Transporting a bike by car may not always be an easy task. A bike roof rack has its own set of distinct advantages. Besides allowing the bike to be transported, it also allows full access to the trunk, unlike the hitch-mounted alternatives. Choosing the best bike roof rack also ensures that the bike travels safely without any dents or scratches. At the same time, one of the most pressing issues regarding bike safety is also directly tackled as many bike roof racks come with locking systems that keep the bikes safe.
Best Overall Bike Roof Rack
Designed for the ultimate practicality in a compact size, the SeaSucker Talon bike rack is a top option for ease of use. The bike rack needs no roof rack or roof rails to install and this means it can easily be attached to any car, even those which are not fitted with any roof rack options from the factory.
Best Budget Bike Roof Rack
Swagman Upright Roof Mount Bike Rack is one of the most affordable bike roof racks, the product is highly recommended as a first choice for cyclists who wants to take their bike away from home. With a metal profile which uses aluminum, the lightweight roof rack is easy to handle and it can be installed or removed in minutes.
There are a few main brands which are known for their product quality when it comes to roof racks. But since not all cars are the same, the designs can considerably vary. One of the main advantages of modern designs is the fact that most of them can be easily installed, even by a single person. So regardless of the type of car such as a sedan, SUV, hatchback or a van, there are bike roof racks which can be practical, from installation to bike transportation. The following bike roof racks are a selection of the best designs and they can be a valid option for a road bike, a mountain bike or even for a specialized bike.
List of the Best Roof Racks
Designed for the ultimate practicality in a compact size, the SeaSucker Talon is the best bike roof rack. The bike rack needs no roof rack or roof rails to install and this means it can easily be attached to any car, even those which are not fitted with any roof rack options from the factory.
It can be said that the roof rack is perfect for the occasional user who doesn’t want to install roof rails. But the practicality of the vacuum cups recommends the rack even when it comes to storage since it doesn’t need too much space around the garage when not in use. At the same time, it can be easily moved from car to car. Cyclists who have multiple cars can find great advantages in the system which is easy to use and which has this versatility.
But the rack is not just a compact solution for carrying bikes, it is a recommended solution for this purpose. The vacuum cups have a pull strength of 210lbs and this means it will remain in position, even at higher speeds. Given that it can also handle the weight of a bike of up to 45lbs, it represents a stable design, even when compared to more permanent solutions.
The installation process is very simple, probably among the most straightforward processes seen on the market. With 6” vacuum cups, the rack attaches to the roof of the car, to the trunk or to the truck bed. With a weight of just 6lbs, this process can be performed by a single person and it only takes a couple of minutes.
Made with a design which requires cyclists to remove the front wheel, the rack can work with a series of specialized bikes. If the rear side of the bike is secured at the rear wheel, the front side of the bike works with fork lockdown.
Of course, the minimalist design means that it can only carry a single bike. But it can be enough for most cyclists. One of the concerns which often comes with vacuum designs refers to the fact that they can lose suction. But the SeaSucker comes with a power indicator which shows drivers when it’s time to re-pump.
The stainless steel form of the cups is also easy to remove. Made with a system which allows on-command detaching, it represents a practical way to mount and unmount the bike on the car’s roof. Since it also comes with rubber and plastic bits, the rack has been UV-treated to keep it in good shape for a longer period of time.
The bike rack is a practical solution to carry a single bike on the roof of the car. Its name is inspired by the traditional knuckle design. Today, the bike locks the front wheel of the bike with a form-fitting clamp which is easy to handle.
In terms of versatility, cyclists can count on the bike rack to work with most types of crossbars which are available on the market. So if a cyclist is using Yakima, RockyMounts or Thule crossbars, the bike rack will work with all of them. Crossbars are used for all types of gear, such as bikes or snowboards and having the ability to use the same crossbars regardless of the type of outdoor sports gear makes the bike rack a recommended solution.
Of course, those who do not have crossbars already installed on the roof of their cars can also purchase RockyMounts products together with additional various straps which are recommended for fat bikes, if cyclists like to go off the beaten path with their bikes.
Most importantly, the design of the roof rack means there is no direct metal on metal contact with the frame of the bike. With no risk of scratches, it means that cyclist can transport all types of bikes and this includes some of the most expensive custom-made products on the market. Fitting all bikes between 20” and 29”, the bike rack can work with different designs from regular road bikes to mountain bikes or even fat bikes.
However, one of the possible drawbacks of the car bike rack comes with its safety locking mechanism. Cyclists who want to protect their bikes against theft are highly recommended to purchase RockyMountain’s Lock Core Pack. Even if it is sold separately, having a lock with keys can protect the bike in various situations, such as an overnight park in a carpark.
Adaptors for fat bikes are also available from the manufacturer. The kit comes with a wheel chock and to ratcheting straps for proper fat bike lockdown. It can be said that the BrassKnuckles roof bike rack is among the most interesting solutions in its class as it easily fits most types of bikes. Furthermore, even if it doesn’t come with the safety lock as standard, it has the ability to work with it if purchased separately. As an affordable rack, it can be quite versatile and it is even recognized as one of the few fat bike compatible rooftop designs.
The Swagman Upright Roof Mount Bike Rack is one of the interesting choices for those looking for a security system which is quick to lock. Made with an upright arm holder, the rack grips the bike by the frame and this means that both wheels can remain in position during transport.
Even more, the manufacturer ensured that all the parts which are in contact with the bike are actually made from plastic in order to protect various bikes such as carbon or titanium bikes. The arm also functions as an included safety lock mechanism. With a simple system which uses keys to protect the bike against theft, the roof rack is up to date with all the characteristics modern cyclists need.
Most importantly, the roof rack ensures a stable experience during transport, which is an absolute must with various challenges such as wind or bumpy roads. It is also why the rack comes with additional tie-down straps which lock the wheels into position and which prevents wobble or certain damages due to high vibrations.
It is also important to know that the roof rack is made to be installed by a single person. With a lightweight profile, it can hold bikes of up to 35lbs and it is highly recommended for cyclists who need to place it on and take it off the roof of the car often.
For this purpose, the lockdown mechanism of the roof racks fits most modern crossbars. It even works on the crossbars which are oval shaped and which are now being recommended due to their improved aerodynamic performance.
The affordable rooftop bike rack is easy to install on the crossbars as it has two mounting points. One point is at the front crossbar while the other locks at the rear crossbar. Of course, the rack’s position on the roof can be easily adjusted. Hover, in order to avoid scratching the roof of the car, it is recommended to install the bike rack at either side of the car, instead of placing it in the middle where cyclists might find it harder to reach.
Of course, if cyclists need to carry multiple bikes, then installing multiple bike racks is also possible. For this reason, it is also recommended to consult the maximum weight load of the roof as well as the maximum load capacity of the crossbars to ensure everything is according to recommendations.
As one of the most affordable bike roof racks, the product is highly recommended as a first choice for cyclists who wants to take their bike away from home. With a metal profile which uses aluminum, the lightweight roof rack is easy to handle and it can be installed or removed in minutes.
As its name suggests, the roof rack is made to carry a single bike. It stands out due to its clamping mechanism, which holds the bike in place by the frame, making it a very sturdy option on most cars. With a solid steel construction, the roof carrier is also among the most interesting solutions for overnight safety. Cyclists can leave the bike on the rack knowing it is secured with a lock which is operated with a key.
Installing the bike roof rack is not complicated. With a versatile design, it can be mounted on most rounded and square bars with a thickness of up to 40mm. If the roof bars are already installed, the bike rack can also be fitted in minutes. Since it holds a single bike, it can be placed at either lateral side of the car but it can also work well with another Cycling Deal 1 bike carrier for two bikes.
One of the main benefits of the bike car roof rack is the fact that it manages to offer one of the best experiences when it comes to simplicity. Cyclists do not have to remove the front or the back wheel to secure the bike, as the main attachment point is on the frame. But at the same time, this means that the rack might not work with some custom bikes as it is made to fit standard alternatives.
The good news is that regardless of the bike, it can even be an option for expensive designs as it manages to offer a lock with keys. Those who are looking to travel at higher speeds can also make the most of the rack and secure the wheels additionally. Keeper 8’X1’ lashing straps can be used to secure the wheels and minimize vibrations at higher speeds.
The bike rack can also be easily removed. When not in use, the rack can be stored in the garage or around the house. However, a few considerations need to be made for dedicated cyclists. If the frame itself is durable as it is made from metal, additional textile accessories might need to be replaced from time to time. Using various straps on the wheels during the hot and cold months of the year might mean that frequent travelers need to purchase additional straps down the line.
But with a powdered coat finish and a steel frame, the bike rack itself is as durable as it can be. For most cyclists, it means there is no need to upgrade in the future and the fact that it also comes with a built-in lock also means that further purchases are not needed.
Thule has been producing some of the most interesting bike roof racks. Their products are always durable and made to a high standard. It is also the case of the ProRide Car Rack. Its design is unique in many areas and it represents a combination of innovative techniques with new and daring designs. This can be said about the automatic bike positioning when securing a bike, mostly due to the ergonomic design of the rack’s wheel tray.
Made with an extended claw design, the rack has a long arm which reaches and locks the frame of the bike into position. With a protective design, it does not impact the paint or the touching finishes of the bike. But this is not the sole stability point of the roof rack. It also includes fixed and smartly-designed wheel holders. As Thule fans may already expect, these wheel holders come with adjustable straps which are made with robust quick-release straps.
Another characteristic worth to consider comes with the torque limiter dial. It is one of the areas which needs to be monitored when it comes to expensive bikes. But with a simple dial, the torque limiter gives the user the ability to control the force or the tension which is typical to a roof rack. The system also comes with a sign when correct mounting is in place. Next to the dial, cyclists will find the built-in safety lock mechanism which ensures all items are protected against theft. If the crossbars are locked as well, it means that the bike has an extra layer of anti-theft protection.
In terms of mounting versatility, the roof rack works with multiple solutions on the market. However, it is recommended to use in combination with the AeroBlade Edge and Thule’s square and round bars. Niche cyclists might also want to consider one of Thule’s accessories to protect the frame from scratches. Products such as the Carbon Frame Adapter can be useful from this perspective.
Another important consideration to make comes with Thule’s user-friendly designs. The bike rack needs no tools for installation and it means that it can be a useful solution in certain conditions, especially when looking for the simplest modus operandi as many roof racks can take too long to install.
With a recognized name among cycling enthusiasts, the bike carrier is among the recommended options for all types of bikes. Its versatility recommends it as one of the options for bikes of all sizes. With a functionality for kids’ and adult bikes, it can serve regular city bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes or downhill bikes.
Designed with durable materials, the bike rack is made with an aluminum casting tray. This also makes it a lightweight solution which is easy to install with no additional help. But the rack is functional as well. With an ergonomic handle with a release trigger, the rack has an expandable arm which holds the bike in place without touching the frame. With a simple and foldable design, the rack can be kept in the flat position when bikes are not being transported both for better aerodynamics and for better underground carpark access.
The load capacity is not bad either. In fact, the roof bike rack can hold bikes of up to 45lbs, making it one of the most capable options with this type of design. For many cyclists, this also means the ability to carry heavier bikes. Designs such as fat bikes can be transported easily.
Even with heavier bikes, the roof rack is still quite durable. For this purpose, the anti-corrosive powder coated finish recommends it for travel even on rainy days. Other materials apart from metal are durable as well. For example, the adjustable wheel straps are also made from durable plastic. With a total of three locking mechanisms on the rack, it offers a stable driving experience and a design which can rival some of the most popular options in this category.
The rack, like these universal roof racks, has a universal mount mechanism on the roof’s crossbars. This means that it can be mounted on most modern crossbars. At the same time, this process should be quite short as it can be done by a single person. With a capacity to hold bikes between 20” and 29”, the roof rack is perfect for maximum versatility for all family members.
Thule has multiple bike roof racks to choose from. The UpRide Upright Bike Mount is one of the solutions which are considered for their innovative bike lockdown mechanism. Without being overly complicated, the bike rack simply holds the front wheel of the bike. The rear wheel is secured with a strap. This means that all the possible areas of contact with the bike’s frame are eliminated with this design.
With a design which is especially recommended for carbon bikes, the rack can work great with premium bikes. As expected, the interface is easy to handle. The same can be said about the rear wheel adjustable strap. This also means the bike rack is recommended for non-traditional designs. In many cases, this means bike such as those made with rear suspension which might be harder to accommodate on other roof racks. With the Fat Bike Adapter, the roof rack can also handle those thick tires which so many cyclists love for their impressive trail grip.
When it comes to fit, the roof rack works well with most types of crossbars, regardless of their shape and brand. Round, square and oval crossbars can be the foundation of the roof rack. But for most cyclists, the roof rack can be a great option, especially when it comes to dealing with long rides on country roads which are often the location of many downhill sessions such as those had with a rear suspension or a fat bike. The good news is that operating the bike rack out in the wild is as simple as operating it at home as Thule’s design needs to tools for installation.
Some cyclists find fork mounts easier to handle. For this reason, Thule offers the OutRide Fork Mount bike carrier as one of their impressive solutions for everyday bike transport. With an included axle, the fork mount is secured into position. Furthermore, those who purchase the Thule One locks can also protect the bike against theft. Made with a quick-release system, the mount allows users to quickly unmount the bike and have it ready for the next cycling adventure.
The rear wheel is also secured with an adjustable strap. With both the front and the rear of the bike firmly in place, most cyclists can rest assured their overall drive will be a safe one of the bike. This is also enhanced by the stylish aerodynamic aluminum design which means the rack can handle air resistance much better. Even more, the bike rack can be mounted on popular crossbars such as the Aeroblade Edge or the SquareBar designs.
With a versatile design which fits most bikes with tires as wide as 3 inches, the roof rack is easy to work with. At the same time, it is among the most interesting solutions for those who find it difficult to fit the bike on the rack with both of its wheels in position.
Made to carry two bikes, the roof rack is one of the most interesting options when it comes to versatility and ease of use. As fans of SeaSucker can expect, the rack comes with 6 vacuum mounts with powerful suction powered by a pump-to-attach mechanism. The vacuum mounts are also easy to detach at a click of a button. Made with stainless steel, the mounts are durable and powerful, even at higher speeds.
Furthermore, the roof rack is easy to install in different positions. Those who need to carry up to two bikes and who also want the extra practicality of a fork mount can consider the product for everyday use, even without roof crossbars.
With a total weight of just 12lbs and a load capacity of 45lbs per bike, the powerful rack is recommended for those who do not need a permanent solution on the roof of their cars. The system also works great when it comes to storage when the bike roof rack is not in use.
The versatile bike carrier can be considered for various cyclists. It works with BMX bikes, road bikes or mountain bikes. The arm lock mechanism works as a quick lockdown mechanism to keep the bike secure. Straps are added on both wheels for extra stability.
With a weight of just 2 kg, the bike rack is not hard to handle. It can be easily installed as a result. Even more, since it is made with durable materials, it also comes with an impressive lifetime warranty which means it handles well even during changing weather conditions. With a hook-on lockdown and a lightweight profile, it can be an option for any type of cyclist. However, anti-theft measures are lacking and cyclists will need to purchase them separately.
Best Bike Roof Rack Buying Guide
Cyclists purchasing their first bike roof racks might be unsure where to start. Since there are a few good options to consider, the process can be overwhelming. But depending on the type of bike and the expectations regarding the quality and the process of mounting and unmounting the roof rack, the choices often include looking over a few characteristics which include and debates which include:
Fork vs. Wheel Mount
The problem of the design is still debated by cyclists. Fork mounts are either seen as good or bad, but in reality, the choice is much more complex as it looks into how users plan to use the bike roof rack. For some reason, a few cyclists find it difficult to fit the bike with its mounted wheels on the tray of the roof rack. It is why they consider the fork mount alternatives as the way to go. On the other hand, there are a few cyclists which abide by regular designs which don’t take the front wheel off. So which option is best?
In many cases, the weight of the bike might be an unseen impediment to properly fitting it on a bike rack. Cyclists who have this problem can look for a fork mount design which requires less strength for bike fitting. At the same time, a standard design can also work great for practicality purposes. There is no time wasted with removing and placing the wheel back on the fork. In some cases, cyclist just wants to be able to cycle as soon as they get to their destination.
In terms of aerodynamic performance, the debate is somewhat limited as both designs reduce the aerodynamic performance of the car. This means that the driver needs to drive slower due to the increased air drag with both types of designs. Even more, this is one of the safety issues which needs to be addressed, regardless of the type of bike rack of choice. Both fixed and vacuum cup designs need drivers to drive slower.
Another often underestimated characteristic of modern rooftop bike racks comes with the actual weight of the rack. It is why some of the modern designs combine lightweight metals such as aluminum with plastic to offer a more lightweight design. But in a world where many of the cyclists’ purchases break often, it is recommended to choose a solution which does not compromise on durability and functionality.
Of course, the weight of a roof rack can vary considerably. Furthermore, other elements such as the weight of the bike and the weight of the crossbars also need to be considered. For most cyclists, this can lead to a total weight capacity which needs to be compared against to the load capacity of the car’s roof. Typically, this information can be found in the car’s owner manual. If the information is not found in the manual, cyclists should contact their car’s manufacturers directly. With at least one bike on the roof, the weight can be considerable.
Most roof racks can hold a weight between 35 and 40lbs. But then this needs to take into account the actual weight of the bike which can be different from case to case. It is also recommended to consider the weight of the rack is planning to take it off the roof often. So while the weight is less important if it stays on the car for months, it becomes more important if it is handled weekly or multiple times per week.
Those with back issues are not recommended to choose heavyweights as lifting them above shoulder level could hurt the condition further. But the good news is the best bike roof racks are now lightweight and most healthy adults should be able to install and remove them with no extra help.
One vs. Two bikes
It is rare to find a true cycling enthusiast owning a single bike. At the same time, many people prefer to cycle with a friend or with a partner. It is why considering the different choices between the options for a bike or two bikes often needs to be done in advanced.
There are not too many options for two bikes for the roof of the car. But cyclists often use two single bike roof racks if two bikes need to be transported. In this case, the best place to start looking for a solution is to consider the added weight a second bike and rack come with and how this compares against the total weight of the car’s roof.
Further along, the crossbars need to be durable as well. As expected, two bikes on the roof of the car also impact air resistance differently and drivers will need to drive even slower for safety purposes. But regardless of the number of bikes which need to be transported, the amount of time to invest mounting and taking the bikes off the rack is crucial.
With two bikes, this time can be longer. However, with installation processes which can even take around 20 minutes for the average roof bike rack, this could easily double to 20 minutes for two bikes. A real alternative to this issue comes with the designs which need no tools for installation. In this case, they stand out when it comes to the ease of use. Thule is known for this approach in most of its products. So cyclists who have no time to deal with complex installation systems can choose one of their designs to minimize the time needed until the car and bikes are ready to go on the road.
One of the areas which have seen the most changes in how bike roof racks are made comes with the lockdown mechanism. In this case, it is important to consider the design of the crossbars as they can dictate the type of bike rack to use. There are many modern systems which are now used for this purpose. It is why strap designs can be popular for quick and adjustable lockdown.
Furthermore, not many of the solutions on the market are actually able to offer this at an affordable price and cyclists are expected to make a sacrifice when it comes to the system. However, most users prefer the simple no-tools installation which is certainly the direction where bike roof racks are heading.
However, many affordable bike racks still use a system of nuts and bolts to secure to the crossbars. The idea behind these systems is to evenly secure them as they usually come with 4 bolts for the front crossbar and 4 bolts for the rear of the crossbar.
Many people do the mistake of tightening these bolts in position as they go when trying to install the bike rack on the crossbars. But an advice is to simply tighten all the bolts with the same force once they are in place.
Another area which uses straps is at the wheels. Some manufacturers use lockdown straps for both wheels. Others only offer straps for the rear wheel. It is hard to say if there is a real difference between the choices, especially if the bike is secured and vibrations are reduced during transport.
One of the issues which tend to annoy cyclists is with the durability of these straps. For many of them, it means that only after a season of cycling these straps can loosen or they can be affected by UV lights. In some cases, the straps and especially the plastic bits of a bike rack come with UV protection.
But this is not offered by every manufacturer. At some point down the road, many of these straps need to be replaced. It is why so many cyclists are often tempted to purchase a few extra sets of straps for future use. In many cases, it is also recommended to keep the straps away from the sun and rain as much as possible. If the car is at home, it can be kept in the garage to keep the rack in good condition in the future.
Some of the elements which are the quickest to break are the moving elements of the rack. It is why the straps and the locking mechanism can be susceptible to damage in time. Cyclists need to prevent these issues and place the rack away from the sun and cold when not in use, especially with premium bike racks which need considerable investment.
It can’t be debated that anti-theft protection is a must-have. However, not all manufacturers offer roof bike racks which are actually inclusive of such protection. In some cases, the protection can come as standard in the form of a built-in key lock. In other cases, this lock can be purchased additionally. But there are plenty of instances where these anti-theft locks can’t be installed at all, especially with some of the most affordable designs on the market. It is also important to consider the options at hand depending on the type of cycling to be done.
If cyclists prefer to be away for a few days, it is often that they need to leave their bikes on the car overnight. This comes with its own challenges, especially in crowded areas. This is why it is actually recommended to purchase a roof rack with a built-in lock. Additional purchases are available in some cases by some manufacturers, such as RockyMountain.
However, their integration is all that’s needed to keep the bikes safe. In many cases, it means that those planning to carry expensive bikes need to think about the purchase in advance. Some carbon bikes can be seen as necessary to protect with an anti-theft system but even regular road bikes or mountain bike can be seen as an investment worth protecting.
In some cases, the safety lock mechanism is much more advanced than expected. Thule now makes systems which use the same key for locking the bike and the same key to lock the crossbars. This can only be seen as a major plus when it comes to proper safety and versatility.
Fat Bike Accessories
Some bike racks are also capable to carry fat bikes. But many of the most affordable options on the market need additional accessories to accommodate the wide wheels of these bikes. Those looking to carry multiple bikes can make the most of the opportunity simply choosing a solution which can adapt depending on the needs of the bike. On the other hand, a few fork mount options can work in this case as well.
Tools vs. No Tools
Installing a bike roof rack is not what it used to be. Just a few years ago, cyclists had to deal with a complex installation which required various tools. But in many cases, this led to minutes of frustration. Some of the best manufacturers listened to the complaints and started introducing the no-tools designs. But this is not the case anymore as more and more manufacturers are actually offering solutions which work great for the purpose of easy installation. A straightforward process now requires simply using both securing straps to lock the rack to the crossbars.
Some manufacturers even offer designs with a visual representation of the tension which is applied. With a simpler process, installing and taking the roof rack off the car is simpler and simpler. But at the same time, it is also worth noting that some of the best designs on the market are described by cyclists as being easy to use. It is why a simple installation process which takes less time is often among the first characteristics described by cyclists when referring to the best bike roof rack.
However, a few exceptions can apply. If a cyclist is planning to install the bike roof rack at home, even if doesn’t require tools, they might still need them to install the crossbars. Typical crossbars are secured with nuts and bolts and they might require some tools such as a screwdriver or an Allen key. It is why first the two get mounted together the process can be long and tools might be required.
Bike Size Adjustability
It is often the case the cyclists only think about transporting a single bike. But as many parents can attest, it is often the case that bikes of many sizes need to be transported. Kids’ bikes can also be transported on the roof rack. It is why many products come with an adjustable system which allows adjustability between 20” and 29” inches to accommodate all types of bikes.
Adjustable bike height is usually seen in the form of an extending arm which is usually placed either on the front wheel or on the lower bar of the bike’s frame. Simply adjusting the height of the bar should be enough to ensure proper versatility for bikes of various sizes.
Durability is often an issue with those using a bike rack intensely. Exposing it to hot weather or to the lower temperatures of the winter is bound to have an effect on some of its parts. It is why powdered coating is used on various metal parts by some manufacturers. Others apply UV protection to various smaller parts of the bike rack.
However, this should all be visible in the warranty coverage from the manufacturer. Cyclists investing in such bike accessories can choose options which offer various coverage policies ranging from 1 year and up to lifetime warranty. Venzo offers roof bike racks which are covered for life.
It means that they have the ability to be a reliable choice even for intense use. But it is also true that some of the most durable bike racks come with mostly-metal designs. They are recommended for their durability, but they might come with different drawbacks such as a longer installation time due to the screw, nut and bolt crossbar locks instead of the more modern strap lockdown.
Anti-corrosive treatments are also often used for the ultimate durability. It is why many of the roof bikes found today on the market comes with a simpler but more efficient design. RhinoRack is one of the manufacturers known for the durability of their anti-corrosive designs.
Most bike racks come are compatible with modern crossbars, however, exceptions apply. It is rare to find square modern crossbars, but even so, they are still made by a small number of manufacturers. Most crossbars today are made with a rounded oval shape to enhance aerodynamics and reduce friction. In many situations, it means that bike roof racks should be easy to install, especially with modern flattened crossbars.
Each bike roof rack comes with its own recommended compatibility products. It is why they are often listed in the product description by the manufacturer. If cyclists own older crossbars, they need to ensure they are compatible with the new design. But if choosing a bike roof rack which comes with straps for lockdown, it means that these issues are considerably reduced as straps work on all shapes and sizes.
How to Install a Bike Roof Rack
There are a few methods to install a bike roof rack but the final process depends on the design of the crossbars and on the design of the bike rack itself. Depending on the car, this could come with a different process.
Cars with crossbars
If the car already has installed crossbars, mounting the roof rack is easier than expected. It is why many cyclists find the entire process can last just a few minutes, on average. A modern bike roof rack comes with everything which is needed for the installation process.
A Thule rack comes with two mounting points which are attached to the front crossbar and to the rear crossbar. They use securing bolts to be placed into position. There are typically 4 bolts which are mounted in the front of the bike rack and 4 bolts which are mounted on the rear of the bike rack.
These 61mm bolts are usually secured into position with the lock cylinder hole clamps. This is part of the no-tools approach Thule and other large manufacturers have. If the bike rack comes with a safety lock, it is most likely cylinder shaped as well. It is introduced in its location and turner while holding it with a finger.
Cars without crossbars
If the car comes with no crossbars, they will need to be installed and purchases separately. There are a number of crossbars to consider. Many of them are simply recommended when it comes to simplicity and they can also be installed at home, without professional help.
After deciding on the type of crossbars which fits the car, it is time to choose a solution to work with. In many cases, this can come with a simple installation process. The first step is to locate the first areas on the roof cross-rails which are going to support the roof rack. These mounting points are usually under removable plastic caps. These plastic caps can be easily removed using a flathead screwdriver. Each mounting point needs to have a screw installed, which usually comes with the roof rack. The screws are typically screwed with an included Allen key.
Of course, the process is not the same for all 4 mounting points. The parts of the crossbars vary from side to side and from the front to the back of the car. All of the parts are detailed in the products instructions manual. A securing metal piece and a plastic or rubber piece are then installed over the screws in the 4 mounting positions. Washers and nuts are used for a proper job. The curved washer is installed facing downwards.
Once the mounting points are in position, the crossbars can be installed as well. There usually are two bolts which are installed through the holes of the mounting points. A pro tip here is not to fully tighten the crossbar at an end before installing the bolts on the other side as well. It is also why it can be recommended to take your time when it comes to the installation process in order for the crossbar to perfectly align with the 4 mounting points. The crossbar also needs to be center as in many cases it can slide from one side of the car to another. The process is repeated for the rear crossbar.
I don’t have crossbars or roof rails, can I still use a bike roof rack?
If there is nothing on the roof of the car, it means that it came with no roof rails as standard. In many cases, there are no viable options if there are no roof rails. However, a few modern crossbars are not made to fit the car with no roof rails. Simply by attaching to the top of the doors’ closing points, such crossbars can be an alternative for cyclists who do not have the cross-rails pre-installed.
Advantages and disadvantages of bike roof racks
There are a few considerations to make when choosing a roof-mounted bike car rack over a hitch-mounted rack. In most cases, it is important to understand the differences, as well as the possible drawbacks.
In most cases, choosing a roof bike rack comes with multiple advantages. This means that it is one of the best ways to transport bikes without damaging the car or the bikes themselves.
One of the main advantages of a bike rack comes with the ability to transport the bike without scratching the car. Instead of carrying it inside the car and creating a mess, transporting the bike on a bike rack is much easier.
As soon as cyclists install their first roof bars or crossbars, they also realize other types of equipment or load can be transported as well. It simply means that the crossbars are the foundation for carrying different types of loads. In some cases, this comes with the ability to carry other sporting equipment such as those used in winter or water sports. Other types of load can include everyday household items, but they will need a dedicated roof cart.
The roof of the car can usually carry up to four bikes. Of course, it will also need up to four bike roof racks installed on the crossbars. In most cases, this is rarely the case as most people carry one or two bikes on the roof of the car.
A roof bike rack is also very secure. If installed correctly, it will not pose a danger to either the car or to other drivers on the road. Both the rack and the bikes should be tightened into a position which means there is no room for wobble and various types of accidents.
Easy to install
Another major advantage of the roof bike rack is that it is easy to install. It represents one of the simplest processes a cyclist will have to do to adopt the cat. Modern bike roof racks come with the ability to adapt perfectly to various crossbars. Installing the bike roof rack can be done at home, following the instructions manual, with no additional help. This is not always the case with hitch-mounted racks which are larger or heavier and they might require additional help.
The lightweight profile of the bike roof rack also recommends it for all types of cyclists. It comes as one of the simplest and most efficient solutions when considering the various options at hand for bike transportation. In many cases, a bike rack can come with a weight of around 2kg. It makes the entire installation and removal process easier. With a lower weight, the modern bike rack is also easy to install, especially for the long-term when cyclists look for an easy operation when removing the roof rack.
Easy to store
Once the bike roof rack is removed, it is also easy to store. Unlike a hitch-mounted rack which might not even fit in the garage, the roof-mounted bike roof rack is much more compact. It can be stored vertically or even on top of various wardrobes or storage in the garage or the basement. It is also true that many of the modern solutions at hand are simply better when it comes to diminishing property sizes. With tools for bikes and the bikes themselves, storage might come as a premium for many cyclists.
Practical for various bikes
A bike roof rack can accommodate various types of bikes. It means that most cyclists can choose such a roof-mounted design to ensure they make the most when it comes to the ease of transportation with BMX bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, downhill bikes or even kids’ bikes. With this versatility, the bike racks can replace various other methods of transportation which can even damage the car.
Of course, no bike rack is perfect and this is also the case of the roof-mounted designs. Experienced cyclists know that even the best bike roof racks can come with a series of issues.
One of the issues which immediately affects users is with the lower speeds of the car. Simply put, the increased air drag reduces the speeds the car can reach. Of course, this also comes with increased fuel consumption. But most importantly, this can come with serious top speed limitations. This can depend on each car, but most users can expect to reduce their speeds, especially on highways.
Another disadvantage, especially when compared to hitch-mounted designs comes with the visibility of the bikes. In case there’s a problem, the driver cannot see the bikes. This means that extra caution is recommended when installing the bikes. It is also true that some of the best racks on the market are simply made for maximum safety and it is why they can offer three attachment points.
However, these disadvantages can be quickly balanced or even overlooked when cyclists realize they have full access to the trunk, compared to hitch designs. It is why various luggage and bike gear can be carried in the trunk as well. Practically, the load capacity of the car is considerably increased as the bikes don’t need to block the trunk.
Some of the best bike roof racks in 2018 are easy to use and they represent a top solution regardless of the types of bikes which are considered for transportation. With efficient designs and with shapes which are finally getting more aerodynamic to reduce air drag, modern bike roof racks are actually made to the benefit of the user.
With improved materials and multiple designs which require no tools for installation, they are easily mounted on the roof of the car. At the same time, other features are also considered as mandatory today. Additional security measures to ensure anti-theft protection is recommended on premium bikes. Such solutions often come with built-in locks which represent one of the best options when it comes to leaving the bike unattended on the roof of the car. Other modern features include various lockdown points, either on the front wheel or on the frame itself. Depending on the type of bike, these options can prove to be quite versatile as they can protect the paint of the bikes.
But it is also important to consider that some of the best options on the market also need to be durable. For this purpose, a metal frame with high-quality plastic accessories is recommended. In the conditions in which cyclists can practice their hobby both during the warmer months and during the colder months of the year, the bike racks need to be able to resist to varying temperatures.