I’ve been using Yakima car roof racks for at least 10 years now – in fact, THE SAME two Yakima racks and 4 bike trays to be precise. Both the racks and trays have held up pretty well despite a few incidents involving low clearance structures and more than a hundred thousand driving miles which is a real testament to the quality of Yakima products.
Anyway, I recently purchased a used Subaru (also my first car purchase in 10 years) and needed a way to throw the bikes on top. The car came with a factory roof rack with two aero crossbars and after initially considering new Q-clips (think that’s what they’re called) I remembered 2leftfeet’s post about the Yakima Raptor Aero, a bike tray that attaches to factory roof racks. Sure enough, Yakima now makes several bike trays that attach to factory roof racks and I ended up with the new Universal Forklift for my ride.
The Universal Forklift is super quick to install and requires zero tools. You could probably get away with skipping the instructions but I’d recommend at least glancing to make sure you’re on track 🙂 Initially my tray was a bit wobbly on the highway but after adjusting the clamps to a smaller notch I was able to get a rock solid fit. To be honest some of the wobble was probably due to the aero bars themselves and if I were hauling two heavy bikes I’d probably face one forward, one backward to balance the load. Some online reviewers complain about wobble and the Universal Forklift may have problems with specific vehicle rack systems – just be sure to buy yours from a store with a decent return policy just in case the tray doesn’t work out for your specific factory rack situation.
Bikes with fat forks and disc brakes are no problem for the oversized fork clamp on the Universal Forklift. The rear tire strap is much improved and easily slides along the length of the tray to accommodate bikes of various lengths. The strap itself is long enough to wrap around even the fattest tires.
In terms of looks and quality of construction, Yakima has really refined things a lot since I bought my first system 10 years ago. Everything about the Universal Forklift is aerodynamic, buttoned down, and smooth – from the fork clamp action to the plastic pieces that cover every nut and bolt. My old Yakima lock cores fit the new tray just fine, though a few online reviewers claim to be worried about the security of the Universal Forklift. I have two things to say about this: 1. The fork clamp appears no more secure/insecure than the classic Steelhead (the best selling fork mount on the market) and 2. I wouldn’t recommend counting on ANY car roof rack for truly secure bike storage. Integrated rack locks are great for securing your bike in the Burger King parking lot after a ride but if you’re planning to lock your bike to your car overnight I suggest a better solution (like putting the bike INSIDE the car or your hotel room).
Overall the new Yakima Universal Forklift is a great solution at a reasonable price for anyone who already has a factory roof rack on their car. Clearly people have been wanting a factory-compatible bike tray like this for a while now – just last month REI.com was sold out and I had to go to 2 area stores just to find one in stock. Why didn’t Yakima or anyone else think of this sooner!?