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Traveling with a bike is a hassle—so much of a hassle that it can make you forget that your journey is supposed to be a fun one.
Say you and your significant other fly to a race. The affordable thing to do is to rent an economy car, but now you can’t fit all your stuff and your bikes in the rental. Or you ride to meet someone, but, oh no, their car doesn’t have a bike rack. Or you’re on a long road trip and as more people (and things) are added along the way, your bikes just won’t fit in the car anymore—as was the case for my husband and I recently.
The Allen AL02 is designed specifically for this, or any circumstances like this. Despite being able to hold two bikes, it’s only about 1 foot long when folded up and weighs just 3.5 pounds. (Its brother rack, the AL01, holds just one bike and is even smaller.) Allen has achieved this with lightweight aluminum and a design that allows each of the rack’s arms to fold up into itself. The company’s advertising video even features a woman biking along carrying the AL01 version in its own small drawstring backpack.
The obvious problem with anything that folds up into itself is figuring out how to get all the parts to unfold correctly and how to get them back into that tiny package when you’re done. (Have you ever managed to get one of those massive tents back into its bag after camping?)
In that sense, the AL02 is relatively easy to assemble and understand. Each of the arms simply unfold from the main body of the rack and snap into place. And each fold back into one small package when you’re done—especially if you actually follow the instructions. Since the AL02 fits two bikes, the second cradle also extends out from the frame. At that point, it becomes a fairly standard trunk rack that snaps onto most standard-sized cars and can be tightened down.
As with any trunk rack, the key is to tighten down the straps enough so that the rack is firmly on your car. You don’t want the whole thing to slide off while you’re driving. Depending on the size or shape of your car, you will have to decide if you want to hook it onto your bumper or your trunk door, and you’ll want to check if your car is compatible with the rack. You may also want to get something to protect the metal ends of the rack from rubbing against your car.
Ever since I saw a hitch rack collapse on a freeway once, leaving bikes strewn behind it, portable bike racks make me nervous. But if you tighten this one down and be sure to read the specifications, then it should work as well as any trunk rack. And it’ll be lighter, easier to use and smaller. Plus at $119.99 for the AL02 or $59.99 for the AL01, it’ll probably be cheaper too.