Yakima ForkLift Review
Cons: Lock cores not included, adapter need for 15 and 20mm thru axles
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Yakima ForkLift is a roof mount rack that uses a 9mm quick release lever to hold bikes by the front fork. It will securely hold any bike with a 9mm quick release fork and can manage other fork standards with the addition of adapters. It has the ability to clamp to any crossbar, including round, square and factory crossbars.
Ease of Everyday Use
We found the ForLift to be relatively easy to use; the quick release clamp is easy to adjust to accommodate dropouts of varying thickness, and the rear wheel strap is easy to tighten. Being a fork mount rack, the front wheel of the bicycle must be removed in order to transport the bike, which can be an inconvenience. Other roof racks we tested do not require removal of the front wheel, but the bike must be lifted much higher to load. Once fork dropouts are resting on the ForkLift's quick release skewer, the bike can be steadied with one hand while the clamp is adjusted to achieve a snug fit.
By design, all roof racks need more lifting and awkward movement than a trunk or hitch mount rack. Your vehicle's roof height, your height, and the weight of the bikes you are loading all factor in when considering the ergonomic challenges of a roof rack.
Ease of Removal and Storage
The crossbar clamps have three available settings. The top setting is used for round and square bars, and the lower two settings accommodate factory crossbars. T-bolts with hand-tightened knobs pass through the rack and are tightened by hand until snug. A bit of experimentation may be necessary to pick the optimal clamp position for factory crossbars, but we were able to get a good fit on all vehicles we tested it with. The skewer slides through the rack, and the clamp lever is threaded on. The clamp lever can be oriented to the left or the right, allowing you to mount the rack on either side of your vehicle and no tools are required to install or remove the ForkLift. While we felt that installation was relatively painless, we would not want to take this rack on and off our vehicle on a daily basis.
If your vehicle has a rear hatch that swings up, make sure that the hatch will not hit the back end of the rack when opened. If it does, then you will either need to move your crossbars forward or reverse the orientation of the rack so that the bicycles face toward the rear of the vehicle.
This model receives high scores for versatility due to a crossbar clamp design that is compatible with round, square and almost any factory crossbars. This convenient feature allows the rack to be used on multiple different vehicles and eliminates the need to purchase a tower and crossbar system if your vehicle is equipped with factory crossbars.
Any bicycle with standard 9mm quick-release dropouts can be securely transported on the ForkLift. The rapid-release clamp sits higher above the tray than on other roof-mount racks, allowing clearance for disc brake calipers. Other racks we tested have quick releases that sit lower and rely on a cutout in the tray for disc brake calipers. Disc caliper clearance was once of concern only to mountain bikers, but with many road and gravel bikes beginning to come equipped with disc brakes, it has become an important consideration for all riders. We had no issues with fork or disc caliper clearance with this competitor, despite clearance being very tight with some bikes.
Our one complaint is the incompatibility with 12, 15, and 20mm thru-axle forks. Quick-release forks of 9mm are quickly becoming obsolete in the bike world, and thru-axles are present on most styles of high-end bikes. This rack can be outfitted with a 12mm, 15mm, or 20mm Fork Adaptor from Yakima, but this requires an additional purchase. While they may be slightly more difficult to load, roof mount racks that don't require wheel removal, like the RockyMounts BrassKnuckles, are impressively versatile since they clamp the bike by the front wheel.
Ease of Assembly
Assembly is quick and straightforward with the ForkLift, as the directions are clear and concise. Mounting the rack to a vehicle is also simple. It arrives mostly assembled, and putting it in service is a matter of attaching it to your crossbars.
Our test rack did not come with lock cores, but they are available for the ForkLift, and when installed, the rack is quite secure. Removing the bike from a locked fork mount requires power tools or a lot of time. The rear wheel is not locked and vulnerable to theft, but this is mitigated with a cable lock. The rack can be locked to the vehicle when not in use by locking the quick release. If you plan to use 15mm or 20mm through axle adaptors, the rapid locking release will not secure your bike. The only way to secure a bike when using adapters is with a cable lock.
This model suffered no durability issues during our testing. The tray is stiff and sturdy and does not seem to flex, even with bikes mounted in heavy crosswinds. The quick-release clamp and skewer did require a little grease following exposure to salt and sand spray from snowy winter roads and did not score as high in durability as the Kuat Trio due to its many plastic components, including the crossbar clamps. With sun exposure and time, plastic loses strength and becomes brittle. We like the lack of moving parts and complicated clamping mechanisms employed by other tested racks. The simpler the better when it comes to long-term durability.
If you plan to use factory crossbars, this model is a decent value. There are other less expensive fork mount roof racks, but with the ForkLift you get the added versatility of being able to use it with factory crossbars. We would like to see lock cores included for this price, but the ForkLift is a refined product and offers crossbar versatility that many of its competitors cannot match.
The Yakima ForkLift offers incredible versatility. With the ability to clamp to any crossbar, is unlikely to become obsolete with the purchase of a new vehicle. It's secure, stable and easy to install. If you are looking for a fork mount roof rack to complement your vehicle with factory-equipped crossbars we think this is a good option to consider, although it may require the additional purchase of adapters to work with many modern thru-axle equipped bikes.
— Curtis Smith