Thinking of a Yakima roof rack instead of a hitch rack on my 2017 Subaru Forester...- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Thinking of a Yakima roof rack instead of a hitch rack on my 2017 Subaru Forester...

    hey all, looking to get into biking but as a beginner i am not sure i am ready to sink a bunch of time, money and energy into installing a hitch and a hitch rack.

    that said, i do think a roof rack makes sense because not only can it be used for bikes (granted, probably not as convenient/good as a hitch rack) but also for surfboards, skis, snowboards, bags, etc.

    any thoughts on Yakima or Thule racks?

    additionally, i am perusing classifieds (Craigslist, FB Marketplace, Pinkbike, here, etc.) to find some cheap, used racks as i know they pop up fairly often.

    the one issue i am having is confirming fit for a 2017 Forester. if i am reading the Yakima website correctly it's either the Railgrab (discontinued) or the Timberline (current). is this correct? are there no other towers that can/could work?

    thanks!

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    While you're deciding on a system, just remember to consider if clearance might ever be an issue for you. I know, seems obvious, but more than one person I know didn't consider that over the years... myself included. The Forester doesn't look to be extremely tall, but there may be a drive through overhang waiting for you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fredcook View Post
    While you're deciding on a system, just remember to consider if clearance might ever be an issue for you. I know, seems obvious, but more than one person I know didn't consider that over the years... myself included. The Forester doesn't look to be extremely tall, but there may be a drive through overhang waiting for you.
    This can be an issue no matter what vehicle you have - I don't fit some places even with my WRX.

    Pro tip - pay attention!


    Personally, I prefer Yakima products. Seem better made in general, and they have the only roof tray I'm aware of that will fit tires from 20" BMX up to 29 x 3" MTB.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    This can be an issue no matter what vehicle you have - I don't fit some places even with my WRX.

    Pro tip - pay attention!


    Personally, I prefer Yakima products. Seem better made in general, and they have the only roof tray I'm aware of that will fit tires from 20" BMX up to 29 x 3" MTB.
    thanks - can you think of any other resources to check other than CL, FB Marketplace, Pinkbike?

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    Quote Originally Posted by therightcoastrider View Post
    thanks - can you think of any other resources to check other than CL, FB Marketplace, Pinkbike?
    Not really. Personally, at least as far as the towers, that's something I go with buying new.
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  6. #6
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    Having a roof rack and now a hitch mount tray system....I'll stop riding bikes before I ever go back to a roof rack. No way in hell.

    That said...when I had my roof rack...other than the total PITA of putting bikes up on the roof of my car...I was happy with my Yakima bars and towers and Front Loader trays. I had an old tray system that used clamps that clamped to the downtube. One broke and dropped my bike on the roof of my brand new car (not even made the 1st payment yet) and dented to roof. Contacted Yakima and they replaced both trays with the new Front Loaders and offered to pay for the damage to my roof. Can't get better service than that. And I was the second owner of the trays...not even the original owner. Now I have a Thule T2 XT and I really like it a lot and it's WAY WAY WAY better than my roof system. And I used to be a roof rack die hard.

    I haven't used Thule's customer service yet but I hear it's good. Take all that for what it's worth.
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  7. #7
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    For the bike rack itself, Amazon and REI currently have this excellent Yakima HighRoad on sale for $199:
    https://www.amazon.com/Yakima-Highro...po_sbs_200_t_0

    I have it and love it. FYI, Amazon prices this product based on REI's price, and the REI (and thus Amazon) price goes back up to like $250 in a few days.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
    Having a roof rack and now a hitch mount tray system....I'll stop riding bikes before I ever go back to a roof rack. No way in hell.
    Never had anybody back into my bikes when they were on the roof.

    I actually would've went with a hitch rack for my WRX, but installation would've been a major PIA. Have to take rear of the car apart, drop the exhaust, etc. So up they went.
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  9. #9
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    I did have to go to the trouble and expense of putting a hitch on my current car because Yakima and Thule don't offer a roof mount solution, but prior to the current vehicle I've had Yakima roof racks for my bikes since 1987. I like them for the versatility since I also use them to carry skis, snowboards, kayaks, and a cargo box as needed. We still have that setup on my wife's SUV, along with a hitch rack.

    Like most everyone else who has roof racks, I have had a clearance issue, driving into my garage with the bike on top. Fortunately there was no bike, house, or car damage and it only happened once. Only the rack attachment was damaged.

    Your gas mileage will suffer horribly if you are going far with the roof rack, and top speeds are affected with the bikes up there. I prefer bikes on the back for long road trips.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Never had anybody back into my bikes when they were on the roof.

    I actually would've went with a hitch rack for my WRX, but installation would've been a major PIA. Have to take rear of the car apart, drop the exhaust, etc. So up they went.
    Never had anyone back into my hitch mount rack in 4 years either. But I've seen people with roof racks destroy their bikes, rack, and damage their car hitting things too low over head.

    And yeah...in your case...that would be close to a deal killer. I have an Outback and luckily installing my hitch was pretty easy. My previous car was a Focus ST with the exhaust in the center of the rear bumper. I had a roof rack on that car...the one that actually got the dent on the roof. Not sure I would have put a hitch on that one either because of the exhaust.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgltrak View Post
    Your gas mileage will suffer horribly if you are going far with the roof rack, and top speeds are affected with the bikes up there. I prefer bikes on the back for long road trips.
    That's very true. I think I was losing 5-7 mpg...maybe a little more.

    If I was a multi-sport person...I might keep a roof rack for those things but I still wouldn't carry bikes on my roof anymore.
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  12. #12
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    I have a 2013 Forester with the factory roof rails and crossbars and a couple of RockyMounts bike racks on them. Iíve put bikes up there for 6 years now and it works fine.

    However, Iím getting a bit tired of hoisting bikes. Iím 5í6Ē and the roof is high enough that I either have to stand on a small step stool or the rear door sill to reach up there. My wife has a 2016 Forester and itís even taller. Iím about to add a hitch and rack on the back, so much easier to load.

    All that said, I was like you at first and wasnít sure I wanted to do the whole hitch thing. I negotiated for the crossbars when I bought the car, and the bike racks werenít that expensive.

    Do you have rails on your car? The factory crossbars are super easy to add although they donít have locks. Iíd recommend aero style bars as they are a lot quieter than the round or square bars. I had a Yakima WhispBar system on my previous car and it looked and worked great. Yakima customer service is pretty solid in my experience.

    I donít notice much of a gas mileage hit, but I donít take long trips with my bike on top.

    Good luck!
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
    That's very true. I think I was losing 5-7 mpg...maybe a little more.
    We definitely lost more the last time I checked, but we were doing 85-90mph into a head wind on I-70 between Moab and Fruita.

  14. #14
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    I've used both Yakima and Thule roof racks in the past. I've had a truck for the last 20+ years so I don't need a roof or hitch rack.
    My company, Exodux, makes a truck bed rack that lock and secures the bikes in the bed and protects both the bike and the truck. My other company( which I started in 1995 and sold in 2003), Hurricane Components, designed and manufactures the"Fork Up" thru axle adapters, which are labeled under Hurricane, Thule and Yakima.
    Never once did I have an issue with using a roof rack and always felt they were the most secure way to carry bikes outside of the vehicle, especially using the fork mounted attachments.
    I once used a Kuat hitch rack that I borrowed to carry eight bikes and gear to Mammoth, 4 bikes and gear in the truck bed, 4 bikes on the hitch rack. I hated using the hitch rack. It totally limited my parking abilities, crew cab truck, with 4'+ behind it, and also every time I came to a stop light or stop sign with someone behind me, it felt like I was going to get rear ended, because it blocked the tail lights and stuck out so far. I couldn't imagine using one in a crowded area.
    With a roof rack, you will lose mileage, but you will also using a hitch rack.
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    My mileage hasn't suffered with the hitch rack. Went up after getting rid of the roof rack. My brake lights aren't blocked, they are fully visible. All three of them. And no shit parking will be an issue driving a crew cab truck with a 4 bike hitch rack. What would you expect? I have a two bike rack on a Subaru Outback and have yet to have any parking issues when the rack is folded down.
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  16. #16
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    I have the Yakima roof rack and I like it. However, my car is low. Your Subie is a taller vehicle, so consider if you'll reach ok or if you're going to use a stool or something.

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    You know, although the OP didn't have a crew cab truck or large SUV, a lot of people do, so parking could be an issue, just noting it.

    As far as your brake lights showing, good for you, because I've seen a lot of cars where the lights are obstructed. Did you know in Europe you have to have auxiliary lights behind your rack?, so it is a problem.

    You may not know that the airflow being disrupted behind a car from a rear rack will cause drag, therefor causing some mileage loss, I realize not as much a roof rack however.

    I just posted stating potential issues from either rack system, not trying to call you out.
    I realize that some people may not be able to use either rack type
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    I'll echo what some others have already said. I've had roof racks on three vehicles. I won't ever go back if I can help it. Gas mileage takes a huge hit, can't park in garages, and they are a pain to get on and off of the vehicle. Hitch rack all the way

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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane Jeff View Post
    You may not know that the airflow being disrupted behind a car from a rear rack will cause drag, therefor causing some mileage loss, I realize not as much a roof rack however.

    I just posted stating potential issues from either rack system, not trying to call you out.
    I realize that some people may not be able to use either rack type
    But it's much easier to take off a hitch mount rack when you don't need it than it is a roof rack. I'm too lazy to so I'll take the 1 or 2 mpg hit opposed to the 10+mpg hit that a roof rack will give. Not sure I've ever really noticed a car with a hitch mount that I had any issue seeing brake lights. I'm sure there's some out there...but seems that most newer racks are a bit more compact perhaps in an effort to combat that issue.
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  20. #20
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    Funny thing, just yesterday there was a car with a hitch rack with 2 bikes, that was 2 cars ahead of me. The car made a left hand turn and the car in front of me missed hitting him by inches. The cars brake and turn signals were almost completely obstructed from view.

    There are pluses and minus's of each, but its hard to ignore the popularity of hitch racks.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
    the 10+mpg hit that a roof rack will give.
    Exaggerate much?
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Exaggerate much?
    Lol, well that was pretty close to my experience -- I'm an anal mpg counter. The last trip I took with 2 bikes on the roof of my old Subaru, I logged an impressive 17.5 mpg, nearly all freeway (SLC to St. George). The car got 26 to 28 on the freeway without bikes on it. Yeah, it was probably a windy day, and I was going 80. But still, the hit was impressive!

    I averaged 20-21 with bikes on the roof in general.

    Bikes on my hitch rack do cost some mpg, too, especially if they are tall enough to stick up a bit above the roof line like mine does. But it is significantly less than the roof rack in my experience.
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    I'd just tell the OP that most of us started roof because it is has a cheaper buy in, especially if you already have roof rails or cross bars. But most of us have moved on to the hitch rack. It is just easier and more stable IMO. Plus gas mileage, needing a stool to get big bikes up (I'm 6' and it was a tip-toe job on my Outback, and the Forester is a bit taller still), garage risks, being able to use drive-thru car washes, etc.

    And if you are not using the factory cross bars (and why not? Mine work great on my '15), you'll spend as much getting set up with the cross bars, feet, locks, etc from Thule or Yakima as you would on a hitch.

    My hitch receiver was like $150 from eTrailer and I was able to put it on in less than an hour. Pretty easy job.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tystevens View Post
    Lol, well that was pretty close to my experience -- I'm an anal mpg counter. The last trip I took with 2 bikes on the roof of my old Subaru, I logged an impressive 17.5 mpg, nearly all freeway (SLC to St. George). The car got 26 to 28 on the freeway without bikes on it. Yeah, it was probably a windy day, and I was going 80. But still, the hit was impressive!

    I averaged 20-21 with bikes on the roof in general.

    Bikes on my hitch rack do cost some mpg, too, especially if they are tall enough to stick up a bit above the roof line like mine does. But it is significantly less than the roof rack in my experience.
    He was talking about not taking the racks off when they weren't in use (as in no bikes on them); I can't imagine anything remotely close to a 10 mpg hit from an empty roof rack. Even with bikes on, I don't notice a major decrease in mpg.

    I also don't see roof racks being cheaper; quite the opposite if you need a full system actually. Never had a big issue putting bikes up there either, even when it was DH bikes on my Suburban. Just took a little figuring to get a good method going.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    He was talking about not taking the racks off when they weren't in use (as in no bikes on them); I can't imagine anything remotely close to a 10 mpg hit from an empty roof rack. Even with bikes on, I don't notice a major decrease in mpg.

    I also don't see roof racks being cheaper; quite the opposite if you need a full system actually. Never had a big issue putting bikes up there either, even when it was DH bikes on my Suburban. Just took a little figuring to get a good method going.
    Oh, yeah when the racks are empty, not much of a hit at all. I missed that part.

    Depending what you drive, it is different of course. My suburban takes a couple mpg hit when there is anything on top, so about 20% decrease maybe. But the Subaru was clearly working harder as a result of the bikes on top. Or the Thule box, or whatever, there is a more significant decrease in mpg. Lol, the Subie is underpowered as it is...it doesn't need an additional challenge!

    Right, if you need a full system it is expensive. But I can get a $150 roof tray and pop it on my Subaru or Suburban without anything else. The OP has a Forester, which should have cross bars from the factory I think.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tystevens View Post
    Oh, yeah when the racks are empty, not much of a hit at all. I missed that part.

    Depending what you drive, it is different of course. My suburban takes a couple mpg hit when there is anything on top, so about 20% decrease maybe. But the Subaru was clearly working harder as a result of the bikes on top. Or the Thule box, or whatever, there is a more significant decrease in mpg. Lol, the Subie is underpowered as it is...it doesn't need an additional challenge!

    Right, if you need a full system it is expensive. But I can get a $150 roof tray and pop it on my Subaru or Suburban without anything else. The OP has a Forester, which should have cross bars from the factory I think.
    I think you're right on the Forester.
    I've got a WRX and had to buy the full system. $$$
    It's actually got some decent power, so that probably helps as far as MPG goes.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Exaggerate much?
    Right?

    I drive a 2007 Honda Fit. I don't have a hitch for a lot of reasons. Bikes either go on the roof or inside. I have a canoe, also, so the roof rack stays no matter what. But I will often remove the roof rack in the wintertime so I drive for awhile with no rack at all, too.

    My car does not have a super powerful engine, but I do have pretty good fuel economy (best economy I'll get is about 35mpg). The loss in fuel economy with bikes on the roof is maybe 5mpg, though I've had it less than that. My recent trip it was a LOT less than that. Maybe only 2mpg or so. With the bike on the roof. With an empty rack, at worst, the hit to my fuel economy is about 2mpg. Honestly, I've achieved up near that best fuel economy (about 34mpg) with the roof rack on top, a 16ft canoe on the rack, and driving across the Appalachian Mtns from MD to Pittsburgh, PA on the interstate.

    With my wife's 2013 Subaru Crosstrek, the roof transport also doesn't kill the fuel economy. Max economy on that car is about 30mpg and we only suffer a loss of a couple mpg with just bikes on the roof. Towing our teardrop camper (WITH bikes on the roof, btw, but the camper itself is the lion's share of that) hits fuel economy harder, and drops us to about 19mpg (as calculated for a 3200 mi trip from Indiana to AZ and back).

    IMO, however, if bikes are the only item carried and you have no other restrictions, hitch carrier is my strong preference. I have one of those, too, and loading bikes is much easier. The effect of that is fairly minor for me, but it's just outright impossible for my wife to load bikes on the roof of any car. The hitch rack is a critical accessory, regardless of cost, for her to go ride by herself.

    The rooftop carrier comes into play when there are other issues that limit or restrict the ability to use a hitch rack. Like the fact that I occasionally carry a boat. I also have a cargo bag I've very occasionally used when moving. Or when I'm towing a trailer with the Crosstrek. The Forester is tall enough, and I'm short enough (5'8) that I doubt I'd be very satisfied if a roof rack was my only bike transport option, though. My wife owned a Jeep Liberty for a spell, and we carried bikes on the roof of that thing exactly once. It sucked.

    I've been bought into the Thule universe for a long time. Both of my roof racks are Thule, and I'm on square bars. My preferred canoe carrier is the Thule (I have 2 of them), but I prefer the 1upUSA rooftop carriers. Carriers don't get much more low profile when unused than the 1up carriers. Plus, easy to load. I've used various other carriers in the past. Thule Sidearms (THOSE hit fuel economy when unused badly, because they stick out so much) and a few fork mount types back in college.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Exaggerate much?
    Not really. I was losing more than 5mpg with just the rack. Add bikes and it was even more.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
    Not really. I was losing more than 5mpg with just the rack. Add bikes and it was even more.
    What do you have, like a 50cc motor?

    And, actually, "10+" IS an 100% exaggeration over your latest claim of "5+".
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    I guess I prefer the hitch rack too - especially since my wife is only 5'1". That said, we did see someone get rear-ended this weekend which clearly ended their plans to go MTB riding.

    The two biggest problems with hitch racks IMO are;

    1) that they often (usually?) obscure your taillights and licence plate - which is actually illegal as I was politely told by an officer on Memorial Day after he pulled me over. I think he was profiling me but still, I'm always nervous in heavy traffic.

    2) if you drive dusty roads your bikes will be COVERED in it once you get to the trailhead. We always carry a dust rag/towel and bottle of lube when we use the hitch rack.

    We have one car with a roof rack only since a receiver would look dumb on that car. Our van uses the hitch rack. And my Suby has a roof rack AND a receiver so we can take 4 riders and their bikes in one vehicle.

    FWIW, I'm a Yakima guy but their current crop of roof rack trays look completely fugly to me (and are too long to easily fit some cars with short-roofed hatchbacks) so I'm glad I kept the old Steelheads for my Suby.

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    I am considering a lower to ground turbo charged car for next vehicle and a hitch rack wonít work on it. Looked at roof racks and surprised how expensive they were.

    Still, I had a Yakima roof rack for many years and loved it. Doesnít the Forester have cross bars? If so, then maybe all you need is whatever conversion thing fits the rack to the bars and the actual rack.

    If you have flat bars maybe you can do without a fairing? But my old Yakima had steel round bars and without fairing it was very loud once I hit 50 mph. Fairing reduced the noise to almost nothing.

    Subarus tend to be louder on the road, so maybe the air noise wonít matter much?


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    Not sure if the Forester cross bars are curved. If so that makes the bikes lean towards the outside of the vehicle. My Ď17 Outback cross bars are designed that way and is why I replaced them as I didnít want that stress on the fork mount bike tray. As well and with the factory cross bars, you don't get the same bar width as with aftermarket. I think my OB factory bars are 39Ē wide (of usable bar) where as my Yakima Core bars are 50Ē.

    The argument as to hitch vs. roof has as many pros and cons for either, you could argue all day and it really comes down to do you have any use for a roof rack that you might use for a kayak, canoe, roof box, ski rack, etc... ?. if so, get the roof rack.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catmandoo View Post
    kayak, canoe, roof box, ski rack, etc... ?. if so, get the roof rack.
    Good point. I can't believe I forgot about that. That's the other reason both my cars have roof racks in addition to the hitch on the Suby.

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by dir-T View Post
    1) that they often (usually?) obscure your taillights and licence plate - which is actually illegal as I was politely told by an officer on Memorial Day after he pulled me over.
    I suppose it depends on your state, but it's actually not the case most of the time. The cops that will pull you over for it either don't know, or they think you won't challenge the ticket.

    A trailer also obscures the license plate of your tow vehicle. Should it be a requirement that we get a plate specifically for the hitch rack? Cause states certainly aren't going to issue you a duplicate plate to put there.

    In NC, the law regarding obscuring license plates:

    (g) Alteration, Disguise, or Concealment of Numbers. - Any operator of a motor vehicle who shall willfully mutilate, bend, twist, cover or cause to be covered or partially covered by any bumper, light, spare tire, tire rack, strap, or other device, or who shall paint, enamel, emboss, stamp, print, perforate, or alter or add to or cut off any part or portion of a registration plate or the figures or letters thereon, or who shall place or deposit or cause to be placed or deposited any oil, grease, or other substance upon such registration plates for the purpose of making dust adhere thereto, or who shall deface, disfigure, change, or attempt to change any letter or figure thereon, or who shall display a number plate in other than a horizontal upright position, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Any operator of a motor vehicle who shall willfully cover or cause to be covered any part or portion of a registration plate or the figures or letters thereon by any device designed or intended to prevent or interfere with the taking of a clear photograph of a registration plate by a traffic control or toll collection system using cameras commits an infraction and shall be penalized under G.S. 14-3.1. Any operator of a motor vehicle who shall otherwise intentionally cover any number or registration renewal sticker on a registration plate with any material that makes the number or registration renewal sticker illegible commits an infraction and shall be penalized under G.S. 14-3.1. Any operator of a motor vehicle who covers any registration plate with any frame or transparent, clear, or color-tinted cover that makes a number or letter included in the vehicle's registration, the State name on the plate, or a number or month on the registration renewal sticker on the plate illegible commits an infraction and shall be penalized under G.S. 14-3.1.
    It's not like people use bike racks to willfully obscure their plates and prevent pictures from being taken of them. And it's not like bike racks completely block viewing of the plate...though they can block certain angles. I suppose you may have to challenge a ticket if you're given one for this.

    If this really became a problem, we'd be seeing a lot more euro-style hitch receivers that include lights and plate holders.

    Thinking of a Yakima roof rack instead of a hitch rack on my 2017 Subaru Forester...-601235_sized_1800x1200_rev_1.jpg

    Right now, the best option we've got is to custom fabricate a light/license plate bracket for our bike racks to permanently attach our license plate, and give that bracket 2 adjustable positions so that it can be used with the rack "open" as well as "folded up" and that would more or less require the rack itself to be permanently mounted to the rack, instead of on the car.

    THAT is not currently required by law, and until it is, I'll accept the risk of some bumpkin cop writing a ticket for a bike rack partially obscuring the license plate, but recognizing that it's actually a quite rare thing.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    I suppose it depends on your state,
    True enough. He pulled me over to let me know my headlight was out and went on to tell me that, in Montana, a license plate must be legible from a distance of 100-ft across a certain angle of view. I didn't get a ticket. He seemed genuinely concerned that I know about the headlight.

    On my VW van, with bikes on the rack, the plate is definitely obscured but my concern is more related to how it completely blocks my taillights. From the factory those vans don't have 3rd brake lights either although I added one. Driving through the stop-and-go-junk-show that it I-15 in SLC I'm constantly nervous about being rear ended.

    There's also no way someone can see my turn signals when I have bikes on the van.

    I think other cars can be affected in much the same way with a hitch rack. So, that's just one thing to consider when deciding on what will work best for someone.

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