Looking for a bike carrying solution that is portable, easy-to-fit, and includes a huge range of accessories allowing you to customise your set-up so that it’s ideal for the bikes you ride? TreeFrog may have the answer…
Words and photos by Rob Arnold
Vacuum-mounted roof racks aren’t exactly new to the market in 2023. There is a range of brands selling this style of portable racks which are ideal for a cycling holiday, especially if your travel plans include the use of a rental car. TreeFrog Racks are a fine example, and the company has a huge range of accessories that will allow you to find exactly the right fitting for all kinds of bikes (or wheels, or other items).
If your next road trip begins with a flight before you start rolling, the TreeFrog racks might provide some answers to questions you’ll soon be asking, eg. ‘How can I get my family and my bike(s) to my destination when there’s barely enough room in the car for all of us and our luggage?’
Some hire car companies offer bike rack solutions but often they are rudimentary offerings that many cyclists would rather avoid. Travelling with your bikes is already enough of a hassle which requires a considerable level of trust in baggage handlers and airlines. If all arrives as it should – ie. ready to ride after a quick rebuild upon arrival – the last thing you want to have to do is bolt your beloved bike (that you have oh-so carefully packed for the flight) onto a basic beak on the back of your rental car.
Why not use a suction-style set-up that you’ve customised perfectly for the way you like to roll?
Putting the TreeFrog mounts on a car takes a matter of minutes. They are designed to cope with all kinds of conditions but there are, of course, some limits which are spelled out very clearly in the instructions.
While there is little risk of anything going wrong with the sturdy racks that are vacuum sealed onto the roof (or rear) of a vehicle, the recommendation is to not drive at speeds over 130km/h. In Australia, that’s perfectly fine. Planning on using the autobahn in Germany? Hmm, maybe take some extra time and consider the byways instead.
TreeFrog also suggest that you ease off the pace for speedbumps (which is exactly the idea) and not hit them any faster than 25km/h. That being said, some pro teams have been using suction-style mounts in recent seasons and, in race conditions, it’s not always possible to slow to that extent. This suggests the instructions have been written to minimise risk of incident (or stupidity).
When it was time to review the TreeFrog mounts, the thing that took the longest was convincing myself that it was going to work, that the suction would hold fast, that the idea was a sound one, and that I wanted to put my bikes on the outside of my car.
There have been times when our Skoda Octavia was loaded with four bodies and up to six bikes. It wasn’t always easy to manage, especially with all the holiday luggage but we could make it work. It just took a bit of planning and racks on the roof for four bikes.
These days, the family trips don’t require quite that level of packing. The kids still ride but they don’t insist on taking bikes on holidays like they once did. Now, when bikes are involved, it’s usually me and the car… and a few days away to unwind so everything travels inside.
Whispbar racks have been on the Skoda for years, most of the time they’re collecting cobwebs but occasionally I’ll chuck a bike on top of the car, even if it’s just while I’m sleeping in my swag. The lockability of many roof rack systems gives you peace of mind that isn’t part of the TreeFrog equation. So keep that in mind; they are easy to fit, but also very easy to remove… by you or some thieving bastard who may have their eye on your bike.
Installed in minutes
Eventually the time would come to do a review and write about how much the product sucked. And yep: in this instance that’s a good thing. (Been itching to work that into the story at some point.)
The TreeFrog suction system is simple. After cleaning the surface you plan to use them on and ensuring there is no debris or dents that may interfere with the vacuum seal, you simply place the black section of the roof racks on, then pump the small button (around 20 times) and watch as the air gets sucked out. Then, ta dah – rack installation is complete!
It really only takes a few minutes. Reiterating my earlier comment, it’s only the hesitation to have faith in the process and the product – and the concept of a vacuum seal holding your bike stable in 100+km/h winds (in all manner of weather) – that may slow you down a little.
There are myriad fittings so you’re bound to find an arrangement to suit your set up. Thru-axle, or quick-release skewer? You select what suits. There are even adaptors that easily turn the thru-axle mount into one that accepts a QR skewer.
Of course, there are also various straps and sundry items that match the racking system in case you want to carry other luggage on top of the car (and, of course, keep your bike inside safe from the weather and the bugs).
What you won’t find, however, is a full bike, wheels-on option. And that’s why there are brackets for wheels alone.
With the front wheel removed, it’s a matter of lifting your bike on top of the car and fastening it into the TreeFrog fitting. Use the thru-axle from your bike, find a place for the wheel (inside or on top of the car) and drive away.
Removal: so easy it’s weird
As a man, I’m not prone to reading the instructions first. They generally only get put to use when I stumble into trouble. And, as someone who is not all that mechanically minded, the instructions inevitably – eventually – get some attention. Still, when it came to trying the TreeFrog racks for the first time, it was all so intuitive that I had them stuck to a window in my office only moments after pulling them out of the box.
I was impressed by the easy installation, the severity of the suction strength, and the reality that this is (often) a great solution for travelling with your bike(s).
But then, of course, I looked at the black and green blob on my office window and thought: ‘Now what? How does it come off?’
Before the instructions came out, I started twisting the button I used to pump the air out. That wasn’t giving any clues about how to unsuck the TreeFrog from the window. And then I saw the little nodes that rise slightly from the black rubber, one underneath the button, the other on the opposite side of the circle. ‘Could that be it?’ And with one surprisingly effortless push, there was a quiet ‘breath’ of air, and the seal was broken.
It was so easy I thought I’d made a mistake. So, of course (as I’m a man – a stubborn man), I repeated the whole process again. Suck the air out, seal the mount, marvel at the strong hold on the window… and then: push the little nodule, listen for the quiet little rubber fart, and lift the TreeFrog gently from the window.
That’s it. (The instructions later confirmed that this was indeed the correct technique. Phew.)
On and off the car without a fuss. Light enough to minimise the risk of excess baggage charges. Versatile to the point that it prompts you to wonder what else you might chuck on top of the car rather than inside it. And, finally, not dreadfully expensive either.
It took a long time to get around to putting the TreeFrog vacuum mounts to the test, but now I’ve used them a few times – and the bikes stayed stuck into the rack on top of the car – the hesitation is gone. That was the only time-taxing aspect of this product, overcoming the doubts and understanding what this idea is all about.
They may not have the security feature of your favourite racks but they are easy to use and a great solution for moving your bikes around when the inside of your car is packed with people and luggage.
– By Rob Arnold