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Yakima Front Loader Review

A favorite for sedans and other vehicles with low roof heights
Yakima Front Loader
Photo: www.yakima.com
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Price:  $219 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  No front wheel removal, holds any axle type, easy install
Cons:  No locks included, difficult to load, not fat bike compatible
Manufacturer:   Yakima
By Curtis Smith ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 31, 2017
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The Yakima FrontLoader is a rooftop bike model that does not require the removal of the front wheel. It holds bikes in the same manner as most hitch mount bike racks and only makes contact with the wheels and tires of a bike - which protects your expensive ride from potential damage. The design makes it capable of carrying almost any bike, regardless of axle standard. The main downside of the design is a relatively higher loading height compared to fork mount racks.

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Yakima Front Loader
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Price $219 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
74
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Star Rating
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Pros No front wheel removal, holds any axle type, easy installReasonably priced, highly versatile, solid construction, user-friendly tilt release, comes with locksSecure hold, easy rack installation/removal, no bike frame contactVery secure hold, no frame or fork contactVery inexpensive, no assembly required, lightweight, folds small for storage
Cons No locks included, difficult to load, not fat bike compatibleSits slightly closer to vehicle than some, some assembly requiredWorks best on lower vehicles, harder to load bike, lock cores not included for integrated lockDesign seems a little over-complicated, limited to vehicles with low roof height, you have to lift bike to height of roof to loadNot adjustable, support arms may not work with all frame shapes/styles, no security features
Bottom Line A favorite for sedans and other vehicles with low roof heightsA versatile hitch-mount rack that provides a high price to performance ratioA quality roof-mount bike rack that is particularly easy to install and remove and works best with lower vehicles and lighter-weight bikesA roof-mount rack with an exceptionally sturdy and secure hold of your bicycle with no frame contactA very affordable, bare-bones trunk rack for the infrequent rack user on a tight budget
Rating Categories Yakima Front Loader RockyMounts MonoRail Yakima HighRoad Thule UpRide Allen Deluxe 2-Bike...
Ease Of EveryDay Use (20%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Ease Of Removal And Storage (20%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Versatility (20%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
Security (20%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
2.0
Ease Of Assembly (10%)
9.0
6.0
10.0
10.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Yakima Front Loader RockyMounts MonoRail Yakima HighRoad Thule UpRide Allen Deluxe 2-Bike...
Style Roof Hitch (tray) Roof Roof Trunk
Bike Capacity 1 2 1 1 2
Lock? Yes, sold separately Yes Available but not included Available but not included No
Weight 13 lbs 44 lbs 2 oz 18 lbs 17 lbs 7 lbs 9 oz
Other Sizes Available? No Yes, 1.25" reciever, single bike add-on sold separately No No Yes, 3 and 4 bike versions
Cross Bar Compatibility Fits Yakima round, square, factory or aerodynamic crossbars N/A T-slot compatibility with additional SmarT-Slot Kit Round, Square, Aero, Most Factory N/A

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Yakima FrontLoader is a versatile rack, but is limited to tires...
The Yakima FrontLoader is a versatile rack, but is limited to tires of 3.25".
Photo: Curtis Smith

Ease of Everyday Use


The FrontLoader holds bikes by making contact with the front tire, eliminating the need to remove the front wheel. Front-wheel removal is required when using fork mount racks like the Kuat Trio. Not having to remove and store the front wheel enhances ease of use, but the drawback to the design is the need to lift bikes higher to get them into the rack.

For sedans and other vehicles with low roof heights, the FrontLoader is easier to use than a fork mount rack because the front wheel stays on. When it comes to vehicles with higher roofs such as SUV's and wagons it can be complicated to lift a bike high enough while maintaining the proper vertical angle required to get a bike into the rack like the FrontLoader. The weight of the bike you'll be using is also a consideration, as it is much easier to lift a 15lb road bike above your head than a 40 lb downhill bike.

If you switch between bikes and wheel sizes regularly, you'll need to adjust the front wheel cradle to fit. This is relatively straightforward but adds a step to the process. With the front wheel cradle folded up, place the bike up on the tray and push it forward into the wheel tray. Raise the back wheel cradle and snug up the front wheel using the red adjustment knob. Secure the rear wheel with the ratchet strap and you're ready to roll. Reverse the steps to remove the bike.

The large red knob on the Yakima FrontLoader is used to apply...
The large red knob on the Yakima FrontLoader is used to apply tension to the front wheel which secures the bike for transport.
Photo: Curtis Smith

Ease of Removal and Storage


The FrontLoader has an excellent clamp system and does not require tools for installation. The rack attaches to almost any type of crossbar. A large hand knob on the front end of the rack is turned which draws the front clamp up snugly around the crossbar. This system is much easier to use than the U-Bolt set up on the Kuat Trio, or the strap clamps on the RockyMounts BrassKnuckles. The rear crossbar clamp is also engaged by turning an easy-to-access hand knob. The FrontLoader will eat up marginally more space stored in your garage, and it is slightly heavier than the fork mount rack options we tested.

The hand knob on the Yakima FrontLoader makes for easy removal and...
The hand knob on the Yakima FrontLoader makes for easy removal and installation.
Photo: Curtis Smith

Versatility


The FrontLoader is somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to versatility. On the one hand, it will mount on almost any type of crossbar which is a definite positive. However, it is not well suited to high roof vehicles due to the difficulty involved with loading a bike with the front wheel on. The design is not affected by axle type which means most bikes will fit. It's only limited by tire size. The front tire clamps cannot handle tires over 3" in width. This means that the FrontLoader is not compatible with fat bikes and some plus bikes with larger tires.

The Yakima Front Loader can accommodate a wide range of wheel and...
The Yakima Front Loader can accommodate a wide range of wheel and tire sizes by adjusting the position of the front wheel clamp hoop.
Photo: Curtis Smith

Ease of Assembly


The FrontLoader is shipped fully assembled. The only setup involved is placing the rack on your roof for attachment to the crossbars. The model does not come with lock cores installed so if you choose to use the security system you will need to install Yakima lock cores which are a one-time job that takes about 5 minutes.

Security


As mentioned above the FrontLoader doesn't come with lock cores. To secure the rack and make the included cable lock functional you will need to purchase lock cores from Yakima. Two cores are required, one for the front crossbar clamp which secures the rack to your vehicle, and one for the cable lock that extends from the lower wheel clamp bar. We like the cable lock system, but the cable is not that long so it can't be used to loop through wheels like the cable on the Kuat Trio.

The Yakima FrontLoader comes with cables and provisions to lock the...
The Yakima FrontLoader comes with cables and provisions to lock the rack to your vehicle but the locking cores are sold separately.
Photo: Curtis Smith

Durability


The FrontLoader is a well-designed and sturdy rack, and we didn't have any durability issues during testing. It does have a lot of plastic components including the crossbar clamping mechanism, so we would not expect it to hold up to abuse as well as some other racks we tested. The other disadvantage of the FrontLoader compared to fork-mount racks is the amount of moving parts that are prone to wear over time.

Value


We feel that the FrontLoader is a good value. It is a quality rack with a sturdy hold that is relatively user-friendly and can fit a variety of bikes.

Conclusion


The FrontLoader is the evolution of a long line of roof racks from Yakima. The design is tried and proven and works very well if you don't have to lift your bike too far to get to the rack. Before racks like the Kuat Trio coming to market, the wheel on design was one of the only options for bikes with thru axle forks. Consumers now have far more options, but for many not having to remove and store the front wheel during transport is worth the strenuous task of getting a bike into a rack like the FrontLoader.

Curtis Smith