Bike Rack Blues

Thule Vertex 9029 4 Bike Hitch RackWinter is coming soon and one of the hallmarks of this time of year is the removal of the bike rack from the car.

In the past, I bundled up and jumped aboard my trusty steed in the iciest of conditions to get a workout in.  But regardless of how many layers I wore, my feet and hands always ended up going numb when the temps dropped into the 20s and 30s.  Sure, I could investigate different cold weather clothing options to try and conquer the conditions, but this winter I plan on spinning in the basement.  After all, the temperature there never drops below 50.

Numbness vs. boredom: which do you choose?  Do you opt for another sport or do you sit on the couch when the snow starts falling?  I like to go skiing, but central Ohio is not a hotbed of great locations for the sport – neither in terrain, nor snowfall, nor average temperature.

With the Thule bike rack on my Rav4 the tailgate doesn’t open all the way.  One winter I left it on and the locking mechanism on the rack corroded and stopped working.  So considering everything, it seems appropriate to take the bike rack off.

I figured this was going to be a straight-forward affair and I had about 10 spare minutes where I planned to take it off.  I grabbed the ratchet set out of the workbench drawer and found the appropriate size.  The hex bolt holding the rack into the hitch receiver was fused to the rack.  I couldn’t get the ratchet to budge, so I stepped on the handle to give it a little extra force.  Nothing.  It was time to take it to the next level.  I stood on the handle with all of my weight and bounced up and down.

Bolt is snapped off on my bike rackSnap.

The hex bolt’s head tore off and now the remainder was inside the hole.  The bike rack was stuck on the car.  This was not going as planned.

I consulted with my father-n-law about different routes to take to remove the rack from my car.  We eventually settled on a trip to Home Depot to buy a drill bit that could drill out the stuck bolt.  We figured we could refasten it in the spring with a new slightly larger bolt in the hole we were about to drill.

By our calculations we only had to screw into the metal about an eighth of inch to remove the bolt.  We were wrong.

The hitch was constructed solidly and we ended up drilling through over 2″ of metal.  The metal shavings piled up under the hitch and after 20 minutes of drilling we were able to remove the stuck fastener.

James drills Thule Bike RackCan you relate to this story?  Does every 10 minute fix turn into a 90 minute ordeal?  I’ve actually gotten much better about caring for my bike thanks to the Park Tool Big Blue Book, but this ain’t exactly Big Blue Book material.

I am personally not a gear head.  I’m perfectly fine letting the guys at the bike shop do the more complicated work on my bike.  I’d rather spend my limited time cycling, not fixing.  But with mountain biking, maintaining your bike is part of the sport.  You must clean.  You must lube.  You must repair and replace.  If not, you will suffer the consequences on race day.  I’ve learned my lesson the hard way with multiple DNFs (Did Not Finish) in previous seasons.

This year was different though.  I pledged to take care of my bike and all that goes with it.  I had zero mechanical issues during races this season.  And yet, there I was, with my drill, cursing my misfortune under the back of my car.  It was an ironic mechanical end cap in a season dedicated to eradicating mishaps.  The rack was rooted firmly in place, erect like a middle finger reminding me that summer was spent.

IMG_1169After the bolt was removed, the rack was shoved into a corner of the garage.  Although I had been so diligent about caring for my bike this year, I was more than happy to ignore this problem until spring.

Hopefully then, the enthusiasm of sailing the trails will overshadow the annoyance of this minor issue.  Until then, I’ll be spinning in my basement – no bike rack needed.

If you have something you need to purchase on Amazon, then click here to buy it and help support this blog.