Spring is in the air for most of the U.S. Now is the time for our thoughts to turn to vacations and hiking, biking, boating and just about anything outdoors. If you are taking your bikes with you on vacation, consider how much gas you waste by carrying your bikes on the roof of your car or van. My family drives to the beach each summer for vacations. The automobile trip is about 600 miles each way. Since my background is in energy and engineering and saving money, I pay close attention to gas mileage. We have a Chrysler Town and Country van with a 3.8 liter V6 engine that gets about 25 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway at about 70 miles per hour and about 20 mpg overall. When the kids were young, we were able to fit all four bikes in the back of the van. However, as the kids (and the bikes) got bigger, I purchased a roof-top bike carrier to transport the two racing bikes and two mountain bikes. I monitored the gas mileage for the entire 1200 mile trip and learned that the average gas mileage with four bikes on the roof was about 19 mpg. As an engineer, I was astonished to learn that carrying the bikes on the roof reduced my gas mileage by 24%. If you do the math, that comes out to about $45 in extra gas (at $3/gal) to carry the bikes on the roof. Fortunately, I have a neighbor that has a nice bike carrier that fits in the trailer hitch receiver of his van. This carrier has a large plastic platform that the bikes stand on and a T shaped vertical bar that holds the four bikes securely in place. I was able to borrow this bike carrier for our next vacation. Not only was it a lot easier to load the bikes on the low platform, but my gas mileage return to 25 mpg. It is to believe, but I did not measure a significant reduction in gas mileage when I used the trailer-hitch bike carrier. These bike carriers cost roughly $100 for a simple version and up to $200 for the version with the platform. The platform version has also come in handy for carrying garden tillers, lawn aerators and bagged mulch.
In short, if you want to go green and save green, use a bike carrier that goes behind the vehicle whenever possible.