Yakima Racks Dr. Tray and High Road

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos Dave Smith
Date Sep 28, 2017

If you're a serious rider, it's likely that your choice of vehicle is dictated to some extent by your riding conditions: driving to the trails, road trips, group size, whether you shuttle, do you off-road to get to your trails...the list of factors is long. For many riders, a pickup truck is often the best solution. NSMB's Toyota Tacomas have been faithful partners since 2006 and are still going strong, but you don't have to take our word for it - just check out any trailhead in BC and the popularity of Tacomas is almost comical.


Sometimes a pickup isn't the right answer, for just as many reasons. And if you don't own a pickup, that means you can't just toss your bikes over the tailgate, so you're faced with figuring out how to transport them, which means your decision-making is far from over. Roof racks? Hitch mount? One of each? What kind and style? Do you also ski, kayak, etc? Do you park underground? Do you need to access your trunk frequently?

Thankfully, once you do sort out how you want to go about it, there are plenty of good options on the market now. Quite a bit better than even a few years ago, actually. I've been running a bunch of hardware from Yakima this summer and it's time I shared my thoughts.


Three on the back, two up top. Those are pickup truck numbers.

No matter what vehicle you use, the fundamental question you have to answer is: "roof racks, hitch mount, or both?" Here's a general pro/con list for both:

Roof Racks

Less attractive to thieves Poor(er) fuel economy, and wind noise
Bars are cross-compatible with box / ski / kayak racks + anything else you want to lash to your roof Harder to use if you're short
No sight line or vehicle length issues Not compatible with parkades
Aesthetics (matter of taste but many prefer them) Require cross bars and other hardware

Hitch Racks

Easier to mount bikes (and usually faster) Access to trunk is affected
Easy to fold out of the way or remove altogether Vision out back and rear sensors / cameras will be affected
Don't require additional hardware (assuming you have a hitch mount installed) Easier target for thieves
Easy to install/remove or swap between vehicles (w/ a hitch) Require a hitch mount

The Yakima Dr. Tray

Yakima has been a solid contender for both roof racks and hitch-mounted racks for years, but their new releases in both categories represented significant advances in design and performance. Let's start with the Yakima Dr. Tray, their latest tray-style hitch mount rack.

Yakima Dr. Tray

One major limitation of hitch-mount racks is that cars usually don't permit a 2" hitch receiver due to towing capacity limitations. That matters because a 1 1/4" hitch receiver generally restricts you to two bikes plus a rack - after that the leverage and weight can be too much - a major consideration for biking families that have a car instead of a truck or SUV. 

Dr. Tray's first trick is that it's constructed from alloy so the rack's weight is low (41 lbs. 18.6 kg. for the 1 /14" version, 34 lbs. / 15.4 kg. for the 2" version). That light weight makes it easier to install and remove the rack but, even better, it means that even the 1 1/4" version can be fitted with Yakima's EZ + 1 addition, allowing you to carry a third bike on the same tray. The downside here is that after shelling out $719 CAD ($579 USD) for the Dr. Tray, it's another $299 CAD ($219 USD) for the EZ + 1. Don't forget to include the cost of installing a hitch receiver, if your car doesn't already have one (that'll run you another $2-300).

Dr. Tray has more tricks up its sleeve, though. The two bike trays can easily be slid fore/aft and side to side, which makes it easy to accommodate wide handlebars or other bike design anomalies that make for awkward mounting. With the EZ + 1 installed*, there is still plenty of room to accommodate three MTBs with wide handlebars, and the trays are made to jive with fat bike tires and wheelsizes from 26 - 29 inches. I didn't have a fat bike on hand to test, but meaty 27.5 x 2.8" plus tires on my Chromag Primer are gobbled up easily, which hasn't been the case with every rack I've mounted them on.

*The EZ + 1 is mounted using four bolts, so its position cannot be adjusted.


Yakima's big on including bottle openers on their racks. I admire the intent, but this one doesn't work as well as the claw on an SPD pedal. Any industrious outdoorsy type should have a variety of tricks for opening their post-ride beer: a lighter, pedal, spokes, two bottle caps against each other, or just buy your beer in cans and be done with it.


The release handle on the Dr. Tray is big and very conveniently located. It is also, however, stiff when new. It has loosened up a bit over time, but it's a two-handed job for the smaller hands out there. Apparently, Yakima has lightened this spring weight for 2018.

So, Dr. Tray is light and easy to install and remove - that matters because when you use a rack on the back of a car or truck, it's nice to be able to remove it for road trips that don't involve bikes, or winter if you're not a 4-season rider. If you have a hatchback, you want to be able to get in and out of that trunk without dropping the rack every time. SKS cable locks and cores are included and, like most tray racks, just long enough to work, but you always wish they gave you a bit more slack. That said, if you plan to leave bikes on the back of your car (for a ferry ride, for example, or beers at a pub with parking out of sight), you're going to want a more robust chain and lock system.


Included cable locks with coded keys mean you can use one key to lock and unlock the rack itself from the hitch, as well as the included cable locks.


The hitch mount expander/mounting system is simple to use and makes installing and removing the entire rack a 2 minute job. Which is a good thing because you won't want to leave that big sucker on the back of your car if you aren't using it for a period of time.

On the minus side, Dr. Tray isn't perfect. 

  • The wheel trays don't retract, so the rack is wide and looks huge on the back of a car when not in use (and will appear prominently in your rearview mirror). 
  • I also found the release buttons on the wheel latches to be awkward - you have to push the latch down while pulling the hook up. Two-handed, it's a snap, but I've gotten used to being able to do it one-handed with a Küat NV 2.0 I've been using (that review's coming shortly). Why does that matter? Because I've also mastered the art of releasing the front wheel with one hand while undoing the rear wheel with the other - usually with a bag slung over one shoulder. Like the rack release handle, this issue has also been addressed for 2018 with a re-designed button that is more intuitive to use.


Dr. Tray's adjustable trays are the first of their kind and allow a lot of mounting flexibility.


Flick two levers. Adjust tray side to side as well as fore and aft. Close levers. Done.


Wheel trays are wide and long - fit to accommodate all your wheel and tire sizes. Even you, fattie.


Push down with your thumb, but pull up with your hand to release the front wheel latch. I find this awkward with one hand, which is how I've gotten used to doing it.

Like with any rack system, the Yakima Dr. Tray has its benefits and its disadvantages. It is especially worth consideration if you're committed to a hitch mount system, may want to carry more than two bikes, and don't want a vertically-oriented solution like a North Shore Rack. I have a few quibbles with the design of the rack, but overall its innovative features outweigh those reservations - especially if you have a 1 1/4" hitch and want to carry three bikes on the back of your car.

So you have a hitch mount rack but you're part of a shuttle posse, or you simply want to mount bikes on top of the car instead of the back? Let's talk about what I've been using.

Yakima Core Bars

As far as racks/bike portability goes, the VW Golf Alltrack I'm driving right now* comes equipped with factory installed rails, which is excellent because they allow the use of towers and bars without using c-clips inside the door frames. Yes, you still have to buy the bars and towers* but if you want to run ski racks or a box on top of the car, you can consider the investment to be spread across those. But let's say you need some? I'm using Yakima's new-ish Core bars, which are teardrop-shaped steel bars designed to reduce wind noise, and hold up to 220 lbs (10 kg).

*If you're in the lower mainland and shopping cars, Open Road VW has a special deal on right now for NSMB readers. Check it here.

On the wind noise front, I can confirm that these bars are quieter than a traditional square (Thule) or round (older Yakima) cross bar. It's hard for me to quantify it for you, but it is noticeable above about 70 km/h**. Fuel economy savings are basically nil. If you're running roof racks, your mileage will suffer, whether you have bikes up there or not. With bikes, it goes down by ~1.5-2 liters / 100 km. at average speeds of 110 kph. Without bikes, it's about half that (the racks themselves cause quite a bit of drag - bars on their own are less noticeable). On a road trip you'll notice it, in the city you will not.

**Yakima can sent me some noise data and the spreads aren't as wide as I expected between round bars and aero ones. Suffice to say that if you're buying bars, buy an aero bar, but if you already have round ones in decent shape, I advise you to keep 'em unless you need to upgrade for some reason.


Cross-section view of the teardrop shape of the Yakima Core Bars. You also have to buy towers to attach the bars to your roof rails - shown here are the Timberline.


Core bars come in four widths from 50 - 80 inches. If you prefer a sleek alloy bar instead, there are the Jet Stream bars which are lighter and have a lower weight capacity (165 lb / 75 kg vs 220 lb / 100 kg), include a T-slot mounting option (no tools!), and cost about $100 more per pair.

Yakima Timberline Towers

Bike --> rack --> bars --> towers --> rails. Towers, like bars, are not that sexy, nor are they inexpensive, but once again, they start to make more sense if your roof rack system will also be used for skis, a box, a combination of both, or if you just want to be able to lash lumber to the roof. The Yakima Timberline Towers shown here are $249 CAD / $199 USD. That isn't cheap. What I can say, though, is that they are very easy to work with - far more solid and frustration-free than any others I've used. I can get the entire rack assembly on or off the car in 5 minutes.

Yakima High Road

So, you've opted for a roof rack (or you're supplementing your hitch rack). The main protagonist is the rack itself. The new High Road will grab both wheels (of all sizes) quickly and easily, without any frame contact. At $325 CAD, this is a premium rack, but the design and construction are serious business, and it's also seriously fast and easy to install or remove one from your cross bars.


I'm 6'1 and I can comfortably do this, but if you're shorter, it can be a challenge, depending on vehicle height.

Roof racks in the past wanted to grab things: a pedal, or a down tube. Varying frame designs made this problematic and thankfully now most racks just grab your wheels. Yakima's High Road is no exception. Its precursor, the Front Loader, required the front wheel's size to be set - it was easy but still an extra step. Now you can load anything from a road bike to 4.0" tire in there and it'll just grab it and hold it under tension.


Wide bars add a new issue to mounting bikes on top. These are both a full 800mm though, so it isn't as bad if you're running narrower bars.


The front feet of the High Road are solid. They catch more air when you're moving, but are easy to place and provide a good base for the front wheel's attachment hardware.

The only downsides to this rack are the same downsides you get with any roof rack: parkades are an ever-present minefield, just waiting to can opener your racks and bikes right off your roof; if you're not that high, they're a pain to use; and they add wind noise at speed and hurt fuel economy. If you park on the street, mainly drive at slower speeds or don't commute long distances every day, and can load your bike on top without needing an Olympic powerlifter's best clean-and-jerk form, a roof rack may be for you. And if that's the case, the Yakima High Road is as good an option as you'll find.


1. Place the front wheel into the front of the 'V'. Squeeze it into place with the back of the V.


2. Tighten the V so it holds the front in place securely.


3. Attach the rear wheel. All done.

A cable lock is included, but you'll have to buy additional lock cores to lock the rack to the bars. Up to you if you feel that's necessary (I do). Shorter-roofed vehicles are something to be careful of - a roof rack can also interfere with your hatchback when it lifts up. This was an issue with my Subaru Impreza and the Yakima Front Loader, but is not an issue with the longer VW Alltrack and the High Road (which also works a little better on shorter roofs). One caution is that the wheelbase of a size Large Nomad is as much as the rack can take as far as the rear wheel strap. So if you have a really long bike, watch out for that.

Yakima Rack Pricing

Yakima Dr. Tray - $719 CAD / $579 USD | EZ + 1 - $299 CAD / $229 USD 

Yakima High Road - $325 CAD / $229 USD

Yakima Core Bars - $169 CAD / $119 USD

Yakima Timberline Towers - $249 CAD / $199 USD

*Live in Vancouver? OpenRoad VW will give you an accessory credit if you name drop NSMB.

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+1 Pete Roggeman
Bux Bux  - Sept. 28, 2017, 7:35 a.m.

You flip the one of the roof racks the other direction. Then there is no bar rub.
I have 2 Yakima high rollers for the top, a 2x One Up on the back ( which is off right now.)
One issue not pointed out is the rear license plate is completely obscured by the rack in the up position in these pics. My plate on my car is visible, another reason I went with the one up...anyone had a hassle from the cops?

Both Systems have their pros and cons as stated.  Except for the fuel economy issue, and a muddy roof in winter. I find the roof system to almost be easier for local rides. Then I can sit on the bumper of the hatchback to get geared up etc. For road trips the platter.


Dave Smith  - Sept. 28, 2017, 8:13 a.m.

I've been running the Dr for a while now and have had no licence plate questions. I have been fine so far but I have been thinking about buying an alphabet sticker kit, like the ones you see on mailboxes. This is after hearing that there are a few officers in NVAN that aren't too keen on oversized racks.


Pete Roggeman  - Sept. 28, 2017, 11:12 a.m.

Some roof racks necessitate a flipped setup, especially if they have an arm that attaches to the downtube. You're right, though, that's one solution. I also had a bit more space there and could have widened the two racks to solve it.

I've been running hitch racks on cars for over three years now and no problems with cops here in NV or anywhere. I cross the border a lot and am occasionally asked to tell them my license plate, but they don't hassle me about it. So, for me, no problems experienced with that.


+1 Pete Roggeman
Jean-Christophe Rodrigue  - Sept. 28, 2017, 3:03 p.m.

I was pulled over twice for a hitch rack. 

1) Vancouver Police did ticket me for almost $240 for plate obstruction.

2) Highway patrol stopped me after Port Mann bridge for the same reason. He let me go that time.


Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 4, 2017, 1:49 p.m.

JC, thanks for letting us know! We'll keep that in mind - I guess it's not as casual a situation as I thought.


Shoreboy  - Sept. 28, 2017, 8:29 a.m.

+1 to flipping one of the roof racks front to back to solve bar interference

Using the Alltrack as a platform to display the racks is a cool idea.  I dont see anyone being able to put 5 bikes, plus 5 bodies plus gear into one for any kind of transport however.  Have you tried that yet, or is this setup purely for display purposes?  Tire clearance on the rear, terrible handling and lack of power would be my concerns.  Even 3 bikes hanging that far off the back of a 1.25" hitch on that car would have me worried.  Im kind of surprised Yakima makes a hitch setup like this that will have people likely overloading the rear of their cars.  I realize that the rack is quite light, but with 3 bikes leveraging that far off the back it isnt the best of ideas in my opinion.


tashi  - Sept. 28, 2017, 8:57 a.m.

My thoughts exactly re: lots of bikes on the back of a smaller car that doesn't have some kind of load leveling system- I sure wouldn't want to drive that with 3 bikes on the back, 3 riders and their gear for a weekend.  I've had 4 on the back of my Element (Kuat) all loaded up for a weekend of riding and it's downright unsafe - unweighted front wheels are a bad idea.  I sure would like to get my hands on one of those wagons (with a roof rack) though...looks sweet.

Looks like nice kit though, strong and stiff looking which is pretty important for tray-style racks.  Would be great in the 2-bike version for lighter cars.  

I have owned the older version of that roof rack and was quite impressed.  It's easy to use and one of the most stable roof rack's I've used, likely due to it's wide base and stiff wheel loop.


+1 Cooper Quinn
Pete Roggeman  - Sept. 28, 2017, 11:20 a.m.

I think that many people who would use the third rack would be families, so at least one of those bikes would be a kids' bike. But I would drive it with three on the back. It rides a bit low, and with gear in the back that would be an issue, but I've had that car fully laden with two bikes on the back and a heavier rack, and there was still plenty of clearance without too much 'saggy wagon' butt.

The wagon itself I can heartily recommend. The Golf Sportwagon comes with a lot of the same performance, at a lower price. The Alltrack creeps into pseudo luxury territory with some of its features, but it is a damn nice car.


Dave Smith  - Sept. 28, 2017, 9:09 a.m.

I'd personally call this a Seymour shuttle solution. Its amazing what some people will do to avoid pedalling, including seeing past their own personal space issues.


Pete Roggeman  - Sept. 28, 2017, 11:17 a.m.

In this case, it was for display. For a road trip? No, you'd need more space for 5 adults and gear unless you packed light and only brought riding gear - no cooler, etc. For a shuttle, I have done 4 riders many times. If you were a family of 5, you could easily make that work, given that several bikes would be smaller and lighter. Yes, there is a load leverage issue, but remember that if you have 5 full-sized bikes, you'd also have 5 adults to provide counterbalance, so other than riding low, you wouldn't have a front end issue as far as being unweighted. Also that Alltrack is not light - curb weight is 3300 lbs.


Shoreboy  - Sept. 28, 2017, 11:31 a.m.

Adding 5 adults is only going to make the balance worse.  Most of the weight is going to be in the back half of the car, making it sag even more and the front become unweighted further.  You are also likely going to be exceeding the GVW of the car with 5 adults + gear + bikes.

I would be adding some helper airbags to the rear springs like I have on my Audi Wagon to help level things out if I were going to run a rack system like this.


kekoa  - Sept. 30, 2017, 12:35 a.m.

Too funny....I JUST put Dr. Tray plus the 3rd tray on my Fiesta last week. It's heavy enough to lug up and down three flights of stairs. It doesn't like 20" wheels and really doesn't like 16" wheels (Uhhh...Zack your bike seems to have fallen off). Wobbles like a sumbitch too. 

Would be nice if the wheel tray folded up, it's a massive rack. Too bad I can't use it for clothes bars or use it as a kitchen table. 

Will load up the nice bike this weekend and see how it works. Think I've still got some NSMB stickers I can put on it. 



bbgun16  - March 20, 2019, 9:11 a.m.

I own a 2017 Alltrack and purchased the Railbar system because Yakimas site said they were compatible.  They are not compatible if you have a sunroof because the bar is way to low.  

I want to exchange them for the corebar/timberline setup so i'm wondering if your Alltrack has a sunroof and if there were any issues opening it.


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