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Best roof-mounted bike racks

Car Buyer logo Car Buyer 15/06/2017 Carbuyer

If you own a bike or two and don’t have a car with a large enough boot, or simply want to free up some crucial luggage space for your next family holiday, fitting a bike rack is the logical solution.

There are so many ways to mount a bike on a car that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice. Rear-mounted universal racks are strapped to the tailgate, while tow-bar mounted items are more secure. The best option, however – both in terms of practicality and security – is a dedicated bike rack for the roof, an option that is becoming ever more popular in today’s market.

It’s not as simple as choosing the first rack you come across, however. Typically there are three main methods of attaching a bike to your car roof, each utilising a different part of the bike – the frame, tyres or fork.

Frame-gripping models are the traditional solution, featuring a bar that attaches to the downtube of your bicycle to hold it securely in the rack, though these can damage bikes if used incorrectly and tend to be quite noisy, both in terms of wind noise and vibrations over bumps.

Racks that attach directly to the fork of the bike are very secure, but the front wheel of your bike must be removed beforehand and stored in the car itself. Noise levels are much lower than the frame-grabbing options. It’s important to note that most manufacturers don’t recommend these racks for use with carbon-framed bikes, and bear in mind that not all disc brake set-ups are catered for.

The final option is a rack that grips a bike’s tyres – these can be more secure than frame models and tend to minimise vibration thanks to their plastic-to-rubber securing method.

How we tested them

Our test focused on ease of installation and use, from assembly and fitting to actually loading the bike itself. We also checked to see how secure the bike was once installed in the rack. All racks tested were fitted to a set of Thule Wingbars aero bars on our rest car; it is important to note that if your car has standard roofbars, the racks featured here may require adaptors.

1. Thule ProRide 598

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Even if you’ve never owned one of its products, it’s likely that you’ve already heard of Thule. It’s a brand that has become a household name through the production of all manner of roof-top car accessories. This frame-gripping model is simple and well built, with simple-yet-effective design features that make using the rack a breeze, including wheel straps that don’t get in the way when loading.

2. Yakima Frontloader 598

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Highly adjustable and very well designed, this tyre-gripping bike rack is very effective in operation and is keenly priced given its set of features. The rack adjusts to fit most roof bar/bike combinations and is suitable for carbon bikes. Adjusting the wheel support to suit different wheel sizes is made simple thanks to an easy-to-use adjuster and a clear size guide.

3. WhispBar WB200

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Easily secured to roof bars via a system of locking levers and with help from clear instructional diagrams in the instructions, the WhispBar is a fork-type rack that requires the removal of your bike’s front wheel. A lock for the connection to the bike’s fork makes sure everything is secure and the rear wheel support slides to accept all frame and wheel sizes.

CRUZ Bici-Rack

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Cheap as chips but lacking some of the quality of the other racks in this test, this frame-type rack is fiddly to install, with a number of washers, nuts and bolts to contend with. It’ll certainly suit those looking for a bargain and will be adequate for occasional use, but this is perhaps not the rack for the more dedicated cycling enthusiast.

Atera Giro

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Sliding wheel supports, a sprung and locking frame support bar and included roof bar adaptors mean that this is a rack with plenty of scope for adjustability to carry most bikes and for installation on a wide range of vehicles. The rack is difficult to assemble, however.

Best roof-mounted bike racks © Carbuyer Best roof-mounted bike racks

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