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Review: Yakima HighRoad upright roof bike rack

Kamil Kaluski August 9, 2018 Featured, Gadget Reviews, Project 4Runner 17 Comments

Transporting bicycles has always been an issue for me. I looked for the optional folding rear seat when I bought used BMWs. In my early WRX I had a roof rack. Once I had kids, my SUVs had hitch-mounted racks. The truth is that there were always compromises and the only ideal solution I found thus far is to not transport my bikes at all, which is not a solution.

Some time ago I reviewed the Yakima FullSwing hitch-mounted rack. It’s a solid rack but despite its ability to swing open it isn’t easy living with it permanently attached to the back of my 4Runner. It takes more time to access the cargo area. Taking it on and off frequently for the purpose of me getting an hour of biking in wasn’t ideal either. It worked really well when traveling but sometimes fitting kids bikes only it was tricky due to the size of those bikes.

I decided to opt for a roof-mounted single bike rack that would attach to the existing factory cross-bars of my Toyota 4Runner. It would allow me to transport my own bike for those times I run away from my family and responsibilities, and can stay attached to the roof all season long. After way too much research I decided to try out the Yakima HighRoad rack. This is Yakima’s new upright bike mount.

Before selecting a roof-mounted bike rack there are several things to consider:

  • Does your vehicle have roof rails and/or cross-bars required to hold a bike rack? If not, they must be obtained and installed separately.
  • Do you choose an upright mount that holds the whole bike by its wheels or frame?
  • Do you choose a fork-mount rack, where the front wheel has to be removed?
  • Finally, are you physically able to place your bicycle on the roof of your car?

I decided that I did not want to deal with wheel removal and re-installation every time I transported my bike. That is why I went with an upright mount. I also did not want a frame /support because bicycle frame designs vary greatly now.

Here are some pros and cons of upright and fork mounts:

  Upright Mount Fork Mount
Pros: Faster installation and removal.  Bicycle is lighter without the front wheel attached. 
  No need to remove front wheel every time.  Slightly lower overall height.
  Either frame or wheel support. No frame .
  No bike parts inside the car. Slimmer/lighter rack. 
Cons: Bike is heavier with the wheel attached.  Wheel has to be removed and a skewer installed every time.
  Increased overall height.  One bike wheel inside the car.
  Some racks have wheel size limitations. Not all bikes, forks, disc brakes will fit.
  More air drag. More time to get bike ready. 

Here is why I chose the Yakima HighRoad:

  • The rear wheel pad can slide independently of the cross-bar mount, making it easy to switch between bike sizes.
  • It’s slim when folded, perfect for low-clearance garages with only 4” above cross-bars.
  • Aerodynamic design means less wind noise.
  • The HighRoad wheel tray sits farther forward on the car, giving better lift hatch clearance.
  • Sliding cross-bar mounts allow for various distances between cross-bars – my cross bars are set for my cargo roof pack and did not need to be adjusted.
  • Attaches with a straps that wrap around cross-bars and adjust for tension, fitting just about cross-bars.
  • No with bicycle frame.
  • The one shortfall of the HighRoad is that it only fits 26” to 29” wheels and tires from 23mm to 3.25”, so no kids’ bikes. Yakima’s FrontLoader accepts 20”-29” wheels but it sticks up much higher when bike is removed. 
  • The HighRoad can hold up to a 45-piund bike. But you really don’t want to put that heavy of a bike up there. My old StumpJumper is about 26lbs.
  • Bike installation is extremely simple: open main wheel hoop, slide in bike, flip up smaller wheel hoop, twist knob, secure rear wheel with strap.
  • Overall Yakima’s new HighRoad is easy to use and provides a solid mount.
  • The HighRoad weights about 18 pounds.

The HighRoad was ridiculously easy to install, too. It took me about 10 minutes from the moment I opened the box and read the instructions to the moment I was able to install my bike. No tools needed, except to open the box. I even did it on a busy Boston street while waiting for my daughter’s practice to end. Yakima’s own video does a good job of explaining how easy to it is and they really don’t downplay it.

General notes on roof-top bike racks:

  • If your bike has fenders, they will interfere on just about any wheel or fork mount rack.
  • Fat-bikes will require tire adapters or fork adapters on just about any rack.
  • Be aware that not all fork-mounts accept all forks, and vice versa. 
  • Know the exact height of your vehicle with the bike on the roof. Clipping a low overpass will get pricey. My 4Runner with the Stumpjumer on top is about 12 feet high, which is very high – no Storrow Drive for me.
  • Check that the back of the wheel tray does not interfere with your hatch opening. The front mounting points of any roof-top rack are not adjustable – they all just attach to the front cross-bars, which are adjustable on most cars. You want your cross-bars as far forward as possible.
  • Minimum distance of 16” is required between your cross-bars. Mine are set at about 26” apart.
  • Some factory cross-bars, such as the 4Runner ones, are bowed up for extra strength. This may result in your bike being slightly angled. I don’t see that as an issue. To my knowledge all after-marker cross-bars are straight, and likely even stronger than the factory ones. 
  • There will always be some wind noise on the highway and potential side wind push on the car. Your gas mileage will drop, too.
  • Having sufficient upper body strength is crucial for roof-top racks on taller vehicles.

Driving around with the bike on the roof rack of my 4Runner, clearance became my biggest worry. The general rule is that if a tractor-trailer or a bus can fit, so can I. Most vehicles are lower the 4Runner, so this shouldn’t be that big of an issue for most people. Pay attention at gas stations and avoid garages. Other than that, the bike was attached to the HighRoad very well. There were no odd noises or vibrations. Only on the highway did I hear more wind-noise.

With the bike removed, it’s as if the HighRoad isn’t there, which is exactly what I wanted. The added bonus is that I can still fit my alpine cargo box to the right of the bike rack, which gives me the ability to transport both. Weight restrictions apply however, about 120 pounds in the case of the 4Runner. After-market cross-bars may have a higher capacity. 

The Yakima HighRoad retails for $220. This does not include cross-bars. 

There will always be compromises when transporting bicycles. While there is not one perfect solution, there are plenty of options. Proper research before buying any rack is very important. Variables include: type and quantity of bikes, vehicle limitations, and your own limitations of being able to place bikes on racks.

Good luck and go biking!

  • Fred

    An important consideration is the ratio of the height of your vehicle vs your person. Either that make sure you have a step stool handy.

    • Yes, I’m 6’2″ and I was nearing that limit with the 4Runner.

      *goes to order a 3″ lift kit *

      • Vairship

        *and 4″ platform shoes*

  • Zentropy

    Now that I have kids, I have a hitch-mounted rack (for 5!), but even before, I never liked roof racks. It’s way too easy to forget you have a bike up there, and then you’re slamming into a parking garage ceiling, or hitting your own house on the way into the garage (dumb, but it’s happened to two of my friends). Then there’s the load height– I’m 6’1″, but still think it’s a pain in the ass to lift a bike up there.
    On the downside, the hitch-mounted rack makes it cumbersome to get access to the rear hatch. And with 5 bikes mounted, it’s difficult to lift back up and insert the lock pin. The best scenario was when I had a pickup and just threw the bike in the bed.

    • Like I said… there are not many great solutions. Having bikes in the back of a pickup isn’t a bad idea but it too has compromises.

    • Rudy™

      I use a hitch-mounted rack also. I don’t care to fight with mounting the bikes up on the roof when all I have to do is clip in the wheels and wedge the ratchet bar down on the frame (Thule 990XT). Installing the trailer hitch was easy enough (it bolted right on–a half hour job at most, including chasing the threads with a tap to clean them out), and the hitch has other uses now as well.

      My better half’s cousin uses a roof-mounted rack on his Nissan Rogue and is an avid mountain biker. And naturally, on that one day when he was in a rush and his mind was elsewhere, he pulled into his garage with the bike still on the roof…

  • Scubie

    Looks good. I too am a roof mount biker, and I too drive a 4×4 (Toyota Prado). Apart from the overall height, I find it fine for transporting bikes. I wonder how this rack would cope with my 3 inch fat MTB tyres though… Awesome easy install and probably more stable than my current rack. My rack of choice at present? Thule:

    • Fat-bike tires won’t fit on this rack. You’d need a fork-mount rack with an adapter and a some may require larger pad for the rear tire. Something like the Yakima HighSpeed would work. It takes wheels up to 5″

      The 4Runner is essentially a poorer US version of the Prado.

      • Scubie

        My existing rack works fine, but always good to know what else is out there. We have plenty of Japanese import 4Runners in NZ – almost all petrol, Most of the NZ New Prado are diesel – great for towing. Cheers!

  • crank_case

    I just bought a €500 Chinese electric folding mountain bike, which surprisingly works pretty well. I only use it for commuting, not trails so can’t say how well it works for a hobbyist, but the great thing about it is it totally negates the need for any sort of bike rack. Undo one latch, fold it up, put it in the car.

    Kinda makes me wonder why there aren’t more full size folding bikes, they’d be a great combo for commuting, park outside the city gridlock and then take the bike the rest of the way in.

    • There are, but good designs are four digits, solid. The electric components render certain aspects moot (weight) or unachievable (compact when folded vs. stable under use), and I am flirting with one of these since quite a while…

  • Alff

    Another couple questions to ask yourself. 1) Do you regularly park in a parking garage? If so, 2) Are you forgetful?

    • 0A5599

      Also: “How tall is my bike?”

    • I do park in the garage, and one of my requirements was a minimal height when folded.
      I am not a forgetful person, although my wife would argue that point.

      • Alff

        I am not normally forgetful either … but I have denuded my roof of bike and Yak rack at least once.

  • Jeff Glucker

    Inspired by Kamil, I’ll have a review of my SeaSucker mount soon – I needed to go this route so I can swap it on different vehicles with ease.

    • I’d love one of those.