Roof-Mounted Bike Rack Buying Guide

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Roof-Mounted Bike Rack Buying Guide

Bikes are meant to be enjoyed, not left sitting inside a garage. Using a roof-mounted bike mount allows owners to take their bikes along on vacations or day trips, but choosing a particular type is not as easy as one might think. Buyers are presented with a number of options, and the advantages and disadvantages are not easily apparent upon first glance. Customers tend to settle for subpar models and then wonder why their bike may have gone missing.

The roof-mounted bike rack is just one type, but it is known as one of the safest models. These roof racks come in several different designs at various price levels. Buyers need to consider which one is right for their car. Roof-mounted bike racks are often sold in sporting goods stores, and they can also be bought online through eBay. When choosing a roof-mounted bike rack, buyers need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages that come with attaching bikes onto the roof of a car.

Understanding Types of Bike Racks

There are three main types of bike racks: roof-mounted, strap-on, and hitch-mounted racks. To  understand truly what a roof mounted bike rack does, buyers need to have a grasp of how all three types work. Then they can decide if purchasing a roof-mounted bike rack is right for them.

Strap-on Bike Racks

Strap-on bike racks tend to be the least expensive type. They attach to the rear of the car through either the trunk, bumper, or hatchback door. Metal arms that extend from the bottom of the bike rack typically allow up to three bikes to be carried at the same time. It is easy to load bikes on and off of the strap-on carrier, but this presents security concerns. It is also remarkably easy for a thief to come up, and steal, the bike when the owner is not present.

Hitch-mounted Bike Racks

Hitch-mounted bike racks allow owners to tow their bikes from their car's hitch or a small trailer. There are different classes of hitches designed for vehicles. The Class 1 hitch can carry up to three bikes and works with even smaller cars. Class 2 hitches carry more bikes, but typically only work with SUVs and trucks. Hitch-mounted racks are typically the most expensive, but they are also the easiest to load and unload. However, some models require owners to drill holes into the chassis of the car and not all cars are made for towing even a small hitch. Furthermore, there are problems with security since thieves can easily take the bikes off the rack.

Roof-Mounted Bike Racks

Roof-mounted bike racks attach to the roof of the car. The price of a roof-mounted rack varies depending on whether or not the vehicle already has a crossbar on the roof, such as those found on SUVs and vans. Most models hold four bikes, but some can carry up to five due to the size of the roof. The biggest issue with roof-mounted bike racks is also the one that makes them the most secure: loading and unloading the bike from the roof. Some customers may have trouble lifting their bike onto the roof of their vehicle. The added height of this rack also makes it difficult for thieves to remove the bike.

Features of Roof-Mounted Bike Racks

Roof-mounted bike racks have several features available depending on their design. Choosing the right features means finding a rack that works with a car. Some cars, such as those with sloped roofs, are not made for roof-mounted racks. Sedans, SUVs, and trucks can all hold roof-mounted racks.

Roof Attachment

The easiest rack attachment mechanisms are those that already work with the crossbar system found on the roof of the car. These are also some of the most affordable roof-mounted bike racks. They attach to the crossbar on the roof without impacting the car chassis itself. Trucks, SUVs and some station waggons usually come with crossbars on the roof.

Sedans and other types of cars that lack roof crossbars, require a self-attaching model. These roof-mounted racks come with mounts and clips that attach to either the door frame, or roof gutters on a car. One disadvantage of using this type of carrier is that the frame can end up scratching the roof of the car. However, if there is no crossbar on the roof, then owners do not have any other option except to use these models.


Knowing the weight of the rack is also beneficial. Some high end bike racks are made out of lightweight metals like carbon fibre, which weigh almost nothing. Steel-framed racks, however, add a good bit of weight to the car. Buyers must also account for the additional weight of the bikes. Never exceed the weight limit for the roof of the vehicle. If the owner does not know the weight limit, read the owner's manual that comes with the car.

Avoid Being Top Heavy

Safety experts also recommend against overloading the roof of an SUV. These cars already have a higher centre of gravity than other models, therefore adding extra weight to the roof may only increase this problem. If the driver ever needs to use emergency handling, having a top-heavy load can potentially cause the vehicle to roll over.

Bike Attachment

Bikes can be attached to roof-mounted models in several ways. The first option is the upright mount that holds the bikes by the pedal crank or bike frame. Bikes only need to be lifted on top of the car and then attached to the mount. It is the easiest option, especially if the owner has an exceptionally high roof. However, security is compromised with these carriers since a thief could clamber on top of the roof and remove the bikes.

The fork mounted carrier is the second option and the most secure. It takes more work than the upright mount since owners must remove the front wheel of the bike. The mount then attaches to the bike's front wheel fork. However, owners of expensive bikes should consider this option because it is the safest method. No one is going to steal a bike that does not have a front wheel.

Vehicle Height

The height of the vehicle also plays a pivotal role in determining the right roof-mount bike rack features. One of the greatest problems with these mounts is that drivers forget they are on the car when driving. They may pass underneath a bridge, or even the roof of a drive-thru restaurant and knock all of the bikes off the roof. Not only does this damage the car itself, it can completely ruin a bike. For bikes worth thousands of dollars, this is a very costly type of accident.

Height Solutions

One way to avoid height problems is to select the fork mount option for roof-mounted racks. The fork mount removes the front wheel, keeping bikes lower than the upright mount. This gives drivers some extra wiggle room when passing under low bridges and overpasses. This style also helps lower the centre of balance on top-heavy SUVs, and reduce the overall weight placed on the roof. However, all roof-mounted racks, even the fork mount, add extra height to the car that should never be ignored while driving.

Wind Resistance

A final consideration to make when purchasing a roof-mounted rack is to understand the role of wind resistance. Cars are usually built aerodynamically with a minimal amount of wind resistance, but adding bikes to the roof increases wind drag. In turn, this also increases the amount of gasoline used to power the vehicle since the engine has to work harder to maintain top speeds. Owners who have gas guzzling cars may want to take a second look at roof-mounted bike racks.


Using a bike rack allows owners to take their bikes with them on trips so they can enjoy the outdoor trails from remote locations. However, choosing the right model can be tricky without the right information. Ultimately, users desire a roof-mounted bike rack that is easy to use, while also protecting their bikes and their car. Roof-mounted bike racks are only one of the three main bike carrying options, but many customers prefer them for several reasons.

The roof-mounted type is the most secure, especially the fork mount option. This means that they can carry around their top dollar bikes without having to worry about theft. Secondly, roof-mounted bike racks hold more bikes than strap-on designs, and small hitch-mount racks. However, when purchasing a roof-mounted bike rack, customers need to pay attention to their car's requirements to ensure that the model works properly. Once the decision to purchase a roof-mount model is made, buyers can find the ideal bike rack for them by searching through eBay's vast collection.

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