No matter if you have a cool new downhill mountain bike or a super nice aero carbon road warrior, you’ll eventually want to ride on trails that aren’t close to your home.
Most people do this by putting a rack on their car and attaching their bike to it. You can either put your bike on top of your car or use a rack to put it behind your car.
People often choose roof racks because putting a bike behind a car makes it hard to open the trunk or rear hatch and usually requires a hitch. There are many things to think about when choosing between roof racks, both about your car and your bike.
Yakima ForkLift Rooftop Bike Rack for Fork Mount
Thule Roofrack Sidearm
Yakima FrontLoader Bike Rack for Rooftop
Thule Pro Ride Bike Rack
Car bike rack Yakima Highroad Top
Benefits and Limitations of Roof Racks
Almost all roof racks are attached to the crossbars on the top of your car. Since your bikes are on top of the car, they don’t get in the way as you drive. You can also still open the trunk and use the spare tyre.
Roof racks are often smaller and lighter than rear racks because they are held up by your car’s roof. This is a big plus when you want to store the rack away from your car, since big hitch racks can take up a lot of room. And when they’re on your car, rear racks add length that you have to think about when you’re trying to park or get into a tight spot.
There are some things you can’t do with roof racks, though. Since bikes on the roof don’t get in the way of your view, you have to remember that they are there. Almost every cyclist has heard of someone who put their bike on the roof of their house and then forgot about it until it crashed into the garage door.
When driving a taller vehicle, you also need to keep your vertical clearance in mind, or you could hit low-hanging branches or bridges. Aerodynamics are also affected by where the roof is, so if your bike is on the roof, you may get less gas mileage.
Due to wind turbulence, some rack manufacturers set a maximum speed that may be slower than the speed limit on the highway.
To put bikes on roof racks, you lift them up and put them on top of your car. The harder it is to lift your bike onto the rack, the taller your car is and the heavier your bike is.
When you’re nearing the end of a long ride, you don’t want to have to worry about how much energy you’ll need to lift your bike onto your car. Some people bring a step stool or crate with them to stand on so they can lift their bike onto the rack more easily.
What To Look For When Choosing A Roof Rack
If you decide you want a roof rack, there are a few things you should look for to make sure you get the right one for your needs.
Roof racks are easier to use on shorter cars like sedans and hatchbacks, but almost any car that can have crossbars can hold a roof rack. If your vehicle doesn’t already have crossbars, you can add them. There are many different kinds to choose from.
Take note of how your crossbars are set up and how they are shaped to make sure that the rack system you choose will work with them.
Your bike (s)
You can put your bike on your car with a roof rack in a few different ways. Depending on the type of bike you want to transport, each model has its own pros and cons.
If you always carry the same kind of bike, choose a rack that works best with that bike. If you change your bike a lot, you might want to get a rack that is easy to adjust and can fit any kind of bike.
There are three main types of roof racks based on how they hold the bike upright:
Racks that require the front wheel to be taken off and the bike’s fork to be attached to the rack.
Racks that hold the bike up by gripping the frame
Racks that hold up the bike’s wheels and hold it up.
Different bikes and different setups work better with different types of racks. Some racks have important limitations that mean they can’t carry certain bikes.
For example, some designs may not work with a fat bike, which has very wide tyres. A rack that clamps onto the downtube might not work for you if your bike has a full suspension or another non-standard frame.
You should also pay attention if your bike has a through-axle, fenders, disc brakes, or is very heavy.
If you’ve decided that a roof-mounted bike rack is what you need, you may be wondering how to find one that fits your bike. I’ve picked out eight of the best-rated models and compared their features and requirements so you can find the one that best fits your needs.
Top Roof-Mounted Bike Racks (Reviews)
1. Yakima ForkLift Fork Mount Rooftop Bike Mount
The Yakima ForkLift is a well-known and trusted fork-mounted roof rack made by a well-known brand. After you take off the front wheel, you use the front fork to attach it to your bike. This keeps it from touching your frame or paint job.
Because the bike is held up by the fork, you will have to find room in your car for the front wheel. By attaching your fork to your car, you can hold your bike securely to your car so it doesn’t move much as you drive.
The Yakima ForkLift fits most crossbars, including the factory crossbars on Volvo, Subaru, and Mazda models. It can be put on either side of the car without any tools.
Some people have said that this model is hard to install because of the height of the crossbar, not because of its shape. If the crossbar is too close to the roof, the ForkLift won’t be able to attach to it when it’s being put in place.
The ForkLift works with both rim brake bikes and most bikes with disc brakes. It also works with both through-axle and quick-release forks.
2. Travel Life Alloy Car Roof Bicycle Carrier for 2 Bikes
The only one on this list that can carry two bikes is the Travel Life roof rack. This is a much cheaper way to carry two bikes than buying two separate roof racks, but it does have some problems.
The carrier needs to be put in the middle of your roof, not on the side. This makes it hard for some people to get to the bikes.
The frame of the bike is tied to the centre beam, which can be folded down when not in use. Bikes are attached with straps, so if you want to lock your bike to the rack and your crossbars, you’ll need a different method.
The Travel Life rack can be put on most aero or square crossbars without any tools.
Since your bikes’ wheels stay on, most of them will fit on this rack. Both bikes can hold up to 66 pounds at most.
3. Thule Sidearm Roof rack
With Thule’s Secure Hook system, the Sidearm holds your bike by the wheels. The wheel supports on the rack hold your bike, and the Secure Hook lifts up over the front wheel to keep it safe.
A ratcheting strap is used to hold the back wheel in place. This means that the rack doesn’t touch the frame, so the clamp can’t damage your carbon frame.
Some people found that the Secure Hook system wasn’t enough to keep the bike safe. Putting a strap on the front wheel will do the trick.
The Sidearm fits Thule racks, round bars, and most crossbars that come from the factory.
The Sidearm fits most wheels with a diameter of up to 29 inches and a width of up to 2.6 inches. The Secure Lock system makes it so that it can’t fit fenders.
4. Yakima FrontLoader Rooftop Bike Rack
The bike is held up by the Yakima FrontLoader, which has two metal hoops that are raised around the front wheel. This is better than the single-hook system because the wheel is held by two points of contact instead of just one.
Even when the wind is strong, your bike is safe. You can add a cable lock to the rack to keep your bike safe, and Yakima sells a lock cylinder that works with a cable that is already built into the rack.
The FrontLoader fits most crossbars and doesn’t need to be put together before it’s shipped. Putting the rack on is easy and doesn’t need any tools.
No contact is made with the bike frame because the wheels are what hold the bike in place. This makes it safe for frames and forks made of carbon fibre.
Like other bike racks that use this system, it doesn’t work with fenders or tyres that are too wide. It can fit wheels from 20 to 29 inches wide.
5. Thule Big Mouth Bike Carrier
With the Thule Big Mouthrack, your bike is held up by a bar that clamps onto the downtube. Some people like this clamping system because it keeps your bike stable even when the road is rough.
Even though Thule’s clamping jaws touch your frame, they are not as rough as fabric straps on other brands. Thule sells a separate locking cylinder that can be attached to the downtube bar. The bike is locked to the rack, and the rack is locked to your crossbars, using the same lock.
The Big Mouth works with both round and square Thule bars. If you want to use other Thule crossbars or factory racks, you can add an adapter.
Most road bikes, hybrid bikes, and mountain bikes with tyres up to 2.6 inches wide can fit on the rack. But this rack might not work for you if your bike doesn’t have a traditional downtube.
The wheels and a bar that clamps onto the downtube of the bike are what hold the bike to the rack. The downtube bar has jaws that can fit around bike frames with a diameter of up to 3 3/8″.
6. RockyMounts TomaHawk Upright Mount
The TomaHawk bike rack from RockyMounts doesn’t touch the bike frame. Bikes are held up by the wheels and a piece of metal called a “swingarm” that loops around the front tyre.
The swingarm can be moved to either side of the rack, so you can put your bike on either side of the car.
The TomaHawk works with all kinds of factory and aftermarket crossbars. The Allen keys that come with the rack are used to attach it.
Fat bike riders can celebrate, because this is one of the few bike racks that can hold tyres up to 5 inches wide. The rack can hold bikes with wheels that are 20 to 29 inches in diameter.
7. Thule ProRide Bike Rack
The Thule ProRide holds one bike upright with a clamp on the downtube and wheel trays built in. Unlike many other racks, this one’s clamping mechanism has a torque limiter to keep you from overtightening and damaging your bike frame.
As you tighten the clamp, the rack moves the wheel tray to make sure that your bike is mounted correctly.
The ProRide can be attached to most factory racks and square, round, or aero bars from Thule. Extra crossbars can be added by buying the right accessories. The rack can be attached to the car on either side.
Most bikes with tyres up to 3 inches will fit on the rack. Because the downtube clamp is what keeps the bike standing up, some full suspension and folding bikes won’t fit.
For carrying carbon-framed bikes, there is an adapter that spreads the force from the clamp, making it safer to use with carbon frames. It will work with both fenders and bikes with a thru-axle.
8. Yakima Highroad Top Car Bike Rack
The Yakima Highroad attaches to a bike by wrapping two metal hoops around the front tyre and a strap around the back wheel. It has a torque knob to help you tighten the hoops around your front tyre and make sure they fit well without pushing your wheel out of alignment.
Because of its low-profile tray, the Highroad says that it works with hatchbacks. It fits most crossbars with spaces between 18 and 36 inches.
It can be put on either side of the car and doesn’t need any tools to do so.
The Highroad doesn’t touch the frame, so it works well with carbon fibre frames and frames that aren’t round or square. Because of how it mounts, it doesn’t work with fenders, and it can only be used on wheels with diameters between 26 and 29 inches and widths between 23mm and 3.25 inches.
Summary: Top Roof Bike Racks Recommended
Look at the table below to compare our top choices for bike racks for the roof of your car.