What Are The Best Rooftop Bike Racks? – 2020 Edition
Often, the best bike trails are too far from home for you to cycle all the way there and back again and still enjoy the scenery when you arrive.
A rooftop bike rack is the obvious answer.
Investing in one of these simple but ingenious devices allows you to take advantage of cycle routes further away. Also, if you’re going on a road trip, you can take your bikes with you for some fun away from home.
Read on for our brief and honest reviews followed by a concise buying guide to make your life even easier.
Compare The Best Rooftop Bike Rack Brands
- Rooftop Bike Rack Reviews 2020
- 1. Yakima ForkLift
- 2. Thule Sidearm Universal Bike Mount
- 3. RockyMounts JetLine
- 4. Yakima High Roller Rooftop Bike Rack
- 5. Cyclingdeal Bike Roof Carrier
- 6. Kuat Trio Bike Rack
- 7. Swagman Standard Roof Rack
- 8. Thule Big Mouth Bike Carrier
- 9. RockyMounts Tomahawk Upright Mount
- 10. Yakima FrontLoader Rooftop Bike Rack
- What Type of Bike Do You Really Want?
- Roof Racks
- Trunk Racks
- Hitch Racks
- Truck Racks
- Spare Tire Racks
- What Are The Pros and Cons of Rooftop Bike Racks?
Rooftop Bike Rack Reviews 2020
1. Yakima ForkLift
Yakima makes rock-solid bike racks. This is their first ever entry into the fork style of rooftop racks and it’s a sterling effort. Working admirably with pretty much any bike you throw its way, you’ll run no risk of damaged paintwork while your bikes will remain rigidly in place throughout your journey.
- Super-simple installation
- Easy to make adjustments
- Innovative styling
- Need to get locks separately
- Can obstruct the trunk slightly
Yakima is a brand you can rely on for the best bike accessories and this fork rooftop rack can be fitted to the roof of your car with ease and slipped off with equally little fanfare.
Positioning your bikes couldn’t be simpler and, since the rack doesn’t come into contact with the frame of your bike, there’s no concern about scratching up that precious carbon.
Although the locking mechanism is easy to use, you will need to buy the locks separately. Since the price of the rack is so competitive, this could hardly be considered a deal-breaker.
2. Thule Sidearm Universal Bike Mount
Thule is another heavy-hitter in the bike accessories space and this nifty upright piece of kit is a strong contender for the best rooftop bike rack up for grabs. The front wheel is secured to avoid contact with the frame of your bike using the nifty sidearm mount. Build quality is superb and the price is more than reasonable, too.
- No contact between rack and frame
- Houses most bikes with ease
- Aluminum tray will not rust out
- Key for lock not supplied
- Tray can be awkward to configure correctly
Thule produce top-tier bike accessories at a price you’ll love and this sidearm universal bike mount continues that tradition in fine style.
Admirably weatherproof thanks to the aluminum tray, everything is rigid and built to go the distance. The front wheel is firmly secured using the side mount hook while the back wheel has a ratcheting strap to keep it safely tucked in.
As with many of these rooftop racks, you’ll need to dig deeper for the lock – in this instance the lock is supplied but not the key! – and we have to say, the lock could be more secure. This minor gripe aside, the Thule Sidearm delivers in fine style.
3. RockyMounts JetLine
A slick and streamlined rack that looks great and performs just as well, RockyMounts JetLine is available in a range of colors to coordinate with your vehicle. For ease of use combined with security and value for money, this simple but effective rooftop bike rack deserves a place on any shortlist.
- Styling is outstanding
- No hassle to install
- Lifetime guarantee
- Build quality leaves something to be desired
If you’re a casual cyclist looking to take your bike out occasionally, the streamlined and brightly colored Rocky Mounts JetLine is the ideal rack for your needs. We say this because durability is suspect so for heavy, daily users, you’re better off looking for something more robust.
Compatible with both standard brake systems and disc brakes, the JetLine holds most bikes with tires up to 2.7”. Installation is straightforward and this rack meshes well with a range of bars whether square bars or crossbars.
A pioneering quick release locking system makes loading and offloading your bikes a cakewalk giving you more time on the trail and less time fussing around. Considering the competitive price and lifetime warranty, this is a no-nonsense rooftop rack perfect for occasional use.
4. Yakima High Roller Rooftop Bike Rack
Next up is another fine rooftop rack from the stellar Yakima, the High Roller. This brand always places a premium on design but it’s never a case of form over function. The High Roller makes transporting your whole bike simple with no need to remove the front wheel. Compatible with square or round crossbars, installation is fuss-free.
- Most bikes fit on the rack
- No contact with frame
- Brand heritage and build quality
- You’ll be limited with bar compatibility so check up on this
The first thing we’ll say is that you need to check for crossbar compatibility before steamrolling in and buying this rooftop rack on a whim. A wide range of non-Yakima bars will present a problem so it’s best to err on the side of safety and buy Yakima round crossbars or square crossbars according to your preference.
The locking system is more than fit for purpose although, as with the bulk of rooftop racks, you’ll need to buy the lock separately.
Despite alerting you to the drawbacks – and we’re always honest and frank in our product appraisals – this is a top-notch rooftop rack suitable for pretty much any size and style of bike. Working with all varieties of brake and suspension systems, you’ll have your bikes mounted and be on the road in minutes flat.
5. Cyclingdeal Bike Roof Carrier
We try to provide something for all tastes and budgets with our reviews and for bargain hunters not prepared to compromise quality, this Cyclingdeal rooftop bike rack is a must. Despite the low cost, you’ll get an understated bike carrier finished in powder-steel that’s ideal for carrying the majority of bikes without needing to take off the front wheels.
- Incredibly cheap rooftop bike rack
- Powder-steel coating
- Holds bike very firmly in place
- Big bikes can feel unstable
- Excessively thin tire tray
Everyone loves a bargain and Cyclingdeal serves up a fantastic one in the form of this simple but effective rooftop bike rack. Don’t be fooled into thinking a cut-throat price means poor quality, though…
Materials are first-rate and, whatever your bike, it will fit neatly on the rack with the minimum of fuss. If you have an oversized bike, you might experience a little wobble so bear this in mind before committing to purchase.
Just slide your bike onto the bike and strap it down and you’re good to go. The only real disappointment is a short warranty but you really can’t expect much more when the rack is this cheap. If you’re realistic about your expectations and you are operating on a tighter budget, this rooftop rack makes perfect sense.
6. Kuat Trio Bike Rack
Last but by no means least, the Kuat Trio is a deceptively simple yet highly effective method of transporting your bikes the easy way. While this rack is certainly not cheap, in return you’ll get a piece of kit that might even outlast your car. Integrating seamlessly with a full range of bars, whether aftermarket or standard-issue, this is a flexible and efficient rooftop rack from a brand you can trust.
- Great with almost all bars regardless of manufacturer
- Accommodates Fat Bikes with optional kit available
- Locking system fully integrated
- Watch out for damage to roof
Whether you’ve got a downhill racer or a Fat Bike, the Trio from Kuat is a pricey but outstanding rooftop rack that looks basic but performs to a very high standard. Although it’s not the cheapest rack, it’s certainly among the very best.
You can tweak the 3 fork settings to ensure a nish fit whatever the shape and style of your bike. It works with 9mm, 15mm and 20mm forks. The rack slots effortlessly onto almost any type of bars regardless of brand which offers you far more flexibility than you’ll get with some Yakima racks.
You’ll be able to lock both the frame and rear wheel with no additional cost for a lock or key as with many of these trickily marketed bike racks that demand you dig deeper for the essentials. For a reliable, stable and durable rooftop bike rack that should keep you going for years, investing in the Kuat Trio is a smart move.
7. Swagman Standard Roof Rack
The rack is compatible with nearly every type of crossbar, and you shouldn’t have a problem with anything smaller than three inches. There are quick-release straps and tie-downs with the mount as well, so you don’t need to purchase anything else.
- Secure and durable
- Fits all roof racks
- Works with all road bikes
- Tedious and challenging mounting
Here is a rooftop bike rack that brings all the swag you’ll ever need to the roof of your car. It gets the job done regardless of the size, type, and purpose of your bike. The mount rack has a fork mount style, so you need to remove the front wheel on your bike before mounting it.
From there, you’ll have to secure it using a nine-millimeter skewer that you attach to the fork. Due to this design, mounting is quite difficult compared to some of the simpler designs, but that comes at a cost.
You’ll find that with the more challenging mounting design, you get an extremely affordable mount for your road bikes. This rooftop bike rack is available for less than $50, and you don’t typically need any additional hardware to mount your bikes.
The only way you would need something else is if your bike has a thru-axle.
To install the mount, you’ll assemble the wheel tray using the provided hardware. Keep the plastic end protectors and brackets in place for the purpose of supporting your bike.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll attach the arm to your crossbar using the u-shaped bolts. When you remove the wheel from your bike, you’ll hold the level in position and tighten the opposite nut by hand to make sure that everything is secure.
Did you get all of that?
As you can see, the process of mounting the bike is not something that everyone will enjoy doing after a few hours of riding through the woods on trails. It’s a significant inconvenience, but it does come at an affordable price, and if you install everything correctly, it gets the job done.
8. Thule Big Mouth Bike Carrier
Overall, The Thule Big Mouth Bike Carrier bike rack brings a lot to the table in terms of security and easy installation.
- Easy to install
- Simple to mount bikes
- Plenty of security features
- Compatible with most bikes and crossbars
- Limited flexibility on bikes and crossbars
Now let’s take a look at a bike mount that is a little easier to manage. Ideally, there are a few criteria that everyone looks for when deciding on a bike mount for their roof. You want it to be easy to install, easy to mount the bikes, and safe and stable so you don’t run into any issues.
You’ll find all of those points in the Big Mount Carrier from Thule. This one offers excellent stability during transportation, and it’s compatible with almost all round roof bars.
The rack itself contains an aluminum wheel tray that ensures your bike stays in place. It comes with straps to help secure the wheels to the tray, and they offer a strong grip on the frame to maximize the amount of stability and peace of mind you get.
If you’ve ever lost a bike from your roof, you know why we’re preaching the importance of having as many secure tie-down points as possible with your roof rack.
The rack also has self adjusting jaws that make it easy to tweak the bike rack for the needs of different bikes. If you have multiple bikes for various purposes, you’ll enjoy this one.
The rack fits bike frames up to 3 ⅜ and tires up to 2.6 inches wide. If all of this wasn’t enough and you’re still seeking a bit more security for your bike, you could opt for the separately sold one-key lock cylinder. This locking device guarantees that your bike is securely attached to the carrier and that you have absolutely no issues.
9. RockyMounts Tomahawk Upright Mount
This bike rack works with almost all types of crossbars and bike styles. You can use it for mountain bikes, kids bikes, and even fat bikes because the bike mount has a maximum width of five inches for the tires.
- Durable and long lasting
- Powder coating aluminum for longevity
- Easy to mount and unmount bikes
- Simple to install
- Works with almost all bike styles
- Slight rattling while driving
If flexibility and adaptability are what you need, then you might want to check out the Rockymounts TomaHawk bike rack. This one offers a lot of variations that you can use to fit the unique needs of your bikes. If you have a few different style bikes, but you don’t want to purchase multiple roof racks, here is your solution.
Many roof racks use a fork mount that requires you to remove the front wheel to mount it, but you won’t have that problem with this one. You can attach the bike directly to the rack with the front tire.
The rack has a small nub that helps keep the wheel straps out of the way. When you’re strapping the bike down and ratcheting the straps, you’ll notice that the straps never touch the frame of the bike. This reduced friction means you’ll experience less vibration during travel, which leads to fewer bangs or scratches.
To unload your bike, you’ll simply squeeze the release button and pull it off.
Something we like about the rack is the aluminum frame with a black powder finish. This will prevent corrosion and ensure that the bike rack lasts a long time. It might even last longer than the rider.
The only downside we notice about this option is even when you think you’ve correctly installed the bike rack; there is still a bit of vibration coming from the roof while you’re driving.
10. Yakima FrontLoader Rooftop Bike Rack
The company stands behind their product by offering a lifetime warranty on it as well. You know, once you purchase this bike rack, you’ll never have to buy another one.
- Strong company reputation
- Mounts almost all bike styles
- Easy to mount and unmount
- Secure and stable
- Lifetime warranty
- Almost too easy to disengage (theft risk without the optional key lock)
Yakima is well known for producing excellent products, and this one is precisely that. Here you have a wheel mounted model that fits any bike with 20-29 inch wheels. Once you take it out of the box, you’ll find that it’s already assembled for you and ready to mount on the crossbars. Speaking of crossbars, it mounts on any crossbars and won’t have any contact with the bike frame.
Installation is simple. You need to bolt the rack to the crossbars and use the universal clamping system to install it. It comes with a ratchet strap to help secure the rear wheel, and it works for any tires up to 2.5 inches in width.
We believe that anyone who purchases this roof rack will find that the installation is simple, and it offers plenty of security as well. The Yakima rack comes with a twin locking system. The first lock is on the locking cable to secure the bike to the frame. The second lock clamps the rack to the crossbars.
If you’re seeking a bit more security, you could go for the sold separately Same Key System. This factor helps lock your bike to the mount and the mount to the base rack. This step will prevent anyone from stealing your bike and unhooking your mount if you plan on leaving your bike unattended for a while.
There are not too many things you need to think about when you’re looking for the best rooftop bike rack but there are several pointers that might simplify your buying decision.
What Type of Bike Do You Really Want?
While the focus of today’s article is on rooftop bike racks, there are several other options at your disposal. We’re not here to give you the hard sell on any given product so it’s essential before anything else to ask yourself if a rooftop rack makes most sense for you.
Arguably the most versatile bike rack and therefore the reason we reviewed exclusively this type of rack, this effective solution is not for everyone. If you don’t have some kind of rails in place on your car, you’ll need to make provision for this. You’ll also need to check carefully for the weight your roof can support. Bear in mind, too, you’ll also need to be capable of lifting the bikes up and overhead. In all other respects, these racks make a solid choice.
If you’re only planning to carry a couple bikes, you can get racks that you fasten to the back of your car using straps and hooks. Rubberized support arms and more straps keep your bikes in place. These are cheap, extremely portable and don’t require you to lift your bike up too high for mounting.
Take advantage of the hitch mount at the rear of your vehicle and consider the possibility of a hitch rack for your bikes. Some of these racks are surprisingly costly and they will block off trunk access. Your view can be obscured when using this type of rack so check carefully before committing to purchase.
If you drive a truck and you want a specialized rack system, you can effectively turn the bed of your vehicle into a home for your bikes with a truck rack. The downside of this method is that you’ll have no space left on the truck bed for anything else aside from your bikes.
Spare Tire Racks
If your SUV packs a spare tire on the back door, you can look at a bike rack that attaches to this. You’ll need to remove the tire cover and you’ll be limited to carrying 2 bikes if you adopt this approach.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Rooftop Bike Racks?
- Reasonable cost within most budgets
- Unobstructed view from driver’s seat
- Highly versatile
- Bikes remain rigidly in place
- Loading accessories available
- Option of using locking mounts
- No real risk of scratched paintwork
- Need to load bikes up on high
- Problematic with taller vehicles
- Wind resistance can impact fuel consumption
- Some degree of noise from wind resistance
- Some height restrictions can be an issue with bikes loaded
- Some General Tips When Using Rooftop Bike Racks
- Always check carefully how much weight your roof can bear
- Check payload limit of your vehicle if you plan to mount multiple bikes
- Test before buying if you have a smaller bike
- If in doubt, buy a larger rack than you need
- Tandems or any other awkwardly-shaped bike work well with rooftop bike racks
- Consider a locking mount for added security
Hopefully, you’ve got some handy hints about getting the most effective rooftop bike rack for your rides away from home.
Once you’ve decided that a rooftop bike rack makes most sense for you, choose any of the above models and you and your bikes will be in safe hands.
Come back soon for more car-related advice and impartial reviews to make your life easier.