Get Started with Roof Top Bike Racks

A Roof Top Bike Rack can stay on your vehicle at all times proving to be of the utmost convenience, especially if you find yourself biking a lot. There is no constantly taking a rack on and off, worry about hitting something while backing up, or taking up your valuable garage space with a rack on the back. Roof Top Bike Racks also work well for bikes with curved top tubes or smaller bikes that are difficult to carry with traditional hitch mounted bike racks. The downside to a Roof Top Bike Rack is lifting the bike up to the roof (some are heavy). You must also be careful with low clearances in parking garages or fast food drive thru restaurants.

Below is a step by step guide to aid in choosing the perfect Roof Top Bike Rack for you.

1. Decide What Type Of Bikes You Will Be Carrying

Is it a road bike or a mountain bike? Most mountain bikes have tires that are between 20” to 29” in diameter (including children’s bikes) and up to 2.6” wide. Road bikes have 700c wheels whose tires are approximately 700mm in diameter and between 19-32mm in width.

Many bikes are equipped with disc brakes. The clamping method of the Roof Top Bike Rack cannot interfere with the disc brakes of the bike.

Check our product pages for compatibility of individual Roof Top Bike Racks with road and mountain bikes or disc brakes.

2. Decide How You Want To Mount The Bikes.

Fork Mount Clamp - clamps onto the bike's front-wheel fork. The downside of this Roof Top Bike Rack is that the front wheel must be removed and stored elsewhere. Some manufacturer’s offer a front wheel adapter that holds the bike’s front wheel up on the Roof Top Bike Rack. The Fork Mount Clamp is a rack style that may have a problem with bikes with disc brakes. This style will not work for a modern mountain bike with a thru axle.

Check our product pages for compatibility of individual Roof Top Bike Racks with disc brakes.

Yakima Fork Mounted Bike Rack Fork Mounted Bike Rack

Upright Lock Mount - holds the bike by the frame or pedal crank. You don't need to remove the front wheel, but you must reach up a little higher to put the bike in place. The higher your roof (SUV, Mini Van), the higher you have to lift your bike up. You will need to determine if you want something gripping your bikes frame. These racks have non-damaging clamps, but if you just spent $3000 on a new bike, you may not feel comfortable with this method. This style will work well if you own a modern mountain bike with a thru axle.

Yakima High Roller Bike RackUpright Lock Mount Roof Top Bike Rack

Tire Lock Mount clamps down on the tire and avoids touching the frame at all. The benefit is there is no chance your bike will be damaged by having a clamp on the frame and the front wheel does not need to be removed from the bike. You will need to lift it up a little higher to put it in place. The Tire Lock Mount Roof Top Bike Rack fits most sizes of bike tires, are adjustable and work well for bikes with disc brakes. This style works well with modern mountain bikes with a thru axle.

Yakima Side Arm Mount Roof Top Bike RackSide Arm Mount Roof Top Bike Rack

3. Decide How Many Bikes You Want To Haul.

Check that your vehicle will accommodate the number of Roof Top Bike Racks before ordering. It is very common to put 2 or 3 roof top racks on a vehicle, but larger SUVs or minivans may accommodate even more. It is more difficult to load a bike onto a rack in the middle of the roof than onto a rack close to the edge of the roof.

One way to fit more bikes on a vehicle’s roof is to stagger the Roof Top Bike Racks – the first one facing forward, the next one facing the rear, the next one facing forward, and so on. This method saves space by allowing the handlebars of one bike to extend over the rear tires of the surrounding bikes.

Another option is purchasing roof rack cross bars that extend 8-10” past their factory side rails or roof top rack feet. This allows the Roof Top Bike Rack to be placed on the outside of the factory side rails or roof top rack feet, saving space in the middle of the roof for more racks.

Finally, some vehicles will allow for the combination of Roof Top Bike Racks with a Hitch Mount Bike Rack to increase the overall capacity. You can definitely be creative with any of these solutions.

4. Determine If Your Existing Roof Rack Will Work With Your Chosen Bike Rack

Does your vehicle come equipped with a roof top luggage rack? Roof Top Bike Racks attach to a vehicle's existing cross bars.

Check the shape of the roof rack cross bars, then determine if your chosen Roof Bike Rack will work. Cross bars can be square, round, or oval. Factory Roof Top Rack cross bars are generally oval. Check our product pages for compatibility of individual Roof Top Bike Racks.

5. Decide About Security For Your Rack And Bike

Beware of bicycle thieves! Many Roof Top Bike Racks such as Thule, Inno and Yakima are equipped with locks for each component that securely fastens your bike to the rack and the rack to the cross bars of the Roof Top Rack System.  If you own an expensive bike a rack with a security system is a good investment.

Some brands do not lock do not lock the cross bars to the rails. They merely snap into place. Using a locking mechanism guarantees the cross bars and the bike rack aren’t going anywhere. With some brands, such as, Thule,Yakima and Rhino Rack, the lock cylinders are sold individually.  Make sure to order enough lock cylinders to accommodate the cross bars and the bike rack.  As many as 4 or 6 may be needed to lock the components down.  When ordering let us know how many will be needed and cylinders can be sent that will work with only one key. Inno comes pre-equipped with locks and a key.

Thule Lock Cores

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