Hands-on Gear Review

Yakima ForkLift Review

The Yakima ForkLift is a fork mount roof rack that excels at transporting bikes with standard quick release forks.
Yakima ForkLift
By: Curtis Smith ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 31, 2017
Price:  $169 List  |  $129.00 at Amazon - 24% Off
Pros:  Secure, stable in wind, versatile, will clamp to any type of crossbar, easy to assemble
Cons:  Lock cores not included, will not hold bikes with 15mm or 20mm through axles without purchasing adapter
Manufacturer:   Yakima
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 23
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 7
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 20% 7
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 8
  • Security - 20% 9
  • Durability - 10% 6
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Our Verdict

The Yakima ForkLift is a high-quality fork mount roof rack, with versatility and ease of use setting it apart from other roof racks in the review. The ForkLift comes equipped with crossbar clamps that securely clamp to any cross bar: round, square or factory bars. With a 40lb weight capacity, the ForkLift transports most bikes by securely clamping the 9mm quick release fork. No contact is made with the frame, keeping your bike in perfect condition no matter the road conditions. An easily adjustable quick release clamp makes loading and unloading a breeze.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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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 adaptors. It has the unique ability to clamp to any crossbar, including round, square and factory crossbars.

Performance Comparison


Yakima ForkLift on factory crossbars with aftermarket 15mm through axle adaptor.
Yakima ForkLift on factory crossbars with aftermarket 15mm through axle adaptor.

Ease of Everyday Use


This bike racks earned high marks and excelled in this category. We found it 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 transport the bike, which can be an inconvenience. Other roof racks we tested such as the Yakima High Roller 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.

This particular model did not receive as high a score for ergonomics as our Editors' Choice, the Thule T2 Pro XT, primarily because loading requires bikes to be lifted above the level of your vehicle's roof. 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 will be loading all factor in when considering the ergonomic challenges of a roof rack.

Ease of Removal and Storage


The cross bar clamps have three available settings; the top setting is used for round and square bars, and the lower two settings accommodate factory cross bars. 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 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.

The tray of the Yakima ForkLift can make contact with your rear hatch if your crossbars are mounted too far back.
The tray of the Yakima ForkLift can make contact with your rear hatch if your crossbars are mounted too far back.

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 cross bars forward or reverse the orientation of the rack so that the bicycles face toward the rear of the vehicle.

Versatility


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.

Yakima ForkLift installed on Yakima round crossbars.
Yakima ForkLift installed on Yakima round 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 competitors we tested, such as the RockyMounts JetLine, 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 bikes and cyclocross 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.

Disc brake clearance can be tight on the Yakima ForkLift  but a higher clearance fork clamp still accommodates most bikes.
Disc brake clearance can be tight on the Yakima ForkLift, but a higher clearance fork clamp still accommodates most bikes.

Our one complaint is the incompatibility with 15mm and 20mm through axle forks. Quick release forks of 9mm are quickly becoming obsolete in the mountain bike world, and through axles are even popping up on cyclocross bikes. This rack can be outfitted with a 15mm or 20mm Fork Adaptor from Yakima, but this requires an additional purchase.

Ease of Assembly


Assembly is quick and straightforward with this contender, as the directions are clear and concise. Mounting the rack to a vehicle is also simple. The model arrived mostly assembled, and putting it in service is a matter of attaching it to your cross bars.

Security


Our test rack did not come with lock cores, but they are available for the ForkLift, and when installed, the rack is quite secure, as fork mount racks are hard to beat from a security standpoint. 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.

Durability


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 NV 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.

Best Application


This rack is well suited to vehicles with low roof heights. We recommend it for any bike that has a standard 9mm quick release front fork. This rack also has the advantage of not using your frame as an attachment point, keeping your bike in pristine condition. If you have heavy bikes or bikes that utilize 15mm or 20mm through axles, take a look at our Editors' Choice Thule T2 Pro or the Kuat NV. The ForkLift is capable of transporting 15mm or 20mm through axle equipped bikes with the addition of adaptors, but it loses its security features and requires cable locks.

Value


At $169, if you plan to use factory crossbars, this model is a good value. There are other less expensive fork mount roof racks, such as our Best Buy award winner, the RockyMounts Pitch Fork, 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 versatility that many of its competitors cannot match.

Conclusion


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 is secure, stable and easy to install. If you are looking for a fork mount roof rack to complement your vehicle with factory equipped crossbars, look no further.

Curtis Smith

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Most recent review: August 31, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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Rating Distribution
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5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
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