The most popular way to transport bikes on your car is still on the roof using a roof bike rack (even though tow bar and hitch racks are catching up quickly). First, you need to invest in a suitable bike roof rack.
Depending on the length and style of your roof bars, you can normally carry a maximum of four bikes on the roof (if the racks are top and tailed). Most aluminium roof bars have a T-track channel running the length of the bar, which makes fitting bike racks to the bars super easy i.e. you slide the bolts along the channel, and the rack secures to those bolts.
Once you have invested in the correct roof bars for your specific car and roof type, you can then look at the best roof-mounted bike rack for your needs. These roof bike racks can be simply split into three categories:
- Frame holder bike racks hold the bike by the down tube. The bike’s wheels stay on, making them very quick and simple to use.
- Tyre holder bike racks hold the bike by the wheels. This method has become increasingly popular, especially for owners of carbon-framed bikes (that don’t want a rack grabbing the frame).
- Fork holder bike racks used to be the choice for carbon frame bike owners, but removing the front wheel and attaching the forks to the rack can make fitting a bit more fiddly.
As you can see, there’s a fair bit to think about. Your decision should be based on the bikes that you’re planning to fit onto the rack. A cheaper frame holder probably makes sense for your average kid’s bike (14 inch+). A tyre holder is recommended if you have a carbon frame. A fork holder takes any wobbling from side to side out of the equation.
Here are our picks from each of the three sub-categories of roof-mounted bike racks:
Frame holder bike racks
We have a range of superb bike frame holder carriers, but the one that our staff really enjoy using is the Thule ProRide. The popular Swedish brand have thought about everything with this rack, and this newer 598 model has extra padding on the clamp to help protect the frame of the bike. The fact you apply tension at eye level makes it a really user-friendly piece of kit, and it works nicely with all the bar brands we sell e.g. CRUZ, Rhino, Yakima and obviously Thule.
Tyre holder bike racks
In terms of affordability and adaptability, you don’t get much better than the FrontLoader. Not only does it effortlessly attach to all roof bars, but it can also take just about any bike - as the frame is taken out of the equation. The bike is held firmly by the front wheel, with the only point of contact being the tyre - making it the ideal choice for carbon frames, or a bike that won’t fit frame/fork holders.
The HighRoad is a bit more expensive, but can carry heavier bikes and can easily be integrated to fit T-track bars with the SmartSlot kit. The FrontLoader can carry bikes with 20" to 29" wheels with widths up to 3", the HighRoad can carry bikes with wheels between 26" to 29" up to 4" width without having to make any adjustments. The rear wheel cradle can also be adjusted to hold bikes of different lengths.
Fork holder bike racks
Even though it’s perfectly safe and normal for a bike to wobble slightly in a frame holder bike rack, some cyclists prefer their pride and joy to be held more securely by the forks i.e. next to no wobble.
The fork-mounted bike rack that really stands out for us is the Yakima ForkChop. It’s a minimalist approach to carrying a bike on a set of bars, and the two components can easily fit in a shoe box! One clamp takes the front wheel of the bike via a form mount, while the rear clamp holds the rear tyre firmly via a strap. No tools are required, and the clamps attach securely to almost every style and brand of roof bars. Too easy!