Roof Rack Advice|How To Avoid a Gear-Wrenching Mistake

Cycling / Ideas & Advice / Paddling / Uncategorized

When it comes to roof rack advice, specifically, the topic of how to remember you have bikes, kayaks or a cargo box on the roof before you pull into an unforgiving garage, I’m embarrassed to say I know what I’m talking about from personal experience. It happened last summer after a fantastic day of kayaking. As I pulled into our driveway, I pushed the button on the garage door opener and suggested to my wife in the passenger seat that we enjoy a cold beer on the front porch. My anticipation of the first frigid sip of Harpoon IPA was shattered by the sudden, sickening CRUNCH of our kayaks colliding with the roof of our garage.

Once I got the expletives out of my system, I put the car in reverse, backed into the driveway, took a deep breath and got out to survey the damage. Fortunately, I got away with a few scratches and a minor crimp in the front of my kayak and no noticeable damage to Brenda’s kayak or our garage door frame whatsoever. My two front Thule kayak roof racks and the roof below them were not so lucky. The sudden downforce flattened my Subaru Forrester’s front cross bar, which caused both front roof racks to embed themselves in the roof. I ended up with four circular dings on the roof of my car–one ding for each screw holding the roof racks to the cross bar.

As infuriating as the experience was, I know I was very lucky. I wasn’t going more than 2mph when my kayaks smacked into the roof and I hit the brakes immediately. Had I been going faster or reacted later, I could have dented or cracked the hulls of our kayaks or done damage to my roof beyond the reach of my amateur auto body repair skills. While I felt like a total idiot, I know thousands of kayaks, bikes and cargo boxes suffer similar fates when drivers like me pull into a parking garage, car port or restaurant drive thru with gear on the roofs of their vehicles.

To help you avoid the indignity of destroying your gear in the most humiliating way possible, here’s some roof rack advice I’ve used myself along with some ideas our customers provided when I posed the question on the Eastern Mountain Sports Facebook page:

The Garage Door Warning System
Car Rack Advice: Post your warning sign on the door frame, not the door.

Car Rack Advice: Post your warning sign on the door frame, not the door.

Simple to make and easy to apply, I keep this sign in the cockpit of my kayak so I see it as soon as I attempt to load my boat onto my car. The first time I employed this technique I put the sign on the garage door and quickly realized that if I was distracted, the door (along with the sign) could have gone up before I saw it. Now I hang it on the garage door frame.

The Remote Control Warning System
Car rack advice: Stop stupidity at its source with a subtle warning on your garage remote.

Car rack advice: Stop stupidity at its source with a subtle warning on your garage remote.

A standard sticky note and a red marker are all it takes to make this fairly fool-proof early warning system. To prevent this sign from eventually blending in with my car’s interior, I pull it off the remote after each use and create new ones as needed.

The Remote Control Avoidance Maneuver
Car rack advice: Stash your garage door opener someplace where you have to hunt for it - ideally the glove compartment, or perhaps inside the garage?

Car rack advice: Stash your garage door opener someplace where you have to hunt for it – ideally the glove compartment, or perhaps inside the garage?

Still worried about waking your brain from cruise control before pulling into your driveway? Take the extra step and stash your remote in your glove box, center console or anyplace else that forces you to think: “Where’s the damn remote and why the hell isn’t it on my visor?” If this extra step is necessary for you, I can’t guarantee you’ll make the connection so you may also want to deploy….

The Garage Door Blockade
Trash

Car rack advice: When subtle reminders fail, block access to the point of entry/destruction.

This awesome bit of roof rack advice was from a Facebook fan and I absolutely love it. Plant something conspicuous in front of your garage door or carport that requires you to stop, get out of your car to remove the obstacle and then (hopefully) notice the kayaks, bikes or cargo boxes strapped to the roof of your vehicle. It’s brilliant, provided you remember to place the obstacle before you leave.

The Mobile Warning System
Car rack advice: Don't leave home without a means of remembering you have valuable stuff on your roof.

Car rack advice: Don’t leave home without a means of remembering you have valuable stuff on your roof.

If you’ve been thinking to yourself: “This roof rack advice is fine for home, but what about when you’re on the road and in the path of malicious parking garages, ferry terminals and drive thru restaurant overhangs?” That’s where the dashboard solution is perfect. Be super smart and measure the height of your load from the ground up. Add an extra six inches to be safe and write the figure on your sign. Another Facebook fan suggested hanging a warning from the rear view mirror. It’s a fine idea, but I personally don’t need another distraction on the road. Plopping Fred Sanford on my dashboard is the ultimate wake up call no matter where adventure takes me. When in doubt, a combination of more than one tactic is never a bad idea.

How do YOU remember you’ve got stuff on your roof? Leave a comment and share your best roof rack advice or worst gear crushing story and help someone extend the life of their gear!

 

 

 

 

Jim Darroch


Jim's love for the outdoors began with family camping trips in "Brady Bunch" style canvas tents and progressed to backpacking adventures with the Boy Scouts. In 2007, he fulfilled his teenage dream by joining Eastern Mountain Sports as Brand Communications Manager. When he's not in the office, you'll find Jim kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around the Monadnock Region and throughout New England with his wife Brenda and his dog Brewski. Follow Jim Darroch on !

4 Comments

  1. Andy O
    September 11, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Yea, I did that. Ripped my seat post right off my mountain bike and saw the seat fall in the rear view. First time riding home with a new roof rack…. So, I usually prefer the blockade myself, and stand a giant sledge hammer right behind the door with the bright yellow handle. Can’t miss it and won’t dent my bumper if I try to drive in too quick. If I hit it it smacks the ground really loudly and I remember to stop.

  2. September 11, 2013, 9:24 am

    Great advice! However when my husband luckily didn’t destroy his kayak and only slightly damaged the roof of his car, it was pulling into a parking garage in town. This was the impetus, however, to finally replace his very old car with a new one. I suppose the sticky note on the dashboard could help when you’re out and about.

  3. Tom
    September 11, 2013, 9:10 am

    I solved the garage problem when we replaced our aging doors. I have an 8-1/2 foot door, so I can drive in and lift the kayaks off the truck with the pulley system.

    I’d think twice about posting a sign on my garage door for security reasons, as well.

    Parking garages, however, are a different matter. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Don
    September 11, 2013, 8:18 am

    I had a relative try to drive my truck with my Thule X-Sporter Rack in the “UP” position into a my low height garage with damage to my Hullaports. Typically during the paddling season my truck stays out of the garage as to avoid further damaging my gear!

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