Yakima HighRoad Vs. FrontLoader: Who Will Win the Duel?

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If you think having a bike rack is important for your adventures, then let me tell you, having a good bicycle rack is much more important. How would you feel if your bike ended up biting the dust while you were carrying it on a rack?

I assure you that is the last thing you want to see before reaching your destination.

This is the reason why I never settle with second-grade carriers. I always double-check the rack I’m getting because it has one of the most important jobs— saving my bike’s bottom.

After numerous recommendations, I decided to go for the Yakima HighRoad. Shortly after using the rack and being impressed with its performance, I got the Yakima FrontLoader. I’ve seen and used both racks firsthand and thought it would be a great help to many people if I pointed out the similarities and differences between the two.

So, today I’m here with a pitch about Yakima HighRoad vs. FrontLoader. I want to show you guys how the carriers work and what makes them different from each other.

If you guys are having a hard time choosing between the two, then fear not because all the answers to your questions are right here.

Yakima HighRoad Vs. FrontLoader: Comparison Table

Yakima HighRoadYakima FrontLoader
TypeRoof Bike RackRoof Bike Rack
Bike Capacity11
Load Capacity44 lbs39 lbs
Item Weight18 lbs14.30 lbs
MaterialAlloy SteelCarbon Fiber
Dimension56″ x 9.50″x 4.50″56″ x 7″ x 7.50″
Crossbar Spread18″ to 35″16″ to 42″
Tire Width23mm to 4”Up to 3”
Wheel Baseup to 48”Up to 48”
Wheel Size26” to 29”20” to 29”
Bike LockSold separatelySold separately
Is FoldableNoYes
T-slot Supported Need SmarT-Slot KitNo
PriceBuy From AmazonBuy From Amazon

An Overview of The Two Roof-Mounted Racks

Before I move into the similarities and differences, I would prefer to describe my experience with the two carriers. You may think it’s not essential and skip the section but trust me, the more you know about the racks, the better you can understand the minor aspects of the products.

Yakima HighRoad

yakima highroad

After having my way with the Thule UpRide and ProRide roof-mounted racks and a few other carriers, I decided it was time to explore some other brands.

Choosing a rack was never an easy job for me because I loved and still love my bikes, so I wasn’t going to push them to their demise with a sloppy second-grade rack.

Luckily, I didn’t need to waste hours researching a new brand and its products. I have a friend who already had done the digging before, and he was kind enough to share his ideas and experience.

Taking his suggestion to mind, I got the Yakima HighRoad. I must say, even though the HighRoad is a standard roof-mounted rack, it was nothing like the carriers I’ve owned before.

Most of the racks, even the fork-mounted ones like Thule TopRide and FastRide, could only support bikes with a maximum tire width of 3-inches.

However, the Yakima HighRoad rack excels in this particular aspect. It can carry bikes that come with tires that are as wide as 23mm or 0.9-inches to 4-inches.

Basically, the rack can hold almost any type of bicycle, so it doesn’t matter if you use a mountain bike with a thin tire or a road bike with a fat one.

The carrier has a massive range when it comes to tire width; however, it can only support bikes with a wheel diameter of 26 to 29-inches. So, the rack is not meant for bicycles with small wheels.

Apart from that, the carrier weighs only 18lbs, and surprisingly it has a maximum weight capacity of 44lbs. On my first ride, I took the Yeti SB130 with me, which has a 29-inch wheel and weighs around 29lbs. The rack was able to take the load effortlessly, and there weren’t any complications.

For the next one, I took the Cannondale Treadwell Neo 2 Remixte. It’s an e-bike and has a weight of 35lbs. Honestly, I was a little worried at first, but after driving for half an hour without noticing any wobbling, I was sure the rack and the bike wouldn’t come off from the car.

Now, let’s talk about the design. The front portion of the carrier has two arms, and there is a wheel strap at the rear. The Yakima HighRoad features a TorqueRight tightening knob to ensure you can mount your bikes securely.

So, this is how it works. You lift the bike and place the front wheel in between the arms. Once it is there, you use the knob to tighten the arms, and before you know it, your bike is safely mounted on the rack. I had some trouble mounting the bike at first, but after a few times, it got much easier.

Anyways, the rack itself is pretty easy to install, and I didn’t need any tools for the job. It is compatible with almost all types of crossbars that are spread between 18 to 35-inches. You also have the option to make the carrier T-slot compatible, but you’ll need to purchase a conversion kit.

I was a little anxious about keeping my bikes safe up there, so in order to improve the overall security, I got the SKS locks. They are not included with the rack; thus, I had to buy them separately.

Things I Liked About the HighRoad

  • Although the rack weighs only 18lbs, it can carry a bike with a maximum weight of 44lbs.
  • The TorqueRight knob made the task of clamping the bicycles easier
  • I was able to mount bikes with thin and fat tires
  • The arms only attach to the wheels, so there was no frame connection
  • Installing the rack was a piece of cake

Things That Need Improving

  • I couldn’t load a bike with mudguards on the front wheel

Yakima FrontLoader

yakima frontloader

Obviously, I’m here to talk about two and not one rack. So, as you can guess, there is a second carrier, the Yakima FrontLoader, which I’m going to compare with the Yakima HighRoad. However, before looking into the differences, I would first prefer to describe to you my time with the rack.

So, let’s start with the basics. The rack weighs only 14.30lbs; hence, lifting it up onto a sedan or even an SUV is not a challenge. It practically weighs the same as your weekly grocery bags. I didn’t have any problem carrying, moving, or even putting the rack up on my vehicle.

Installing or attaching the rack to the crossbar was a walk in the park. I didn’t need to use any tools, nor did I have to go through the instruction manual. The carrier is compatible with all Yakima crossbars, but my one was not from Yakima. However, later I got to know that it is suitable for almost any crossbars spread between 16 to 48-inches.

The best thing about the Yakima FrontLoader is that it can carry almost any type of bike.

If you thought the HighRoad was able to accommodate a wide range of bicycles, then you are in for a big surprise. The Yakima FrontLoader can carry bikes with a wheel diameter of 20 to 29-inches. So, the rack is not only suitable for big boy bikes but also for small bicycles.

However, there is a catch to it. Even though the carrier excels in accommodating a wide range of wheels, it can’t carry a bike that has a tire wider than 3-inches.

Mounting a bicycle on the rack is pretty straightforward. You just need to pull the second or rear arm down and place the bike’s front wheel inside the first or front arm.

Once you are done putting it, use the knob to tighten the arms. The Yakima FrontLoader doesn’t come with a TorqueRight knob, so make sure you don’t squeeze the arms too much, or it may damage the front wheel.

Afterward, you’ll have to attach the strap through the rear wheel, and you’re good to go. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes, even if you’re a beginner. Once you know your way, it takes about a minute or two only.

The rack doesn’t come with an integrated locking mechanism, so if you want to keep your bikes safe, you’ll need to purchase an SKS lock pack. It doesn’t come along with the purchase, and you’ll have to buy them separately.

Things I Liked About the FrontLoader

  • The rack can carry almost any type of small or big bikes
  • It is compatible with almost all the standard crossbars out there
  • The front arms do not come in contact with the frame, so I didn’t have to worry about ruining the custom paint job of my bicycle
  • It is extremely lightweight; hence moving or lifting the rack is practically effortless
  • The carrier came fully assembled from the factory

Things That Need Improving

Without a TorqueRight knob, it was a little difficult to know if the front wheel was secured properly

The Similarities Between the Two Roof-Mounted Racks

Now that you have an understanding of how the carriers work and what features they have, it’s time I tell you the similarities between them. Once you take a hard look at the things they have in common, it will become easier for you to comprehend the differences.

As you can already see from the pictures, both of them are roof-mounted racks. They are quite similar in terms of design. Both carriers have two arms at the front and a strap at the back. Therefore, the mounting process is also quite similar.

You first need to pull down the rear arm, then place the bicycle on the rack. When the rear wheel is in place, you need to attach the strap. Next comes the front wheel. Both carriers have a knob that you can use to tighten the arms. Rotate it to clamp down the arms onto the wheels, and it’s done.

Apart from that, both carriers feature tool-free installation and come fully assembled right out of the box. You don’t need a screwdriver or wrench to set them up, so that makes attaching the racks an effortless task.

One more thing I found to be similar between the racks is that both of them have a tail whip cable. However, none of the carriers feature a locking core; hence, if you want to lock your bike to the rack, you’ll need to purchase an SKS lock pack.

It is not included with the racks and must be purchased separately.

sks lock pack

Finally, both carriers are meant to carry only one bike. So, if you’re looking for something that can hold more than one bicycle, then these racks aren’t something you want to purchase. However, they are compact, so you can easily install two of them on the vehicle’s roof.

The Key Differences Between the Yakima HighRoad and FrontLoader

Yakima HighRoad Vs. FrontLoader

With everything out the way, I can finally start talking about the differences between the two roof-mounted racks. Although the carriers look almost the same, there are many aspects that make them differ from each other. So, let’s not waste any more time and look into the differences between the racks.

Weight and Capacity

If you’ve gone through the previous sections, then you already have an idea about how much the racks weigh and their maximum lifting capacity. Don’t worry— even if you don’t remember, I’m here to refresh your memories.

The Yakima HighRoad and FrontLoader have a weight of 18lbs and 14.30lbs, respectively. There is a 3.5lbs difference between the two, and it’s because of the wheel mount material.

The HighRoad has a alloy steel wheel mount, and the latter uses carbon fiber for the same part. The overall weight between the two racks differs due to the different materials they have. Naturally, steel is heavier than carbon fiber; hence, the HighRoad weighs more than the FrontLoader.

On the other hand, the maximum weight capacity of these racks is also different. The Former can carry bikes that are as heavy as 44lbs while the latter has a maximum lifting capacity of 39lbs.

Thus, you’ll be able to carry heavier bicycles with the HighRoad than the FrontLoader.

Wheel and Tire Size

Wheel and Tire Size

Honestly, both carriers are made to be versatile. Both of them can carry a wide range of bicycles, but there is a slight difference between the types and bike sizes they can accommodate.

Let’s start with the HighRoad. The rack can hold big bikes that have a wheel diameter of 26 to 29-inches. However, when it comes to tire width, the carrier can carry bicycles with a thin tire of 0.9-inches or even a fat one of 4-inches without any adjustments.

On the contrary, the wheel diameter range of the FrontLoader is much bigger. It can accommodate bikes with a wheel size of 20 to 29-inches. Basically, you will be able to carry your and your kid’s bike with the same rack.

Nevertheless, the maximum tire width it can withstand is 3-inches. A bike with a tire width of more than 3-inches won’t fit on the carrier. So, you must keep this knowledge in mind before settling on either of the racks.

Knob Style

The knob that tightens the arms to the front wheels is also different. The HighRoad features a new TorqueRight tightening knob, which the FrontLoader doesn’t include.

The unique knob allows the former to securely clamp the front arms with a clicking sound. So, what is so special about it? Well, it eliminates the risk of overtightening the arms to the wheel.

Once you hear the sound, you can stop rotating the knob and remain calm without worrying about your bike being secured on the rack.

The FrontLoader doesn’t include this unique knob. Therefore, you have to manually check if the arms are loose or have you accidentally overtightened them. The TorqueRight knob feature is meant for people who aren’t experienced in using a rack.

If you are a skilled veteran, then it won’t matter to you in the long run.

Crossbar Compatibility

yakima Crossbar Compatibility

Both roof-mounted racks are compatible with all Yakima crossbars and most aerodynamic or factory crossbars. However, there is a catch to it.

The HighRoad is suitable for crossbars that are spread between 18-inches and 35-inches, while the FrontLoader is compatible with ones that are spread between 16 and 48-inches.

So, if you already have a crossbar on your vehicle, make sure it meets the requirements of these racks.


The Yakima HighRoad comes with one more feature, which the FrontLoader doesn’t include. The feature allows the former to convert and directly attach to a T-slot on crossbars.

However, if you want to install the HighRoad to a T-slot, you’ll need a SmarT-slot Kit 1. It doesn’t come along with the rack and must be purchased separately. With the HighRoad, you have the option to convert it and make it compatible with T-slots.

You can’t do it with the FrontLoader, but it was never a big deal to me.

Time To Decide

As you can see, the Yakima HighRoad and FrontLoader differ a lot from each other, unlike the Thule XT and XTR. They may look the same, but they are meant for different bikes and crossbar setups.

It is not possible for me to select a winner between the Yakima HighRoad vs. FrontLoader. Both racks are unique in their own way. The former is suitable for more extensive and heavier bikes, while the latter is more versatile and can accommodate small to large size bicycles. Therefore, it is up to you to decide which one meets your requirements. Check your bike and your crossbar, keep the extra features in mind and then make a decision. I believe that’s the best way to go.

Jeff Phillips Racktutor
About the author

Jeff Phillips is the able founder of RackTutor.com. In his professional life, he has been offering Paintless Dent Repair and Hail Repair services in North Texas since 1990. He is the owner of DentMasters. He is still passionate about outdoor adventures with his family, bikes and cars. So he has first-hand experience on bike racks. He is regularly testing suitable racks for his upcoming trip. His aim is to create a user-friendly free website where bikers can easily read bike rack informations without any hassle.

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