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Rack 'em Up:
11 ways to get your gear from here to there

By Stephen Regenold

Rap star P. Diddy may have a Lincoln Navigator with neon-light adornments and spinning rims, but a multi-sport athlete's vehicle is often even more tricked out, sporting bikes, boats, skis and more all at the same time. Having a good rack system can save you from taking two cars to an event, and keeps your passengers from sharing the interior with prodding paddles and intrusive bikes. Better still, a good rack system can allow you to bring passengers in the first place.

Yakima SlickROC 4 Epic Touring Endurance 18

The SlickROC 4, a middle-of-the-line model that totes up to four bikes, represents many of the upgrades Yakima utilizes in their line of convenient and accessible hitch racks. For example, the new Dual Arm design fits almost every bike model on the market, eliminating the need for top-tube adapters. The rack has a tilt-down mast for easy access to gear stashed in the back of the vehicle. And when the bikes are removed, the rack's arms fold down quickly and easily for getting your vehicle into a garage or tight parking place. The SlickROC 4 mounts to a vehicle's 2-inch receiver hitch; an optional hitch adapter for 1.25-inch receivers is available. The company offers ski/snowboard attachments and a lock system to secure bikes to the rack if needed. And -- this may be the deal-maker for some -- all new Yakima hitch racks have integrated bottle openers under the red end caps for quickly popping a brew after an epic day of singletrack, or a post-race toast. (888) 925-4621; www.yakima.com

Rocky Mounts Noose Necky Looksha II Race

Rocky Mounts, a small Boulder, Colorado-based company, has introduced a bike mount specifically designed to attach to factory-mounted crossbars from Ford, Subaru, Toyota, Audi and just about every other car company that ships vehicles with racks. The Noose system includes brackets shaped to fit factory crossbars and a mounting plate to distribute the load of the bike evenly on the rack. It comes in two sizes: the Noose SL for tires up to 2.3-inches in width, and the Noose SLX for mountain bike tires up to 3-inches wide. The rack is available in eight colors, including black, red, silver, yellow, green, blue, gold and orange. The Noose fits any crossbar less than 4.25 inches in width and 1.5 inches in height, which Rocky Mounts says comprises 99 percent of car racks sold today. (800) 873-1871; www.rockymounts.com

Malone Auto Racks AutoLoader Malone Auto Racks AutoLoader

Made with a poly-carbon material that is corrosion-resistant and flexible, the AutoLoader provides flex to absorb bumps on the road and cradle your kayak securely on the roof. The rack setup, which includes a pair of C-shape cradles and the necessary straps for securing a boat, lets you conveniently load whitewater or touring kayaks from the side of the car. Malone includes straps, mounting hardware and an adapter system that fits round, square or oval rack crossbars, making it compatible with Yakima, Thule and many factory-installed vehicle racks. Also, because the AutoLoader has several points where webbing can be threaded, the company promotes creative hauling with the rack, such as a Christmas tree, for example. (800) 295-0042; www.maloneautoracks.com

Saris Bones 3

This over-the-trunk rack can transport up to three bikes at a time. It's compatible with mountain-, road-, women's- and children's-bike models, and it comes in various colors to match your car's paint job. Saris says the Bones 3's injection-molded arms and legs, which are made of 100-percent recycled materials, are the strongest on the market. The rack's unique arch design fits over spoilers, and its thermoplastic footpads will not mar the car's paint. Bikes mounted on the rack are set on three different levels for easy management, and a set of ratcheting straps secure and stabilize the bikes. (800) 783-7257; www.graberproducts.com

WINDE Deluxe Universal Kayak Block WINDE Deluxe Universal Kayak Block

WINDE's high-density foam blocks create a cushioning barrier between your car's roof and the canoe or kayak you need to haul to the water. The Deluxe Universal Kayak Block is a kit that includes foam blocks and webbing straps needed to secure a kayak. The 16-inch foam blocks have an anti-slip texture on the bottom to keep them in place. Or, the block's cutouts let you mount them to rooftop crossbars to make a quick and low-cost kayak attachment. WINDE sells configurations for canoes, kayaks and other gear. (800) 632-6163; www.seattlesportsco.com

Bauer Industries BVG Back Road II Bauer Industries BVG Back Road II

The swing arm of this hitch-mounted rack makes it ideal for tall SUVs where roof-mounted racks prove cumbersome to reach. Holding four bikes, the BVG Back Road II, Bauer Industries top-of-the-line hitch rack, is made of steel tubing and specially coated to prevent scratches and wear. It's two arms rotate to carry just about any bike, and give the rack a sleeker profile when not in use. Yet it's the swing arm's ability to smoothly swivel your bikes to the side of the vehicle, allowing easy access to the toys inside, that makes this rack stand out. Includes a lockable hitch pin and an anti-wobble device. (800) 722-5872; www.bauergear.com

Sherpak Elite Sherpak Elite

Basically a car-top duffle bag, the Sherpak Elite is a soft-sided carrier case made of thick, waterproof vinyl. It can carry all types of gear inside its 15-cubic-foot compartment, which cinches tight with three compression straps and zippered seals. Once you reach your destination, the case can be quickly removed for lugging and unpacking. The company welds the carrier's seams via a radio-frequency method, which Sherpak says eliminates needle holes and keeps it 100-percent waterproof. The Elite has adjustable, quick-release buckles that loop around a car's rack to secure it to the roof. Alternatively, the company sells a kit to connect the Elite to your car's rain gutters or window channels. (800) 632-6163; www.seattlesportsco.com

Thule Evolution Box Thule Evolution Box
$369 to $549 (depending on size)

Thule's sleek, silvery boxes serve as a convenient "second trunk" that attaches to your vehicle's rack to provide 12- to 21-cubic-feet of storage, depending on the model. The Evolution 2100, Thule's largest box, can be used to tote items like skis and paddles (as well as golf clubs and fishing poles) and anything else that fits inside the giant 92x36x16.6-inch container. The line's smallest box (there are four sizes in total), the Evolution 1200, is 23 inches wide and will fit on your rack's crossbars alongside other rack attachments. Despite its smaller size, the Evolution 1200 can store up to 12 cubic feet of gear, which is space enough for five or six pairs of skis. All Evolution boxes are made of tough ABS plastic and feature dual-side openings for easier access, key-operated locks and mounting hardware to let you attach them to most vehicle racks. (800) 238-2388; www.thule.com

SportRaxx By Simpson SportRaxx By Simpson
$299 (components range from $129 to $300)

Pickup truck owners who participate in multiple sports will want to look at the SportRaxx, a skeletal rack system that sits in the pickup bed and allows a number of attachments. With the SportRaxx frame system, the bed of your pickup remains open and free, letting you attach bikes and boats on the rack while still leaving room for tents, coolers, camp chairs and other gear in the bed. The rack, which is made of rust-resistant aluminum, does not interfere with the truck's trailer hitch either. The company custom builds a rack to fit your pickup's make and model, and you choose only the components you need to add. Attachments for skis, bikes, snowboards, canoes and kayaks are available. The company also sells a Cargo Basket attachment for miscellaneous gear. Note: USARA members receive a 10-percent discount on SportRaxx By Simpson racks ordered direct from the company. (866) 438-7299; www.sportraxxbysimpson.com

Wheel Riders Terrapin Wheel Riders Terrapin
$40, $30 (Cobra and Wolverine)

Instead of taking up valuable trunk space with your bike's front wheel after racking up, Wheel Rider products let you easily stow the loose front wheel out of the way and on the roof. The company sells three models: The Cobra attaches to your bike's seat post; the Wolverine hooks over the bike's handlebars; the Terrapin is a nylon case that attaches to the bike's frame (pictured). All three use hooks and Velcro straps to securely mount the wheel on the roof, and none require tools for setup. (303) 980-5567; www.wheel-riders.com

Wheel Riders Terrapin Sportsrig MicroTrailer

I If your gear requirements go beyond the capacities of a normal roof rack, Sportsrig's MicroTrailer may be worth a look. This lightweight, steel-frame trailer is equipped with motorcycle wheels, hubs and shocks to let you pull a combination of bikes, boats, skis and gear boxes behind your vehicle. It's tested to tow up to 250 pounds of equipment, and its 22-inch wheels and 18 inches of ground clearance let you pull the trailer at top speeds on a freeway or over rutted, off-road terrain. The trailer has a pre-wired lighting system with four sidelights and two taillights. It's compatible with all types of hitches, meaning you can hook it to SUVs, sedans, motorcycles or ATVs. The trailer is light enough that you can roll it by hand as well, meaning you could drive to the trailhead and then roll your kayaks down a fire road to that optimal river put-in. For storage, the MicroTrailer folds up and fits into a corner of the garage next to your bike. (800) 601-7575; www.sportsrig.com

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