Cycling enthusiasts will know, that a bike rack is a lifesaver. Roof bike racks are a great option because they give you full access to your boot while accommodating a range of wheel dimensions, widths, and wheelbases, as well as differing bike weights. They come in either fork-mounted, wheel-mounted or even suction-mounted attachment styles.
Editor’s Note – This list of the best roof mount bike racks was updated on March 29, 2022. We removed irrelevant, outdated, and discontinued products and added the Thule 98001, the Swagman Upright, and the Seasucker Talon to the list.
Why Choose a Roof-Mounted Bike Rack?
Roof-mounted bike racks are a great option for vehicles with a low height profile and they’re also compatible with various crossbars. They can also be used to carry other equipment such as surfboards, skis, kayaks, and cargo boxes. But if your vehicle has factory crossbars, it’s advisable to select roof-mounted bike racks that are compatible with such crossbars.
Don’t forget the need to store your rack when not in use. Whether you’ve got space inside or only in your garage, we’ve done the thinking for you! And if you find that a roof rack isn’t what you need, you’d better check out the alternatives.
In addition to giving you easy access to your boot for last-minute luggage, transporting your bike on your roof means that your rear window is clear and your view unobstructed. Larger vehicles can accommodate more bikes on the roof as opposed to a hitch-mounted rack.
However, keep in mind that roof-mounted bike racks will impact fuel consumption because they create additional drag and that your ability to drive through lower hanging structures will be limited due to the added height on your car.
If roof-mounted bike racks are not for you, then you might feel more comfortable investing in a hitch bike rack or, for truck drivers, a bike rack for your truck bed.
The Roof Rack Breakdown – Pros and Cons
|Roof-mounted bike racks can carry cargo along with your bikes||Low overhangs may endanger the safety of your bikes and vehicle|
|Roof-mounted bike racks can carry cargo along with your bikes||Increases in drag and fuel consumption is likely to increase|
|They often have space for locks|
For a more in-depth look into the ins and outs of purchasing roof-mounted bike racks, check out our buyer’s guide below!
Depending on what you drive and ride, there are several ways to go about shopping for roof-mounted bike racks. It mostly boils down to this – if you drive a nice, not-too-tall sedan, and want to keep the trunk functional, then what you need are roof-mounted bike racks.
The Thule 598001 Proride Is the Best Overall Roof Mounted Bike Rack
The Thule 598001 is a bit more on the expensive side, but given that it provides automatic positioning, unmatched dual claw stability, and security locks, it’s a rack solid choice and well-deserving of the best overall bike roof rack award.
Number of bikes:
Thule is known for its sporty and modern product design, and the 598001 Proride is no exception. Besides its durable design and aesthetics, it also has some pretty awesome features which are why this bike roof rack gets the best overall vote.
Loading the bike is very easy, with the hardest part just getting it onto your car’s roof. After that, the unique aluminum frame design assists with automatic wheel positioning in the wheel tray that holds the wheel firmly in place, while its quick-release wheel straps help to make unloading the bike effortless.
Because this is a frame-mount bike rack, there is frame contact when attaching your bike to the rack. The mounting arm attaches to your bike’s frame but is lined with soft padding that keeps the bike from being scratched or damaged during transit. This is so important when it comes to frame-mount bike racks, especially if you have carbon fiber bikes.
The larger design of the clamp keeps the bike steady while the extended lower claw adds additional stability. The Proride 598001 is thru-axle compatible and the wheel placers hold tires up to 3-inches, wheel diameters between 16” and 29-inches, and wheelbases of up to 48-inches.
The Proride also has a torque limiter dial, that signals when the bike is correctly secured, much like a jaw knob found on other bike racks. When in transit there is little to no sway, thanks to this added feature that helps with securing the bike properly.
As far as safety is concerned, there are security locks included, not only for securing the bike to the frame but also for the frame to the crossbars.
Thule never disappoints. The 598001 Proride is a great single-bike, bike rack. In terms of stability, security, and protection, there is none other that comes close. It’s well-designed, strong, and sturdy and makes loading and unloading a breeze. It is a bit on the pricier side, so not everyone would feel comfortable paying this much for a single-bike rack, but it is well worth the investment, especially if you’re thinking long-term. Additionally, the screws for assembly might not completely fit your car’s crossbars, so it is worth checking in on the compatibility before purchasing.
The Best Value for Money, Get the Swagman Upright Bike Rack
Swagman is a tried and trusted brand and the Swagman Upright has been a best seller for a very long time. In contrast to the Thule 598001 Proride, the Swagman Upright is a much more affordable roof mounted bike rack option that will give you the best bang for your buck. If you’re looking for an affordable and secure bike rack, with simple mechanisms, the Swagman Upright is an economic choice for point A to B transportation.
Number of bikes:
At first glance, the Swagman Upright is an attractive and sleek bike rack. Very lightweight since it is made from aluminum which is coated with black powder coating for rust resistance. This bike rack looks and feels very durable in build and design.
However, it is an entry-level bike rack and while its u-bolt installation fits most crossbars spanning 28-inches, it has a weight limit of 35 pounds, which, for an upright, could be better. The Upright accommodates wheelbases of up to 54-inches.
As with the previously mentioned Thule, it is also a frame-mount bike rack, meaning that there is frame contact when loading and securing the bike to the rack. Again, keep this in mind if you have a carbon fiber bike frame, as the Swagman Upright doesn’t feel like it offers the same level of frame protection as seen with the Thule 598001.
A big positive for the Swagman Upright, in terms of security, is that the clamp comes with a lock and key which is not standard with most other bike racks. Often it is the case that for added security features, you will have to buy them separately. Loading and securing the bike to the rack is easy enough, however, the rear wheel strap is just long enough to secure the wheel, but at least this means it’s a tight fit.
The Swagman Upright is a good roof-mounted bike rack for those who want value for their money and simply want to transport their bike without a bunch of additional features pushing up the price tag. It’s not the most exciting and aesthetic bike rack to look at, but it gets the job done without any problems.
The Yakima Frontloader Is the Best Wheel Mount Bike Rack
The Yakima Frontloader has a lot to offer. Not only in terms of quality and design, but with efficiency and practicality as well. Price-wise, you’ll have to fork out a cool $228.95, compared to some of its other close competitors, such as the Swagman UPRIGHT roof mount bike rack that comes in at a much more palatable $65.
However, the stability that the Frontloader offers with no frame contact is impressive, especially on long-distance trips, making this the top choice if you’re looking to invest in the best wheel-mount roof rack for bikes.
Number of bikes:
Wheel-mounted bike racks are brilliant for transporting your bike fully assembled so that when you reach your destination you’re ready to go.
The Yakima frontloader is a single bike rack, that carries virtually any bike, including bikes with disc brakes, thru-axles, and full suspensions up to 40 pounds. When the bike is loaded onto the rack, the front tire is securely fitted into the cradle and locked into place with an adjustable brace. The brace adjusts to fit around your front tire securely, accommodating wheel sizes of 20” to 29-inches and widths up to 3 inches.
Depending on your bike, if you have fenders on you might need to remove them during transit. This is a bit of a hassle, but keeping them on often will prevent the wheel from being secured properly. The back wheel is secured with a ratcheting strap at the bottom, all while there is no frame contact. This prevents the risk of scratches and damage to the bike’s frame during transit, making this a great option for carbon fiber bikes and those with custom paint jobs.
If you’re looking for extra security, the Yakima Frontloader has two SKS (Same Key System) locks that you can purchase separately in order to lock your bike to the bike rack and the bike rack to the vehicle’s roof bars.
You will need crossbars attached to your vehicle’s roof in order to use the Frontloader, but due to its universal mounting system design, it works with just about any crossbar, although, in my opinion, it fits Yakima’s proprietary round bars best. However, it is also compatible with Yakima round, square, factory, or aerodynamic crossbars, spanning from 16” to 48 inches. Some assembly is required when installing this roof rack but it’s relatively painless and straightforward; not taking more than 10 minutes to complete.
The first impression of the Yakima Frontloader is that it is extremely well designed. Deliberate attention was paid to creating a roof mount bike rack that is aerodynamic and will minimize the amount of drag on your vehicle. It is made from strong, but lightweight carbon fiber, giving it a sleek appearance. Being constructed from a lightweight material is exactly what you need in a roof mount bike rack. Less weight and pressure on your vehicle’s roof and less drag equal better fuel efficiency.
If Fork-Mount Is Your Preference, Get the Swagman Standard Bike Rack
The Swagman Standard bike rack is a great, versatile roof-mounted bike rack, as it fits almost any vehicle with flat, round, or square crossbars, without any modifications. Such a convenient feature enables you to use the roof-mounted bike racks on various vehicles and eliminates the need to buy a tower and crossbar system especially if your vehicle has factory crossbars. While the Yakima Forklift got honorable mention, the best fork mount award goes to the Swagman Standard roof-mounted bike rack.
Number of bikes:
This lightweight aluminum fork-mount bike rack carries bikes of 35 pounds and fits most disc brakes. The rack’s design is solid and fits round, oval, and square crossbars configurations, but it can also accommodate a fork adaptor for your crossbars if need be. It provides no-contact security, thus keeping your bike in top condition
However, hatchback owners are wary of opening your trunk too high as you might hit the back of your bike. The installation process with the Swagman Standard bike rack is very straightforward and requires no additional or special tools.
The Swagman Standard has tie-down and quick-release straps and a cam buckle that ensures your rear wheel is solid. A 3-inch tire is a bit of a squeeze for the rear wheel holder, but if your tire is slightly smaller, it will do. It must also be mentioned that this rack is a perfect fit for racing bikes.
Regarding security and anti-theft features, you secure the bike to fork mount blocks that have Quick Release skewers which anchor the bike to the rack.
Overall, the Swagman Standard fork-mount bike rack is aerodynamic and has very little rattling noise while in transit, especially compared to other upright mounts. Better aerodynamics means better fuel economy. You can transport road or mountain bikes for miles without much wind-breaking and wind noise.
Not only is the Swagman Standard bike rack a well-constructed fork-mount bike rack, but it is also lightweight with easy-to-use assembly, bike loading, and securing. Its lightweight, aerodynamic design makes it a fantastically fuel-efficient bike rack. All-in-all it offers quality, value, and functionality at the perfect price, making it our top pick for the best overall fork-mount bike rack.
RockyMounts Tomahawk Roof Mount Bike Rack Is the Best for Fat Bikes
The RockyMount Tomahawk is easy to mount and securely carries your fat bike with ease. It is a great choice for even weight distribution atop your vehicle due to its lightweight frame and expansive axle-to-axle wheelbase accommodation. Its affordability further adds to it being the best option for fat bike transportation.
Number of bikes:
What makes RockyMounts TomaHawk Upright Mount bike carrier unique is that it can work perfectly with all bike styles including mountain, bike, children’s bikes, cruisers, and even fat bikes with a maximum of 5-inches rubber. Off-road fat bike tires may make it difficult to find a bike roof mount that accommodates the broader tire. The RockyMounts Tomahawk upright roof bike rack doesn’t shy away from the heavier and more durable fat bike.
The RockyMounts Tomahawk is a single bike rack that carries bikes between 35 and 40 pounds, with no-frame contact. The weight capacity will also depend on the type of roof rack you use. Yakima roof racks will hold the frame and a 40-pound bike, while another factory-fitted round, square, and aero crossbars will hold 35 pounds. Your roof racks need to have a crossbar spread of 24-inches to 37-inches in order for the RockyMounts to accommodate a wheelbase of 34-inches to 48” axle to axle. A great thing about the RockyMounts Tomahawk is that it also accommodates standard road and mountain bikes, without front fenders.
The mount’s aluminum frame feels durable and lightweight. Aluminum is not prone to rust but pales somewhat in terms of strength when compared to steel, carbon fiber, or titanium, though this can be compensated by the use of thicker tube walls in the bike frame. Aluminum is a popular roof-mounted bike rack choice because it is a relatively inexpensive material which means the RockyMount Tomahawk will be an affordable buy.
Installation is easy and the adjustable swingarm enables the rack to be mounted on the driver and passenger sides. While mounted, the rattle from the rack is minimal, but it does rattle a bit when empty. It could also be more streamlined in terms of dismounting the bike, as the release button may prove a bit stiff.
The RockyMount is built for larger wheelbases, making it perfect for fat bikes and mountain bikes. If you want something that is strong and sturdy enough to support and carry your fat or mountain bikes safely, then I would definitely recommend investing in this bike rack.
The Yakima Highroad Wheel-On Is Best for Hatchbacks
If you drive a hatchback, you’ll love the functionality of the Yakima Highroad. It will fit easily onto your roof’s crossbars and keeps your bike secure with minimal work. When it comes to shock absorption and smoother transit, it’s difficult to find another hatch bike roof carrier with this level of versatility.
Number of bikes:
The Yakima brand has set out to ensure that the Highroad remains as versatile as its counterpart, the Yakima Frontloader.
The Highroad trumps by being able to carry bikes with larger wheel diameters of 26-inches to 29-inches and tire widths of up to 4-inches. The rear wheel cradle is adjustable to suit a variety of wheelbases on crossbar spans of 16-inches to 48-inches and can carry bikes weighing up to an impressive 45 pounds.
The Highroad has a TorqueRight tightening knob that notifies you when your bike is securely fastened by making a clicking sound, alerting you not to over tighten the strap. Its solid steel frame is well-constructed and surprisingly shock-absorbent.
Installing the Yakima Highroad to your car’s crossbars is effortless, and mounting a bike is also a smooth and easy process. Unfortunately, if you have T-slot crossbars, you will need to purchase the SmarT-Slot Kit 1 from Yakima which replaces standard mounting hardware and enables direct attachment of the HighRoad bike mount into the T-slot channel on your crossbar. It will also work with Whispbar crossbars and most other T-slot crossbars.
The Seasucker Talon Is Perfect if You Drive a Sportscar
The Seasucker Talon is easy to mount, maintain and transport. If you drive a sleek sportscar, then this suction-type bike rack is perfect as it can be installed to fit the smooth curves of any sportscar. There is also no need to have roof bars installed on your car’s roof in order to use the Seasucker. Although this is a fork-mount bike rack, it is extremely easy and safe to use with any sportscar design.
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Sports cars aren’t left behind with the Seasucker Talon. As the name suggests, this roof mounted bike rack is quite different from other bike racks as it eliminates the need for a roof rack by using suction power to attach to your car’s roof.
The Seasucker bike rack has two pieces, consisting of a 3-vacuum-suction mount that is used for your bike’s fork, and a single vacuum mount for your bike’s rear wheel. The suction mounts attach to metal, glass, and other non-porous surfaces. Each one of the vacuum mounts has a pull rate of over 210 pounds meaning that even your heavier bikes, such as mountain bikes and can carry one bike up to 45 pounds.
The rack itself is made from high-density Poly-Ethylene which is 3 times lighter than most other bike roof racks, weighing only 6 pounds. This is a highly versatile and strong thermoplastic polymer and has been used by professional cycling teams around the world. Seasucker has a Huske Universal fork-mount which is used to attach the bike to the 3-vacuum-suction mount.
Installation is done within seconds with very minimal effort. A nice tip is to wet the suction pads before mounting them to your car improves their suction power and helps retain their seal, which means that it is not affected by rain.
There are orange strips located around the suction pumps as an added security feature, that lets you know when the suction pad is losing strength, as the strip creeps out of the shaft and makes itself visible. When the suction pads are fully pumped again, the strips disappear back into the shaft, so you need only to give it a few pumps to secure it once again.
The Seasucker Talon has a fork-mount attachment and a quick-release skewer. Fork plugs and a crank arm strap ensure that the rack’s crank arm doesn’t hit the roof of your vehicle while driving. Additional plug accessories for thru-axle bikes will need to be purchased separately.
The Seasucker Talon is easy to mount, maintain and transport. It puts great ease into moving your bike without fanfare and eliminates a bulky aesthetic, which is beautiful for a sleek sports car.
Roof Mount Bike Rack Buyer’s Guide
The wrong bike rack can scratch your vehicle, could be a safety hazard, or make it easier for anyone interested in stealing your bike to get it. Your objective is simple; you want to transport your bike, but there is a dizzying selection of bicycle rack styles and different prices to choose from. This is an advantage to you, as a buyer. However, it might be too confusing, and pinpointing roof mounted bike racks that will suit your needs might take some time.
Understanding Your Needs
Defining your needs and assessing your current vehicle are two of the most important things you should do before you purchase any roof mounted bike racks. To define your bike rack needs, consider answering the following questions.
Answering these questions will help you to narrow down your bike rack options and pick what suits your needs best.
1. Location, Location, Location
Unlike real estate where you have to figure out the best location to buy a home when choosing roof mounted bike racks, you should be more concerned about whether you want to mount your bike on your car’s roof, trunk, or inside.
Note that roof mounted bike racks, trunk mount bike racks, and hitch-mount bike racks are the most common options when it comes to bike transportation. However, each of these has both advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it’s advisable to carefully consider how you intend to use the roof mounted bike racks before you purchase them.
2. The Installation Process
Good roof mounted bike racks should be easy to install. However, some racks are confusingly constructed that even the user requires some level of engineering knowledge to either fix it on the vehicle roof or mount a bike on it. It’s important that you don’t focus on solely how firm the rack will hold your bike. You also need to find out how difficult or easy it easy to install the rack on your vehicle.
If you’re purchasing the rack online, then, read the reviews left by other customers. You can also read the information provided by the product manufacturer especially details regarding the installation process of the rack.
3. The Loading Zone
Is it easy to fasten your bike onto the rack? That’s the question you should focus on. Sometimes, a frustrating rack (one that isn’t easy to load) might be the only thing that keeps you off your bike. Thus, it’s advisable to double-check with the store where you’re purchasing the bike rack to find out how difficult or easy to load the bike onto the rack long before you purchase it.
4. Unloading the Bike
We all know that everything that goes on must come off. Experts advise that you shouldn’t be swayed but a rack that’s easy to mount. Don’t forget that some of the clamps, clips, bolts, and straps that hold a bike in place can be a real headache when it comes to unloading the bike. Therefore, we strongly advise that you opt for roof mounted bike racks that allow you to mount your bike easily and take it off easily.
5. How Many Bikes Do You Intend to Transport?
One bike? Two bikes? Three or four bikes? Though you may be intending to spend a specific amount of money, it’s good to buy bigger roof mounted bike racks than one that you think you need. Seriously, it’s good to have an empty slot in your rack and then tell your friend to accompany you for a ride. Or perhaps you can request your son to accompany you for a ride. You will need to carry his bike too.
6. The Size of the Bike
Just like any other investment, the more you spend on your roof mounted bike racks, the more you get. The size of the bike you have will dictate the size of the rack you need. Besides, you may opt to buy a bigger rack or small rack depending on different factors. For instance, do you have a large garage where you can pack your vehicle with a bike rack on top of it? Therefore, make a wise, realistic decision taking into consideration all the factors that influence the size of the rack you need.
Before you buy a bike rack, there are two different security issues you should be aware of. You need to find out how firmly the roof mounted bike racks can hold onto your vehicle. Is it firm enough that you can head into the woods without worrying your bike rack is getting lost? You should inspect the rack’s mechanism to hold onto the vehicle. Find out if you’re supposed to use bolts, clamps, or nylon straps to secure the rack onto the vehicle’s crossbars.
The second issue you should think about is how securely does the bike attaches itself to the rack. Is the rack equipped with an excellent locking mechanism? Is that something that you should purchase yourself or does the rack that comes with it?
What Are My Alternatives?
Purchasing a bike rack is an important investment decision. Therefore, understanding different types of bike racks, what makes a good bike rack, and what you need are some of the important aspects of that investment decision.
The following are the main types of bike racks, their benefits, and their limitations.
Hitch Mounted Bike Racks
The carriers connect to a 1 and ¼ inch or 2-inch receiver hitch that should be fixed on your car. They are a great alternative if you don’t need the roof mounted bike racks perhaps because of height clearance issues and overhang challenges. Note that the hitch-mounted racks are normally more expensive than all other bike rack types.
However, the ease of mounting and unloading a bike makes these racks a popular alternative to roof racks. Besides, you don’t have to lift your bike onto the car’s roof or even remove the front wheel (for some racks).
Many hitch-mounted racks have locks that secure both the rack and the bike to the car. Some rack designs allow you to fit them on your car using one hand while others allow you to access your car’s boot without having to remove the bike rack. As a rule of thumb, the more lightweight a bike rack is, the more expensive it is. Besides, additional features such as inbuilt locks, repair stands, and more, increase the cost of the rack.
It’s worth mentioning that your car must have a hitch. If not, spend the extra bucks to get one. Some vehicles are compatible with the 1 and ¼ -inch hitches. This typically limits the number of bikes you can carry on your rack to two. A 2-inch hitch can support a bike rack that can carry up to four bikes.
|Hitch-mount bike racks have locks||Doesn’t affect aerodynamics|
|No height clearance worries||If your vehicle lacks a receiver hitch, you have to buy one|
|Doesn’t affect aerodynamics||You may forget about the rack while driving|
|The rack may obscure your vehicle license|
Trunk Mounted Bike Racks
If your car lacks a hitch receiver (required when using a hitch-mount bike rack) and you’re not interested in using roof mounted bike racks, a hatch-mount or trunk-mount bike rack is an excellent option. These racks typically require the least number of important accessories and the installation process is easy. Most importantly, these racks offer the quickest and cheapest way of accessorizing your vehicle for bike transport.
Trunk-mount bike racks are lightweight. Besides, you can use the same rack on different vehicles. However, you have to be sure that the bike rack is compatible with the type of vehicle you’re using. They contain adjustable nylon straps or cables with hooks to secure the rack to the vehicle. While you may think this is a benefit since you can adjust the straps and fix the rack on any vehicle, it’s a downside too; the rack isn’t theft-proof!
These types of racks are usually attached to the back of a vehicle. Well, this is good news; you don’t have to worry about overhangs, and nothing is hindering your car doors and windows. However, you will not be able to access your trunk once the rack is in place.
Many trunk-mount bikes rely on two horizontal supports made to support the bike by holding the top tube using nylon or rubber straps. This construction limits the rack’s capacity to carry only one bike. Besides, the rack isn’t fit for bikes that lack horizontal top tubes and can’t transport a bike weighing more than 35 lbs.
|Generally the cheapest bike racks||Capacity usually restricted to 2 or 3 bikes|
|Adjustable, and can be used on multiple vehicles||Prevents trunk access|
|Light and easily portable||Trunk rack design can hinder the ability to lock bikes to your vehicle|
Spare Tire Bike Racks
If you care about your vehicle as much as you care about your bikes you ideally want to keep both safe and scratch-free during transportation. An effective method of doing so is with a spare tire bike rack, which is mounted onto the spare tire of your vehicle. Now obviously this only works if you have a vehicle where the spare tire is fastened to the rear door, which is common for SUVs and other off-road vehicles.
Most spare tire racks have various ways in which you can install them, so you need to pick a spare tire rack whose requirements for installation and compatibility best fit into your vehicle to get the best result.
Spare tire racks are among some of the most convenient racks because they extend the usefulness of something already on your vehicle, the spare tire. A spare tire bike rack uses the structure of the spare, and in most cases, the bumper, to attach to your vehicle in a way that prevents damage to the vehicle that many other racks cant utilize. This is because the spare tire provides space away from the body of the vehicle as well as stability to stop your bikes from shaking during travel.
|Extends utility of a spare tire||Difficult for one person to install|
|Holds rack away from the vehicle and minimizes chances of damage||May obscure vehicle license|
|The spare tire provides extra stabilization of the rack||Obstructs use of the spare tire|
Choosing the right roof mounted bike rack isn’t a walk in the park. In fact, you should take your time to do thorough research. Get to discover the different types of roof mounted bike racks on the market today. Compare different features of these racks and get one that suits your needs and preferences. Besides, you shouldn’t ignore the cost of the rack you intend to purchase is also an important factor to consider.