Home > Gear > Bike Racks > How To Put A Bike On A Roof Rack

How To Put A Bike On A Roof Rack

Updated on:
> BikePush is supported by our readers, we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you. Read more here
> Our review guidelines

The main benefit of a good roof-mounted bike rack is that it keeps the rear of your car clear.

With a bike on the roof, you retain access to the trunk or hatch.

And you don’t block taillights, your license plate, or a back-up camera.

One of the downsides in all this is that you first need to get your bike on the roof, which can be a daunting prospect.

This article aims to allay your fears and tells you how to put a bike on a roof rack.

You’ll be able to buy and use a roof rack with confidence!

Ways To Safely Lift And Secure Your Bike To A Roof Rack

You should consider your height and the height of your vehicle before buying a roof rack.

How practical will it be to mount a bike on the roof?

If you’re tall and strong, you may not have much trouble lifting a bike onto a car roof.

Most roof-mounted bike racks will accept bikes of up to around 45 lbs in weight, and the weight of the bike is a vital part of the equation.

How high can you lift your bike?

Make Yourself Taller

Whether you’re on the short side or your vehicle is tall, or both, you can make yourself taller in order to get a bike onto the roof.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

Use A Step Stall

A step stall gives you better access to your car roof.

The downside with this is obviously that you need to carry it in the car with you.

A foldable or collapsible step stool is easier to store.

Video: Using A Step Stool To Mount A Bike Onto A Roof

Stand On The Door Still

Another way people boost their height so they can mount a bike on the roof is by standing on the door sill of their car.

With many vehicles, though, you are more likely to slip from a door sill than you are a step stool.

You could end up with bruised shins or other injuries.

Securing a bike rack to a roof rack is a simple process if the product is well-designed.

Half the battle is getting the bike up and into position.

Lifting The Bike

Before securing the bike on the roof rack, you must face the mildly daunting task of lifting the bike onto the roof.

Pro Tip: grab the bike at two low points on the frame so you can lift it as high as possible.

If the height of the lift is a problem for you, lift the bike before climbing onto a step stall or door sill.

Otherwise, you won’t be able to grab the bike at a low enough point.

With the bike now at roof height, what you do next will depend on the type of bike rack you have.

There are three types: wheel-mounted, frame-mounted, and fork-mounted.

Wheel-Mounted Roof Rack

Probably the most common type of roof rack for bikes is the wheel-mounted rack.

This type of rack is ideal for expensive carbon bikes because it doesn’t touch the frame.

With this type of rack, you can usually quickly steady the front of the bike with the large wheel loop or hook that you’ve folded forward in readiness.

The hook or loop holds the top of the front wheel.

Often, there will be a second, smaller loop or cradle that you fold upwards to grip the rear of the front tire.

Once this pair of hooks or loops is in place, a knob adds just enough torque to hold the wheel tight and keep the bike still.

You’ll then secure the rear wheel.

This will rest on an adjustable wheel cradle that accommodates different wheelbases.

A ratcheting strap holds the rear wheel in place on the cradle.

Frame-Mounted Roof Rack

The procedure with a frame-mounted roof rack is much the same, except there are no loops or hooks to grab the front wheel.

Instead, a hooked arm grabs the down tube of your bike.

The hook on this type of rack is usually large and steadies the bike as soon as you move it into place.

There are cradles and ratcheting straps for the front and rear wheels.

Fork-Mounted Roof Rack

To mount a bike on a fork-mounted bike rack, you’ll first make sure the rear cradle is ready to receive a wheel by moving the ratcheting strap out of the way.

The rack may come with a quick-release adaptor and/or thru-axle adaptors that accommodate various axle sizes.

You should double-check that a fork-mounted bike rack accommodates your bike axle type before purchasing.

A bike with quick-release wheels has slots at the end of the fork rather than the holes of a thru-axle bike.

Quick-Release Fork Mounting

With a quick-release bike, you might only have to lift the bike onto the rack and slot the front fork into a built-in skewer.

With some racks, a provided quick-release adaptor is installed on the bike before lifting it onto the car.

If you’ve installed a provided quick-release adaptor before mounting, it’s likely to automatically click into place when you mount it on the car.

If the skewer is integrated into the rack, you’ll mount the bike and tighten the skewer on the car.

A ratchet strap holds the rear wheel in place.

Thru-Axle Fork Mounting

Racks that accept thru-axle bikes or quick-release bikes may equalize the two with identically shaped adaptors.

These slot into a mechanism on the rack.

You’ll just run your thru-axle through the adaptor and tighten it before mounting.

With the above sorted, you lift the bike onto the rack, place the rear wheel onto the open cradle, and lock the front fork into place using whatever mechanism the rack provides.

Then, you secure the rear wheel with a ratchet strap.

Am I Better Off Using A Different Type Of Rack Or Method?

Well, that depends.

Does your bike weigh much more than 40 lbs?

If so, buy a platform-style hitch rack.

Do you want the cheapest rack possible?

Look at trunk racks from reliable brands like Allen or Tyger Auto.

If you’re short or getting too old for bicycle weight training, you may prefer a hitch rack or trunk rack.

These also have a less negative impact on fuel consumption.

Conversely, roof racks are often an elegant bike-carrying solution and are easy to use if you’re moderately fit.

They’re also arguably safer, as they don’t block lights, rear views, and cameras.

You just need to remember there’s a bike on the roof…

Conclusion: Lifting The Bar (Bike)

The knack for getting a bike on the roof is basically to grab it low by the fork and seat stays, keeping your back in a healthy straight position.

There are also ways you can make yourself taller, though any step stool should be as close to the vehicle as possible.

A good roof rack will help you quickly steady the bike with its design.

We hope you found this article useful.

You’re welcome to share it with friends and family or add comments.

Read more:

How To Put A Bike On A Roof Rack - Pinterest Pin Small ImagePin
Glenn Harper
Article By:
When Glenn isn't writing for BikePush, he can often be found cycling on his local rural roads. If he can help you benefit from bicycling in some small way, He’ll consider it a win.

Leave a Comment