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Roof-Mounted Bike Racks on SUV and Trailer

How to Choose a Roof-Mounted Bike Rack

Looking for a way to carry bikes on your vehicle, but not sure the best way to do it? Roof-mounted bike racks are one of the options available to you. A roof-mounted bike rack is a good choice if:
  • You want to open your vehicle's trunk or hatch while bikes are loaded on your vehicle
  • How to Choose a Bike Carrier That Fits Your Bikes
  • You don't have or want a hitch on your vehicle
  • You are able to lift bikes onto your vehicle's roof
In this article:

Will a Roof-Mounted Bike Rack Fit My Vehicle/Crossbars?

Most roof-mounted bike racks are designed to mount to the crossbars of a roof rack. So, to make sure that a bike rack will fit your roof rack, you should determine both the shape (cross section) of your crossbars and the distance between the front and rear crossbar (crossbar spread). Seasucker racks offer another mounting option - vacuum cups. These racks don't need crossbars - they attach directly to a vehicle's trunk, roof, or glass, and can be mounted and removed in seconds.
Crossbar Spread This dimension is measured between the centerlines of the 2 crossbars.
Crossbar Spread
Crossbar ShapeRoof-mounted bike racks that mount to crossbars are built either with clamps that can attach to most shapes of crossbars or with mounting plates that slide into crossbars that have a channel. Clamps and mounting plates usually can slide along the rack to allow the rack to fit a range of crossbar spreads. Because they're adjustable, most bike racks can fit many different types of roof racks, allowing you to choose from most of the roof racks available. However, no matter which bike rack you investigate, you should carefully read its description to determine whether it will fit your roof-rack system.
Seasucker Roof Rack
Shop for roof-mounted bike racks based on crossbar type: How to Choose a Bike Carrier That Fits Your Bikes Roof-mounted bike racks can accommodate most kinds of bikes - a few racks will even hold tandems and recumbents. Bike racks are divided into 3 types, which differ in the way they hold onto the bike. To mount a bike on a fork mount rack, you must remove the front wheel and attach the fork to a skewer (a pin). Other racks clamp onto the bike's frame or wheel to hold the bike in place. Most roof-mounted racks fit most standard bike types: road bikes, mountain bikes, bikes with step-through frames, children's bikes, bikes with fiber frames, and bikes with suspension. However, you typically cannot load e-bikes on a roof-mounted rack due to their heavier weight. (Plus, you wouldn't want to lift one of those on top of your roof anyway.)
Rack Types
Bike on fork-mounted bike rack
Fork-Mounted Racks
  • Skewer clamps bicycle fork securely, eliminating sway
  • Front wheel of bike must be removed
  • Not all fork-mount racks can be used for bikes with disc brakes
  • Recommended for bikes with composite framesedit
  • Front wheel can be mounted to a bike wheel carrier that mounts to a crossbar
Note: The rack must match your bike's forks. Most fork-mounted bike racks are designed to fit 1 of 2 front axle designs. The front fork of some bikes is slotted, and the axle and wheel drop out when loosened. The second type of front fork is a thru-axle. Each of the 2 fork types requires a different bike rack mount. Racks for slotted forks have a skewer that the fork can slide onto. Racks for thru-axles have a tube that the bike axle must ride in or a clamp that encloses the axle.
Wheel Mount Bike Rack Holding Bike
Wheel-Mounted Racks
  • Arms hold your bicycle in place by its wheels - no need to remove wheels
  • Avoids contact with frame - recommended for bikes with composite frames
  • Carries most types of bikes including those with disc brakes
Bike on Frame-Mounted Roof Rack
Frame-Mounted Racks
  • Arm holds your bike in place by its frame
  • Carries most types of bikes including those with disc brakes
  • Not recommended for bikes with composite frames
Racks for Specialty BikesSome roof racks are designed to fit the wide tires of fatbikes. And some roof racks are especially made to carry bikes with extra long frames, like recumbents and tandems, on your vehicle's roof. Many of these racks have a special type of skewer that swings out or swivels to make it easy to load one of these specialty bikes.

How Many Bikes Can You Carry?

These factors limit the number of bikes you can carry:
  • The maximum weight capacity of your vehicle's roof
  • The maximum weight capacity of your crossbars
  • The width of your vehicle's crossbars
The maximum weight capacity of your vehicle's roof, more than any other factors, will affect the maximum number of bikes you can carry. Be sure to include the weight of your bikes, bike racks, and crossbar system when calculating the total weight you want to carry on your vehicle's roof. Some SUVs and other large vehicles may be able to carry up to 6 bikes, but smaller cars may be limited to 2. Hint: To carry a large number of bikes, reverse the direction of every other rack.
Crossbar width diagram

Best Roof-Mounted Bike Racks Available Now

The bike racks shown below are the most recommended and popular bike racks available. Click on any bike rack to learn more and to shop for that rack. Features that these high quality bike racks share:
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Aluminum construction (fork-mount models) to decrease weight for easy handling
  • Fit most crossbar shapes - round, square, aero, elliptical, and factory
  • Disc brake compatible
  • Lock compatible
Updated by: Jacob JLast Updated: 3/22/2023



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