Custom Fit Roof Rack
Transporting your bike to and from the trail can be a chore, especially if you have a standard passenger car. With a pickup truck you can put your bike in the bed. If you have a hitch, you can use a hitch-mounted carrier. But what if you don't have a truck bed, a large cargo area or a trailer hitch? Trunk-mounted racks are available for certain vehicles, but these racks can potentially damage your car's paint and will certainly inhibit access to your rear cargo area.
Roof-mounted bike carriers provide a great alternative for the weekend enthusiast and the die-hard biker.
The benefits of a roof-mounted bike rack include:
Roof-mounted bike racks are designed to mount to the crossbars of a roof rack. So the first step in choosing a carrier is determining what type of bars your roof rack has. (If you do not have a roof rack and you want to learn more about them, see our Roof Rack Overview.)
There are basically four different types of crossbars that roof-mounted bike carriers fit:
More and more these days, bike-rack manufacturers are creating attachment points that are compatible with as many different crossbar configurations as possible. Elliptical bars and the newer aero bars are becoming more popular in the aftermarket world - they are far more aerodynamic and create less wind noise and drag than their square and round counterparts. So most rooftop bike carriers will fit these bars quite well.
However, you do need to carefully read the individual description of each bike rack you are investigating to determine compatibility with your roof-rack system.
There are multiple ways to secure your bike(s) to a roof-mounted carrier. Some methods are easier on you and some are easier on the bike. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Fork-Mount Bike Rack
With a fork-mount bike rack, you secure your bicycle to the carrier by removing its front wheel and anchoring it at the fork for superior stability.
How to use a fork-mount carrier:
Benefits of a fork-mount carrier:
Note: Not all fork-mount carriers are compatible with bike disc brakes. Check each product description to determine compatibility.
Some bikes may require a fork-mount adapter. These include:
Wheel-Mount Bike Rack
With a wheel-mount bike carrier, your bicycle is secured at its front wheel to avoid making contact with its frame. Your bike's weight will rest the same as if you were using a fork-mount carrier, but with this type of rack you do not have to remove the wheel or any other components of the bike.
How to use a wheel-mount carrier:
Benefits of a wheel-mount carrier:
Frame-Mount Bike Rack
Frame-mount carriers function much the same as wheel-mount carriers. The only difference is that with these racks, your bicycle is secured at its frame instead of its front wheel.
How to use a frame-mount carrier:
Benefits of a frame-mount carrier:
Accessing the Rack
There are a couple factors to consider when purchasing a roof-mounted bike carrier. The first, most obvious consideration is whether or not you can easily access your vehicle's roof to mount your bike(s). Keep in mind that loading your bike includes not only lifting it onto your roof, but also properly positioning it and securing it in place. And you may have to do this after a long, exhausting ride.
There are a couple of different types of steps available to help you easily access your roof.
Always remember to check for adequate clearance before entering a garage or going beneath an overhang. Although the roof rack itself might not add much height to your vehicle, a couple of bikes sitting atop it will.
Ease of Use
Once your bike is up and in place, you will need to secure it to the carrier. Some racks are easier to use than others. Any rack that has clamping arms - wheel mount and frame mount - may be more difficult to maneuver if you are already struggling to reach your roof. This can result not only in frustration for you, but if you are unable to properly position the arms, it can also keep you from adequately securing your bike.
Some fork-mount carriers include convenient features that make it easier to secure your bike.
No bike rack is theftproof, but most have security features designed to deter theft. These features vary from carrier to carrier.
Thule, Yakima and Rocky Mounts offer keyed-alike systems for most of their carriers. By using these lock cores in place of standard lock cylinders, you can:
Note: Most Thule and Yakima roof-mounted bike carriers do not include lock cylinders. This is so that you can customize your setup with keyed-alike cores.
Some carriers offer integrated locking cables to better secure your bike to the carrier. The cable stores in the arm of the rack when not in use and can be pulled out from the arm and wrapped around the bike frame or through the wheel and then run back to the carrier itself to lock in place. When the bike carrier is not in use, you can wrap the cable around the carrier itself to secure the carrier to your roof rack.
When bikes are mounted to your roof, you're pretty much out of luck in terms of aerodynamics. But for those times that your bike rack is not in use, you can cut down on drag and wind noise by mounting a fairing. It is a good idea to add a fairing to any roof rack - with the exception of AeroBlade and Whispbar racks, which are already supremely quiet - but it is especially beneficial if you intend to keep your bike rack mounted, as doing so will create even more wind resistance than the roof rack alone.
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