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I've had the J racks since getting our two Old Town Dirigo's a few years ago. They have performed perfectly. Just completed 4200 mile trip with them with no problems, but you should be aware of a few things and use common sense. I had concerns about stability and wind resistance for the long trip. The Dirigos are beamy and not super light (45# +). The Js held up to the task just fine and at hwy speeds.
Two areas of caution: These boats on their sides create a high profile and resistance. If your speed is 70 and you have a head wind of 20-30 (as we did) that's the same as 90-100...a bit much; I'd keep air resistance to 75 or so combined maximum. If the wind is to the side you'll feel strong buffeting at times, slow it down. Without wind we felt comfortable at 70. Kayaks were strapped according to instructions around J and under factory cross bars. Also had bow and stern tie downs to prevent sliding forward or aft.
Secondly air pressure will try to push the boats apart from the bow. The Js are attached to the crossbar in a clamp fashion tightened with two thumb bolts. These can slide on the crossbar. The edge of your factory rail will stop them in the front, but then the rear racks will tend to slide together (toward the center of the car), making a bigger air dam. I cut and taped a strip of wood to the crossbar between the opposing rear Js so they could not slide. (I saw another car with Js and the rear racks had come together making huge air resistance and although not separated one of the kayaks had lifted from being seated in the cradle....yikes I would not want to be behind that guy!) Check all tie downs every time you stop or if you here or feel anything unusual.
Caveat: I was thinking of replacing the Js with a rail rider or something that I could put an extended crossbar on in order to lay the boats flat. Figured less wind resistance would equal better gas mileage. I was surprised to find on this trip my mileage was better than expected (19+ with a big hemi V8, not great but hey, it goes!)I attribute this to mainly reduced speeds on many of the non interstate highways where we were running 60-65.
I compared the parts list for the 815 with the parts list for the 835XTR Hull-a-Port that appears on Thule's website and they're almost identical. The only differences are that the carriage bolts and end caps, while the same size, have different part numbers, and the 815 does not include the two 1/4 inch Rope Ratchets that are included with the 835XTR. While the Rope Ratchets are nice for tightening and securing the bow and stern tie-downs, they're not really necessary if you can tie a decent knot.
I must confess that I've used the 815s without bow or stern tie-downs, but my two kayaks have not budged at all. I peek at them through the moonroof on my car from time to time, and they've never shifted. It's important that you read the directions on how to secure the two strap assemblies. If you do it correctly, they will not loosen. Thule's buckle bumpers are pure genius for protecting your car and your boat. When I get home one night with only one kayak on the roof, I entered my garage before the door had fully opened. The bow of the kayak hit the bottom lightweight insulated aluminum panel of my garage door and crumpled it, but the kayak didn't budge (nor did it get damaged, phew!). However, in the interest of safety, I have resolved to use bow and stern tie-downs in the future. To this end, I have purchased and installed bow hood loops from Riverside Cartop Carriers on my car.
Anyway, happy paddling everyone!
If you are going back and forth between Thule and Yakima rack and you have a Honda CRV 2006 model or older--which means using the TK8 fit kit--you may want to look at the Yakima rack.
Don't get me wrong. I use Thule racks and locks and cradles and locking cable and straps… the whole kit. That's because security and convenience and bicycles and protecting the roof of my car are also important, and because I started with a used Thule rack, gradually accumulating a closet full of proprietary extrapolations and substitutions as needs changed. And it does work. It all works. It's just that every single bit of it is clumsily engineered and imprecisely manufactured, requiring brute force as well as wiggling and finagling to get it just right. Some parts fit loosely, some tightly, some are robust and some flimsy. Every change, every adjustment to a Thule rack is a project and a series of compromises. Admittedly, I change things around a lot, but as familiar as I've become with my rack, I still spend an inordinate amount of time getting all the parts straight and tight and solid before I reach for my boats.
If I had it to do over I would definitely get Yakima, which has different problems but at least it acts like the parts were all designed by the same team, and round bars are simply stronger.
Please, whatever you use, tie down the bow and stern. It doesn't matter how many times you haven't and nothing bad happened. It doesn't matter how little it shifts in the wind. It doesn't matter that you're 15 minutes from home and only driving on pavement. The point is that if a strap breaks you could easily kill someone in a following car. I read somewhere that no boat is ready to drive away until it has 6 lines on it: two each across the midsection, triangulated from the bow and triangulated from the stern. Take it to heart.
Also, poke holes in dead tennis balls and jam them on the ends of your bars. It will keep your passengers from clonking themselves, not just because they are softer and rounder than factory caps, they are bright. It's easy to lose track of exactly where black-on-black bar ends are in space, even when you're looking for them; it's hard to overlook glowing lime-green spheres. You'll have to replace them each year as they fade; remove the factory caps beforehand so you won't pull them off inside the tennis balls.
Last year I bought a Suburban (now I have two racked vehicles) and bought a set of Thule #450 Crossroads to mount to the factory rails. I was little concerned about the rack coming loose. Not that the rack would have a problem, but rather the factory rails would rip out of the Suburban’s roof. Happy to say, after several 1500 mile trips to Maine and Hilton Head my concerns have been but aside. This thing is as rock solid as I was used to.
If I have anything negative to say about Thule it would be that fewer dealers seem to be carrying them than when I bought mine. Sure, I can buy off the internet but I prefer to support my local dealers.
In my honest opinion, you can’t go wrong with a Thule rack.
After reading the reviews here by some users who had issues with the older clamps, I contacted Thule support and they offered to send me a set of new metal hardware at no charge. The support rep. said that most of the problems with older design were probably caused by non-use of bow and stern tie downs, and strongly recommended doing this, even with the updated mounting plates. A few weeks later I received the plates, installed them, and everything seems to be solid but I think I'll still be using tie downs just to be on the safe side. Just noticed Yakima is now making racks similar to the Hull A Ports and also recommend securing the bow and stern. Guess they're playing "C-Y-A", too.
In any case, thanks to Thule for acknowledging the potential problem and making good on it. Oh yeah, the racks are great!
I contacted Thule's tech services and was told that the aluminum mounting clamps would not hit the field until March 2003 and that it might be late March at that. They will still have the capability to clamp to bars up to 2.5" wide. They will still ship with 50mm and 60mm screws. They also stated that some (maybe all?) of the saddle type carriers would get a four position locking set-up that would allow them to lock nearly vertical for a shell on down to flat for a windsurfer.
After a lot of looking and web browsing we came on Oak Orchard Canoe's Deluxe "J" cradles. It's a couple of hours to thier store and we went up and bought two pairs. They are nearly 3/16" thick brushed stainless steel and very well padded. The cradle is wider than the Thule. At 22" high they're 4" taller then the Thule and since they are, essentially, vertical they double as kayak stackers. They are even padded on the back. They come with straps that have sewn on buckle pads. The mounting bracket fits Thule or Yakima bars and some other racks. All-in-all, these are a little more money than the Thule but they appear to be as close to "bombproof" as any accessory I've seen. I'll post a review as soon as we've used them enough to do a fair appraisal.
The "8" rating is subjective, I've never owned the Thule carrier. It's purely a reaction to the thought of trusting an expensive hull to plastic clamps.
I have used Thule Products since the beginning of my yaking (1985) and am overall pleased-and still love the square bars for unknown reasons.
Using the locking wheels on the footclamp for gutters I have had the bolts get out of shape and not been able to unscrew them. Got new bolts and wheels, used old locks. Yep free stuff. Sure look funny sawing off the bolts while the rack was on the car. Need stronger bolts. I do remove my rack at the end of the weekend or each trip.
The H2O saddles rubber breaks on the underside. You can see this when it starts to split. Again free replacements. Now I have an extra set. And each new one appears to have more rubber where it splits. Someone mentioned they wish they could set the angle, that would solve a lot of problems.
The hull a port I like it because it fits almost every rack. And like most of the reviews wonder why it has plastic mountings. Well, figured that out one day when driving under a garage where the door was a little low. The clamps under the hull a port broke. But then don't think they were designed to drive into a roof. Have tightened those hex bolts pretty tight, so the plastic bends but doesn't break under designed usage. But the hullaports do shimmy and shake when there isn't a boat attached. The angle of the j-shape fits one of my boats perfectly (Chilco) but on my Quest it isn't deep enough, I would like a better fit.
Around town and short hauls I use the H2O saddles because the boat is lower and I can get it into garages including mine at home. But like the idea of boats traveling on edge, so use the hull a ports for long trips. But avoid garages including my own when the boats are on the car.
Thule has to be listening and continually improving their products. Because each version I get has improvement. I would give them a 10 along with REI for getting replacement parts and warranty parts. But like other reviewers, lets get stronger bolts, and metal to give us the strength we need. Let's face it there are very strong forces on the kayaks, accessories and rack (cross bar and mounting to the roof).
I'll stick with Thule as long as they stand behind their product.
I would like to tell you that I have been using the Thule on my Durango and I secure the boat by going around the factory rack (not using the Thule securing method of securing your boat to the rack only). I find that that when you synch down the Kayak the pressure is pushed down through the Thule kayak racks and onto the factory roof rack which "flexes" and therefore allows the Thule rack to do the minimum which is to hold your Kayak on its side securely. Also once the Kayak is loaded this way it would be rather difficult to dislodge that baby unless your doing 70MPH and slam on your breaks even then it may not go anywhere..it is pretty darn secure.
In addition to looping the synch down straps around the factory rack, I run them through the rigging on my boat deck and through the bottom part of the "J bend/brackett" of the rack to get to the factory roof rack. I figure that this way if the Thule rack does give away at least it and the boat have a better chance staying with the truck longer until I can pull over. I hope this helps, overall I think the rack is really a good affordable option that requires some added attention and caution when using but overall it is well worth the money.
Okay here is Thule's response....
"I have read reviews online on our product before, and fully understand your concern. For the most part I have interpreted that the people that have had bad experiences were not using the product correctly. Thule recommends using a 4-point tie-down. This is so that you equal out the pressure on the carrier, as well as, on the vehicle. I've seen reviews of people stating that they do not use any bow and stern tie-downs. These are the people that end up having their kayaks fly off. If the product is used correctly, there should be no problems while you are driving. So long as you use the product correctly, Thule will stand behind it. If you have any further questions on the matter, feel free to contact us. Thank you."
Dear Phil, I have read over the reviews you sent us regarding the Thule Hull-a-Port. Being the manager in charge of returns, warranties, and exchanges at the Rack Warehouse I have had some experience with the problems noted in the reviews. The problem of the plastic mounting hardware breaking has happened before, but it is not at all common. Since we have sold the Hull-a-Port, we have had two sent back to us for warranty of this problem. Both of these racks came back last year (the first year this product was available), and this year's Hull-a-Ports have not been any problem for us. We have sold hundreds of units this summer, without one call about this problem. Usually people get back to us right away if there are problems with the system we sent them. I suggest the Hull-a-Port as an option for many people because of its ease of use and flexibility. If you are worried about the mounting brackets, I would suggest following one of the reviewer's advice and secure the boat down to the bar as well. I always use the load bar to secure my straps because the bars are always stronger than the accessory on top of them. Also, both the box the rack comes in and the instructions tell you that the bow and stern strap is required. To be on the safe side and ease your mind, use the bow / stern straps. Please call me if you have more questions or concerns. Thank you, Mary S., The Rack Warehouse 800-272-5362
You'll get a lot of interesting stares since these are NOT the saddles you're use to. Yes, they look like you should have four people sitting in little 'chairs' on the roof of your car, but fear not, these things are GREAT for holding kayaks.
Originally I bought them because our car didn't have the width for two boats to sit side-by-side. But they support our plastic touring boats (Necky, Looksha IV), very nicely. The fear of oil-canning the hulls by supporting them in traditional saddles is all but gone. The hull-a-ports hold the boats vertically and in even the strongest cross winds, the two straps (provided, with buckle bumpers) are enough to hold the boats in place with ease...and not so much pressure that you'll bend the hulls.
While you should always tie down your bown and stern, you'll be tempted to skip it. Note: we've travelled 700 miles to get to preferred paddling destinations - the hull-a-ports and our boats came through without so much as a wobble (okay, maybe when big trucks pass).
Ironically, after posting my review of the Thule J-racks, I just about lost a kayak this past weekend coming back from Maine, due to the cheap mounting hardware included with the Thule J-rack. One of the plastic mounting bars split- where the bolt is held in place by the recessed nut- and the front rack was only held on by the one remaining mounting bar. It was not pleasant to see my kayak sliding towards the outside of the roof rack, going down I95 in Maine. Unless Thule changes the mounting hardware from plastic to metal, this rack is a dangerous. Cheap mounting seems to be a theme with Thule.
These attach right onto horizontal roof racks and hold the boat on its side to prevent warpng when tied down. It's very stable and makes it easy to lock the kayak to the rack with a standard cable. It can be pretty hard to load after a day of paddling and sometimes requires two people, even on my low roof. May not be the best for tall vehicles, but an economical alternative.
Also we have 23 inch hulls and the H20go doesn't conform well. With our light Kevlar boats we'd expect the craddle to remain in the position we set it at, but road bumps cause the craddle position to shift, and the boats require readjustment. Wish we could set the craddles in a fixed position, like the old ones used to do.
Hard to imagine this is one of the better products around.
The rack was easier to install than I had thought, though I suspect your average Swede is much stronger than your average American... They show a one hand squeeze on the Aero Foot cam (that scrunches down on the cross bar, securing it). I had to stand and jump up and down on it (please don't void my warranty!) to get the darn thing to close and snap locked. It was almost a show stopper as I would not have been able to get it to close otherwise (I tried squeezing it for dear life with both hand and all my 205 lbs for over 15 minutes before I gave up and stood on the darn thing: closed right up and locked). Other than that, it went in likity-split, and exactly like the fit kit said it would! It took about 45 minutes, counting the isometirc exercises with the cam. I purchased the lock cylinders: I wanted to make those hard to install, but it could not have been easier. The installation instructions are well written and specific for my car (from the fit kit). I do think there should be no charge for the fit kits...
Highly recommend Thule. As Mike says, its Yakima versus Thule for the most part. The gear does roll off the Yakima round bar, but sandpaper or something of its ilk, between the accessory and the bar can slow that down a tad, so it's more of a minor annoyance. I think both are quality products that will last a long time.
Thule simply makes the best-engineered accessories (with the possible exception of the wheels that Yakima makes for kayaks). If you use square Thule bars, your kayak will not push the saddles forward (unlike Yakima, with its round bars). Thule bike trays have improved (the old ones had junky, tricky mounting hardware), and their new kayak saddles are elegant and attach with only one screw and can be removed quickly (unlike Yak's ugly, plastic saddles that are high, noisy, and have two difficult to turn thumbscrews on the bottom). Compare them and you'll see what I mean.
In Yaks' defense, I believe their systems are easier to remove (in total) than Thule's are, so if you plan on removing your racks frequently, go Yakima.
TIPS: 1. Be sure to buy the ugly wind deflector so that you can hear your radio (or be willing to experiment with placement to eliminate whistling).
2. Car owners: Cut the bar ends short on the passenger side, or teach your passengers to enter the car "butt first" so that they don't bump their head on the bar ends! I've had passengers nearly lobotomize themselves on the bar ends.
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