Best Roof Bike Racks of 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Anthony
| Last Updated: June 29, 2021

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Whether you’re going for a long ride in your favorite park or speeding down the side of a tall mountain, bikers need a way to get their bike from the garage to the designated track. 

Roof bike racks allow riders to mount their bike to their car for easy and convenient transportation. 

If you’re new to riding or simply want some new gear, you’ve come to the right place. Not only have we rounded up some of the best roof bike racks of 2020, but have also compiled a thorough buyer’s guide to help you out along the way. 

Comparison of the Best Roof Bike Racks

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • This rack will install in only a few minutes and comes assembled
  • Easily fits on a wide range of vehicles
  • A lightweight but very durable design
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  • Securely holds bike with wheel tray while in transit
  • Very stable option with an adjustable arm
  • Will be able to fit on many types of roof racks
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  • Best for the Money
  • Will carry a bike of up to 33 pounds
  • Made with a strong and durable steel construction
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  • Best Bike Roof Rack For Car
  • Fits on most car models out there
  • Suckers have pull rate of over 210 pounds
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  • Best Mountain Bike Roof Rack
  • Lightweight but strong aluminum materials used
  • Can be used to fit most bikes on it
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  • Best Yakima Bike Roof Rack
  • Can load bike fully assembled on this rack
  • Front loader holds bike by the wheels to prevent scratching
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  • Best Roof Bike Rack For Suv
  • Easily install on the car roof rack crossbar
  • Comes with an easy one-hand operation option
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How Do Roof Mounted Bike Racks Work?

Roof-mounted bike racks typically attach to your car’s existing rails or crossbars to effectively hold your bike in an upright position. 

How Do Roof Racks Attach to a Car?

Roof rack installation varies depending on the type of car and rack you use. Some cars have raised rails and mounting hardware included, while others are completely bare. 

To mount roof racks to your car, simply follow the instructions to use the mount. In other cases, you may need to install a track system. Still, more systems clip into doors or suction to the roof of your car, if bare. 

Can Any Bike Roof Rack Be Used For Every Vehicle?

Not every bike roof rack will work for every vehicle. All cars are different, as are the many roof rack options there are on the market. 

What Roof Rack Fits My Car?

In order to find a roof rack that fits your car, you need to evaluate what’s already included on your roof. Look for things like:

  • Crossbars
  • Rails 
  • Factory track 
  • Fixed mounting points
  • Bare roof

From here, you can start to explore what products fit with your roof style. You can also use a product finder like this one to help you out. 

Pros and Cons of a Roof Bike Rack

Like with any product, there are pros and cons to using a roof bike rack. It’s important to be aware of these factors before putting money into a new bike rack. 

Pros

  • Roof bike racks are very convenient for bikes. One of their pros is that since they rest on top of your car, you still have full access to your truck. Other bike racks that mount in the rear can prevent you from using this space. 

  • Roof bike racks are also very versatile. While they’re excellent for transporting your bike, they’re also great for holding other things like kayaks, skies, and cargo. 

  • Finally, roof bike racks are well-made with a wide range of options and locking systems on the market. It’s easy to find one that suits your car and your needs while minimizing any worries you may have.

Cons

  • While roof bike racks definitely offer convenience without covering your trunk, they do pose a few cons that bother some people. 

  • For example, having a bike rack on your roof means that you will have to lift your bike up and down each time you use it. It’s not impossible, of course, but some may find that work much harder than rear-mounted bike racks

  • Additionally, mounting a bike on your roof can impact your gas mileage. Because the bike stands up on your roof, it can increase wind resistance. The numbers seem small at first, but they can certainly add up. 

Review of the Best Bike Roof Racks

Before we get into some more questions and answers, let’s take a look at our picks for the best bike roof racks of 2020. 

Best Overall:
Swagman Upright Bike Rack

Swagman UPRIGHT Roof Mount Bike Rack

pros

  • Easy to assemble and install
  • Rack fits a wide range of rails and bars
  • Lightweight, sleek design looks minimal 
  • Upright design means no wheel removal
  • Double-strap design ensures maximum security

cons

  • A little wobbly 
  • Parts work themselves off when not in use or locked

What Recent Buyers Report 

Given the price, buyers agree that this product is a steal. There’s an admittance that there are probably better products out there, but when the budget is tight, or it’s a last-minute purchase, this is definitely a go-to. It’s easy to use and holds up well, plus you can install and remove the whole thing without tools. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Versatility is critical in a good product because we never want to limit the number of people who can buy it. This bike rack is ideal for anyone who has any kind of crossbars or rails on their vehicle, no matter the shape or the size. 

We’re also huge fans of having confidence in a product. With the upright bar locking in the middle and two tie-down straps for both wheels, you can rest assured that your bike will stay in place. 

Bottom Line

Easy assembly, versatile design, and reliable security - these are three good reasons as to why this bike rack is our overall top pick. And at an affordable price, you can’t go wrong. 

Runner-up:
SportRack SR4883

SportRack SR4883 Upshift Roof Mount Upright Bike Carrier

pros

  • Very durable
  • Assembly is very easy
  • Rack is well-constructed
  • Versatile design fits most roof racks
  • Wheel tray keeps wheels and bike aligned

cons

  • Rack is on the smaller side
  • Tire straps don’t tighten as much as preferred

What Recent Buyers Report

Everyone seems to understand that this is a solid, well-built bike rack. It gets the job done while offering easy assembly. Many buyers report that it’s on the smaller side, which could be an issue for certain bikes, but overall: it’s a reliable and sturdy product. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

A review is nothing without its runner-up, and this SportRack model is a perfect choice. We love how simple yet effective this bike rack is. Not only does it fit with the SportRack roof system, but it also suits most factory roof racks.

Likewise, this rack includes a lock for your safety. Just use the key to open and close it. The adjustable arm makes it easy to use with different sized bikes, so you never have to worry whether or not your bike will be safe and secure. 

Bottom Line

As far as the second-best goes, it doesn’t get much better than this. Though there may be some concerns with the size, everything else checks out. The build, quality, and durability of this product are all there, and it will make an excellent fit for most vehicles. 

Best for the Money:
CyclingDeal Steel Car Roof Bicycle Rack

CyclingDeal Steel Car Roof Bike Bicycle Carrier Rack for 1 Bike Max Load 33 lbs - SUV Rooftop Mounted

pros

  • Simple installation 
  • Delivers very little noise 
  • Highly affordable product
  • Made with solid steel construction
  • Fork mount style offers an additional way to secure bikes

cons

  • Rack is wobbly on fast and long rides
  • Tracks are very narrow and exclusive 

What Recent Buyers Report

What we’ve seen from recent buyers is that this bike rack is certainly good for its price. However, with a low price often comes minimal features and so-so quality. While the rack is perfectly fine for short, low-impact trips, many buyers wouldn’t recommend it for highway or off-road travel. They notice some wobbliness, but it does hold up pretty well, considering its low cost. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Obviously, what we were looking for here was an awesome deal. We understand that there are a lot of budget shoppers out there - especially those who may not necessarily be avid bike riders. This CyclingDeal Steel bike rack gets the job done on a casual basis, with acceptable construction and room for two bikes. 

With not a lot of bells and whistles, we really just appreciate this product for its ability to hold on tight, giving users peace of mind for both their wallets and their equipment. 

Bottom Line

The line “you get what you pay for” certainly applies here. However, not everything that’s cheap is of low quality. We were fairly impressed by the functionality and durability of this bike rack, even with its low budget. 

Best Bike Roof Rack for Car:
SeaSucker Talon Single Bike Rack

SeaSucker Talon Single Bike Rack for Cars - USA Made Racks - SUV, Sedan, Hatchback, RV, BMW, Honda, Tesla, Mazda and Every Other Car – No Hitch Mount, 100% Safe, Zero Damage, Travel-Friendly Carrier

pros

  • Design is 3x lighter than average racks
  • Innovative design is strong and reliable
  • Easy to use with minimal work and tools
  • Fork mount allows for secure attachment
  • Powerful suction cup design allows for customized placement

cons

  • No way to lock the rack to your car
  • Tough to get the fork mount open to get the bike in

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers have actually used the words “life-changing” when describing this unique tool. Users of this product are thrilled that they can use it on their smaller cars, even without rails or crossbars. They can also agree that it’s incredibly easy to install and use.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Hitch mounts are nice when you’re able to use them, but this is a rack made for all cars. Whether you’re driving an SUV, a hatchback, or a little sedan, you can use the SeaSucker bike rack.

What makes this rack stand out from the others is the powerful suction attachment that not only allows you to attach it to any car but in a wide range of positions. The powerful pump delivers 210 pounds of pull strength, giving you a firm connection with no screws, no clips, and no locks. 

Bottom Line

The innovative design is what pulled us in, but the effective strength is what made us stay. The SeaSuck is a fork mount like none other. You just have to give it a shot. 

Best Mountain Bike Roof Rack:
CyclingDeal Alloy Car Roof Bicycle Carrier Rack

CyclingDeal Alloy Car Roof Bike Bicycle Carrier Rack for 2 Bikes Max Load 66 lbs - SUV Rooftop Mounted

pros

  • Easy to install
  • Excellent for thin to wide tires
  • Firm and strong alloy material
  • Includes extra wraps for additional security
  • Lightweight design won’t add unnecessary weight to your car

cons

  • Rack rattles during driving
  • No way to lock the rack to the bike

What Recent Buyers Report

It’s a clear consensus that this bike rack is of high quality. Overall, customers think it’s easy to install and use, even with two bikes. Buyers also believe this rack offers a nice balance between affordability and quality. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Too often, strong and durable also means heavy. That’s not the case with the CyclingDeal Alloy car roof bike rack. While this aluminum rack with an alloy finish is tough, it’s also incredibly lightweight. This takes some stress off of your car and makes room for heavier bikes - up to 66 pounds, to be precise. 

We also love that this model fits most bikes, which is what makes it an excellent choice for mountain bikes. Even if you have thicker wheels, you can work with this product. It’s easy to install with crossbars and even works with a sunroof. 

Bottom Line

High-quality, good stability, and easy to use, this model is a clear winner and deserves to be on this list. The lightweight design is enviable, and the product is reliable. What more could you want? 

Best Yakima Bike Roof Rack:
Yakima FrontLoader Wheel-On Mount

YAKIMA - FrontLoader Wheel-On Mount Upright Bike Carrier for Roof Racks, 1 Bike Capacity

pros

  • Tool-free installation is simple and easy
  • Additional locking system available for extra security
  • No-frame contact minimizes the risk of damage to your bike
  • Rack fits with almost any kind of bike from 20 to 29-inch wheels
  • FrontLoader technology helps keep your bike upright for easy loading

cons

  • Plastic materials aren’t as durable as metal or aluminum 
  • Only works with a crossbar spread between 16 and 48 inches

What Recent Buyers Report 

Buyers agree that this product is worth the cost. Zero assembly and easy installation are two of the biggest talking points on this design - that, and the no-frame contact that reduces the risk of scratches. Customers report that this frame holds your bike steady and is easy to use. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Yakima is another well-known and highly-trusted brand in this industry, and we can see why from this product alone. The upright design seamlessly grabs onto the front wheel of your bike - its only interaction being with the tire. This zero frame contact keeps your bike looking nice and safe from scratches. 

The adjustable arms slide easily into place for a secure grip, while the ZipStrip strap on the back also serves to keep your bike in place. 

Buyers also have the option to add two locks to their purchase for extra security, allowing you to lock your bike to the mount and discourage theft. 

Bottom Line

The dark, sleek design is minimal and blends in well with your vehicle, getting rid of the classic, shiny aluminum norm. With no contact with the frame and a secure grip elsewhere, this Yakima speaks to the brand in the best way possible. 

Best Roof Bike Rack for SUV:
Venzo Carrier Bicycle Fork Mount Rack

Venzo Clamp on or T Bolt Attachment to Cross Bars 9 or 10mm QR Compatible Aluminum Carrier Bicycle Fork Mount Rack - for Car Roof - Rooftop Upright for SUV - Mountain & Road Bike

pros

  • Suitable for any size bike wheel 
  • Easy to install on SUV crossbars
  • Great for both road bikes and mountain bikes
  • Auto-lock system offers one-handed operation
  • Super light aluminum is strong with a 45-pound load weight

cons

  • Instructions are unclear
  • Materials take on rusting after a year or so

What Recent Buyers Report

The main issue with this bike seems to do with quality control more than the product, as recent buyers report defective parts and poor instructions. But put that aside, and you actually have an excellent, well-made product here with sturdy construction and good overall value.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Sometimes simple is better, and this Venzo Carrier makes things very simple for its users. Mostly ideal for cars with crossbars, such as SUVs, installation is super easy. From there, everything else follows naturally. The one-handed operation leaves you stress and worry-free. 

We also love that this rack is suitable for bike wheels of all shapes and sizes. When a rack doesn’t discriminate, it gets more use. Bikers of all kinds can benefit from this rack, and with a lightweight yet strong design, what could go wrong?

Bottom Line

A strong weight capacity couples with lightweight materials to give us a simple yet effective design. The Venzo bike rack is a solid choice for SUV drivers, and it’s super easy to use. 

Best Fat Bike Roof Rack:
Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

pros

  • Fits tires up to five inches with adapter
  • Ratcheting straps offer a firm hold on both wheels
  • Unique hook and loop design secures the front wheel
  • No-frame contact protects your bike from damage and scratches
  • Works with a wide range of bikes, from standard to non-traditional designs

cons

  • Low-quality locking mechanisms 
  • Plastic attachment to roof rack is easy to break or damage for theft 

What Recent Buyers Report

Even though some users report this rack to be a little bit wobbly, they still agree that this is a strong, sturdy, and overall fantastic rack. It keeps your bike in place, which is the number one feature to look for. The slim design is easy to use solo and even easy to install. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Once again, Thule makes an appearance on our list - and we can’t say we’re surprised. The UpRide roof bike not only keeps your bike secure, but it does so without any contact with the frame. This is important, as some racks can scratch and mark up your bike’s frame. 

The unique design features a hook and a loop to effectively grab onto your bike’s tire. It fits up to five inches with the adapter and also uses rear suspension and bottle cages. The ratcheting wheel straps allow for a customized and tight grip, ensuring your bike doesn’t go anywhere when you’re on the road.  

Bottom Line

Avid bike riders need the right equipment, and this just might be the best you can get. With quick and easy mounting, lots of secure gripping, and no-frame contact, your prized possession (i.e., your bike) will be safe and sound. 

Best Thule Roof Bike Rack:
Thule 598002 ProRide

Thule 598002 Roof Bike Rack ProRide, Black

pros

  • Sturdy, steady, and durable rack
  • Claw pads adapt to your bike’s frame
  • Simple on and off with automatic positioning
  • Torque limiter dial controls force for perfect mounting
  • Quick-release wheel straps hold wheels firmly with easy release

cons

  • Only one of the three fixing screws is lockable, limiting security
  • Tightening the knob on the frame can result in a swift finger pinch

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers who know the Thule name have one thing to say: Wow! There’s no doubt this product lives up to its reputation. Customers are very happy with the quality of this product, along with the innovative design that makes it easy to use. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

We couldn’t do a review of the best bike racks without including a Thule model, and this is one for the books. What makes this design special is that once you secure your bike in the frame, it automatically positions your bike to remain straight. Considering this is an issue many bikers deal with, we had to highlight that. 

The torque limiter dial also controls the force used, making this a smart tool. There’s no second-guessing with this mount - you will know for sure when your bike is hooked up and ready to go. 

Bottom Line

Product reliability, brand recognition, and innovation all come into play with this Thule model. We had a few to choose from, but we just love how easy this one is to use. You don’t have to be an expert to keep your bike safe and secure. 

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

There’s no need to worry too much about your bike roof rack, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of certain features or components. The following items just give you a little more to think about and keep in mind. 

Types of Roof Racks For Bikes

We have already discussed the various ways that you can mount a roof rack on your bike, but there are also different kinds of mounts made specifically for bikes. They are:

  • Fork Mounted: A fork-mounted rack requires you to remove the front wheel of your bike so that you can attach the empty frame to the rack using bolts.

  • Frame Mounted: A frame-mounted rack secures the bike at the frame, holding it upright. 

  • Wheel Mounted: And a wheel mounted rack uses a large, upright pair of U-shaped components to secure the bike at its front wheel.  

Security

In some instances, like staying at a campground, keeping your bike locked up and safe can be critical. Some rooftop bike racks do come with locks, but unfortunately, not all of them do. Something important for you to consider is whether your rack comes with locks or not. And, if it doesn’t, you need to find a high-quality one yourself. 

Roof Bike Racks - How Do They Compare?

The category of bike racks includes many different subsections. But how do they all compare to each other? 

Bike Roof Rack vs Hitch 

Bike roof racks have the potential to be very simplified with easy setup and tons of versatility. For the most part, they last a long time when they are well-made. Not only can a roof rack carry your bike, but it can also be used for other things like kayaks, surfboards, and cargo. 

However, using a roof rack can be difficult on smaller cars, and the extra height that a roof rack gives can be problematic in some cases. 

Smaller cars like hatchbacks or sedans can benefit from a hitch, which is super lightweight and offers more carrying space. As long as you have a hitch receiver, you can use a hitch rack to carry a moderate amount of weight. Some consider hitch racks safer, and they don’t obstruct view or height. 

Bike Roof Rack vs Tow Bar

Again - a bike roof rack is going to give you a lot of versatility. You can carry bikes along with other sporting goods and even cargo. They’re easy to use and highly customizable, making them worth their overall cost.

However, tow bars are a cost-effective alternative that’s perfect for SUVs and pickup trucks alike. These come with a lesser risk of damage when you use a tow bar, and it’s much more accessible. Of course, a tow bar can impede the use of your truck bed or trunk. 

Yakima vs Thule Bike Roof Rack

Both Yakima and Thule are trusted brands in the industry, so it’s hard to know which is better without going into more detail.

To start, the Yakima is well-suited for most standard adult mountain bikes - though it cannot carry BMX bikes, children’s bikes, or bikes with tires wider than four inches. However, it does have a cool, sleek, and minimalistic design that maintains the integrity of your car’s appearance. 

The Yakima uses a front-wheel connection to secure your bike and implements a combination of metal and plastic hardware.

The Thule roof rack model is slightly cheaper than the Yakima, though not by enough to make a real difference. The Thule does beat out the Yakima in wheel width due to its adapter for five inches. 

The unique mechanism acts as a sort of automatic security system since many people may not know how to use it off the bat. However, it’s easy enough to figure out. It uses a hoop and a hook along with a ratchet mechanism for security. 

Fork Mount vs Upright Bike Rack 

Fork mounts and upright racks both have pros and cons to them. A fork mount requires you to remove the front tire of your bike, which can be a bit of a hassle. However, this allows you to attach your bike in a very secure way, which is favorable. On the other hand, upright bike racks leave your front tire on, allowing you to grab your bike and go as soon as you arrive. 

With a fork mount, you get a lower profile and a lighter weight. These mounts also tend to be less bulky than other roof racks. 

Upright bike racks are compatible with more kinds of bikes, and they can typically accommodate more unique frames and full-suspensions. Your load will be heavier and bulkier, though. 

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

Common Roof Bike Rack Issues

Many users run into similar problems when using a roof bike rack. Check out some solutions below before you hit them while on the road. 

How to Keep Front Wheel Straight on Roof Bike Rack

Depending on the type of rack you’re using, you might have some issues with the front wheel movement. Many bike racks feature a strap you can tie off on the front wheel, which helps to keep it in place while you’re driving. You can also use a strap to secure the handlebars.

How to Eliminate Noise For Bike Roof Rack

Roof racks often produce what is called Aeolian noise, which happens when the wind passes through your bike on the roof. To minimize this noise, you can purchase a wind fairing. These plastic shields attach to your front crossbar and divert airflow. 

Noise can also come from a bike that’s not properly secured and is therefore shaking. Double-check your placement and make sure it’s not moving. 

How to Put a Kid Bike on a Roof Rack

If you have a bike roof rack, then there’s no need for special instructions on attaching a kid’s bike. These racks attach to the front wheel, so nothing changes in instructions. 

How to Put a Bike on a Roof Rack

While every rack will have varying instructions, here are some basic steps as to how to put your bike on your roof rack: 

  1. Start by unlocking the rack with the key. 

  2. Squeeze the trigger to slide and rotate the arm.

  3. Undo the rear strap.

  4. Lift your bike with both hands to the top. 

  5. Bring the front arm up and pull the hook down tight around the front wheel.

  6. Shake the bike to ensure it’s secure.

  7. Put the rear strap around the back wheel. 

  8. Lock the rack. 

These basic steps work for many common racks. You can check out the video below for a fuller picture of how these steps are accomplished. 

Conclusion

When it comes to roof bike racks, it’s critical to go with one that you can trust. After all, there’s nothing worse than having your bike fall off your roof while driving 65 down the highway. The racks we’ve discussed today are sturdy and reliable, and you have plenty of options to look through. 

People Also Ask

If you’re using a bike roof rack for the first time, it’s common to have some questions. In fact, many buyers have similar questions; so, we’ve put a few of them together below for you to explore. 

How to Lock a Bike to a Roof Rack

You can lock your bike to your roof rack simply by using a standard cable bike lock. Loop the cable lock through the frame of the rack along with the wheel of your bike. Make sure to invest in a high-quality lock that cannot easily be broken. 

How Much Do Roof Racks Cost?

A bike roof rack can cost anywhere from a low $50 to a whopping $600 or more, depending on the style and quality of the product. 

How Much Weight Can a Bike Roof Rack Support On a Car?

Many bike roof racks can hold as much as 150 pounds, making it possible to carry multiple bikes at once. However, you should also check your vehicle’s maximum weight capacity so that you do not damage the roof of your car. 

How Much MPG Do You Lose With a Bike Rack on the Roof?

Surprisingly, a roof rack added to your car has the potential to lower your gas mileage by as much as 7%. Of course, adding a bike on top of that will only make that number go lower.

What Do I Need For a Roof Bike Rack?

Many roof bike racks attach to the crossbars on a car’s standard rack, so if your car does not have a rack or cross bars, you may need to explore other options. However, some models use suction cups for attachment to cars without crossbars. 

Are Roof Ladder Bike Racks Safe?

Roof ladders are not typically designed to hold much weight for a long time, so take great care when using a roof ladder bike rack. Because they usually withstand 200 to 250 pounds of static weight, hanging more than one bike could cause issues. 

How to Remove Thule Roof Rack

Removing a Thule roof rack from your vehicle is as easy as loosening the feet and lifting the rack right off of the roof. You simply have to open the doors of the vehicle, unlock the outer housing, loosen the clamp, and lift the bar from the center. 

Thule 598002 ProRide

Why Are Roof Racks So Expensive?

Roof racks are expensive because they implement specialized designs along with high-quality build and materials. They need to securely hold your bike without damaging the top of your car. They also have to resist things like weather and wind. 

What Do Racks On Racks Mean?

“Racks on racks” is actually a slang term that does not relate to bike racks on cars at all. In fact, it refers to lots of money and is often used in rap and hip-hop songs. 

Can I Put a Roof Rack on My Car? 

The answer is likely, yes. While many roof racks attach to the crossbars or raised rails on a car, there are special kinds that can attach to bare roofs in various ways. As long as you don’t exceed your vehicle’s max loading capacity, you should be fine.

Anthony

"I'm Linda's husband. We got married in 2018 and are loving life together. We met in one of my many competitive races and hit it off right away. Our best dates are when we're riding down a trail enjoying each other’s company in the beautiful Colorado weather. I enjoy writing about everything pertaining to bikes. "