If there is one bike rack that takes away the fear of not accessing the vehicle’s rear, primarily the trunk, it has to be a roof rack. But how many bikes can fit on a roof rack?
Roof racks don’t fit a lot of bikes. Most of them only carry one bike, but there are a few others, especially cup section options, which can hold 2-3 cycles.
Roof racks are better suited to vehicles with low heights, given that they raise the vertical clearance.
But despite only hauling a few bikes, these racks are pretty versatile. They allow you also to carry your gears and other stuff.
But do you need a roof rack? To answer that, I’ll share the pros and cons of these racks.
I’ll also describe the various types of roof racks to help you find your match.
In a hurry? Below are my most recommended rooftop racks.
Best Roof Racks for Bikes
- Thule Circuit Bike Rack (View on Amazon): Best Fork-Mount Roof 1-Bike Rack
- Thule UpRide Roof Rack (View on Amazon): Best Wheel-Mount Roof 1-Bike Rack
- ROCKBROS Suction Cup Rack (View on Amazon): Best Suction Cup 3-Bike Rack
- Swagman Upright Roof Rack(View on Amazon): Best Frame-Mount Bike Rack
How Many Bikes Can Fit On A Roof Rack?
As I mentioned, roof racks only have a smaller bike-holding capacity, 1-3 bikes per rack.
Note, however, that their hauling capacity depends on the rack type.
Here are the four types of rooftop racks:
1. Fork-Mount Roof Bike Rack
Fork-mount bike racks work by clamping down the front wheel fork. So, they offer the bike a firm hold on the roof, thus very stable.
Mark you; you secure the bike without stressing the frame.
Essentially, you’ve to remove the front wheel to mount the bike on the vehicle’s roof.
The other advantage is that the style slightly lowers the vehicle’s vertical clearance, unlike the other classes.
So, if you want to fit a rooftop rack but are worried about the clearance, you should get a fork-mount bike rack.
Sadly, these racks don’t work with all bicycles, especially those with disc brakes.
The other issue is that they only transport one bike at a time. One such rack is the Thule Circuit Low-Profile Bike Rack.
This fork-mount bike rack fits one bike with a maximum load capacity of 35 pounds. It’s easier to fit, secure, and convenient for bike transportation.
2. Wheel- Mount Roof Bike Rack
Unlike fork-mount bike racks, you don’t have to remove the front wheel when it comes to wheel-mount bike racks.
The style allows you to lock both wheels on the roof without clamping down the frame. So, the weight distribution on your vehicle’s rooftop is uniform, which means stable bike transportation.
And since you don’t touch the frame, the bike rack allows you to transport lighter frames, especially carbon fiber options.
Unlike its counterpart above, this rack style fits all bike styles, including disc brake options. It’s essential, however, that your bike is compatible with it.
In terms of capacity, these bike racks also hold one bike at a time, and a perfect example is the Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack.
This bike rack comes with a 44-pound capacity and fits bikes with 3-5 inch tires. As a result, it’s perfect for fat bikes and some mountain bikes.
With it, you can lock the bike on the roof, thus safe.
3. Suction Cup Roof Bike Rack
Suction cup roof racks are designed for those who don’t have enough room on their vehicle’s rooftops to attach regular racks.
These racks generally suit hatchbacks, minivans, SUVs, and sedans.
The racks feature rubber suckers that rest on the car’s roof to protect its painting. They usually are lightweight but come with massive carry capacity.
They also work on most bikes and are generally easy to use.
Their downside is that they quickly fail if not well maintained, more so due to dirt contamination.
The racks are sturdy and secure, thus the best for heavy and multiple bikes.
These racks can carry up to three cycles, and a perfect recommendation here is the ROCKBROS Suction Cup Rack.
The 3-bike rack has a universal style to fit any bike. Its operation is seamless, and it promises safe and sturdy bike transportation.
With it, you have a 12-km/h speed limit. That’s how powerful it is!
4. Frame- Mount Roof Bike Racks
If you have a rugged bike like an MTB or fat bike, it’s best to secure it by its frame. That’s possible with a frame-mount bike rack.
The rack clamps down your bike’s frame to the vehicle’s rooftop to encourage more secure hauling. In that case, not only don’t you have to remove the wheels, but you also lock them as you hold down the frame.
The advantage of this bike transportation approach is that it’s compatible with almost all bike types. They are the best for bikes with disc brakes as everything is steadied, even when going downhill.
You have to ensure you don’t overload the rack.
Incidentally, you can fit multiple frame-mount racks on the roof, but each one carries one bike. So, it’s possible to fit up to three racks or more on one rooftop.
One great pick for bike hauling is the Swagman Upright Roof Rack.
This rack comes with a 35-pound load capacity per bike, despite only weighing 5 pounds. It’s easy to install, sleek, and secure.
Are Rooftop Bike Racks Worth It?
The primary concern with rear racks is that they restrict rear access. It becomes harder to reverse a car and access the trunk.
That, however, is not the case with rooftop racks. These racks don’t interfere with your vehicle’s rear or trunk access.
They are also solid and stable. You wouldn’t worry about them wobbling or your bike falling, as long as you secure it.
These racks also come in various styles like I shared (wheel-mount, fork-mount, etc.) to offer you more options.
The best part is their versatility. You cannot only haul your bike but your cargo too. Others even haul you to haul boats and other water vessels.
So, if you are a frequent traveler, these racks are a good pick.
The primary concern with these racks is that they have a low clearance. You may find it difficult to park at a low-ceiling garage or go under a bridge.
The other issue is that the rack requires you to lift the bike, which is a lot of work.
Last, the bike rack slows you down as it suffers a lot of wind resistance. So, you are likely to use more fuel.
1. How Many Bikes Can Go On A Roof Rack?
Standard rooftop racks fit 1-3 bikes. Note, however, that there are many 1-bike roof racks than those with a 2-3 bike capacity. It’s essential, however, that you don’t overload the roof with the bikes’ weight.
2. Can You Fit 3 Bikes On A Roof Rack?
It’s possible to fit three bikes on a roof rack, especially on a suction cup bike rack. Other rooftop styles, however, mainly carry 1-2 cycles.
3. Can You Carry 4 Bikes On A Roof Rack?
Most rooftop racks only come with a 1-3 bike capacity. If you want to fit four bikes, you may have to include more than one rack, especially frame-mount styles.
In that case, your roof should have more room to accommodate the rack and be strong to hold the weight.
4. Can You Fit 5 Bikes On A Roof Rack?
You can fit more than one frame-mount rack on a car’s rooftop. So, even though each rack only holds one bike, you can fit five to have five cycles.
However, the vehicle’s rooftop has to have enough room and be strong enough to hold the five bikes.
5. How Many Bikes Can You Fit On A Thule Roof Rack?
Most Thule roof racks hold 1-2 bikes. If you, however, use a tow bar rack, you could easily carry 3-4 cycles. It’s essential, however, that you don’t overload the rack or drive too fast to avoid destabilizing it.
Most single-bike racks carry 35-45 pounds per bike, while two-bike options tolerate double the load. You can, however, expect 3-bike rooftop racks to hold about 100-150 pounds.
7. How High Is A Car With Bikes On The Roof?
With most cars standing about 2.5m high and the racks and the bike averaging 1-1.5m, the total vertical clearance is about 3.5-4.0,
Unless the rack is unsecured and rubbing against your car’s body, it won’t damage it. The damage, however, could also happen if the straps are loose and not just because of an unsecured rack.
In Conclusion: How Many Bikes Can Fit On A Roof Rack?
Generally, expect standard rooftop racks to hold 1-3 bikes, depending on their style and the quality of the bicycle rack. If you want to carry more bikes, you may have to fit more than one rack.
I’ll, however, advise against going that way as you could overload the roof, and that’s likely to damage it.