How to Put a Bike Rack on Your BMW

Riding a bicycle can be a great way to get some low-impact exercise, which is perfect if you want to get active but your knees or ankles just won’t let you start running. Unfortunately, if you don’t live in an area that is surrounded by trails, you might find yourself leaving the bike in the garage if it doesn’t fit into your car. The best solution is to put a bike rack on your vehicle — a task you can do yourself, even if you drive something like a BMW. 

If you want to get more out of your bike, here are a few tips and tricks to help you install a bike rack on your car.

Types of Bike Racks

The first thing you need to decide is what style of bike rack you want. This will depend on a lot of different variables, from the type of bicycle you own to the kind of BMW you drive. 

You may find more specific options depending on the make and model of your BMW, but in general, you’re going to have four options to choose from: 

  • Roof-mount racks that attach to crossbars on top of your vehicle
  • Hitch-mount racks that attach to an existing trailer hitch
  • Trunk-mount racks that don’t need a lot of extra equipment to install
  • Interior or truckbed-mounted racks that allow you to transport your bike securely inside your vehicle or in the bed of your truck

Now that you know what types of racks are out there, let’s look at how to install each of them. 

Installing a Roof Rack

If your BMW already has a roof rack or crossbar, you won’t have to do a lot of work. Most bike racks that attach to the roof are designed to work with existing equipment

If you drive a sedan or another BMW that doesn’t come equipped with a roof rack, you can opt to have one installed by the dealership or you can attach one yourself. The only difference between the two is that factory-installed bike racks are screwed into the car’s frame, while aftermarket ones tend to just be pinched down. Both are capable of safely transporting your bike. The only time a factory-installed rack might be more convenient is if you’re purchasing a new BMW and you’ve got the option to add it on.

Installing a Hitch Rack

If you want the easiest installation possible and you have a BMW with a trailer hitch, then look no further than a hitch rack. The hardest part of installing this type of bike rack is figuring out which model will fit your bicycles. Once you bring it home, all you have to do is assemble it and hook it into your trailer hitch.  

Installing an Interior Rack

If you drive a larger vehicle, like an SUV or a minivan, you might want to opt for an interior rack. These versions bolt to the cargo area of your car or in the bed of a pickup. These racks work by securing the bicycle via a bolt through the front fork. This means you have to take the front tire off to attach the bike to these racks.  

If you drive an older BMW X3, it comes with an interior bike rack as standard equipment. BMW premiered this in 2003, and it’s just as handy today as it was then.

Installing a Strap-on Trunk Rack

If you don’t want to drill holes into your BMW, you can still hook a bike rack up to your car. These attach by wrapping straps around the top and sides of your trunk. Once you tighten these down, they support the bike rack and any bicycles you hook to it.  

If you’re looking for something a little more secure, opt for a model that uses straps that all meet together inside your trunk. They’re harder to remove, but that means it’s less likely that someone is going to walk off with your bike. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

If you don’t trust your mechanical skills or are worried you might mess something up, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Getting a bike rack installed is an inexpensive and easy way to take your bicycle with you everywhere, no matter what you’re driving.

How To Customize Your Bimmer Without Losing Your Insurance

The motoring world is abuzz with BMW’s announcement that the 7-series will be fully electrified by 2022, with the 5-series soon to follow. For car enthusiasts, this leaves little wiggle room in terms of customizations; however, your insurance company might just thank you for it. Dropped suspension and performance enhancements might seem like a good idea, especially when you join the local bimmer club, if you’re happy with the consequences to your insurance. There are a few tips and tricks to customize your bimmer without having to give up your insurance, although, some might increase your premium. 

Safe Exterior Changes 

While fins and spoilers can improve the aesthetics of the car, they can also affect the performance. Instead, take a look at adding a sunroof or having the bimmer refinished in customized paint, such as a matt finish. Another way to boost the exterior is by swopping those stock wheels for alloy rims and a different profile tire. The value of the rims could affect the insurance cost, so be sure to expect an increase. Headlight conversion kits, for instance, different colors or swopping out halogen for xenon or LED, also allow for an interesting facelift. However, be sure to go with options that are acceptable in your state. This is also the time to give the grille a facelift, along with a sporty body kit approved by your insurer. 

Fully Customized Interior 

The car interior is possibly the safest way to customize the car, without touching the performance. Newer bimmers have lots of fixed features and built-in safety gear, which means that changing the dash, steering wheel, and even seats becomes a little difficult. This leaves room for interesting little add-ons such as in-car mood lighting and extra sound. You may also request customized pedals and shift sticks directly from the dealership; however, that’s as far as the customization goes before reaching the boundaries of the warranty. In older models the options are a little more extreme. It’s possible to have an entirely different dash fitted, along with customized steering wheels and gear stick. Automatic models also have a much easier ride when it comes to changing gears, as there is no clutch control necessary. This means customizing the shift lock release button on automatic models is also possible. 

Ramp Up The Sound 

While pricey, upping the sound of a bimmer is not only an essential right of passage; it also happens to be a great way to add some personal flair without voiding a warranty. Sound and infotainment systems can go as far as video screens for backseat passengers, along with their own audio jacks. This is quite handy for long road trips. Additional speakers and subwoofers permit you to up your sound game and give you street cred. But this also means that you would need to notify the insurer, as these changes increase the value of your car, and you would need to fork out a higher installment to cover that difference. It’s good to know that not all stereo systems are created equally, and some are designed with the layout of the bimmer interior in mind, especially the placement of the speakers. 

There are car modifications and then there are car mods, the latter alluding to something a little more extreme and underground. For those who still need to keep their insurance intact, the prior might be the better option. 

My First time on Laguna Seca…in a (Brilliant) lexus

By Mitchell Weitzman with Larry Weitzman

What’s that you say, a Lexus? Heresy! However, I revel in the chance to drive as many different cars as I possibly can. It just so happens that my first time ever driving on the famed Monterey Peninsula circuit was in a Lexus. But this was no ordinary Lexus, being the GS F. And it revealed some very interesting characteristics of Munich’s rival from the land of the rising sun, including some of M-Cars’ past. But first, let me get this out of the way: give me a chance to drive one of my favorite race tracks in the world and I couldn’t care less what car I was in. Throw me a Civic with a CVT, and I’ll still make the most of it down the corkscrew. This article, though, is more a chance to illustrate the visceral sensations that Laguna Seca gives, and also to highlight what BMW could perhaps learn from Lexus.

“Hey, you were keeping up with that Porsche!” This was not the sole bewildered exclamation the big yellow Lexus garnered at Laguna Seca. For the Audi RS3s, E46 M3s, Caymans, Camaros, and Mustangs out there, their hands must’ve been tired by the end of the day from pointing us by…But really, when was the last time a BMW driver moved over and signaled you by? 

Let’s set the scene here: February sunshine, and a Flame Yellow 2020 Lexus GS F. This is not the same Lexus associated with pensioners. Remember how, about 15 years ago, half of every new Lexus sold wore that garish shade of beige-gold? No, this is a different kind of Lexus, one that wears its thumping heart on its sleeve and has the lungs of a distance runner.

A normally aspirated, five-liter V8 does the business upfront, producing 467 horsepower at a lofty 7,000 RPM, and an intake honk opening at 5,000 rpm that’s reminiscent of a big-band brass section. There’s a torque-vectoring differential to put power to the asphalt out back, and six and four pot Brembo brakes with rotors the size of a large Round Table pizza to reign you in. The GS F isn’t a sedan that just went to the weight room to bulk up, though, also visiting Pilates for agility and the UFC gym for tactical warfare. 

Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca is one of the most storied racetracks in the entire world, being renowned for its famous Corkscrew. Located between Salinas and Monterey, California, temperatures barely crested 60 degrees with the sun showering down on the magnetic yellow paint of the Lexus. Laguna Seca has severe elevation changes, making it a challenge for many. The lowest to highest points are separated by 180 feet vertically…The Corkscrew drops 5 1/2 stories in about 2 seconds. To say that this track is a thorough test of a car’s all-rounded ability is an undersell. 

The track event was organized by SpeedSF, a group committed to let drivers experience their cars at a higher level across Northern California. Some are there to be competitive, while others are beginners learning the ropes and rigors of track driving. Yes, there were casualties, including a Honda S2000 that reduced its overall length by 25 percent (backed into the turn 7 K-wall at about 100 mph –  driver okay). There are 5 groups to choose, from beginner to advanced, with rules set in a drivers’ meeting to ensure safety. Professional instruction is also available. 

Besides the aforementioned German makes, there were a few McLarens, Ferrari 488 Pistas, a sea of Honda S2000s (at least one less than had started), Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, and an Ariel Atom even. Our Lexus was the only large sedan present. The paddock quickly filled with nearly 100 cars, some of them trailered in, with roll cages, slick tires, and large spoilers. While it’s practice to fit your track car with go-faster mods like aftermarket suspension, exhaust and so on, the Lexus was exactly how you’d find it on the showroom. 

Now, I want to take you around Laguna Seca, one of the greatest race tracks in the world.

Front straight. Throttle pinned. The shift lights flash as you hit 7,000 RPM, the V8 power plant emitting a sonic boom as you pull the 8-speed’s shift paddle for third. The straight becomes a valley of sound, echoing across the pit wall to the grandstands and back again. Is Spinal Tap playing?

You cross the start/finish line at a hair under 100 MPH, right in the middle of the track. Immediately is the turn 1 kink. Look at a track map and it looks like the straight just bends slightly left. Not true, it’s a turn, and it’s bloody blind. Natural instinct is to lift, but lifting relieves weight off the rear making it light. I once saw a Bugatti Veyron spin doing just that, but at 140 MPH.

Not committing to full, I pull the throttle back 50%, slowly aiming the car to left side and just clipping the portion of asphalt that connects to the pit-lane exit. Now you see the steep downhill run to Turn 2, the Andretti Hairpin. The speedo is showing 118 and needs to be reading 45 in less than 5 seconds. The brake markers show 3, 2, 1, but those are for IMSA GT cars. Apply the brakes at the imaginary number 4 and the Lexus slows up considerably thanks to those large Brembos. The pedal feel is firm and consistent with confidence. As you brake, you aim the car for the middle of the track, keeping the wheel as straight as possible to avoid any upset while reeling off downshifts.

Trail braking works here to help settle and turn the car. The front will want to push wide (understeer in racing speak) from the entry speed, but that’s okay. Let the nose drift a little wide as you smoothly release the brakes and once the nose careens inward, ease onto the throttle in second gear and once the left front Michelin Pilot Super Sports touches the inside curb for the apex, short shift up into third, keep the throttle pinned and steer it out wide, unwinding the wheel to the outside curb. 

Turn 3 is next, a near 90-degree right-hander. From the exit of two to the turn-in point for three is a straight shot, requiring minimal steering input. Let 3rd run to just about the limiter and you can brake comfortably deep. 3 is tricky to find the exact apex point. Instinct is to turn early, but be patient for that split-second past reason and then turn in. Clip the inside curb and then throttle it out to the outside curb. Pull the paddle for 4th, cross under the bridge and turn 4 awaits, a fast right sweeper. We like to keep it in fourth, but you could go down to the upper reaches of 3rd in the Lexus. Hit the brakes on the outside set of curbs and turn in and then come onto the throttle first gently before progressing quickly to full-bore. Allow the car sail to the outside curb. It’s really easy to run wide into the dirt on exit, so the steering requires considerable input on the drive towards the exit.

The turn 4-5 straight allows you crack triple-digits again and serves as a passing zone. Line yourself up on far-right side of track for turn 5, an uphill left-hander that doesn’t seem to end. Be patient with the throttle and turn-in point and look for the end of the long bend. You can have the gas planted once you touch the nose on the inside curb and unwind the wheel to drive it out. Careful here, though. Up the straight, there’s a sound booth. Laguna Seca has a 90 dB limit for most track days. The Lexus was probably not a violator, but we wanted to play it safe so we cruised by. Once past, it’s back to life. 

6 is the favorite of many. The approaching straight is uphill, but right at the entry, it dips back down. The apex has a noticeable compression, and it’s easy for lowered cars to potentially scrape here as the suspension first unloads itself, then compresses fully at the apex dip. First few laps we were hitting the apex at an indicated 69, but later in the day, that number increased to over 75. It’s an absolute thrill ride bombing through 6 at such speed. There is a large ‘sausage’ curb on the far inside that you DON’T want to hit. 

The Rahal Straight is next, a long and steep uphill battle. Even the 467 horse V8 seems almost underpowered here, although triple digits can be achieved before braking. The Corkscrew is next, though. Brake just before the Turn 7 kink and graze the right hand side curb to set up for what comes after. Technically turns 8 and 8a, the Corkscrew is the reason many come to Laguna. Entry is to aim for the middle of the track and, once you have the car hauled down to under 45, look for the inside green curb. Turn in and hit that with your left front tire. Now, we have to go right. If we go too far, we will jump the curb or cut the corner, either of which aren’t ideal. The moment you start to descend, aim for the tree ahead to get your bearings. Got it? That’s when we head right and the exit apex curb (8a) comes into view, being blind before. Touch that and then it’s throttle-on towards 9, the longest corner.

It’s common to see racing drivers hug the inside of 9 throughout, while others enter it real wide, but we prefer the middle lane. It’s easy to upset the car here as 9 is fast with a lot of camber and downhill. Too fast in and lift-off oversteer can send you for a ride. While 3rd gear works, I preferred fourth’s taller ratio for more adjustability. Remember, this V-8’s torque peaks at almost 400 pounds between 4,800-5,600 RPM.

Trail brake to settle the car and then gently ease off. Once you have control of both ends, bring the nose inside to the left and hard, with the throttle steadily increasing. It’s a very late apex, but once you have it, drive it all the way out to the other side of the track and then cross back over to the left side for turn 10. A quick chute with camber, there’s nothing too tricky here, just hit the inside curb and then let it unwind on exit.

Last corner is next, and the 2-ton Lexus comes down from 100 to 40. It’s a sharp acute angle, so you have to turn left harder and also later than you’d think for a good exit. Being too generous with the throttle too early in second gear meant provoking oversteer. Shift up into third, fourth and back over the line for another go. That’s a lap around Laguna Seca. 

What’s most remarkable about the relatively gargantuan Lexus is just how easy it is to drive, and quickly. Furthermore, it’s not just easy, but enjoyable. In certain cases, easy can mean detached, disengaging, and, well, boring, but that’s not the M/O here. The chassis is nigh infallible, and could handle more power (hint). Composure remains strong as you push harder. Do the tires eventually give up? Yes, but only naturally; Spikiness is not of the GS F’s nature. Instead, there’s wide bandwidth of consistence and predictability. Certain rivals have behaved manners on the road, but fall apart when pushed near their extremes. The Lexus welcomes it with a fury of iconic V8 artillery and tire smoke when desired. 

The steering is precise, with feedback that actually alerts you to what’s happening through the front tires, something so dearly missed in most new cars. Understeer is minimal for a front-engined car of this mass, and is totally predictable. The transitions to neutrality and then oversteer have a smooth progression. Michelin Super Sports are universally praised, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. By session’s end, they did lose a little grip as both tire pressures and temperatures rose, but that’s normal. 

Gearshifts are not instantaneous like a dual clutch ‘box, but still happen quick enough to not make you notice while also being smoother in everyday driving. The brakes never faded, providing a strong pedal through the day. Could you brake deeper into the corners? Sure, of course, but we weren’t here to set lap times. Even so, turning consistent 1:47s with lots of room to spare wasn’t so bad.

What about Rivals? How does it compare to our beloved BMWs?

The BMW M5 comes to mind, an iconoclast of a sports sedan. It absolutely decimates the Lexus in every direction in terms of shear performance, but then again it should at a nearly $30,000 premium. It’s a phenomenal car, but I think in overall feel, the Lexus might have it licked. Just barely.

So maybe the BMW M550i? Well, no. It costs about the same as the Lexus (sticker is $86 large) when similarly equipped, has more power, but it feels big, heavy, and just a little lifeless when asked to do the business. A true sports sedan it is not, being an experience compromised by its inane desire to appeal to a wider audience and half-M-badge marketing.

Maybe then the GS F has no direct rivals, as no other sedan in this class/size and under $100,000 shares the same focus and commitment to driver and feel. I’ll gladly exchange a few MPH on the straights for a more engaging chassis and that N/A engine. The car also looks wondrously purposeful with its widened track and haunches, and that slick vent aft of the front wheels. The yellow paint helps, too.

Unexpectedly, this could be an exercise in what BMW can learn from…Lexus. As BMW has seemingly broadened its cars’ appeal to a wider market, Lexus has now swooped in to claim that niche of making a superlative driver’s car. Why was our flabbergasted enthusiast from the beginning so surprised? Because a lot of people just plain don’t know that Lexus builds such rollicking driver’s cars. It could be the perfect successor to the all-time legend that is the E39 M5.

Track days happen every weekend across the country. Exploring the capabilities of a car can be an intoxicating addiction. Also, the track is far safer than the street. Many owners and drivers constantly change out parts on their track builds in pursuit of a perfect driving experience. This isn’t a cheap hobby, but for those that feel the emotional connection it brings, nothing can replace it. SpeedSF will be back at Laguna Seca on April 11-12. Check out SpeedSF.com to learn more and register. 

A late 3-time Formula 1 champion perhaps said it best of why we drive, in the pursuit of something more. “I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by instinct, only I was in a different dimension. I was way over the limit but still able to find even more. It frightened me because I realized I was well beyond my conscious understanding” – Ayrton Senna.   

Photos by Larry Weitzman and Sharplite Media

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