They were words emblazoned on the box of the Yakima Front Loader, greeting me with a promise and raising my expectation. Not bad for company to garner that reaction from their packaging design.
Yakima are a premium car rack and carrier system that have been well established in the US and Canada for many years. Founded by outdoor enthusiasts, their products reflect a careful design aesthetic that is reflective of designers who understand the problem and intricacies of their the end users, whether they are mountain bikers, road riders, skiers or snowboarders.
Having been given the opportunity to try out the Front Loader bike rack system, I was very interested to see how these racks would stack up against my 6 year old Thule Pro Ride’s
From supplying my details to receiving the goods, it was an extremely quick turnaround of 2 days. The packaging of the product immediately instils a confidence, that this company takes their design seriously and sees the importance of how design and clever communication (packaging & instructions) can add significant value to their brand and product offerings. Yakima uses humour in their communication, underlining that while they take their design seriously, they certainly don’t take themselves too seriously, which is refreshing.
The layout and logical steps to the instructions could not have been easier. After a quick glance of the first few pages, I was able to fit the Front Loader on my existing Thule cross bars in less than 5 minutes.
If you have existing cross bars the Yakima Front Loader would have to be one of the easier fitment and clamp systems. I found the Yakima much easier to fit than the Thule Pro Ride’s. As the Thule rack and bars use a track system, the ability to remove or slide along (required when fitting a third rack to a current two rack setup) along the track of the bar, can be at times difficult and cumbersome. The clamping setup on the Front Loader is certainly less painful to fit than the Thule system.
As the Front Loader would be a third rack on my current 2 rack setup, I decided to mount this in the middle, and flipping the direction of the rack so that the front of the bike faced the back of the car.
I also found that due to my car’s factory setting for the cross bar mounts of the existing Thule racks, I could only mount the Front Loader backwards, to avoid the rack from hitting the boot door, when it was open. This seemed to be the only minor flaw when mounting the rack. A quick fix is to remove the Yakima branded end cap, allowing enough clearance between the rack & opened boot door. This was only an issue when using the factory settings of the roof rack on a Subaru Liberty/Legacy. If your cross bars have a factory setting, it may be worth a quick check to ensure there is clearance.
For those with a Subaru Outback/Liberty/Legacy please see this forum post on the issue.
Another quick glance of the instructions and I was able to easily fit the bike into position, which uses the rolling motion of the bike onto the wheel clamp and then captures the bike in position. A quick turn of the clamp had the bike secure.
The bike remained secure based on a 1 ½ hour journey, with general bike movement on par with the Thule pro-rides. This was observed through the sun roof.
With the bikes removed the Front Loader folded down flat despite the sizeable wheel clamp mechanism. While not as low profile as the Pro Ride, they stored easily and caused little issue. The additional advantage of the High Rollers is that they are very easy to remove and fit, should you want to store for everyday driving.
The Yakima Front Loader racks are premium priced. The below gives you an idea of the RRP/MSRP, although a quick search will get you online savings.
Weight: 5.9Kg (13lbs)
Wheel Size: 20” through to 29”
Dimensions: L 142 cm (56″) X W 17.8 cm (7″) X H 19.1 cm (7.5″)
– Easy clamp mechanism for a variety of cross bars
– Solid Construction
– Clever Design
– Easy to fit
– Lifetime Warranty
– Does not fit factory settings on Subaru Outback/Liberty – Wheel bar hits boot door when rack is facing forward. (May not be an issue with other cars)
– Lock cores & keys are an optional accessory
If my car did not have factory set sections in the roof rails for the cross bar anchor points, then these racks would be ideal. I was really impressed with the design of the racks, the ease of putting the racks on existing, non-Yakima crossbars and the solid nature of their construction. The price is reasonable however having to pay additional funds for lock and keys should really be standard when laying out this much coin on premium bike racks. If your car does not have factory settings then the length and positioning can be adjust avoiding any issue with the rack hitting the rear boot door.
When comparing with the Thule Pro Rides, the Yakima’s are far easier to adjust and remove and felt more solid in the racks construction. The main difference in the system is that the Thule model clamps to the frame and straps over the wheel & rim to hold in place versus wheel only clamping system with the Yakima FrontLoader.
If you are in the market for a new bike rack setup for your vehicle, I would recommend Yakima to be in the top 2 brands for consideration.
The Ride Guide tested and reviewed the Yakima Front Loader courtesy of Yakima Australia.