Roof racks are a popular option due to their versatility. With the right accessories, you can modify a roof rack to transport just about any piece of outdoor gear you may have, from kayaks to bikes. They’re also loved for their stability and unobtrusiveness while driving.

If you’re lucky, your vehicle’s roof may be equipped with some combination of factory-installed towers, siderails, crossbars, or mounting points. With a plain roof, though, you’ll need to build your own rack system, but be sure to check your vehicle’s manual, or contact the manufacturer directly to determine the maximum weight your roof can accommodate.

Roof racks tend to be more expensive than other types of bike racks, but that doesn’t mean they’re only for the rich. With a roof rack, your bike won’t sway and you won’t have any obstructions when looking into the side or rear view mirrors. Furthermore, your vehicle doesn’t run the risk of being scratched during transportation.

Now, with a roof rack, you won’t be able to load your bike as easily as you would with a trunk or hitch rack. Because you need reach overhead to secure your gear on top of your vehicle, you’ll need lift gear, or a similar product to do the job. With a roof rack, you’ll find that the wind resistance created by having gear on top of your vehicle reduces its aerodynamics, which will likely have an impact on your gas mileage. You may also notice some noise, as well, as a result of the wind resistance, and a potential loss of stability in windy conditions. While driving, you’ll need to remain aware of the height restrictions that having bikes on your roof will impose, especially in parking structures, garages, carports, toll booths, and around low-hanging branches.

Roof racks are a great option for avid bikers and outdoorsmen who need to transport gear often. Casual outdoors enthusiasts may not need a permanently attached roof rack, but there are a variety of bike transportation options out there, as we’ve explored in this series. Keep the tips outlined in mind if you find yourself searching for a bike rack this season.