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EUREAKA! A breakthrough in my quest to build a cheap roof rack!

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EUREAKA! A breakthrough in my quest to build a cheap roof rack!

Old 04-13-09, 01:28 PM
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sac02
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EUREAKA! A breakthrough in my quest to build a cheap roof rack!

I was shocked to learn that towers, base bar, and 2 bike mounts would run me over $500 new from Thule or Yakima. So I've been keeping an eye on craigslist for a used rack with little luck. Yesterday I ran across these:

NRS Quick-N-Easy Rack Brackets:


$69.95 +free shipping at alltrec.com, as opposed to the $220-$300 that Thule or Yakima want for the towers that form the base of their systems.

4 lockable fork mounts ($13.64ea +free shipping from amazon):


Add padlocks (already got 'em), tie-down straps for the rear wheels (already got 'em), a couple 2x4's (maybe 2x6's), and a couple feet of PVC for rear tire "gutters", and I'll have a usable 4-bike rack for about 150 bucks.

Yeah, it will be ugly, and I would never put a roof rack made of 2x4's on my M3, but this will work just fine on the beater Volvo wagon.

Mac

Last edited by sac02; 04-13-09 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 04-13-09, 01:33 PM
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Good looking out!

I wonder if yaki*ma or Th*le are site sponsors - and if they would get mad over something like this !


lol
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Old 04-13-09, 01:39 PM
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Cinch 'em down really tight...

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Old 04-13-09, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by DScott View Post
Cinch 'em down really tight...
I plan to. Looking at pictures of the product, they appear to attach to the rain gutters in the same way as the Thule or Yakima towers. I read lots of reviews from people who have used these to carry bikes, canoes, surfboards, you name it... Not one negative review of the dozens I read, just a bunch of folks like me happy to have found an alternative to the expensive systems from the other guys.

The one downside I see is that the camlock that attaches the tower to the car is not lockable, so theoretically a thief (actually it would need to be a multi-person effort) could unlock the entire rack and carry the whole thing away. At this point I'm thinking of JB Welding the cams on the front, and leaving the rear half of the rack alone, so that it can slide forwards and backwards if needed.

Mac
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Old 04-13-09, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by sac02 View Post
I plan to. Looking at pictures of the product, they appear to attach to the rain gutters in the same way as the Thule or Yakima towers. I read lots of reviews from people who have used these to carry bikes, canoes, surfboards, you name it... Not one negative review of the dozens I read, just a bunch of folks like me happy to have found an alternative to the expensive systems from the other guys.

The one downside I see is that the camlock that attaches the tower to the car is not lockable, so theoretically a thief (actually it would need to be a multi-person effort) could unlock the entire rack and carry the whole thing away. At this point I'm thinking of JB Welding the cams on the front, and leaving the rear half of the rack alone, so that it can slide forwards and backwards if needed.

Mac
I don't think anyone would want to steal a homemade rack that looks like it was assembled from junkyard parts.

And if you're worried about them stealing your bike... well... don't leave your bike unattended and attached to your car!
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Old 04-13-09, 02:09 PM
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Awesome. Thank you.

I've been looking for a cheaper alternative as well. I have a 1993 Volvo wagon with rain gutters. This morning I found a set of 4 Thule Big Mouth racks with cross bars (no locks, and no towers) for $250 on CL, but then I read that those style aren't good for carbon bikes.

This one looks perfect. I can size it exactly how I want it, and it's cheap enough that I can add to it as I need. I'd like to build a 6 or 8 bike rack, I wonder if this could handle that. I'm also considering putting wheel mounts too.

With an 8 bike rack I could take 4 people in my car, and their road and TT bikes as well, since most of our race weekends have a TT. If everyone didn't have a TT bike (I don't, yet) I could take bikes from other cars.

I wonder what 8 bikes would do to my gas mileage...
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Old 04-13-09, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by bdcheung View Post
I don't think anyone would want to steal a homemade rack that looks like it was assembled from junkyard parts.

And if you're worried about them stealing your bike... well... don't leave your bike unattended and attached to your car!
I was talking about security of the bike, not the rack. It's easy to say "don't leave your bike unattended", but in reality, that's not always possible. It's easy enough to take the bike inside the hotel overnight, but what about if you have to go inside to pee at the gas station? Or want to go inside and have a "sit-down" meal instead of drive-through fast food? No, locking the bikes to the rack, and the rack to the car is not 100% secure, but nothing is. It's sure a heck of a lot better than only having it attached by quick releases.

@Flatballer: What model do you have? I think 1993 could be 200, 700 or 900, IIRC. I have a 1990 760 turbo.

Mac

Last edited by sac02; 04-13-09 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 04-13-09, 02:15 PM
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It's like buying a $4k bike and trusting your life to "on sale" $14 tires.

There are some places where skimping is NOT the answer.

Good luck when that roof rack blows off at 70mph and your bike gets runover or kills a motorist behind you.
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Old 04-13-09, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by sac02 View Post
I was talking about security of the bike, not the rack. It's easy to say "don't leave your bike unattended", but in reality, that's not always possible. It's easy enough to take the bike inside the hotel overnight, but what about if you have to go inside to pee at the gas station? Or want to go inside and have a "sit-down" meal instead of drive-through fast food? No, locking the bikes to the rack, and the rack to the car is not 100% secure, but nothing is. It's sure a heck of a lot better than only having it attached by quick releases.

@Flatballer: What model do you have? I think 1993 could be 200, 700 or 900, IIRC. I have a 1990 760 turbo.

Mac
940 turbo. Nice car, just bad on gas. Only gets about 23 mpg on the highway, when I baby it. Slap 8 bikes on the roof, and I'll be in the teens.

Have you measured your roof? I'm curious if I could fit 4 bikes forward, and four bikes backwards, two deep front to back. Put all 8 wheels on the same crossbar in the middle, since they're the skinny part. This would require three crossbars and sets of towers. I have the sunroof, but it just slides back, not up or anything, so I can go pretty far forward. Not sure where I would put 8 wheels, plus everyone's stuff. I guess I could modify my trunk rack to carry wheelsets.

All I need are some sponsorship stickers and I'll look like a real team car, lol.
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Old 04-13-09, 03:38 PM
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If you want to go cheap, and your beater is a station wagon - I think you've answered your own question there.

+1 on using caution here - No sense wrecking a $1,000 bike and tearing a hole in the roof of your car to save a couple hundred bucks. These racks are expensive for a reason...
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Old 04-13-09, 03:59 PM
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I got a set of the Quick-n-Easy towers and associated cross-bars together with a small sailboat that I bought used in the mid-70s (about $300 for the boat and racks). The sailboat was stolen from our apartment storage area in '81 but I've continued to use the racks. They were pretty old when I got them and haven't gotten any younger but they continue to perform well and are very secure. I also have a Thule rack for one of our cars that doesn't have rain gutters and I would trust the Quick-n-Easy over those towers in terms of how securely they fasten to the car.

I use the rack mainly for carrying canoes and kayaks and attach a long cable and lock if going on a longer trip where the car and boats will be unattended. Not good protection against a determined thief, but should be enough to stop a casual crime of opportunity. Unfortunately there aren't many cars being made with suitable rain gutters anymore.
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Old 04-13-09, 04:40 PM
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The reviews are all great. You can also get pipe clamps and 1" cylinder piping from them if you wanted to use other racks, and didn't like the wooden look.

One reviewer has used the same set for 20 years. He even installs fake rain gutters on his new cars, so he can keep using this rack.

I measured, and I can't put eight bikes facing front/back, but I can put them across. I called NRS a few minutes ago because I was curious as to how to build this, and they said you still need the crossbars, in order to keep the thing stable, but then you could run bars along the length of the roof on either side and connect the actual racks to those. I could use wood for both, or bars for the cross part and wood for the front/back part. Can't use bars for both parts because you can't connect two bars to one tower.

How do the team cars build their huge setups? And what can I do about wheels? It would be sweet to have room on the roof to put forks for all the wheels as well.
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Old 04-13-09, 04:56 PM
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I see no reason that it should not work fine. Shoot after college, some friends and I took a friends mothers wagon to Colorado to do some riding. Made a rack out of 2X4's and fork mounts and tied it to the factory crossbars on the wagon. It hauled 4 bikes from KC to Denver and back with out so much as a wiggle. A roof rack is not as complicated as the people at Thule, Yakima, and Saris would have you believe.
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Old 04-13-09, 04:57 PM
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Thanks for the idea! I picked up a couple of fork mounts today from Performance (price on web site is less than $8. $17.95 at local shop, they matched the online price). I'm going to mount them to a board and put it in the back of my pickup. That will make moving the bikes a lot easier.
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Old 04-13-09, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Flatballer View Post
One reviewer has used the same set for 20 years. He even installs fake rain gutters on his new cars, so he can keep using this rack.
...

How do the team cars build their huge setups? And what can I do about wheels? It would be sweet to have room on the roof to put forks for all the wheels as well.
Well I've been using mine for almost 35 years and as I said above, they already looked quite old when I got them.

Note that you can have the crossbars extend out a ways from the tower to get more space. Just be careful about banging your head on them when you get in and out. The guy I bought ours from had a much wider vehicle so mine do stick out a bit from the roof. It makes it much easier for me to load my heavy double kayak by myself since I can just lift the bow up so it rests on the extended part of the crossbar and then lift the stern and push the boat forward the rest of the way. I only ever need to lift half of the boat's weight this way. I put some cushioning on the ends of the bars to guard against bruised heads.

But check with your local vehicle code to see what limits there are on the width of racks and other accessories (many say it can't extend past the mirrors on the passenger side but can be a few inches past on the driver's side).

BTW, have you found a good source for a quick type of connection for the rear wheels? I have the usual attachments for securing the bikes with a quick release at the fork dropouts and also for holding the front wheels but currently I'm just securing the rear wheels in their trays with short ropes and knots - it works but isn't very elegant.
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Old 04-13-09, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Rutnick View Post
It's like buying a $4k bike and trusting your life to "on sale" $14 tires.

There are some places where skimping is NOT the answer.

Good luck when that roof rack blows off at 70mph and your bike gets runover or kills a motorist behind you.
That some infallible logic there - it's not expensive, therefor it can't be high quality.


Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
BTW, have you found a good source for a quick type of connection for the rear wheels? I have the usual attachments for securing the bikes with a quick release at the fork dropouts and also for holding the front wheels but currently I'm just securing the rear wheels in their trays with short ropes and knots - it works but isn't very elegant.
I plan to make trays out of PVC pipes cut in half lengthwise. I would say maybe to use bungee cords, but I learned long ago in Boy Scouts that bungee cords are the devil. I plan on using the compression straps that I used to use backpacking, but haven't used in like a decade. From my meager experience with a friend's Thule, the rear wheel tie downs don't do a heck of a lot anyway, other than keep the rear wheel from bouncing out of the tray.

Mac
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Old 04-13-09, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Rutnick View Post
It's like buying a $4k bike and trusting your life to "on sale" $14 tires.

There are some places where skimping is NOT the answer.

Good luck when that roof rack blows off at 70mph and your bike gets runover or kills a motorist behind you.
That rack will be way better than anything from Yakima Or Thule. How the hell do you think it was done before they came along?
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Old 04-13-09, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by DScott View Post
Cinch 'em down really tight...

There is such a thing as TOO TIGHT. That's most likely how they got dumped in the drink.
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Old 04-14-09, 08:30 PM
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Fantastic! Years ago I purchased a set of these rack mounts. They went away with the van I drove several vans ago. Could not remember the brand etc to get another set. I'll get em now. thanks.
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Old 04-14-09, 08:41 PM
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I've got 4 of these in my garage, used for a rack I built years ago. $25 plus actual UPS shipping. I'm in San Diego for any locals
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