Roof rack recommendations and tips

Hi all,

Over christmas, the family and I are going to be doing a roadtrip from Sydney to Melbourne to visit family, stopping off in Bright on the way down, and Wagga Wagga on the way back. For those not in Aus/local, that’s a ~2,000 km drive

Of course, Bright is a bit of a cycling haven and so I’m keen to do a few days riding down there, as well as a few days in Melbourne. By the time I pay for bike rental fees, it’s probably the same cost as just buying some roof racks for the car and taking my own bike down. It would have to be roof mounted as we can’t get a tow bar mount added

My question is this - are roof racks like this suitable for such long distances at high speed? I must admit that I’m a bit nervous about having my pride and joy on top of the car and am wondering whether it’s worth the hassle?

Thule and Yakima seem to be the preferred brands - is there strong guidance to lean either way? (just a single road-bike up top)

Do you have any other tips for such a trip? e.g. put some tape on the bars/headtube to try and avoid getting bugs stuck to it? take a separate lock for when you’ve stopped to get a coffee somewhere?

Tip #1 - don’t drive under any low ceilings/garages/carparks.
Tip #2 - get bike insurance for when (not if) you forget Tip #1.


Have done that drive and other similar ones many many times with Thule racks with road, gravel, kids and mountain bikes. Normally I have three on the roof and sometimes more on the hitch. I sometimes take the chain off if it’s really raining or dirt roads but otherwise no issues with bugs etc.

As for security. Normally park in highly visible main streets, sit outside at the cafes etc. and put my more expensive bikes in the middle of the roof. I wouldn’t leave them overnight.

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Done plenty of freeway driving with Thule 591. Absolutely no worries with MTB or road bikes. The bike goes on in a minute and they’re rock solid. I completely trust my stupidly-priced bike to it.

I’ve also done freeway driving, Melbourne to Ballarat for the nationals fondo with a couple of bikes loaded onto a Seasucker rack. Again, no stresses.

I’d be a wary of leaving the seasucker alone at all, but the Thule 591 locks with a key for each bike clamp, and the rack locks onto the roof. That said, if left for a while nothing is all that safe. Get a window seat at the cafe.

The Thule rack will be fine for what you are doing: the integral lock is well and truly enough security for a casual stop.

I don’t worry about the dirt / debris, I just clean the bike after the trip.

For carrying multiple bikes, I’ll put in a shameless plug for Shingleback, made here in NE Vic. Expensive but worth it.

For a few years I had Thule racks for 4 bikes on my car and regularly went long distances with them fully loaded like to a race or Bright or something. They were great, reliable and super easy to use. Only problem for me is that I’m short and I couldn’t get the bikes on and off myself. I would put the bike on the passenger side so you aren’t trying to get it off on the road and you’ve got the kerb to make you taller.

I have been using roof racks for years. I have 3 from a big car repair and stuff dealer network, 50€ each (similar to basic Thule models - front wheel staying on, rack locks to the roof with a key, bike locks to the rack with the same key) and no issues in thousands of kms at 130 km/h (and sometimes slightly above to overtake).
As stated above :

  • Careful with tolls barriers, bridges, parking entries :scream:
  • Always keep car in sight, lock is pretty basic and easy to break :sweat_smile:

And I’ll add that:

  • You burn quite more gazoline
  • Dead bug juice is the royal PITA to get off bartape :confounded: (I’m sure somebody makes / will make glue out of it someday)

I am living in Europe and have had zero issues with bike roof racks of different sorts and I have done thousands of km. Based on this experience my recommendation is to go for the Seasucker line of carriers. They seem insanely expensive at first but you have a zero-hassle installation compared to classic roof rack bars plus bike carriers, they take up minimal space and you can even mount them such that the rear wheel hangs down the rear of the car and such the majority of the bike is shielded from the wind (helps on fuel/energy consumption and wind noise).
The downside is theft protection at stops as they are easy to pop off as well…
I normally - whether with Thule racks or Seasucker - always had some standard bike lock (possiby with loops) visibly placed onto the bikes - at least it looks like an additional hurdle and might come handy at destination (hotel/holiday home or whatever) anyways.

I’ve done 110 mph+ with a XL MTB attached to a sea sucker on the roof with zero issues (if you’ve ever driven the road from Clines Corners, NM-Santa Fe, NM you’ll know this is easy to do since I think the average speed actually driven on that road is 130+mph). Assuming you install the crossbars and rack correctly then no, you can drive 80+MPH all day every day and the rack wont care at all. Roof racks generally suck compared to a hitch rack though at least in my opinion, they’re noisy, waste fuel, and your bikes will get filthy plus you can easily run them into garage roofs etc. You might be better off pricing a hitch rack and installing a hitch yourself, Hitch racks are superior and have better resale value, installing a hitch on most vehicles is as easy as changing your oil.

I opted for roof racks because I don’t trust drivers around with my precious toys ^^ Too many people check their phone while driving and the risk of a collision is too high IMHO.

Sorry but that doesn’t seem very logical, yes drivers are terrible but the real chances of you being rear ended commonly enough that you’d buy a rack specifically for that purposes seems infinitesimal I mean at that point you’d be reckless to ride a bike on the road if that was the case.


I realize this is a concern but I think you’re vastly more likely to damage your bike by having them on the roof and driving the car under a low object. This has happened to pretty much every roof rack owner that I know (eventually) - including myself - although it’s obviously not a very common occurrence. I think the real reason to prefer a roof rack is so that you can open your trunk without taking the bikes off.


I suggest you try driving in Paris and its near suburbs :slight_smile: The risk of a minor crash is low but not 0. And yes every regular rider I know has had scary moments with cars, quite often actually :frowning:
Also, it is often a struggle to park a car in city centers (big or small). So best to not have the bikes sandwiched between cars.
In New Mexico, this must be less of a concern.

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Low objects that are too low for a regular European car with a race bike on top of it are not that common (toll barriers, parkings, my building). I am yet to face a bridge were I need to stop (in France there is a panel giving the height below a bridge if it could be a risk for a very big truck - as in lorry, not pick-up).

And if it happens, it’s on me, not on some random event (and I think I’d be more confortable ithis way).

Regarding trunk access:

Fantastic all - thank you

Looks like I’ve got no worries going down the roof rack path, and Thule seems to be the carrier of choice

Re a few of the other points - sadly the cost of getting a hitch installed is ~$2k on the car (need to cut rear body work etc). And, with racks I can also put some surfboards up there too

Yikes, you think I live in New Mexico? That’s an insult. Thought process still stands, how often are you really street parking a car with a bike on the back? Folded up most hitch racks add about 12" of length off the rear bumper.

I assumed NM was New Mexico, didn’t googled where Santa Fe is TBH :slight_smile:

Let’s keep our cool, from the other side of the pond I wouldn’t know why.

Re street parking, when you travel with kids and bikes in rural France and prefer to avoid highway rest areas for lunch / dinner, quite often actually.

They’re not common where I live either - but you should make your peace with the fact that this will happen to you eventually rather than assume you’re somehow different from almost every other roof rack owner who has done this at one time or another :slight_smile:

I’ve been happy with the Yakima Frontloader, no issues that I’ve noticed with driving for hours at freeway speed (trips to Gippsland and to Amy’s Ride in Lorne). The hoop at the front clamps to the front tyre and the rear tyre is held onto the rack by a plastic ratchet strap.

It has an integrated cable lock with a (for some reason, optional) keylock. Check your bike insurance covers it while it’s on the rack and locked with the in-built lock (usually not overnight though).

If you have a larger/taller vehicle, check that you’ll be able to comfortably reach the bike on the rack to put it on/take it off - I need to open the rear door and stand in the footwell to be able to reach it comfortably then gingerly step down with the bike. Not a big deal just something to bear in mind.

I do have to remind myself several times while driving to check for low bridges, fortunately having a truck licence that is a BIT more automatic these days although I did forget once, luckily it was at very low speed at home with the MTB on top, couldn’t work out why the car would not drive into the carport, some issue with the handbrake or auto-transmission maybe… oh… yeah… the bike!

I’ll leave this topic before I get jinxed :crossed_fingers: :laughing:

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