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Roof Bike Racks 101
This guide explains the major types of roof bike racks on the market and offers suggestions for selecting a roof bike rack.
Fork Mount Roof Bike Racks
To mount your bike on these racks you must first remove the front tire. Once the front tire is removes you place the fork in to a quick-release clamp and secure the rear wheel in a wheel tray. This option is the most common for bikes with easily removable front wheels. For bikes with 20mm hubs or bolt-on front wheels an upright bike rack may be more appropriate because removing the front wheel might be unwieldy.
Upright Roof Bike Racks
Upright roof racks do not require you take off the front wheel before mounting the bike in the rack. They typically mount to the frame using a clamping mechanism but there are also models that utilize a wheel mount system where the clamp is placed around the wheels and not on the frame. This eliminates any scratching or scuffing to the paint or finish of your frame. These bike racks can accommodate all styles of bikes from 20" BMX bikes to large tire downhill bikes to 29ers.
Benefits of a Fork Mount Bike Rack
The main benefit of a fork mount bike rack is stability: because the fork is clamped on to the rack the bike will ride more securely on your roof. The downward angle and low profile of the bike on the rack reduces wind resistance and noise as well. Some people also find it easier to load the bike without the added weight of the front wheel and the stability of the fork mount when it is resting and not yet clamped.
Recommended Fork Mount Bike Racks
Some fork mount racks we really like are:
--The Yakima Steelhead. This rack fits in at a nice reasonable range (just over $100) and carries many popular features such as a lockable long-throw skewer, aerodynamic fork block and tool-free installation. The Steelhead roof bike rack is compatible with a wide range of bicycles ranging from light weight road bikes to heavy duty free ride bikes.
--Thule Peloton. In the same price range as the Steelhead this rack from Thule offers such innovative features as a dual-lock design, Xsporter compatibility with Xadapt9, and fits both Yakima and Thule load bars. The Peloton is the world's #1 selling fork mount bike rack and features a newly redesigned form.
--Inno INA 381. This popular fork mount bike rack has the ability to be mounted on square, round and most factory crossbars. It is this versatility that makes it one of our favorites. Other features include: Oversize quick-release lever, locking fork lever cover, anodized aluminum tray and all the necessary keys to secure it soundly.
Upright Bike Rack
The main goal of an upright bike rack is making the rack easy to load and unload. This style of rack does not require that you remove the front wheel or adjust anything at all on the bike. Upright bike racks are compatible with almost any kind of bike too. From 20" BMX bikes to road bikes, an upright rack will carry them all. An upright bike rack is also optimal for use with 20mm thru axel style forks. On standard fork mount bike racks, you will need to unbolt the wheel and use an adaptor; with an upright style rack you can simply leave that wheel on and be good to go.
There are 2 styles of upright bike racks: Clamp and wheel mount.
Clamp style racks mount to the bike by using a clamp on the end of a support bar to secure the bike by the frame. Clamp style racks can occasionally be limited by the size of the downtube so for some full-suspension and non-traditional style frames we recommend wheel mount racks.
Wheel mount racks mount around the wheel using a mounting arm. This style of rack accommodates any style of frame and will also not contact your frame avoiding any kind of scuffing or scratching to your paint job.
Recommended Upright Bike Racks
These are some upright bike racks we recommend:
--Yakima King Cobra. This wheel mount upright bike rack combines Yakima's revolutionary wheel mounting system with practical features such as a cable lock that extends from the mounting arm to secure your bike to the rack. This rack will fit 20" to 29" wheels firmly and has no problem with disc brakes, suspension forks or thru axels.
--Inno INA382. This Clamp mount rack can be mounted on square, round and most factory crossbars making it compatible with almost every roof rack out there. The INA382 rack features a locking mechanism, fits bike with tires up to 2.7 inches wide and features Inno's state-of-the-art design philosophy.
--Thule Big Mouth. The Big Mouth from Thule is a modestly priced clamp style rack that will accommodate both square and round bars and also factory roof racks with additional adaptors. The Big Mouth is a very simple, clean design that is incredibly easy to use and offers Thule prestige and quality. The Big Mouth works on bike with downtubes up to 3 1/8" in diameter and utilizes Thule's One-Key™ system for security.
Roof mount bike racks are among the most popular choices for transporting bicycles. Roof mount bike racks can be left on your roof permanently offering you the flexibility to just get up and go whenever you want.
If your roof is already being occupied by a canoe/kayak rack, cargo carrier, cargo rack or snowboard rack you may want to check out hitch bike racks instead.