Roof-mounted bike racks have been around for ages. However, over the past 10 years, we’ve seen the old standard fork-mount bike racks become more and more obsolete. While many riders still use them, the variety of front axles on the market pretty much requires mountain bikers to look at the many upright carriers on the market. The Yakima FrontLoader is a great rack option because not only does it not require front wheel removal, but it also attaches to nearly any type of crossbar (square, round or factory) out-of-the-box without any funky adapters.
Yakima FrontLoader Bike Rack Features:
- Super security locks your bike to the bike mount, and the bike mount to your car rack system (2 lock cores sold separately)
- Bikes stay vertical as they roll onto the rooftop bike mount for quick and easy loading
- Universal fit to car rack systems with round, square or factory crossbars right out of the box
- Fits all kinds of wheels, from 20” kid sizes all the way up to 29” mountain and 700c road wheels (EXCEPT TANDEMS AND RECUMBENTS)
- No problem handling disc brakes, thru axles or funky suspensions
- Lifetime warranty
- MSRP: $159
Yakima FrontLoader Bike Rack Review
Lets talk installation first. The Frontloader comes in the box ready to install. There’s no searching for packets of screws or adapters… all you have is attached and ready for use. Simply drop the rack on your car, adjust the rear clamp location and tighten. It took me about 5 minutes to install without reading a lick of the instructions — it’s that easy.
I like how it mounts to the Thule square crossbars on my Subaru Outback just as well as it mounts to the factory crossbars on our Honda Odyssey. In the past, you had to search for all kinds of factory-specific mounts and such, but the FrontLoader pretty much removes that from the equation.
So, the ease-of-installation really makes this rack shine, now lets move onto function. For reference, I’ve been comparing this rack head-on with its predecessor, the King Cobra. I love the King Cobra rack and have found it to be durable and easy-to-use over the years. It has set a high benchmark as my favorite upright bike rack, but it doesn’t mount to factory racks out-of-the-box (it’s only real flaw). The Yakima FrontLoader functions similarly to the King Cobra, but I’ve found it a little more difficult to use in some respects.
The older-style trays of the King Cobra do a better job of guiding the rear wheel along as you move the bike forward and into place on the rack. With the FrontLoader, I found the rear wheel had a tendency to fall off the tray, thus getting the front-end a bit out of whack. Additionally, the front wheel arms don’t automatically raise to clamp the wheel on the FrontLoader as they do on the King Cobra. This results in an awkward two-handed install where you have to hold the bike in place with one hand while frantically tightening the knob with the other. Once done, the bike stays up for further tightening.
The front wheel is clamped down securely and holds the bike in place well, though not as deeply as the King Cobra. For my fleet of 29ers, I was able to confidently carry them without worry.
As far as security goes, the built-in locks both secure the rack to the vehicle and the bike to the rack. The cable lock wraps around the bike’s downtube for a bit of extra deterrence. I was left a bit wondering as the stowage of the cable lock seems like an afterthought compared to the King Cobra.
- Installs on factory, round or square crossbars
- Super-easy 5-minute installation
- Streamlined looks when not in use
- Works with most bikes on the market
- Bike placement can be an awkward, two-handed affair
- Cable lock stowage seems an afterthought
- You have to use two lock cores to secure it
Bottom Line: Yakima FrontLoader
Though I did have a number of gripes with this rack, it performs well and attaches to any style of crossbars (a huge plus). You do have to fuss a bit with the bike to get it installed properly, but in the end, you’ll get the hang of it and it should become second-nature. It is too bad that some of the great features of the King Cobra didn’t carry over, but it’s still a great upright bike rack.
Buy Now: Find at CompetitiveCyclist.com
The review doesn’t exactly scream “buy now” for this rack. Got another rack of this type that you’d recommend more?
I really dig the older King Cobra. If you can find one, that’s what I recommend. The Thule Sidearm is nice too, but much more difficult to attach to your vehicle than anything Yakima produces. Looks like REI has it on sale for $114 right now:
Yakima King Cobra Closeout at REI
It only works on square or round bars out of the box though. If you want to mount to a factory rack then the Frontloader is the best option out there.