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Roof mounted bike carriers - wheel off or wheel on?

By Morgan - Posted on 01 September 2009

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.

Hello everyone. Canberra is lovely by the way and the MTB World Champs opening ceremony, which I popped out to during my lunch break, was actually a pretty sorry affair. BUT I'm looking forward to seeing some outstanding dirty action at the weekend. However.....

As some of you know I have a very large 29'er which comes in at about 14kg's or so. I need a new car carrier and am tempted by the roof mounted versions at this stage. There are 2 versions I can see - those for which you can just shove the bike on and clamp a bar onto your down tube, and those where you have to remove the front wheel and clamp the front fork down.

Being a lazy git I'd prefer the wheels on version but given the height and weight of my bike I'm not sure that's the most solid option.

Any opinions on the subject?

Cheers! Morgan

I've carried Ditty's Norco Six which is undoubtedly heavier than your bike on a Thule roof rack without problem. It's the type with a single arm to grab the down tube and a strap round each wheel.

That said, I prefer rear mounting racks having to park underground... this might be something to consider if you're buying.

Make life easy for yourself.

I've actually once had both Ditty's Norco Six and a VP Free on the roof on the freeway. Both bikes and my roof survived fine Smiling

With the plethora of front axle standards on the market (20mm though-axle, 15mm thru-axle, 9mm QR, Cannondale Lefty), which one are you gonna choose? Is anything other than 9mm QR available for the wheel-off type of roofrack? What happens if you need to give a mate a lift and he has something different?

It was all too confusing for me.

I went with Wheels On.

Oh, and lockable.

we use wheel Off for the roof racks Thule brand and lockable...

glad we have now done this as have seen plenty with the wheel on mode and the bike seems to bounce and wobble about heaps,....

I have the wheel on version of the Thule roof carriers (the ProRide) and yes the bike does wobble around, only side to side and especially when travelling at high speed down the freeway, but it's still held fast and will not come off. In fact it locks the bike in so fast that when I forgot it was on one day and drove into the garage, it tore the whole roof racks off the car while still holding the bike in place. (We can just ignore the stupidity of what I did, thanks Smiling )

So if your going roof mounted, save yourself a lot of time and hassle and go the wheel on variant. Takes me 30 seconds to mount/dismount my bike from the roof. Keep in mind short and/or less strong people may have trouble getting the bike up or down, depending on the car.


In fact it locks the bike in so fast that when I forgot it was on one day and drove into the garage, it tore the whole roof racks off the car while still holding the bike in place.

Been there, done that:


Damn glad I'm not the only one. Sticking out tongue

It's rather embarrassing when you do it.

dosent just happen in the garage at home...

we were very very close to driving into an outdoor shopping centre carpark recenlyl that had one of those big meteal frames around the entrance for no reason . Stopped with it at the bonnett of the car and reversed out of there....would have been disaster... Sad ...

... against which you hav to weigh up the damage that towbar-mounted racks can inflict from the bikes banging into each other, and the difficulty of mounting different types of bikes onto the rear racks. Getting one that suits both my 'dales and my son's Mongoose without allowing them to bang/scrape into each other and without taking paint off where they attach to the mount got too hard. Hence the choice to go with roof-mounted.

However, others may have different needs.

I'm also a fan of the "wheel on" design (Thule Proride 591 is the model code I think).

I've actually got 3 of them installed, with the middle one pointing the opposite way.

Plenty highway trips in 110kph zones and no complaints so far.

Stuff I like

1. You don't have to worry about different axles, Lefty forks etc.
2. No need to find space in the car for 3 front wheels.
3. Bike is literally off the car and ready to ride in 10 seconds flat.
4. The bikes stay clean of the muck that seems to get on them when towbar mounted.

Some things to be aware of:

They have a 17kg weight limit per bike, so no DH bikes (they have a slightly different model to suit though).

You do get the feeling that you shouldn't put too much lateral force on them by taking tight corners quickly. Having said that, I've done shuttles on the twisty road from Kangaroo Valley to the McPhails trailhead without issues.

Also a 130kph speed limitation.

You do have to remember the bikes are up there before you drive into the Coles carpark.

Installing/removing the racks from the bars is a bit of a production, so mine tend to stay on permanently.

+1. The bike racks are fiddlly to remove from the roofrack bars.

My whole rack set, with 4 x wheels-on bike mounts, tends to go on and come off as a unit. Even so, it's much more time effective than the frigging around I had to do with the towbar mount so that I didn't damage the bikes.

Apart the risk of forgetfulness, the other issue is that I usually need a second set of hands to put the racks on comfortably. Can be done by oneself, but it's a hassle.

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