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The Best Roof Bike Racks of 2024

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The best roof bike racks allow bikes to be transported safely and securely up and out of the way of your vehicle’s trunk or rear hatch. While the rooftop style of bike rack may not be quite as popular as it used to be, the available options are better than ever.

If you don’t want to install a tow hitch on your vehicle, roof racks are a great alternative to hitch racks. They work great on their own or can be an easy way to add carrying capacity to your vehicle’s hitch rack setup. Also, the crossbars that hold your bike roof rack can support racks for other types of outdoor activities so that you can customize your adventure rig.

Within the category are myriad designs, each with their own benefits and potential drawbacks, depending on the exact use case. To find the best roof bike racks of 2024, we rounded up a selection of 7 different models to test and compare side by side. We tasked cycling expert Bennett Shane with putting each model through its paces to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to see how they perform in the real world.

Read on to learn more about all of the roof bike racks we tested. To see all of the models we tested and their specs at a quick glance, check out our comparison chart. If you need help deciding which roof bike rack is best for you, we’ve included helpful information in our detailed buying advice and FAQ section so you can learn more.

The Best Roof Bike Racks of 2024

Best Overall Roof Bike Rack

  • Type
    Wheel-on
  • Weight capacity
    45 lbs. (off-road rated to 27 lbs.)
  • Rack weight
    18 lbs.
  • Wheel size compatibility
    26″ to 29″
  • Max tire width
    4″
  • Max. wheelbase
    1,320 mm (52″)
  • Crossbar compatibility
    Universal

  • Easy loading process

  • Secure bike hold

  • No front wheel removal

  • Tool-free installation and removal

  • No frame or fork contact


  • Moderately expensive

  • Lock cores not included

Best Budget Roof Bike Rack

  • Type
    Wheel-on
  • Weight capacity
    45 lbs. on aftermarket bars (35 lbs. on factory bars)
  • Rack weight
    19 lbs.
  • Wheel size compatibility
    20″ to 29″
  • Max tire width
    3″ (up to 5″ with fattie kit)
  • Max. wheelbase
    1,220 mm (48″)
  • Crossbar compatibility
    Universal

  • No front wheel removal

  • No frame contact

  • Bike is stable in use

  • A little less expensive than other wheel-on options


  • Some assembly required

  • Lock cores sold separately

Best Fork Mount Roof Bike Rack

  • Type
    Fork mount
  • Weight capacity
    40 lbs. (off-road rated to 25 lbs.)
  • Rack weight
    11.5 lbs.
  • Wheel size compatibility
    Holds bikes by front axle
  • Max tire width
    5″
  • Max. wheelbase
    1,270 mm (50″)
  • Crossbar compatibility
    Universal

  • Carries quick-release and thru-axle bikes

  • Tool-free installation and removal

  • Slightly lower loading height with front wheel off

  • Very lightweight, slim, and easy to store when not in use


  • Lock cores not included

  • Front wheel removal required

Best Budget Fork Mount Roof Bike Rack

  • Type
    Fork mount
  • Weight capacity
    45 lbs.
  • Rack weight
    7 lbs.
  • Wheel size compatibility
    Holds bike by fork axle
  • Max tire width
    3″ (5″ with Fat Bike Adapter)
  • Max. wheelbase
    1,270 mm (50″)
  • Crossbar compatibility
    Universal

  • Reasonably priced

  • Sleek and low profile

  • Lock included

  • Comes in 2 color options


  • Doesn’t come with a 12 x 100mm axle adapter

Best Splurge Roof Bike Rack

  • Type
    Wheel-on
  • Weight capacity
    67 lbs.
  • Rack weight
    26.8 lbs.
  • Wheel size compatibility
    18″ to 29″
  • Max tire width
    5″
  • Max. wheelbase
    1,346 mm (53″)
  • Crossbar compatibility
    Universal

  • Super easy operation and loading

  • No frame, fork, or wheel contact

  • Tool-free wheel size changes

  • Easy installation

  • Durable and attractive finish

  • Can be converted to a hitch rack with adapter (sold separately)

Best Future-Proof Roof Bike Rack

  • Type
    Wheel-on
  • Weight capacity
    75 lbs.
  • Rack weight
    14 lbs.
  • Wheel size compatibility
    16″ to 29″
  • Max tire width
    3″ (up to 5″ with Fat Tire Spacer Kit)
  • Max. wheelbase
    1,371 mm (54″)
  • Crossbar compatibility
    Universal

  • 100% metal construction

  • Very stable and secure bike hold

  • Can be converted to hitch mount rack with adapter

  • Can be mounted to the back of camper vans

  • Comes in Black or Silver

  • No frame, fork, or rim contact


  • Loading process takes a little practice to perfect

  • Industrial looks may not be for everyone

  • Wheel size changes require tools

Another Great Roof Bike Rack

  • Type
    Wheel on
  • Weight capacity
    44 lbs.
  • Rack weight
    17 lbs.
  • Wheel size compatibility
    20″ to 29″
  • Max tire width
    3″ (up to 5″ with Fatbike Adapter)
  • Max. wheelbase
    1,300 mm (51″)
  • Crossbar compatibility
    Universal

  • No frame or fork contact

  • Secure and confidence inspiring hold of bikes

  • No front wheel removal needed


  • Lock cores are sold separately

  • Takes a few practice runs to get loading and adjustments dialed

Roof Bike Rack Comparison Chart

Roof Bike Rack MSRP Type Weight capacity Rack weight Wheel size Max tire width Max wheelbase
Yakima HighRoad $299 Wheel-on 45 lbs. 18 lbs. 26″ to 29″ 4″ 1,320 mm (52″)
RockyMounts BrassKnuckles $250 Wheel-on 45 lbs. 19 lbs. 20″ to 29″ 3″ (5″ w/ fattie Kit) 1,220 mm (48″)
Yakima HighSpeed $289 Fork mount 40 lbs. 11.5 lbs. fork mount 5″ 1,270 mm (50″)
Kuat Trio $198 Fork mount 45 lbs. 7 lbs. fork mount 3″ (5″ w/Fat bike adapter) 1,270 mm (50″)
Kuat Piston SR $498 Wheel-on 67 lbs 26.8 lbs. 18″ to 29″ 5″ 1,346 mm (53″)
1Up USA Roof Rack $270 – $290 Wheel-on 75 lbs. 14 lbs. 16″ to 29″ 3″ (5″ w/ Fat Tire Kit) 1,371 mm (54″)
Thule UpRide $300 Wheel-on 44 lbs. 17 lbs. 20″ to 29″ 3″ (5″ w/ Fatbike Adapter) 1,300 mm (51″)

How We Tested Roof Bike Racks

At GearJunkie, we love riding from the house whenever possible, but like you, we’re often driving with our bikes before starting our rides. Having a quality rack to safely and securely transport our precious bikes is an incredibly important part of our transportation situation. Not only do we want our bikes to avoid damage to our bikes in transit, but we also like it when the rack is easy to use, stable, and looks good too. To that end, we’ve tested the best roof bike racks on the market to find the best in 2024.

For our roof bike racks buyer’s guide, we recruited cycling expert Bennett Shane to test and compare seven of the latest and greatest models we could find. Bennett is an obsessive cyclist and cycling gear aficionado who takes great pride in his small fleet of high-end road bikes. Not only is he meticulous about the condition of his gear, but he’s been cycling seriously for over two decades and has seen the evolution of bike racks in that time. Bennett also spent many years working for several prominent brands in the cycling industry and has developed an uncanny depth of knowledge about all things cycling, including bike racks.

After rounding up a diverse selection of seven roof bike rack models, Bennet spent months testing them side-by-side. With a set of Thule Wing Bar Evo crossbars mounted to his Subaru Forester, he put each of these racks through our rigorous testing process. Each was installed and removed numerous times and bikes were loaded and unloaded repeatedly. From stop-and-go driving on city streets to highway speeds on the freeway, we examined each rack’s stability and bike security, along with important factors like bike compatibility, ease of use, security features, and durability.

Buying Advice: How to Choose a Roof Bike Rack

With numerous roof bike rack options on the market to choose from, finding the perfect one can be a challenge. With different bike mounting styles, wheel and tire size compatibility, and weight limits, there are many factors to consider. If a hitch bike rack isn’t for you, our handy guide can help you find the right roof bike rack.

Bike Mount Style

Traditionally, bikes were mechanically clamped into roof racks at the fork dropout, and the front wheel was stored inside the vehicle. Fork mount racks are still an option, but every major brand has developed an alternative style of roof bike rack that allows the front wheel to remain on by grabbing the front tire with a clamping system. This design saves time getting the bike mounted onto the rack and space inside the vehicle. Overall, wheel-on racks have become the most popular style of roof racks as they are slightly more user-friendly.

Wheel On

Within the wheel-on category, the majority use a clamping arm to secure the front wheel while a ratcheting belt cinches down on the rear rim, which sits close to the tray of the rack. Since the rear wheel is locked in its vertical position by the rear triangle of the frame, this part of the bike doesn’t require as much enclosure as the front wheel. Generally speaking, these types of racks avoid frame and fork contact, but the strap through the rear wheel will always make contact with your rear rim. The only potential downside is that there is no mechanical attachment between the rack and the bike.

Some brands, like 1Up USA and Kuat, design their racks with clamping arms at both ends. This design allows you to orient the bike in whichever direction you want in the tray and adjust them fore and aft if needed. The dual clamping arm system also only makes contact with the bike’s tires, so there is no frame, fork, or even rim contact to scuff up your fancy bike.

Fork Mount

Fork-mount racks are exactly what they sound like. They secure the bike by the fork’s axle and capture the rear wheel on the tray with a strap. This requires the removal of the bike’s front wheel to mount it, but it provides a stable and secure mechanical connection between the bike and the rack. Besides stability, the other main benefit of fork mount racks is that you don’t have to lift the bike quite as high to load it. Since modern bikes come with a variety of different diameter and width axles, most quality fork mount racks come with a few options or the right size is available as an additional purchase.

Wheel Size, Tire Size, and Wheelbase Length

If you plan to mount a bike with a long or short wheelbase, super-wide tires, or smaller wheels, check the rack’s specs to ensure that it can accommodate your needs. For road and gravel bikes, this won’t be an issue, but for Fat, Downhill, and BMX bikes, it’s important to know the limits of any rack’s compatibility before you buy.

Most wheel-on roof racks have a pretty wide range of fit that will be able to handle the wheel and tire sizes of most standard, adult-sized bicycles. If you’re mostly carrying the same bike or type of bike, you usually don’t need to make any changes. When switching between wheel sizes, however, you’ll usually have to adjust the wheel clamps slightly to fit. This is typically pretty quick and easy and can be done without tools on most models.

For fork mount racks, wheel and tire size is much less of an issue, as the bikes mount by the front axle of the fork. Axle compatibility is a bigger concern here, so you need to be sure that you have the correct size adapters for all of the bikes you intend to carry. Again, check the specs of the rack to see what axle adapters a model comes with. Most brands sell additional axle adapters if the rack doesn’t automatically come with the one you need.

Bike Weight

In addition to dimensions, check to ensure that the rack’s weight limit exceeds the weight of your bike. Generally speaking, the weight limits of roof bike racks are lower than those of hitch bike racks. That said, you also have to lift your bike to roof level to load it onto the rack, so that’s another limiting factor to consider. It can be hard enough to lift and balance a 30-pound bike, so most of us don’t want to hoist a 50-pound eMTB up there anyway.

Most of the roof bike racks we tested have weight limits in the 40 to 45-pound range, which is more than adequate for the majority of road, gravel, CX, and XC/trail mountain bikes. Some long-travel mountain bikes and e-road bikes will creep close to the weight limit in some cases. Two outliers are the Kuat Piston SR and the 1Up USA Roof Rack, with 67 and 75-pound weight limits, respectively. While it would be hard to lift bikes that heavy to roof level and would likely be more than many crossbars can handle these weight limits reflect the fact that these racks can both be converted to hitch racks with accessories.

Security

Many racks have cable locks built into them for the purpose of securing your bike to the rack and deterring theft. You’ll still want to make sure you can lock the rack to your vehicle crossbars to prevent theft of the rack and possibly the bikes that are mounted to it. So, check to see if lock cores are included in the price, or if they are sold separately. More often than not, the racks are made to accept lock cores but they don’t automatically come with them. Typically, a set of lock cores will add about $75 dollars to the cost of a rack if they are not included.

Crossbar Compatibility

It’s important to make sure that the roof rack you are choosing is compatible with your vehicle’s crossbars. Many vehicles have factory crossbars of varying shapes, and while the mounting hardware included with most racks is adaptable to most factory crossbars, it’s not a given. If you are purchasing crossbars at the same time as your roof rack, you can ensure smooth compatibility by going with the same brand for both rack and crossbars. Fortunately, most racks now have almost universal crossbar compatibility, so you can rest assured that with Yakima and Thule crossbars, you’ll be able to mount virtually any roof rack easily. Most manufacturers also list a rack’s crossbar compatibility on their websites so you don’t need to guess.

If you want a clean look with a mechanical connection between the rack and crossbar, then T-track crossbars are the way to go. T-track cross bars have a channel that holds the mounting hardware that the rack then threads into, creating a super-secure hold for driving on rough surfaces and also deterring theft of the entire rack system. The only small downside to this is that it takes a bit longer to remove and install the rack between trips, and you’ll have some small parts to keep track of in storage.

Alternatively, many racks connect to the cross bars with four heavy-duty coated straps that make installation and removal a snap. Many racks are designed to be installed tool-free, assuming they are not going into T-type crossbars. Others will require a common hex tool to clamp the hardware onto the crossbars. Some racks will also require a bit of assembly prior to installation, but most will be fully assembled out of the box. Plan ahead and allocate about 30 minutes to install and familiarize yourself with the rack’s function before hitting the road.

Loading Height

One of the biggest challenges with roof bike racks is that you have to lift your bike up to the height of your vehicle’s roof to load it. For this reason, roof racks are best suited for use on shorter vehicles like sedans, station wagons, and compact SUVs. This is also a function of your height as well as your strength and ability to lift and balance a bike while loading it.

Depending on the roof height of your vehicle, some racks will be easier to operate than others. If you have a compact SUV, for example, consider whether a wheel-on rack will allow you to reach and apply downward force to the front arm comfortably. In this case, a fork mount rack, with a fork clamp located close to the tray might be a better choice. Some racks require the application of downforce from a relatively high position on the rack, meaning that some users might end up needing to stand on the trim of an open door in order to gain sufficient leverage to clamp the bike into the rack. Given that you’ll be lifting your bike above shoulder height, this can require a measure of coordination and practice. 

Versatility

Not sure if you want a roof rack or hitch rack? A few brands produce racks that can work as either style, provided you purchase the hitch-mounted add-on attachment. Both the 1Up USA Roof Rack and Kuat Piston SR we tested are designed this way, allowing folks who purchase these racks to adapt the rack if their storage needs or choice of vehicle changes in the future. In the case of the Piston SR, Kuat sells a 2-inch hitch adapter ($159) that turns it into a single bike hitch rack. For the 1Up, you can buy a 1.25-inch ($232) or 2-inch ($255) Single Hitch Assembly, or they sell a 2-inch Double ($355) that can convert 2 roof racks into a double hitch rack.

Additionally, both the 1Up USA and the Kuat Piston can be mounted horizontally to the back of campervans. This allows for custom rack setups above other cargo boxes, etc. We’ve even seen some people mount the 1Up vertically on the back of vans, although Kuat specifically does not recommend that for the Piston SR.

Durability

While many racks use plastic hardware that can degrade and fail after years of exposure to harsh conditions, more companies are beginning to offer fully metal designs with tougher finishes that will probably outlast most cars. We applaud this because it keeps racks where they belong — on the road and out of landfills — and saves a ton of money in the long run. Realistically, any of the racks on our list will last quite a long time, but the 1UP-USA Roof Rack will outlast all of them. With a completely metal construction, replaceable hardware, and a full suite of replacement parts available, 1UP wants you to get your money’s worth. These racks will seriously outlast the vehicles you use them on.

Kuat is also bringing some serious durability to the table with the Piston SR. Yes, this rack is expensive, but it also has an almost completely metal construction and robust build that can handle more weight and abuse than other roof racks. It also has a great-looking and super-durable finish that is very resistant to road spray and corrosion.

FAQ

Which bike attachment style is better kinda depends. Both have their advantages, so it’s really up to the user to decide what’s best for them and the bikes they carry. Wheel-on racks are user-friendly in that you don’t have to remove the front wheel to load the bike or store the front wheel in your vehicle. That said, you do have to lift the bike slightly higher to load it, which can make the process more challenging depending on your height, strength, or the height of your vehicle’s roof. They also tend to be slightly less stable overall than a fork mount, but not enough to be problematic.

Fork-mount racks require the front wheel to be removed, and you need to keep the wheel somewhere in your vehicle in transit. You also need to be sure you have the correct size adapter to fit your bike’s front axle size. The positives are that the mechanical connection of the rack to the fork axle is very stable, and you don’t have to lift the bike quite as high to load it.

Cycling is an expensive sport, and it only seems to get more expensive with each passing year. It’s not just bikes, parts, and accessories either, it’s across the board, including bike racks. Compared to most hitch-mount bike racks, roof racks are comparatively less expensive, but that doesn’t mean they are cheap. After all, we trust these things to hold our bikes safely and securely on top of our vehicles at highway speeds. For that reason, buying the cheapest roof back rack you can find isn’t something we necessarily recommend.

Still, there’s a pretty big range in price of the racks we tested, from around $200 up to $498. What does shelling out the big bucks for the Kuat Piston SR get you? We’ll start by saying that the Piston SR is the most advanced design of all the racks we tested. The hydraulic One-Tap piston arms make using it much more user-friendly than similar racks. It has a huge range of bike fit and a higher weight limit than most. It can also be converted to a hitch rack if you choose. The construction is also bomb-proof, as its made almost entirely of metal and has a durable powder-coat finish that should look great for years. This rack is an investment in great design, functionality, and durability.

Do you need to spend that much? Absolutely not, but you can if you want to. You could just as easily spend $270 for the 1Up USA Roof Rack and get a rack that functions similarly and will last at least as long with minor sacrifices in user-friendliness. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what you’re willing to spend.

Many roof bike racks will work with fat tire bikes, meaning tires up to around 5 inches wide. Some racks will require purchasing a special adapter kit to accommodate tires or axles that wide, but manufacturers typically offer them at fairly reasonable prices. The Thule UpRide, RockyMounts BrassKnuckles, Kuat Trio, and 1Up USA Roof rack can all be adapted to work with fatter tires. Straight out of the box, the Kuat Piston SR is capable of handling tires up to 5 inches wide and changes to wheel size are also super easy with the tool-free adjustment.

Some lightweight electric bikes may fall within the weight limits of some roof bike racks, but generally speaking. roof bike racks are not the best way to transport e-bikes. Even if your roof rack can handle heavier bikes, like the 1Up and Kuat are rated for, you’ll need to consider the weight limitations of your factory or aftermarket crossbars. Lifting heavy bikes to roof height is probably the biggest concern, as it can be very challenging for most people to raise and balance a 50+ pound bike up that high. If you have electric bikes, we recommend hitch bike racks as the best way to transport them. Hitch racks have lower loading heights and higher weight limits, and some can even be used with loading ramps to get your e-bikes into position.

Most roof bike racks are pretty compact when they are folded down and not carrying a bike, so leaving them all of the time isn’t too big of a deal for most people who use them frequently. If you use your rack infrequently, or you simply prefer the look of your vehicle without the rack when it’s not in use, then removing it between uses may be a consideration. Most racks involve a few bolts that need to be tightened to secure them on or around the crossbars, so it typically involves a tool and about 10 minutes to install or remove them from the vehicle. The exception to this rule and the easiest to install/remove of all the racks we tested are the Yakima HighRoad and Yakima HighSpeed. Both racks use a tool-free strap system that makes it quick and easy to mount them up for use when you need them.

We reviewed the best hitch bike racks for 2024 with options for every budget. Top picks include Thule, RockyMounts, and more.

Whether you’re road tripping with the family’s skis and boots or need to stow your weekend camping gear, here are the best rooftop cargo boxes for outdoor travel.



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