Last summer, my girlfriend and I were traveling through Utah when gusts of wind pushed randomly and firmly on her Mazda 3. We had our two bikes locked on the rack on the rear of the vehicle. Assuming they were safely in place, I didn’t think much about them. Riding shotgun, I put my head down towards the laptop and got back to work. A few minutes later Evie looked over at me. “They’re gone,” she said. I checked; our two road bikes were bouncing down the road on the opposite side of the highway toward oblivion. Luckily there was no one else on the road.
The gusts had been so strong it lifted the rack hooks – weighted down by two bikes – off the car.
To fix the bikes on a budget I joined the San Anselmo, California bike co-op, The Bicycle Works. Soon we were back on the road with scratched and dinged but working bikes. (Amazingly my carbon fiber bike was not cracked.) A few weeks later I completed my first century ride, along the coast of California and at the same time as Evie did her first half- century.
The fork-mount Rocky Mounts rack I’d been accustomed to using were mounted on the other car, which is why we were carrying that raggedy off-brand rack on Evie’s Mazda. Aside from being tricky to properly cinch down to the vehicle – the bottom hook kept unexpectedly releasing from the rear bumper — the bikes were also exposed to being smashed during a rear ender or bottoming out on dirt roads.
After that painful day we upgraded, significantly, to the upright Yakima High Roller ($199) and a Front Loader ( $179.00) roof racks. The High Roller is a more deluxe version of the Front Loader, and has an easier retention, adjustment and release knob. We used Yakima Control Tower crossbars ($175 for a set of four) with four landing pads ($35.00 each). We had them installed at Rack ‘N Road in San Rafael, California where it took about a half an hour for them to mount the whole package to the vehicle.
Yakima’s sliding wheel tray makes it easy to firmly attach virtually any size bike to the frame without worry. And, as stated on the website, it fits “round, square and most factory crossbars out of the box.”
A full upright rack provides a bumper – as in the front tire — for drivers who forget they have a bike on their roof and drive into a garage. Which my sister has done, twice. Hopefully when making this error a driver would only destroy the front tire and not break the bike frame. Another advantage to upright racks is they make it easier to parallel park.
Unlike my fork-mount Rocky Mounts, we didn’t have to remove the front tire when fastening the bikes to the car. The Yakima racks accommodate bikes with hollow axles (The Rocky Mounts require an adaptor to connect to hollow axles). From 20″ tire bikes, to 700 CC road bikes, to 26” mountain, to 29ers, the Yakima rack carries them all (except tandems and recumbents) with easy-to-adjust hardware.
We opted to have two locks added to the racks, at $35 each. The cables are thin, and they work more as a deterrent than a burly bike lock, but they add piece of mind when taking roads trips and carrying bikes costing up to $6,000, like on a recent trip to Fruita with EOTV.
Another problem I have with my Rocky Mounts is that the disk brakes on my Kona mountain bike gouge into the aluminum rails. The Yakima rack doesn’t come in contact with either the front fork or any parts of the frame, which keeps things simple.
Over the past year this rack has crossed the country about four times, has been used up to several times a week, and has carried bikes of all sizes, except kids bikes (which it can do).
As far as cons, upright mounts get worse gas mileage than fork mounts. It’s also physically difficult to lift bikes all the way up to and set them on the Yakima upright racks. The cable bike locks need to be securely fastened when not in use, otherwise they bang around on the roof and scratch the paint.
Yakima racks have a lifetime guarantee.