My wife & I are just getting into (non-sea/ocean) kayaking and biking, and we're thinking about ways to transport our equipment on our car.

My guess is that once a pair of cross-bars are set up on a car roof, it would be possible to use it to handle both 2 bikes and 2 kayaks (although obviously, not at the same time -- either 2 bikes or 2 kayaks at one time). We will be bicycling more often than kayaking, and will be doing this for recreation..., so we're not looking for a serious (expensive or complicated) solution.

Is this accurate? What do I need to take into consideration? How difficult is it to swap out mounting hardware for roof racks? What are better alternatives?

  • 2
    Thule has roof racks and accessories for that. Nice and easy. I have the bike one and never had a problem. Changed to a tow bar bike rack just because it's easier to load and unload bikes. That said, it becomes annoying to one the boot with the towbar one if you are travelling and need to access the boot often for example
    – Desorder
    Aug 10, 2016 at 3:40
  • 1
    Yakima racks are just as good but cheaper.
    – ShemSeger
    Aug 10, 2016 at 14:23
  • you can swap them really fast. Im a member of an Italian kayaking group and there the J for the kayaks are often diy, a couple of fellows made them so they turn them around to hold the bike Aug 11, 2016 at 21:23

3 Answers 3


Kayaks can easily be strapped down to cross bars. Sometimes J bars or uprights are used to put the boats on their sides allowing more to fit without stacking them. Bike racks for roof bars are quite quick to fit/remove but you shouldn't need to if you get them right and you car is wide enough.

You might even be able to strap the boats on their sides to the bike racks. I've seen racks that would do that (they were the sort with a front skewer so you take the wheel off ) and racks that wouldn't.

A reasonably wide car could take two bikes (perhaps one facing forwards and one backwards) and two kayaks either on their side with uprights or one on top of the other, all at the same time. If you do stack the boats be extra careful about securing them and checking that straps don't loosen - I suggest an extra strap/rope/cable lock attaching the end loops of the boats to the roof rack.

  • We use J bars which collapse and can come off the roof rack in less than 5 minutes - if you have a bike rack that's just as quick to go up then easy ;)
    – Aravona
    Aug 10, 2016 at 7:30
  • 2 bikes and 2 kayaks would exceed the weight limit of most cars and roof racks.
    – user5330
    Aug 10, 2016 at 8:17
  • Mattnz - I'm not sure that's correct. However your point is very valid - the weight limit should be checked no matter what you put on the roof.
    – Rory Alsop
    Aug 10, 2016 at 8:27
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    The weight limit depends on the car. Most cars with roof rails that I've loaded have been rated to 100kg. But I'm used to kayakers' cars which tend to be big estates. Four kayaks is fine then, and kayaks weigh more than bikes.
    – Chris H
    Aug 10, 2016 at 9:13
  • 1
    I think I wasn't terribly clear? I mean, I would have either 2 kayaks, OR 2 bikes, on the car at one point. Not all four. So the weight or spacing isn't a problem.
    – object88
    Aug 10, 2016 at 21:58

I would recommend to put the kayak on the roof, and put the bicycles on a rear bicycle rack. It should work if you have at most two bicycles.

Bike carrier
Source: Hadhuey, Wikimedia Commons

  • 2
    Just FYI, you do need a "tail hitch" for this though, which not all cars have.
    – user2766
    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:20
  • But the bicycle attachment for the roof rack is going to be much cheaper than a separate hit rack.
    – paparazzo
    Aug 10, 2016 at 13:21
  • @Paparazzi Neither cycling nor kayaking is a particularly cheap hobby ;-) This is a cheaper solution, but not what the OP asked for.
    – gerrit
    Aug 10, 2016 at 13:22
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    @Liam there are several types of bike racks available in the US that strap to the trunk, rear hatch and rest on the bumper. No hitch is required Aug 10, 2016 at 13:49
  • 1
    @gerrit and our Q&A outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/9256 Aug 10, 2016 at 14:00

Yakima Rack

You could easily do 2 kayaks and 2 bikes at the same time on your car, like so:

enter image description here ...with room to spare.

I can fit a 17.5 ft canoe, two mountain bikes, and a tandem mountain bike on the top of my car with 66" crossbars, I'm confident you could tighten the setup shown above and fit two kayaks and two bikes on 66" bars.

I'm extremely satisfied with my Yakima racks. I may be slightly bias because I'm an independent dealer of Yakima racks, but truth be told I don't sell any Yakima products, I just became a dealer so I could get all my stuff at wholesale cost. Find a supplier that sells Yakima racks then open up a cash sales account with them. You'll instantly save 50% on everything you buy.

Here's the minimalist budget rack I'd recommend for you:

Round Bar (66" min) enter image description here Hullraiser J-racks (2 sets) enter image description here Boa Bike Rack (2 boas) enter image description here

  • J-bars are a good shout, and you can get ones that fold down (which is what we use!)
    – Aravona
    Aug 11, 2016 at 13:27

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