Bike Rack Vs Roof Racks


New Member
Mar 10, 2015
Guys we only have a small hatch back, but expensive bikes plus kids bikes wondering what is the best to go for, Roof Racks or a Bike Rack on the toe bar? I have used a toe bar bike rack before and it was very unforgiving to the bikes... any advice / opinions appreciated!
I prefer roof racks for a couple of bikes and spare wheels.

For four bikes I think a Hitch Receiver mount rack is more secure. The aerodynamics and strain/forces acting on four bike on a roof at 70 MPH are the reason pro teams semi-permanently attach their roof racks to the vehicles and custom engineer the bike clamping hardware.

A tray-type receiver hitch mount rack is fairly easy on the bikes. This type has a platform or wheel channel that supports the bike's weight and some have a locking bar that grips a contact area on the bike that eliminates the risk of damage to an expensive frame. These racks are about as expensive as a good roof rack.

A compromise might be to load the expensive adult bikes on a roof rack and carry the less expensive and generally more robust youth bikes on a well padded, conventional (read: cheap) receiver mount rack. They sell off-the-shelf padding kits for these racks, but a couple of towels and closed cell foam cut to protect contact points works as well or better. Guys also use painter's masking tape to protect paint during transit.
Any possibility the kid's bikes can fit in the back of the car? I usually do that & keep the two adult bikes on my roof rack. It seems to work fine for me but it all depends on what kind of car you drive really.
I much prefer using a towbar mounted bike rack but you need to purchase the correct type. You don't want the 'hang on' type for anything other than very short journeys unless you are prepared to pad your bikes out to stop them rubbing together otherwise they will damage each other.

The best type of bike rack I have come across is more of an investment for life unless you can drop on one second hand. You want the type where the bike rack locks on to the car's towbar for starters. No point in saying here are all the bikes, just move me to another towbar and the bikes are yours.
Secondly, you want the type of towbar mounted bike rack where the bikes stand on the bike rack. This allows you to anchor the wheels and the frame to the bike rack and keep the bikes secure.
And thirdly you ideally want the type of bike rack that locks your bikes to it.

We have still found with the chunky forks on our mountain bikes that we need to use some pipe insulation to pad out the frame of the other bike alongside it to stop rubbing, but not so with out road bikes.
I ride with a buddy who has the "1UPUSA" hitch rack. It's the best one I've seen. All aluminum and high-quality fasteners, very strong and solid. The arms grab the top of the tires, nothing else touches the bikes. Believe the 2 bike version is around $500. Expensive, but worth the money if you use a rack often.

Only big disadvantage I see for this setup is the need to constantly carry the trailer hitch. Plus the 1UPUSA is fairly heavy (45 lbs?) so he just leaves that on as well. The combo adds at least 75 lbs to the very rear of the vehicle, plus reduces ground clearance which is critical on steep driveways common here.

Inside the vehicle is always best if you have the room. SUV's and wagons like the Forester should have plenty of room for adult bikes inside plus enough gear for a weekend trip for two. I regularly put mine 58cm bike in my Golf, plenty of room for it. I've had two bikes in there, just using a blanket to cover the bottom bike.
I would just feel better with a roof rack. If I'm gliding to spend all that money on my bike, the last thing I want is to get rear ended and ruin it, I would so fe like it is better secured that way.
kana_marie said:
I would just feel better with a roof rack. If I'm gliding to spend all that money on my bike, the last thing I want is to get rear ended and ruin it, I would so fe like it is better secured that way.
You won't get rear ended with a roof rack but you have to make sure if you're going through a drive through that you have clearance or if parking in a garage you take the bikes off first before pulling in.