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How to make bike flat?

Old 06-21-23, 12:07 AM
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How to make bike flat?

When I put my bike in the car, I take off the front wheel and I turn the handlebars 90 degrees so everything is nice and flat. Then I throw a moving blanket over it and load my kids' bikes on top. With my son's new bike, it is bigger and more awkward to load. I would like to get his flat too, but he doesn't have the quick release. Can I unbolt his front wheel? Can I loosen the handlebars and make the bike flat that way? Or should I try to not futz with it? I'd prefer to not spend $1000 to install a hitch and rack.

Last edited by instock; 06-21-23 at 06:51 AM.
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Old 06-21-23, 01:10 AM
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Depending upon your vehicle, there may be other options instead of installing a receiver and tow hitch type rack.

For 2 bikes in a sedan, a truck mount carrier can work well or is you have a roof rack, bike carriers could be added.
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Old 06-21-23, 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by instock
he doesn't have the quick release. Can I unbolt his front wheel?
Yes. Probably best if you don't mess with the handlebars.
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Old 06-21-23, 06:01 AM
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Ditto the above. If I really need the room, I'll also remove pedals. (Be sure to have a pedal wrench at your destination.)
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Old 06-21-23, 06:01 AM
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Short answer is yes, you can unbolt wheels and handlebars then readjust them every time you go riding, then a second time to get home.

Trunk mounted bike carriers have a lot of issues. Mainly they take effort to install and prevent access to the trunk, but most importantly you risk damaging your car. The more weight you put on them the greater the chance of them failing.

I bought a receiver hitch and 3 bike rack for $250 total. Prices have gone up since then, but IMO still the best option. Look for a hitch from Curt manufacturing and rack from Allen Sports. The combo I have is still just a bit over $300. They are not hard to install and come with vehicle specific directions. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, check out a price with a local muffler shop first.

I carry the rack in my trunk, takes 10-15 minutes to install and load all the bikes. Have used this set up for many years now, never an issue.

As an added bonus I have used the bike rack to transport things like folding ladders. Buy a $50 receiver hitch tray at Walmart and use that to carry trash, a cooler, or bags of mulch without getting the inside of your car dirty. for extra credit even a Mazda 3 will tow a small utility trailer that folds up inside your garage....just saying.
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Old 06-21-23, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus
Ditto the above. If I really need the room, I'll also remove pedals. (Be sure to have a wrench at your destination.)
This right here. I'll be riding in the park and someone doesn't have an Allen wrench or a crescent. Invariably they need a simple tool.
Pack a little tool box with a crescent wrench, a couple of screw drivers and a pair of pliers and maybe a folding .Allen key set.
That'll put you miles ahead.
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Old 06-21-23, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Schweinhund
This right here. I'll be riding in the park and someone doesn't have an Allen wrench or a crescent. Invariably they need a simple tool.

Pack a little tool box with a crescent wrench, a couple of screw drivers and a pair of pliers and maybe a folding .Allen key set.

That'll put you miles ahead.
1000% I carry all kinds of stuff. Literally just a few minutes ago, I was dropping the kids off at school. My son suddenly informed me that they are having a special end-of-year thing where they are all going to hide under blankets and read with flashlights. He says we have to go home and get the supplies. I reach into the door pocket and hand him a headlamp. I grab a blanket from the back. And he's good to go!
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Old 06-21-23, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood
Short answer is yes, you can unbolt wheels and handlebars then readjust them every time you go riding, then a second time to get home.

Trunk mounted bike carriers have a lot of issues. Mainly they take effort to install and prevent access to the trunk, but most importantly you risk damaging your car. The more weight you put on them the greater the chance of them failing.

I bought a receiver hitch and 3 bike rack for $250 total. Prices have gone up since then, but IMO still the best option. Look for a hitch from Curt manufacturing and rack from Allen Sports. The combo I have is still just a bit over $300. They are not hard to install and come with vehicle specific directions. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, check out a price with a local muffler shop first.

I carry the rack in my trunk, takes 10-15 minutes to install and load all the bikes. Have used this set up for many years now, never an issue.

As an added bonus I have used the bike rack to transport things like folding ladders. Buy a $50 receiver hitch tray at Walmart and use that to carry trash, a cooler, or bags of mulch without getting the inside of your car dirty. for extra credit even a Mazda 3 will tow a small utility trailer that folds up inside your garage....just saying.
I sort of feel like the whole point of having a big SUV is so you can stuff it full of bicycles and stuff. But you make some interesting points. $300 is way cheaper than the options I was looking at. It would be helpful if we are doing a big trip and the car is already full of suitcases or camping gear or whatever. The tray idea is intriguing too.
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Old 06-21-23, 08:17 AM
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I concur with the bike rack suggestions above. Especially since you have an SUV. There are multi-bike racks, that hook/strap onto the back hatch you can buy (new) for less than $100 (U.S.). I have one I use when traveling, and leave it on the vehicle once we arrive our destination and take the bike(s) off. Itís not obtrusive to drive around with.

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Old 06-21-23, 08:24 AM
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If you have to ask if you can unbolt the front wheel I would say you probably shouldn't.

Break down get yourself a rack and/or hitch if needed. I think you will be much happier with the ease in spite of the cost.
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Old 06-21-23, 08:48 AM
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I have used both strap-on bike carriers and hitch racks. For anything more than one fairly light bike, strap-ons are shaky and can damage the car. A good hitch is worth the cost and can do more than just take a bike rack. I just had a Draw-Tite hitch installed on my Subaru Crosstrak for just over $200 (it was significantly less costly than a Curt hitch) and amazon sells several serviceable hitch racks at reasonable cost.

However, to answer your original question, sure, unbolt the front wheel and lay it flat. Just bring the needed wrench with you.
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Old 06-21-23, 09:00 AM
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My Outback is big enough to put a bike in without removing/loosening anything(2 bikes if I try really hard), but it's a pain. I like that I can do it in those rare cases when I need to go into a restaurant or whatever and won't be able to park right in front, but that's the only time I ever hassle w that. Bikes just don't like to down. They move around if you don't take steps to secure them, components get tweaked, your car gets dirty or scratched up on the inside, etc.
The Curt tow hitch I got at U-Haul came to about $225 w installation. Totally worth it. Then there's tons of rack options out there. I swear by my OG 1 UP USA but I realize they're not the cheapest. A great investment though--indestructible. There are probably used options out there too.
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Old 06-21-23, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by instock
When I put my bike in the car, I take off the front wheel and I turn the handlebars 90 degrees so everything is nice and flat. Then I throw a moving blanket over it and load my kids' bikes on top. With my son's new bike, it is bigger and more awkward to load. I would like to get his flat too, but he doesn't have the quick release. Can I unbolt his front wheel? Can I loosen the handlebars and make the bike flat that way? Or should I try to not futz with it? I'd prefer to not spend $1000 to install a hitch and rack.
If it has a threadless headset you'd need to adjust it every time you loosened the handlebar, unless you fit a clamp to hold it in place. If it's a quill stem then easier to loosen and turn that than taking the wheel out. If you're comfortable fitting a quick release wheel then a nutted axle is no problem, although you might want to upgrade to good quality track nuts to make it easier - you should be carrying the tools needed to remove wheels anyway, for fixing punctures. I have a cheap tailgate carrier, it doesn't take long to fit or remove and is fine for chucking on a bike or two if you're not too worried about a bit of cosmetic damage to bike and possibly car - with care and extra padding (pipe insulation and duct tape) you can reduce risk of damage . For e-bikes I have a towball rack bought used on eBay that is more secure but more hassle. Both racks let me open the tailgate. Trikes go on roof bars with ratchet straps, not a great solution for high speed long distance or parking structures but handy otherwise. Then there's trailers ...
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Old 06-21-23, 11:09 AM
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Got a hitch receiver and rack a few years ago and now wish I'd done it way sooner. The hitch was just over $100 and I installed it myself in less than 45 minutes. The rack, that will depend on your preferences, but I got mine used for under $300.
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Old 06-21-23, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by grumpus
If it has a threadless headset you'd need to adjust it every time you loosened the handlebar, unless you fit a clamp to hold it in place. If it's a quill stem then easier to loosen and turn that than taking the wheel out. If you're comfortable fitting a quick release wheel then a nutted axle is no problem, although you might want to upgrade to good quality track nuts to make it easier - you should be carrying the tools needed to remove wheels anyway, for fixing punctures. I have a cheap tailgate carrier, it doesn't take long to fit or remove and is fine for chucking on a bike or two if you're not too worried about a bit of cosmetic damage to bike and possibly car - with care and extra padding (pipe insulation and duct tape) you can reduce risk of damage . For e-bikes I have a towball rack bought used on eBay that is more secure but more hassle. Both racks let me open the tailgate. Trikes go on roof bars with ratchet straps, not a great solution for high speed long distance or parking structures but handy otherwise. Then there's trailers ...
I'm not sure what I have. It looks like this. I just noticed those little letters are a torque spec. So that sort of tells me I shouldn't be messing with it.


Excellent point about how pulling the wheel is no different from getting a flat. Great answer in general. 👍
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Old 06-21-23, 11:45 AM
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That's the threadless headset mentioned above that will need fine-tuning if you loosen the stem clamp bolts. The bolt in the center of the cap is the adjusting screw. It's something you should learn to do--check the Park Tool website for a video. If you've already turned those bars, chances are the headset is too loose now and that can cause early bearing failure as well as some ride issues. You will need a stand or a way to hold the front wheel off the ground to adjust, and it's easier and more accurate with the wheel removed.

It's not carbon, so don't worry a lot about the torque. 5-6 N-m is only about 4 ft-lbs, so picture lifting a 4-pound weight and apply that force to a 12" wrench, or double that on a 6" wrench, etc. Simple physics, close enough, probably what most experienced mechanics do on metal parts.

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Old 06-21-23, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by instock
With my son's new bike, it is bigger and more awkward to load. I would like to get his flat too, but he doesn't have the quick release. Can I unbolt his front wheel?
Yes, but if his bike has hydraulic disc brakes, you best insert the OEM spacer in the disc brake caliper as soon as you remove the front wheel. Otherwise, if the brake lever is accidentally pulled during transportation with the wheel (and disc rotor) out, the pistons may not retract properly.
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Old 06-21-23, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by _ForceD_
I concur with the bike rack suggestions above. Especially since you have an SUV. There are multi-bike racks, that hook/strap onto the back hatch you can buy (new) for less than $100 (U.S.). I have one I use when traveling, and leave it on the vehicle once we arrive our destination and take the bike(s) off. Itís not obtrusive to drive around with.

Dan
Not all SUVs can support a rack on the rear door, some have only plastic on the top of the door, it will crack.
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Old 06-21-23, 06:11 PM
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A couple of my bikes have nutted front axles. Removing / replacing the wheel is no big deal. Nor is keeping a little wrench in my saddle bag.

Naturally this should only be done by someone who is qualified to do it, but the same is true of quick release.
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Old 06-22-23, 01:46 PM
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lots of variation on hitch racks, those you hang the bike by the top tube are less expensive than those hold the bike by the tires

I would not put a carbon bike on hang on the top tube type and some manufacturers warn agains doing that.

as alwasy you get what you pay for, if you put bikes in once a year just through them then back, but otherwise agood rack amortizes over 20 years of aggravation
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Old 06-22-23, 01:57 PM
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Drove the family in a minivan cross country. Installed a receiver hitch on the van just for that one trip so I could take a single bike. Started out with a huge duffle bag on the roof rack. After a half day of listening to that flap in the breeze if finally started coming loose. Rather than strap it back to the roof I put it on top of the out stretched arms of the bike rack. Absolutely perfect, no more noise. Drove through a rainstorm and the bag never got wet.

The other advantage of a hitch mounted rack is it blocks photos of your rear plates. That came in handy driving around Miami.
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