With the ever growing popularity of mountain biking comes the growing number of people needing to transport their bikes to the trailhead via their car. And with this growth comes the need for bike racks that can work on various types of vehicles. Even if you have a pickup truck just throwing the bikes in the back may not be the most practical way to transport your bikes.
The Yakima Frontloader can be used as a roof rack or even as a pickup truck bed rack. The Frontloader holds your bike in place by strapping around your rear wheel and cradling your front wheel and locking it into place on the rack. This type of rack does not touch your frame so you don't need to be worried about scratches if you are concerned about your bike's paint job.
The front wheel cradle is adjustable to fit wheels ranging from 20 to 29 inches as well as 700c road wheels. Placing the bike in the rack takes no time at all and all it requires is strapping down the rear wheel and turning the knob on the front wheel cradle until it's tight so the bike doesn't move. Once you get the hang of it you can have your bike locked down and ready to go in about 30 seconds. And the best part is that you don't have to remove your front wheel to load it into the rack.
To use the Frontloader you will need to have a roof rack with built in rails or buy adapters that will allow you to install the required crossbars that go across the roof that the rack mounts to. If you want to do the pickup truck setup you can buy the Bedhead clamp on mounts or the Landing Pads bolt on mounts like we used for our rack. Then you can install the crossbars over the bed of your truck and still have the entire bed open for hauling your gear. And if you want to remove it so you can have the full use of the bed you simply unlock it from the bed mounts and you can remove it all in one piece.
When it comes to keeping your bike and rack safe from theft you have the option of buying lock cores that all use the same key that can be inserted into the rack to lock each piece to each other. This way you can lock the rack mounts to your car, lock the crossbars to the mounts and then lock the racks themselves to the crossbars. From there you can use the built in cable lock to lock your bike to the racks. This cable lock is not super thick so if you are planning on leaving your bikes unattended in a bad neighborhood you may want to use an additional cable lock.
We have tried this rack system on the bed of a truck as well on the roof of a car and it does the job very nicely. As long as your car is not too tall and your bike too heavy it's pretty easy to get the bikes on the rack when using the roof rack setup. If you want to do more than 2 racks on your roof it may be hard to reach the middle rack(s). If you are using the truck bed method then adding additional racks and bikes is pretty simple and you can get away with 3-4 bikes on a compact truck and 5 on a full size truck. If you use really long crossbars you can even put bikes on the outside edge of your truck. Putting a lot of bikes on this way may require you to loosen and turn your bars if you have them all facing the same way. If you stagger some facing backwards be sure that you have clearance for your rear window. And if you have a hatchback and are using the roof method make sure your hatch opens when the bikes are on the rack.
The Frontloader does a good job of keeping the bikes steady over bumps and turns compared to other racks of the same style. We were able to go down windy roads and drive off road with no worries that the bikes were going to come loose or move around too much.
As for pricing this setup can get a little expensive depending on your configuration. The racks will run $150-180 depending on where you get them. The crossbars will cost around $80-90 a pair depending on the length you choose. The Bedhead clamps cost $60 each and the Landing Pads will run you $40 each.