By Stan Purdum
QUESTION: Can you put a rear-mounted bike rack on a SUV that has a spoiler above the back window? I don’t really want to buy a hitch mount if I don’t have to, and a roof rack has its own set of problems like forgetting about the garage. —Leroy L.
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: The short answer is “it depends.” But here’s the long answer:
Your question hits home for me because I puzzled over the same matter after I purchased my most recent vehicle — a 2020 Ford Explorer. It never occurred to me when looking at the car on the dealer’s lot that the spoiler might present a problem for me as a bicycle owner. It was only after I got the car home and went to mount my trusty Saris Bones 2 rack that I saw the issue: If installed as usual, the upper straps would lay on the spoiler, applying a downward pull when I had one or more bikes on the rack. And thus the question, was the spoiler strong enough to support the rack and bikes without damage to the car?
What I found out is that there is apparently no official advice on this from any carmakers. Some, however, without saying anything about their spoiler, recommend a hitch-mounted rack, which would be fine except that those racks are quite expensive, especially if your vehicle doesn’t already have a towing hitch and you have to begin by having one installed.
There’s also not much unofficial advice around either. I did find this statement on the Thule bike rack website: “If your car has a standard metal-sheet rear spoiler, there is a chance that the car can have a rear door mounted rack. If your car is equipped with a plastic rear spoiler, there is a very high chance you will not be able to mount a bike rack on the hatch as these plastic spoilers are too weak to support the weight of the rack and mounted bikes.” But that leaves it up to you to figure out what material your spoiler is made of, and even then, there are no guarantees.
The one recommendation that keeps turning up on several forums that discuss the spoiler issue, however, is a rear-mounting system from Hollywood Racks called Over-the-Top Trunk Mounted Bike Rack (scroll down the web page to “The Spoiler Solution” to see the rack mounted on a vehicle without touching the spoiler and further down to “Includes three different upper attachment options” for different ways to attach the top straps). To the degree that the main frame of the rack looks something like a ladder, it raises the upper straps above the spoiler by adding a couple more “rungs” to the “ladder.” I have not tested Hollywood rack, but the recommendations in the forums mention no problems.
But if you already have a different bike rack — and you are brave (or perhaps foolhardy) — you can do your best to assess the strength of your spoiler and if you deem it sturdy, try mounting it with the straps over the spoiler. The Thule site shows their Gateway Pro 2-bike rack installed on the back of an SUV with the upper straps running over the spoiler.
In the end, the-straps-over-the-spoiler was the choice I made to mount my Saris Bones 2 rack to my Explorer. And I hauled a bicycle that way from Florida to Ohio without difficulty or damage to the spoiler. That bike was a lightweight road bike, but these days, I more often ride my chromoly touring bike that I converted to an ebike, and I’ve used the Saris on the Explorer to carry it to the starting point of several distant rides without any problem. I remove the battery and put it inside the car, but the motor remains on the bike, making it weigh 43 pounds.
Nonetheless, I may be tempting fate, and I won’t put a second bike on the rack with the ebike weighing that much. The lease on the Explorer will be up soon, and I’m considering replacing it with a Ford Bronco Sport, which 1) has no spoiler and will let me use my Saris without concern and, 2) unlike the Explorer, is tall enough in the cargo area to stand my bike in the back with the front wheel removed. Ford sells an interior rack made by Yakama for the Bronco that will accept two bikes that way, but I have a homemade affair that I created for use in a former vehicle that will likely work just as well.
Whatever I do, I won’t buy another vehicle without first thinking through how it will transport my bikes.
Readers, if you’ve had any experience with the-straps-over-the-spoiler problem, please tell us in the comments section below.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.