Keeper Integrated Bicycle Lock Chain Bike Lock is a solid chain lock.

The Kryptonite Keeper is a 7mm chain that is made from 3T manganese steel. The end link secures the chain directly to a hardened deadbolt for a strong and secure lock. The cylinder on the lock is pick and drill resistant for anyone thinking they may try to pick it and steal your bikes off your vehicle. The nylon sleeve that is wrapped around the chain links is weather resistant and helps to prevent your bike from getting scratched and messing up your paint when you thread the cable through the wheels. We like that this lock comes with 2 keys, just in case you lose one.

U-Lock – Most Secure Lock | Security Rating: 7

U-Locks are a favorite with people since they offer a maximum amount of security, but aren’t as heavy as chain locks. Generally, they are heavy enough to be a theft deterrent, and also hard to cut through, meaning your bikes should be secure from any opportunists out there looking to steal your bike or bike rack.

What kind of U-Lock you get will depend on your bike. Since the size of the bike frame and tires will vary depending on the type of bike you have, the type and size U-Lock you get will vary, too. With a fat tire bike, electric bike, or mountain bike, you will have thicker tires and wider frames, which means you will need a long, wide U-Lock. This will not be the case if you have a road bike, however.

If you choose to use a cable lock and U-Lock together, this will provide the ultimate security.

So how do they work together?

You just attach the U-Lock around the rear wheel, the frame and the bike rack. Then you put one end of the cable lock through the front wheel, put one loop through the other loop and secure the first loop to the U-Lock.

  • Hard to cut through
  • Varying sizes
  • Durable
  • Expensive

Kryptonite Kryptolok U-Lock with FlexFrame-U Bracket is a 12.7mm hardened performance steel shackle lock.

We really like that the hardened double-deadbolts engage both shackle ends, which means they are very strong. The design of this lock helps to protect it from being cut with bolt cutters. And, the disc-style cylinder is both pick and drill resistant, offering a high level of security from thieves. With this lock, you get 2 stainless steel keys that are design to be resistant to bending or breaking.

If you are planning to use both a cable lock and U-Lock, then we suggest the Via Velo Bike Lock Heavy Duty Bicycle U-Lock.

The Via Velo is a great combination system that includes both style of locks together. The U-Lock is very durable with a PVC cover that is rust-resistant and can withstand any weather conditions. It’s constructed of steel and has a double bolt crossbar locking mechanism that is incredibly tough. It’s also pick and drill-resistant. It’s not a hassle at all to do, either. It’s actually quite simple to lock your bike to bike racks with this system. With two keys, you can keep one with you and stash one in the junk drawer at home or maybe the glove box inside the car just in case you lose one key.

Here’s the thing.

Ultimately, while you can try and prevent someone from stealing your bike by using one of the methods we discussed above, none of them are completely foolproof.


How do you lock a bike on a bike rack?

You lock a bike onto a bike rack using a lock, whether that be a cable lock, chain lock, U-Lock, or even a combination of locks. You wrap the lock around the bike and secure it to either your bike rack or car.

How do you lock a bike on a Thule bike rack?

Thule bike racks have a few features that help keep a bike secure on the bike rack, including the lockable knob, wheel holders for the wheels, and the securing straps that keep your bicycle secured to the bike rack on your car. You can always upgrade the securing straps or use a chain or cable lock in combination with a U-Lock to lock your bike to the bike rack and even loop it to the car receiver hitch as well.

How do I keep my bike rack from being stolen?

The bet way to keep your bike rack safe and prevent theft is to keep your bike rack securely locked to your car using one of the methods we described above.

Do bike racks have locks?

It depends. Some car bike racks do come with locks, but will generally be the higher end, more expensive bike racks. For bike racks that do not come with a bike lock, you can always purchase one separately to attach to your bike rack for added security. In general, we recommend that you use at least one type of lock. Also, if you’re suffering from loading and storing all of your travel necessities, you might want to go or a swing-away bike rack. If you own a Mini Cooper, our post about Mini Cooper bike rack might help you choose the best and safest one for your both of your bike and car.

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Austin Mills

Austin Mills in an outdoor enthusiast. He's been featured on some of the top outdoor & fitness blogs sharing his expertise in order to help others. In his free time, he likes spending time with his dogs enjoying the outdoors.