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Roof Mounted Bike Rack vs. Hitch Mounted Bike Rack: Pros and Cons

Since 2020 the biking industry has boomed, and it seems like bike accessories and gear lists are never-ending. If you have accumulated multiple bikes and want to safely travel with them, a rack is something you will actually need to get. Whether you are wanting to take bikes around on remote dirt roads, there is a bike rack for you.


Two popular bike rack types are roof-mounted and hitch-mounted bike racks. We’ll break down the pros and cons of each to help you find the bike rack fit for your needs.


Roof Mounted Bike Rack

Bikes are stored on top of the car with a roof-mounted bike rack. These are fairly versatile and are a good option for carrying one to two bikes.


Roof-mounted racks are a good choice if your car has pre-installed mounting points, which makes for a smooth installation. The cost is fairly cheap, around $200 to $500, depending on how many racks you plan to store and the quality of the rack.

Roof-mounted bike racks are the only option for some cars and leave the interior of the car completely accessible the entire time it’s on the car.




Pros

If you’re using roof-mounted bike racks, here are some advantages you can expect:

  • Most brands come with a locking function that prevents the bike from swaying or moving around

  • Transporting your bikes on top of your car frees up your trunk space for the entire trip

  • There are multiple bike mounting options such as securing bikes by the wheels, fork, or frame

  • Most roof-mounted racks work well with a pre-existing roof rack. They’re fairly flexible and can be installed on top of practically any car

  • A good option for cars without a hitch

Cons

While they have their benefits, roof-mounted bike racks also have some drawbacks:

  • Lifting bikes on and off the rack (especially on a larger car) can be strenuous

  • You may need to be prepared with tools to secure bikes onto the rack. Additional, securing methods like tying a rope around bikes are common during long drives or preparing for wind

  • Added wind resistance due to vertical addition

  • Can reduce gas mileage by 35% (read here)

  • Calculate vertical clearance when driving under a bridge, through tunnels, and inside parking garages

  • Only one person can load and unload at a time

Hitch Mounted Bike Racks

A great option is the hitch-mounted bike rack, like the VelociRAX 5. The beauty of these bike racks is that they keep your car’s cargo space clear during the drive. These racks also come in different sizes and are built to safely carry multiple bikes. For example, the VelociRAX 7 can carry up to 7 bikes on a single hitch-mounted bike rack without impacting the vehicle. A vertical hitch bike rack is ideal for large families, biking groups, and shuttling.


Pros

Hitch-mounted bike racks are a favorite of many bikers today. Here are just some of the benefits you can look forward to:

  • Hitch-mounted bike racks easily fit a large number of bikes-- a standard family of five can have all of their bikes on one rack

  • Loading and unloading doesn’t involve any lifting by rolling bikes in and out. Kids can load and unload bikes!

  • Limited wind resistance, so you won’t have to worry as much about lowering your gas mileage

  • Typically made with higher quality materials, it is easier to find a rack with full steel construction that will last for years down the road

  • Vertical clearance is little to no concern

  • There’s no need to use additional tools to secure bikes in place

Cons

While hitch-mounted bike racks are popular among many bikers, they do have one main drawback: trunk access. Since bikes are attached to the rear, they block the trunk making it difficult to get inside the back of the car. Some racks are more flexible than others, so look for lowering options before making your final decision. For example, VelociRAX comes with a self-lowering hinge that allows you to open SUV, Hatchback, and Minivan trunks completely.

  • Trunk accessibility may be limited

  • Racks are heavy due to the high-quality build

  • Assembly can be complicated depending on the model

  • More expensive than a roof mount rack

  • Awkward to relocate or store when not used on a vehicle


Roof Mounted vs. Hitch Mounted – Which is Better?

While roof-mounted bike racks are always an option, most experienced bikers opt for the hitch-mounted version.


Roof-mounted and hitch-mounted bike racks have perks, but many bikers prefer the hitch-mounted bike rack. Hitch-mounted racks let you get your bikes on and off quickly without much lifting. In contrast, roof mounts increase the possibility of damage to both the bike and vehicle and the wind resistance will eat at your gas mileage. For regular bike rack storage, hitch-mounted racks are a great option to increase group size, is safer than roof-mounted racks, and leave time for the important things: riding!



Bottom Line

Although we’re biased, we strongly encourage choosing a hitch-mounted bike rack. We find that most bikers love the efficiency and protection offered by VelociRAX. Keep in mind, though, that the effectiveness of hitch-mounted models is only as good as the construction. As avid bikers ourselves, we got tired of searching for the perfect bike rack, so we built it ourselves. Check out our selection of bike racks that can accommodate up to seven bikes!

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