Protecting Bike & Rack | Thule Bike Rack Lock

Published by Bike Scientist on

Almost a 28% increase in bike theft has been recorded in New York alone in the past year. This surge comes in the wake of cycling becoming excessively popular during the recent pandemic years. These cases are being recorded in almost all places where bikes are routinely left unattended; in garages, outside restaurants, retail store parking, and car racks. In fact, bikes on car racks have proven to be particularly easy targets for thieves as not many people lock their bikes on them. This is mainly due to the fact that they do not believe that their bike can be stolen from the rack while traveling.

Trunk Bike Rack Lock | Saris Saris Bones Trunk Bike LockAmazon
Hitch Bike Lock | ThuleThule snug lockAmazon
One Key System Cable LockThule Cable LockAmazon

With almost 45 bikes being stolen every hour in the UK, sadly only 5% of them are returned. This means that there is hardly any chance of bike recovery once it has been stolen. With such staggering numbers of bikes being stolen, we can easily assume quite a few of them are being taken from the car bike racks.

This brings us to the question what are the possible scenarios in which you run a high possibility of losing your bike on a car bike rack?

  • Outside your home. When we are all packed for the journey but sometimes leave our bikes on car racks outside to run back in to fetch something, the bike is left unattended resulting in it becoming an easy target.
  • Restaurants, parking lots, petrol pumps, or outside retail stores. Many times we need to make pit stops while traveling. So in unsafe territory, outside restaurants, retail shops, and stores where due to heavy footfall, anyone can easily get away with your bike.
  • Traffic signals. Since it hardly takes a minute to take off a bike from a bike rack, bikes are not even safe at traffic signals.
A thief is filmed who cycles up to a car in traffic. He is seen trying to steal a bike hurriedly which is fixed to the back, but gives up when he risks losing his own set of wheels.

Now that we have realized how insecure our bikes are on car bike racks, let’s learn how to use bike rack locks on multiple types of racks including a roof rack, trunk bike rack for cars, or hitch rack. Different bike racks have different requirements when it comes to securing bikes on them.

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Bike rack lock options for Roof rack

Roof racks are the safest type of bike racks. The reason is that amongst all other types of bike racks, this one poses the maximum difficulty when trying to install a bike. Firstly, it is not easy to reach the roof of the vehicle and secondly, it generally takes two people to put the bike on it. Hence it’s equally difficult to take it off or steal it. Despite that, the bike is still not completely safe and we need to consider all security options for it.

Built-in lock systems on the racks

Thules built-in lock on the bike rack

These bike rack lock systems are prebuilt on the roof bike racks. For instance, on Thule Upride (a rooftop bike rack wheel mount), you have the option to lock the bike to the bike rack and the bike rack to the vehicle (locks sold separately). The lock system is a cable with a lock that comes out from the bike rack, you can secure the frame with the cable and lock it. It’s not the most secure system as a lot of customers in their reviews have mentioned that cable can be easily cut. There is no lock on the front bars and the quality is slightly compromised as well. One customer mentioned that “My only complaint is with the locking system. After several months of use, the slide-out locking portion becomes fairly lodged with bike/road grit and is very difficult to remove. Unfortunately, the only way to pull it out for locking the bike is by inserting, twisting, and pulling on the Thule key… which isn’t very strong and not made for this kind of abuse. I ended up breaking my key off in the cylinder and it was a significant pain to remove the broken key. I have a replacement key but I suspect this problem will continue in the future. It makes me hesitant to use the bike lock feature at all.”

D lock or U locks

In order to increase security or in case you do not have a built-in bike rack lock system on your roof bike rack, you can purchase a D or U lock. As shown in the picture below, you can make the lock go through the rack and the frame of the bike. The advantage of such a lock is that it is really hard to cut it, which qualifies it as a better deterrent as compared to a wire lock.

D lock being used to secure a bike on the car roof rack

Bike rack lock options for trunk bike rack

Saris Trunk Rack Lock

Saris Bones Trunk Bike Lock
Saris Bones Trunk Bike Lock

The lock allows you to lock/secure your rack to your vehicle. Protecting you from someone stealing your rack with the bike

  • Pros Vinyle coating
  • Rating 4.8 out of 5
  • Price Around $50

Trunk bike racks are less secure as compared to roof racks when it comes to bike theft. Since it is so easy to put the bike on a trunk bike rack, it’s equally easy to take it off for stealing it. Hence, it is highly recommended to be extra careful while leaving your bike on a trunk bike rack unattended. Some options for a lock on a car bike rack (trunk) are given below.

Trunk bike rack lock

The trunk bike rack lock operates in a way that the cable is secured within the closed trunk. This particular lock system includes a cable (around 8 feet), a lock lanyard, a lock head, and two keys. Firstly, the cylindrical bumper goes into the trunk while the lanyard’s other end stays outside. The trunk is then closed and the lanyard is pulled to ensure that the end cannot be taken out without opening the trunk. Finally, the cable is taken through all possible frames and wheels and secured with the lock head. Once the lock is installed, you can then put the bike on the bike rack. (Saris is selling this product for almost $50 on their website).

How to Use the Saris Trunk Rack Lock

Passive lock strap

The Thule Passive Lock strap makes it more difficult to remove a trunk-mounted bike rack from the vehicle. The long strap ensures it is able to reach into the trunk of most vehicles from where it wraps around the bike rack.

The way these strap works is that you loop a passive locking strap around the bottom or top bumper tube leg. Then you thread the hockey puck lock device through the loop at the other end and pull tight. Place the hockey puck lock device inside the trunk which you may place through the bottom or top of the trunk. Push most of the excess strap inside the trunk before closing. However, experienced thieves with the right tools and enough time can circumvent most security measures. The best way to protect your bike and the bike rack is to remove it when not in use and ensure that it is not left unattended for long periods of time. (Thule is selling this strap lock for $29.95 on their website).

Lock bike to hitch rack

You can use the trunk bike rack locks or the strap locks for your hitch bike rack but it is better to lock it with a longer cable lock. If you do not want to spend extra money on buying a lock, you can get a usual bungee cord, and run it through the bike frame to secure the bike. However, these chords will not perform as well as the other specialized lock systems which have been shared above.

Thule Bike rack lock

Bike rack lock

The lock allows you to lock/secure your rack to your vehicle. Protecting you from someone stealing your rack with the bike

You can use Thule Snug Tite Lock Snug-Tite, One Size with most Thule bike racks.

  • Pros Anti wobble and security
  • Rating 4.7 out of 5
  • Price Around $70

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Bike Scientist

S Chaudhry is the founder and the first writer for BikesRacks. He covers almost all the bike reviews after doing a lot of secondary and primary (hands on) research on the products. Apart from that he is the author of a number of how to do articles as well on the website. He is an avid road bike cyclists who is dealing in a lot of areas related to biking. Currently he has gained experience fixing bikes to retailing accessories related to them as well. His eventual goal is to build an authority site on cycling and also become a profession bike fitter.


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