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  1. #1
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    Roof Rack mounting forward vs. backward

    I'm about to install a new roof rack and I'm wondering; what are the advantages to mounting your bike facing forward vs. mounting it facing backwards. What do you guys think?

  2. #2
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    It just depends on which end you want to run into your garage with.
    "its not how slack your head angle is, its how you ride the bike"

  3. #3
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    Forward is what you see most often, so it must be the best for the front range.

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    I have one facing each direction...because of space issues, they have to be close together bc my ski rack is also up there, that way the handlebars don't interfere w. each other.

    really all depends on as someone said, which end you want to hit the garage/carport with, I find the front is better bc my rear wheel is behind the rear crossbar, so the tray bends before my bike does. Also depends on which side of the bike you want to clean dead bugs off of more.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by giantsaam

    It just depends on which end you want to run into your garage with.

    Ha ha!

    I run backward because it clears my Subaru's lift gate, but on a sedan that wouldn't matter.

    What did matter is that I previously owned Yakima Cobras, which hold the bike by the front wheel. The Cobra has a problem with the tightening knob becoming loose on longer drives, but this was less worrisome to me with the racks / bikes facing backward.
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  6. #6
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    2 door Blazer requires that they go on backward. Forward didn't work and I'm not too concerned about it.

  7. #7
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    I'm wondering which way would create less drag too.

  8. #8
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    Forward!

    If you have a choice, run it facing forward. Here is why.

    I had a 2002 WRX wagon, and because of clearance with the tailgate, I had to run the rack backward. One day I went for a ride on my road bike, and when I got done I was a little wasted and spacey, and I clamped the fork in, but forgot to strap the rear wheel into the tray. I got on the highway, and when I hit about 65mph, the wind lifted the rear wheel out of the tray, and the bike pivoted back around the front axle clamp so hard that it came out of the rack altogether. Imagine my surprise when I heard a big bang, and looked in my rearview to see my $3000 road bike flipping down US36. Ouch.

    The bike ended up right in between lanes. Traffic somehow avoided it for the 2-3 minutes it took for there to be a gap big enough for me to retrieve it. I just tossed it in the back of the car, thinking it was toast. Believe it or not, after replacing the rear wheel, one pedal, and one crankarm, I am still riding the bike....Ti is tough stuff!

    Bottom line, if you make the mistake I did, and you are facing forward, the bike might pop out of the tray and dance on your roof a bit, but it will probably stay upright and safe. Put it backward, and you may get a different story. Of course, you hope you always remember to strap the wheel in, but given the number of people who tear bikes off their roofs driving into garages, you are better off minimizing the possibilities.

    YMMV.

  9. #9
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    With one bike on top, I usually run it backward, especially on longer road trips. This way I have to clean fewer bugs off the fork, brake lever, and bars/grips. In order to maximize the number of bikes I can fit up there, I alternate forward and backward.

  10. #10
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    I'll tell you what certain guys will think!
    I agree look out for running it backwards due to physics but there is always a hidden meaning.Like earring in the right ear kind of meaning if one chooses the posterior mounting method, you might find unwanted company following you to the trailhead. That is of course unless you like that kind of thing.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pbbullpup
    I'm wondering which way would create less drag too.
    Seriously? Any difference in drag is going to be so insignificant that you and your fuel economy will never be able to detect it. If you are concerned about fuel economy, look into mounting the bikes behind the car, not on the roof.
    A trail that’s too difficult wouldn’t exist because it’d never be used. But, trails can exist that’re too difficult for you.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by honkinunit
    If you have a choice, run it facing forward. Here is why.

    I had a 2002 WRX wagon, and because of clearance with the tailgate, I had to run the rack backward. One day I went for a ride on my road bike, and when I got done I was a little wasted and spacey, and I clamped the fork in, but forgot to strap the rear wheel into the tray. I got on the highway, and when I hit about 65mph, the wind lifted the rear wheel out of the tray, and the bike pivoted back around the front axle clamp so hard that it came out of the rack altogether. Imagine my surprise when I heard a big bang, and looked in my rearview to see my $3000 road bike flipping down US36. Ouch.

    The bike ended up right in between lanes. Traffic somehow avoided it for the 2-3 minutes it took for there to be a gap big enough for me to retrieve it. I just tossed it in the back of the car, thinking it was toast. Believe it or not, after replacing the rear wheel, one pedal, and one crankarm, I am still riding the bike....Ti is tough stuff!

    Bottom line, if you make the mistake I did, and you are facing forward, the bike might pop out of the tray and dance on your roof a bit, but it will probably stay upright and safe. Put it backward, and you may get a different story. Of course, you hope you always remember to strap the wheel in, but given the number of people who tear bikes off their roofs driving into garages, you are better off minimizing the possibilities.

    YMMV.
    I run two way on the outside of my WRX wagon (outside of the 'feet') when my ski rack isn't on, they are far enough to the side that the liftgate can clear them.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry P. Nice
    I'll tell you what certain guys will think!
    I agree look out for running it backwards due to physics but there is always a hidden meaning.Like earring in the right ear kind of meaning if one chooses the posterior mounting method, you might find unwanted company following you to the trailhead. That is of course unless you like that kind of thing.

    Wow,

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickle
    Seriously? Any difference in drag is going to be so insignificant that you and your fuel economy will never be able to detect it. If you are concerned about fuel economy, look into mounting the bikes behind the car, not on the roof.
    Not so. My car went from ~22mpg to close to 24mpg on the Moab outings with the bikes facing backwards vs forwards on the Sportworks Bob Rachet rack (T2 prececessor). The added benefit of not having insects cake up the stanchions was an added bonus.

    I then went with a hitch and I get right around 30mpg; my bikes started getting really dirty, though, on rainy/snowy drives; that is a bit of a PITA as I have to cover up the critical components on those occasions; however, I now typically take the wheels off and put the bikes inside for the drives out and back.

    _MK

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK_
    Not so. My car went from ~22mpg to close to 24mpg on the Moab outings with the bikes facing backwards vs forwards on the Sportworks Bob Rachet rack (T2 prececessor).
    There are a lot of factors that contribute to fuel economy and I doubt any were equal during each of your Moab trips where you observed 22 and 24 mpg. To say that bike orientation is what caused the difference is inaccurate.
    A trail that’s too difficult wouldn’t exist because it’d never be used. But, trails can exist that’re too difficult for you.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickle
    There are a lot of factors that contribute to fuel economy and I doubt any were equal during each of your Moab trips where you observed 22 and 24 mpg. To say that bike orientation is what caused the difference is inaccurate.
    Sure, that's the best singe serving measurement to present, though. I also observed an increase in average fuel economy (the computer holds an average over 1000 miles or so; on top of that when I lived in Boulder and worked in Boulder the only time I touched my car was to drive to the trailhead). The trips above were numerous in each configuration. In each case there were 2 bikes involved.

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  17. #17
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    I prefer to face them forward. That way the downward pointing saddle provides aerodynamic down force which enhances my traction, though at the expense of fuel economy.

    Besides, the bike are less likely to get motion sickness. They're delicate, you know.
    Since when did Need have anything to do with this?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coloradoxj13
    I run two way on the outside of my WRX wagon (outside of the 'feet') when my ski rack isn't on, they are far enough to the side that the liftgate can clear them.
    How many stitches do you have in your scalp from banging your head on the chainrings?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by icegeek
    Besides, the bike are less likely to get motion sickness. They're delicate, you know.
    I bet the bikes get helluva motion sickness on your T2. I almost got motion sickness just looking at them, driving behind you.

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  20. #20
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    So you have a smaller boundary layer created over the roof of your car near the front. With less stuff (bars, fork, dead bugs) sticking out and above that layer (i.e. the bikes are backwards so its only the rear wheel) I can see where it is more efficient to put these items further back along the roof. There they will be encompassed by the larger BL and be exposed to air that is moving slower relative to the car making their presence less of an impact on the fuel economy of the car.

    For that matter, lower your seat and drop that travel adjust fork. Might as well take the bars off for the duration of the trip. Crap gas costs money, why even go? Sell your bike on craigslist, take the money and roll around on it in your living room.
    You have just been mentally Rick Roll'd. Yup you're thinking about it right now aren't you? Don't fight it.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ithnu
    Crap gas costs money, why even go? Sell your bike on craigslist, take the money and roll around on it in your living room.
    Cost is not always the driving factor, though.

    _MK

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK_
    Cost is not always the driving factor, though.

    _MK
    Yeah, you can roll around on 1s just as easy as 20s. But it loses that bling factor a bit doesn't it?
    You have just been mentally Rick Roll'd. Yup you're thinking about it right now aren't you? Don't fight it.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ithnu
    Yeah, you can roll around on 1s just as easy as 20s. But it loses that bling factor a bit doesn't it?
    You lost me there.

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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ithnu
    Yeah, you can roll around on 1s just as easy as 20s. But it loses that bling factor a bit doesn't it?
    A trail that’s too difficult wouldn’t exist because it’d never be used. But, trails can exist that’re too difficult for you.

  25. #25
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    Thank you 50% of a dime, you get me; (tear) you really do.
    You have just been mentally Rick Roll'd. Yup you're thinking about it right now aren't you? Don't fight it.

  26. #26
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    I run them both ways. I have a Saab and have 4 uprights (two forward and two backward). Fork mount's are useless now-a-days.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by IndecentExposure
    I run them both ways. I have a Saab and have 4 uprights (two forward and two backward). Fork mount's are useless now-a-days.
    Well your problem is that you have a Saab.
    You have just been mentally Rick Roll'd. Yup you're thinking about it right now aren't you? Don't fight it.

  28. #28
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    My Maverick fork guards are not happy if they are backwards driving 80mph, or worse 80mph with a 30mph headwind. They get a little bendy.
    Kona Wo for Fat Biking, Ibis HD3 for Trail Shredding, Merckx Road bike for collecting dust

  29. #29
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    It really depends if you have the whole bike up there. Or the front tire is off.

    Because it is looks dumb if the whole bike is up there :P

  30. #30
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    I'm pretty short, and have a Suzuki SX4, a sort of "mini-suv" (crossover). I just mounted thule bars and a rocky mnt tray on my car. I'm surprised at how much of a PITA it is to get my bike on and off the roof rack. I think if I'd thought more carefully about my height and the SX4's higher-than-a-car profile, I wouldn't have gotten it. Probably would've just stuck with strapping it on the back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colo Springs E

    ..I think if I'd thought more carefully about my height and the SX4's higher-than-a-car profile, I wouldn't have gotten it. Probably would've just stuck with strapping it on the back.
    ...or, in keeping with the OP's original question, "sideways."
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    Pros for backwards--- keeps rocks from chipping stanchions and from bugs all over the fork/seals/control components.

    BEWARE though-- with the Yak Cobra-- backwards will push the bike against the system which could lessen tension on the bolt that holds the front tire in-- By putting the bike fowards with the Cobra, the pressure will pull the bike backwards and keep tension on the bolt. I did actually have the red bolt loosen up on me and fall off (because I didn't have the snap ring)-- though the bike was fine and I never realized it until I hit the parking lot.

    Also with the Cobra rack-- backwards tends to bounce the bike around as wind pushes against the front locking system and the system rebounds back. The T2/sportrack's however I like better backwards.

    Try it both out- and if you have a sunroof check out whats going on up there. I just try to have the bikes in a configuration that results in the least amount of movement.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ithnu
    Well your problem is that you have a Saab.

    That is what is so right about his post. SAAB good, uprights lame.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by IndecentExposure
    I run them both ways. I have a Saab and have 4 uprights (two forward and two backward). Fork mount's are useless now-a-days.
    Hi IE... what do you mean by this? (fork mounts useless)

    Not picking a fight, just curious?

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colo Springs E
    Hi IE... what do you mean by this? (fork mounts useless)

    Not picking a fight, just curious?
    I have had Fork mounts for ever... until I bought my first 20mm thru axle in 2002. The issue was the change-out of the Fork-up when I'm riding locally. So I bought a Thule big mouth and a Yakima Cobra. The cobra broke and was too unstable.

    I ended up finding a deal on the big mouths, so I bought a bunch of them a few years back... as we now have 5 new bikes all with 20mm thru axles and travel a bunch both as a family and friends that have similar setups.

    The problem is the fork mounts. The fork mounts require you to stay at least half-handbar length apart. Because the wheel is removed, the handlebars always are hitting against a tire if place in an opposition situation. You may get lucky sometimes and have someone's bike handle bars higher than another when both facing the same direction... but this usually isn't the case.

    The uprights allow you to not only keep the wheel on, but you can place the bikes much closer together. the handle bars now go above the rear tire if placed in opposing fashion... so the only issue left is the pedals banging up each other. My car has 54 inch width thule bars, and I have 4 Big Mouths and 2 fork mounts. I've had 6 bikes on there before, but its common to have 4 easily.

    I do have a car (Saab 9-5) that doesn't have a ton of real-estate on top. I have tried many different configurations and found that 4 uprights in opposing ways works best. I have put 4 DH bikes on the top with 31+ inch handlebars and nothing ever touched. IceGeek, Pau11y, GiantSam, DBabuser, JasonB, and many others on this forum have all witnessed how well they work and how many bikes that car can carry. I do also have two fork mounts stuffed in there for a just in case scenario with Carbon Road bikes (I don't like the jaw clamping on carbon)... which my wife and several other friends own. Hell, even my trials bike will fit on the fork mount while the DH bikes are on top because of the location of the space for the handle bars.

    If you want pictures or want to see the configuration, let me know. As far as stability with the racks, well, lets put that I'm no slouch when it comes to going fast and throwing lots of side forces when making a trek to Keystone on Loveland pass.

    The rack does affect the gas mileage though. With a fairing, I get 3-4 mpg less than i would without it.


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  36. #36
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    In Addition to the uprights, you don't have to worry about where to stuff your front wheel!

    Fork mounts are sturdy, I won't debate that. But although the uprights appear to be looser, I've never had one snap or come apart!!! I've seen this with fork mounts coming undone! (Lock them so they don't vibrate loose).
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  37. #37
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    I found this shot of my bikes on the car. Note that there's a space left open that normally has another upright rack. I move these racks between the car and my pop-up camper depending on how many bikes we're taking on family outings (My pop-up has 6'6" racks and can carry up to 10 bikes (When we go to Moab, I take: VPFree, Nomad, Trials Bike, DJ bike, Wife's Nomad, Wife's Blur, and my kids' 2 bikes. Sometimes we take bikes for friends.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Roof Rack mounting forward vs. backward-img_0535-small.jpg  

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    I've ran the Bob Ratchets and Thule sidearms for around 4 years now and they both work great. I have three mounts on my Altima with the middle one, facing backwards, merely to be able to fit as three handlebars wide won't fit on the roof all facing forwards. Another thing to keep in mind is that lovely "boulders" that are dropped on the ground by CDOT for traction can put some mean nicks in your bike on the roof, and is the reason why we replace windshields so often in Colorado. So get some bras or something to cover those stanctions. I'm not a physics major but I think that the hitchmount racks have a fuel efficiency issue also as they disturb the "wake" behind the car which will create more drag. I am sure its not as bad as a roof rack, but still has a significant effect.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinkerjuarez
    I'm not a physics major but I think that the hitchmount racks have a fuel efficiency issue also as they disturb the "wake" behind the car which will create more drag. I am sure its not as bad as a roof rack, but still has a significant effect.
    It probably depends on the shape of the car. A hatch/wagon shows very little effect in my personal experience.

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  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by IndecentExposure
    In Addition to the uprights, you don't have to worry about where to stuff your front wheel!

    Fork mounts are sturdy, I won't debate that. But although the uprights appear to be looser, I've never had one snap or come apart!!! I've seen this with fork mounts coming undone! (Lock them so they don't vibrate loose).

    Good point about the extra wheel taking up space. I have only carried 3 fork mounted mountain bikes, but even if I succeeded in mounting a 4th (I have never attempted this), the extra wheel inside the car may have been too much.

    I will say though, the one example I have of a roof rack failing is of an upright. A friend of mine (not saying names) was driving back home in his new BMW wagon with his bike in a yakima upright. Along the way, both tires began to deflate (goat-heads I think) and when they did, it allowed the bike to roll slightly backward out of the rack. As he negotiated a corner the bike swung down, hung to the rack by the wheel strap, and the handlebar ax-chopped the door. I recall something in the thousands of dollars in repairs.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtn hack
    I will say though, the one example I have of a roof rack failing is of an upright. A friend of mine (not saying names) was driving back home in his new BMW wagon with his bike in a yakima upright. Along the way, both tires began to deflate (goat-heads I think) and when they did, it allowed the bike to roll slightly backward out of the rack. As he negotiated a corner the bike swung down, hung to the rack by the wheel strap, and the handlebar ax-chopped the door. I recall something in the thousands of dollars in repairs.
    The Yakima Cobra sucks. I still have mine for some stupid reason that is broken. You're right though, if it is dependent upon a tire fitting, you're prone to have it come loose.

    The Big Mouths aren't like that. They clamp the down tube, and strap the rim/tires in. I've had tires go flat in-route, and no problems. I've seen that pathetic over design Yakima cluge of a skewer come un-done so many times it makes me ill. I've repaired more dropouts because of that. The Thule is is slightly better, but also vibrates loose if you don't lock it. I've had just about every rack available for the past 20 years, and the Big Mouths, as much of an odd ball they are, are low profile and reliable.
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  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by IndecentExposure

    The Yakima Cobra sucks...
    Agreed. Yak's High Roller takes everything good about the Cobra and none of the bad. A way better implementation of a wheels-on rack, still without touching the frame.
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  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedub.Nate
    Agreed. Yak's High Roller takes everything good about the Cobra and none of the bad. A way better implementation of a wheels-on rack, still without touching the frame.

    So out of curiosity, what happens if the front tire (or both for that matter) goes completely flat?

    It looks like it will be loose, but does it have room to go anywhere?

  44. #44
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    I've seen the rims float a little, but never have I seen the bike come off. The back tire is strapped down, so the bike can really go fore-and-aft.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtn hack

    So out of curiosity, what happens if the front tire (or both for that matter) goes completely flat?

    It looks like it will be loose, but does it have room to go anywhere?
    I had this happen to a front tire when using a Cobra. It sucked. The tensioning knob went slack and loosened completely from normal driving vibrations. The rear wheel strap held the bike in position in the big hoop, but the smaller hoop wasn't doing shit to keep the bike in place.

    Hasn't happened to me with the High Roller. But the way the small hoop works, I don't think it would unscrew itself, so the rim would still be caged between the two hoops. Like IE says, the rear wheel strap should keep it all immobile, though I'm not sure what would happen if both ends went flat.
    speedub.nate
    · MTBR Hiatus UFN ·

  46. #46
    Thread Terrorist
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    The cobra's are crap. I"ll never buy another one. Yakima racks have really gone down hill... even their fork mounted versions are badly designed... its hard to have a random fork on there sometimes because it hits something and won't fit.
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  47. #47
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    FORWARD. I also forgot to do my wheel strap one day and my bike flipped over. Because I have a 20mm the bike stayed on, but wasn't a good time for the bike or car.

  48. #48
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    Seeing as you guys hate your Yakima King Cobras, I'll give you $50 for one that is in good working condition.

  49. #49
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    I need mine repaired... I'm hoping for a warranty. If it get it fixed, I'll sell it to you.
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    Peak Cycles Gravity Team & Bikeparts.com
    Trestle Bike Park

  50. #50
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    cool,let me know

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