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How to Choose a Roof-Mounted Bike Rack

If you've never had to squeeze a bike into a car, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. If you have, then you know how frustrating it can be, and have probably since purchased some form of a bike rack so you never have to do it again.

However, if you're still in the market for a bike rack, consider one that’s roof-mounted. There are many advantages to this type of rack, so read on for our reasoning and recommendations.

Bike Racks

The Case for Rooftop Mounting

Unlike trunk or hitch racks, roof-mounted bike racks do not obstruct rear access to the vehicle. And for those who already have cross bars mounted on the roof, adding a bike carrier is an economical option.


Which Type Is Right for Me?

To help you decide which roof rack is best for your needs, let's take a closer look at what’s available.

Fork-Mounted

For ultimate stability, you may want to opt for a fork-mounted clamp system. The rack works by clamping into the front-wheel fork of the bike to provide a sturdy attachment. This style offers the most security without putting the frame of the bike under any duress.

If the height of your car is a concern, fork-mounted clamps also offer a slightly lower profile than other systems. Typically, you'll see cyclists with high-end gear, such as carbon composite bikes, using this system.

Unfortunately, fork-mounted racks won’t work with some bikes—including those with disc brakes or thru-axles—so you’ll need to consider one of the other two options.

Frame-Mounted

If you're sporting a more rugged bike, you may want to go with a frame-mounted bike rack. As the name suggests, this system fastens your bike to the roof by clamping onto the frame, sparing you from having to remove the front wheel every time you mount it.

Unlike fork-mounted racks, this system is compatible with just about any type of bike, whether it’s for bumpy trails or smooth downhill racing. Bikes with disc brakes also work fine with this system.

Wheel-Mounted

Similar to frame-mounted systems, a wheel-mounted bike rack lets you keep the front wheel on during travel, but instead of locking down on the bike's frame, it clamps onto your bike’s front wheel.

Because the clamping occurs on the front of the bike, weight distribution is the same as a fork-mounted rack. Also like the fork mount, the wheel mount won't touch your frame, so you can use it with your lighter carbon frame. This model is also great for all styles, including mountain bikes and road bikes.

Roof Racks

It's important to note that for any roof-mounted bike rack, you'll need a roof rack to install it. If you already have cross bars, you're probably all set. But if you're cruising with side rails, you’ll need to also invest in an adaptor and cross bars before you can install a bike rack. Be sure to check whether the bike rack you choose will be compatible with your roof rack system.

A Few Reminders

If you choose a roof-mounted bike rack, there are a few key factors to remember. Mounting your bike will always entail lifting it above your head, so if this is at all a worry, it may not be the right system for you. Instead, consider some form of a rear-mounted bike rack.

Also, forgetting that your bike is on your roof is more common than you think, so you'll need to always be aware of your clearance when entering garages or going under bridges.

All in all, roof-mounted bike racks are ideal for the hard-core cyclist who rides on a regular basis. By investing in a roof-mounted system, you can rest assured that your bike will make it to the trails or starting line without any damage.


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