Roof-mounted racks typically consist of a base system that attaches to the roof of your vehicle. Vehicles with factory roof racks and crossbars can forego the base system.
Roof racks are ideal for riders who drive vehicles that won’t work with a receiver hitch and/or want something more secure and permanent than a trunk rack.
A big benefit is the versatility of a roof rack, there are loads of sports hauling accessories for skis, kayaks, fishing, surfboards, SUPs, etc. made for the top of vehicles.
However, since your bike is on top of the vehicle, it’ll hurt your car’s MPGs and your bike is susceptible to low garages and parking structures.
Trunk racks are the best option for cyclists who want a low-cost, easy to remove bike hauler. Trunk racks attach via straps and can be adjusted to work with most vehicles.
The negatives are that they are typically the most prone to theft, for both the bikes and the rack itself. Trunk racks are also the least stable way to haul your bike.
Racks that attach to a receiver hitch have gained popularity due to their low loading height, secure bike transport and overall ease of use.
Like the other racks, they do have some tradeoffs, one being they’re typically the highest priced and two, getting in a rear-end accident, whether with another car or by reversing into something, can quickly destroy your precious steed.
Another notable necessity is that your vehicle needs to have a receiver hitch mounted to it, which adds even more cost.
Best hitch rack
RockyMounts SplitRail hitch rack
4.5 out of 5 star rating
RockyMounts’ SplitRail hitch rack is solid, easy to load and simple to live with, all hallmarks of a great bike rackRussell Eich / Immediate Media
Most hitch racks share a lot in common with one another. A bar clamps up and over the front wheel and a ratcheting strap secures the rear wheel.
It’s the little and not-so-little details that set the RockyMounts’ SplitRail apart.
Raising and lowering the rack to load bikes, or to simply access the rear of the vehicle, occurs almost daily, which means having an easy-to-use handle for tilting the rack can be a make or break deal. The SplitRail has one of the best and it’s easy to access and works well too.
Loading bikes is, of course, another primary concern. The SplitRail helps with this task by using tabs that keep the rear wheel straps out of the way. It sounds minor, but in use it’s brilliant.
The rack hauls nearly every wheel size, from small to large, skinny to mid-fat, but full-on fat bikes aren’t compatible, says RockyMounts.
Even storage off the vehicle is handled smartly. The SplitRail comes with a wall-mounted rack holder that keeps the rack off the floor and tucked closely against the wall.
SeaSucker’s Mini Bomber is unlike any other bike rack and attaches by way of suction cups. It may sound kooky, but each 15.24cm / 6in suction cup produces up to 210lbs of pull strength, and there are six cups — it’s rock solid.
Like other roof rack bike carriers, the Mini Bomber rack holds bikes through the bike’s front fork. SeaSucker offers a range of accessories to work with whatever axle your front wheel uses.
Back to the suction cups, the SeaSucker can be mounted to all sorts of vehicles and in a variety of ways: on the roof, half on the rear hatch glass, half on the trunk. The options are numerous.
Another highlight of the Mini Bomber is its small size. When it’s not needed, it can easily be stashed in most cars.
While SeaSucker does offer a lock and cable for security, it’s not as elegant as some of the other racks’ built-in solutions.
Even though Thule’s Raceway Platform Pro 2 attaches like a trunk rack, it thinks it’s a hitch rack. And that’s a good thing.
Unlike other strap-on racks that dangle bikes from their top tubes with the wheels wobbling to and fro, the Raceway secures bike wheels as well as the frame.
Attachment to the vehicle is by steel braided cables instead of the usual nylon webbing, it features ratchets for snugging the rack to the car, and the rack can be locked to the vehicle, and the bikes locked to the rack.
Loading bikes can be a bit tricky mainly because the outer bike clamp has to pass either over or through the inner bike’s frame. Seat to handlebar contact must also be considered, as it is on nearly every rack.
Once loaded, the bikes roll down the road as solid, quiet and stable as a top-tier hitch rack.
But like its hitch-mount idols, the Raceway is expensive, especially for a trunk rack. And even though it folds up, it’s not nearly as small as other trunk racks.