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How to safely secure your bicycle to your car

How to safely secure your bicycle to your car

If you’re a veteran bike rider or a newbie, perhaps you’d like to cycle to work or discover where the new trail takes you. But what are the rules around carrying your bike in or on your car?

A poorly restrained bike has the potential to cause severe damage or injury – just imagine the chaos it would cause if it were to come loose while driving. Rest assured, there are a few ways you can transport your two-wheeler, and we’ll explain how you can do it lawfully and safely.

Boots and back seats VS racks

The way you transport your bicycle will depend on how big your bike is and whether it’ll fit into your vehicle’s backseat. If you drive a spacious 4WD, ute or van, you’ll most likely find transporting your bike to be a breeze. Just make sure that if you choose to transport your bike in the car it needs to be safely secured to prevent it from moving about. Using octopus straps or ratchet straps is a great way to make sure your bike is secured safely in the back of your car. If you don’t have a roomy back seat or boot, you’ll need to opt for the safe alternatives – roof racks or a rear mount bicycle rack.

Roof racks

If you opt for roof racks, you’ll need to make sure you buy a dedicated attachment specifically designed for carrying bikes – some racks are devised to carry bikes upright, others upside down. Either way, follow the steps below:

  1. Ensure all connections are secure and safely fastened – these include the bicycle to the attachment, the attachment to the roof rack, and the roof rack to the vehicle.

  2. These can loosen as you travel, so be sure to regularly check them at intervals during your journey.

  3. Take extra care on winding roads, in windy conditions or high wind areas, and when approaching places with height restrictions, like under tunnels, car parks and beneath low hanging branches and trees.

Rear mount bicycle racks

If you opt for a rear mounted bicycle rack, you’ll need to make sure the rack you use is specifically designed for bikes and includes an attachment to the rear – which is usually connected to the tow ball or the boot. Follow the steps below and remember to keep safety at the top of mind:

  1. Make sure the bicycle rack is strong enough to carry the bicycle/s and is securely attached to your vehicle.

  2. Don’t carry more bicycles or more than the maximum weight than the rack is designed to carry.

  3. Make sure the bicycle rack and its load doesn’t stick out excessively behind the rear of your vehicle or protrude more than 15cm beyond the extreme width of either side of the vehicle.

  4. Make sure your bicycle/s don’t block or obstruct your number plate or rear lights.

  5. If your number plate is blocked or obscured you must use an auxiliary plate, which can be purchased from your state’s registration office and must be completely visible at night. In NSW, this can be ordered online at

  6. If an auxiliary number plate is used when carrying bicycles, it may only be fitted to a bicycle rack that’s attached to your car.

  7. Make sure the auxiliary number plate is securely attached and that its top edge is no more than 130cm above the ground.

  8. If any light/s are obscured, you must attach an additional set of lights at the rear of your bicycle/s.

  9. If you’re using a bicycle rack at night, you must fit one or more number plate lights to illuminate the auxiliary number plate if fitted, which can be purchased from an automotive store.

  10. If using an auxiliary number plate, surround it with soft rubber or plastic so it isn’t harmful to pedestrians.

  11. When the bike rack isn’t in use, remove it from your car so that it’s not a hazard to other vehicles or pedestrians. In NSW, it’s illegal to drive a car with a rear bike rack installed and no bike on it.

Abide by the law

Each state has different laws, so to avoid penalties remember to always follow the laws in your state. For example, in NSW, penalties may apply if the bicycle isn’t properly secured; the bicycle rack, or any bicycle fitted to it, obscures any light (including the centre-mounted brake light) or the number plate, and it is not fitted with an additional set of lights and auxiliary number plate; or the bicycle rack (with or without a bicycle) creates a dangerous protrusion to either side or to the rear of the vehicle.

For a guide on how to lawfully carry bicycles on motor vehicles in NSW, refer to the Transport Roads & Maritime Services’ Vehicle Standards Information fact sheet.

Protect your set of wheels

Regardless of whether you ride your bike leisurely or are a fully-fledged pedal pusher, your bicycle is a precious asset. NRMA Insurance can help get you covered on and off the road in a few different ways.

With NRMA Single Item Insurance you can control your cover and save money by only insuring what’s most important to you – like your push bike. This policy will protect your push bike against fire, storms and floods, and theft from your home.

Alternatively, if you already hold an NRMA Home Contents Insurance policy, you can insure your bicycle as an optional extra under your existing cover. Just keep in mind that although we offer to safeguard your two-wheeler, unfortunately we don’t cover bicycles while they’re being used in a competitive race or time trial.

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