How to Convert a Cargo Carrier into a Bike Rack — Exploring the Answers

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If you’re someone who always keeps running out of space at the back of their car, cargo carriers are a godsend. It’s possible to shove in literally anything as long as it fits.

But that’s the thing — it has to fit. 

Imagine my frustration when I needed to carry my bike in my car; all I had was a useless cargo carrier. Well, it turns out you can use it as a bike rack. And I’m not talking about literally buying a bike rack and latching it onto the cargo carrier, either. 

This piece will discuss the various methods of converting a cargo carrier into a bike rack without spending a truck-load of cash.

Turning Your Cargo Carrier into a Bike Rack

Turning Your Cargo Carrier into a Bike Rack

Using your cargo carrier as a bike rack can differ depending on your bike. However, for most typical bicycles, the option I’d recommend would be a bike rack adapter for your carrier.

For the most part, these adapters require you to place the bikes’ tires through the designated slots or holders and secure them in place. Depending on the size of your cargo carrier, you can use multiple adapters if you have more than one bike.

Along with the tire slots, you’ll probably find that the adapter utilizes a bunch of straps to hold the bikes in place. Essentially, these turn your cargo carrier into platform bike racks.

However, the slots also mean that the tires would have to be compatible with the width — otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to make them fit.

This is one of the most significant issues with buying adapters for cargo carriers in general. Most manufacturers create their own adapters for their carriers, and you’re limited by how much freedom they provide you with.

If possible, look for an adapter that has moveable rails to allow for different sizes of wheelbases. That way, you’d be able to use it with a wide range of bicycles.

While some of them provide good customizability, others don’t. Moreover, you generally won’t be able to use one manufacturer’s adapters for a carrier produced by someone else. Therefore, ensure cross-compatibility before purchase, if that matters.

Fortunately, the platform-like design means you won’t have to worry about the style of the bike’s frame.

Setting up the Adapter and Bikes

Depending on your adapter (and your carrier), you’ll find wheel brackets or holders in the package. The first step is to attach them to the carrier’s floor (follow the user manual for this portion).

You should find some bolts accompanied by locking nuts. Use those to secure the brackets to the cargo carrier. Many users often find their carriers’ mesh entirely bent because the bikes exerted more force than they could handle. Make sure you’ve got compatible components and gone through the installation correctly.

Make sure you’ve got the orientation of the frames right as well — they should be facing each other. Otherwise, you might have to redo it.

Provided that you’ve got the wheels’ size right, you can now set the bike in place after that. Then, all you need to do is use the straps to tie the bike(s) down to minimize any movement during transport. If the included ones don’t seem to suffice, it’s also OK to use additional ones.

Taking the DIY Approach

Buying adapters for your cargo carrier is undoubtedly the most hassle-free method. However, it’s always possible to use a hands-on approach and convert it into a bike rack. Even better, you have complete freedom over its design and structure. Here’s a feasible method of doing it:

The biggest issue we encounter is preventing the bikes from moving during transportation. Therefore, we need to create a slot to hold the bikes — preferably by their tires, as that can provide a solid base.

Many users utilize wood boards for this. The idea is to emulate the adapters’ functionality by creating slots and placing the wheels in them.

Therefore, we first need a solid board cut according to the bike’s length, which can vary drastically. Then, we need to secure it to the cargo carrier like a platform. Finally, you could cut small notches and use nuts and bolts to set the board in place.

Remember, not securing it to the carrier properly can damage your transportation and bike.

Then, you can use pieces of wood or metal (entirely up to you, but metal is tougher to work with) and cut them according to the width of your bike’s wheels. Going beyond the width would introduce swaying, and going too narrow would render the bike rack useless.

Now that the platform is ready for the bike, we need to introduce some straps to secure the bikes further. I’ve seen users utilize metal bars acting as poles that you can tie the bike to, which is a decent option. Adding a bit of padding to the points of contact is also a good idea to further ensure the bike’s safety.

Should You Take the DIY Approach?

If you’re on a budget and want to spend as little as possible, the answer is yes — assuming that you’re capable enough to do it. But, of course, the value of creating something yourself isn’t lost on me either.

However, don’t take this approach if you’re not ready to go through a bit of hassle. It will take time, impeccable measurements, and accurate cutting, which might be tricky for beginners. And if you own bikes of varying wheel widths, you will have your work cut out!

Is Converting a Cargo Carrier into a Bike Rack the Right Method?

It’s natural to have this question before you commit to the steps of converting the carrier into a rack. However, no matter what you do, a cargo carrier won’t exactly be the same as a typical bike rack. So, what should you do? 

I recommend going for a decent bike rack if you’re a frequent biker who regularly hauls bikes. The reason is that these racks come in features geared toward bikers — built-in locks, straps, and so on. The whole process is much more streamlined as well. 

Therefore, a bike rack is a superb option if you’re regularly hauling bikes and want to make things as efficient as possible. 

However, the benefit of having a cargo carrier is that you can carry more than just bikes. No matter what you’re carrying, it’ll provide you with many real estates — imagine carrying your bike and a bunch of groceries simultaneously! That’s something a bike rack can’t do.  

If you carry both bikes and cargo, you either need a cargo carrier or a combination of a rack and cargo carrier. Therefore, it’s much easier to use the carrier and turn it into a bike rack instead of buying both. 

Nevertheless, bike racks can be insanely expensive at times. A quality platform rack would set you back hundreds of dollars. Utilizing your cargo carrier to minimize costs only makes sense if you’re on a budget. While the adapters are pretty inexpensive themselves, taking the DIY approach would put that expense even lower. 

However, using a carrier as a bike rack might not be ideal if weight is an issue. That’s because you lose a bit of the weight capacity by converting the carrier into a rack, which wouldn’t be the case when using a typical bike rack.


Final Words

Cargo carriers are pretty nifty by default, except when it comes to bikes. But if you can figure out how to convert a cargo carrier into a bike rack, a host of opportunities present themselves.

It’s more efficient, less expensive, and most importantly, you don’t have to buy a whole new bike rack. Just try to ensure the maximum compatibility for your bike during the conversion, and you’re set!

Jeff Phillips Racktutor
About the author

Jeff Phillips is the able founder of In his professional life, he has been offering Paintless Dent Repair and Hail Repair services in North Texas since 1990. He is the owner of DentMasters. He is still passionate about outdoor adventures with his family, bikes and cars. So he has first-hand experience on bike racks. He is regularly testing suitable racks for his upcoming trip. His aim is to create a user-friendly free website where bikers can easily read bike rack informations without any hassle.

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