Submitted: 11-08-2005 by Kevin1963
I probably started out like most people who are new to kayaking by hauling a kayak around with whatever means I had at my disposal, in my case it was in the back of my pickup truck. This was the cheapest way to go, after all I all ready owned the truck, but strapping it down could be a time consuming matter that was proving less than enjoyable during mosquito and black fly season in upstate New York, not to mention the fact that my Prijon Barracuda hung nine feet off the tailgate.
First let me say that there are several very good racks and saddles out there and depending on your combination of kayak and vehicle you should be able to equip all most any vehicle with some combination that works for you but maybe not for the other kayaker. And trust me once you have shelled the money out and looked at how impressive your new rack looks on your vehicle your going to see someone else go by with an even better ideal, so donít worry about it.
For myself I decided on the Thule #421 XSporter for my full size Chevy K-1500 short box with extended cab for a couple of reasons.
The overall height of the cab on my truck is around 22 inches and the XSporter #421 sits at a maximum height of 25 inches. A lot of the other racks that I looked at were in the 27 to 28 inch range and I thought that this would look way to high on my truck. Now add on a few saddles and it gets even higher, and if you donít believe me then just wait until your trying to place what you thought was a light weight kayak on top of it and you will see how a few extra inches can make a world of difference!
Now donít be confused with the word Compact on the Thule #421. When I first read about it I assumed it would only fit on a compact size pickup truck, but compact in this case refers to the overall height of the rack (25 inches for the #421 and 28 inches for the #422) most trucks could most likely get by with the #421 but measure the cab height first so you know.
Means of attachment was also important to me in that I wanted a rack that could be bolted (no drilling is necessary) onto the railing of my truck bed yet done in such a method that would be secure. In my opinion I thought the Thule XSporter attachment appeared pretty solid and except for a little trimming on my bed liner to allow it to fit I really had no problems attaching the rack to my truck.
The Thule XSporter is an adjustable rack which I thought meant you could place it at any height you wanted to; but I was wrong. There are only two heights that the cross bar can be set at. The lower height will come in handy if you want to attach a bicycle to the rack or carry other equipment. And the upper height for hauling your kayak. Personally I donít think I will use the rack in the lower position much but one thing that I like about it is that it allows me to remove the cross bar with saddles attached should I be concerned about someone stealing the rack and saddles.
The cross bar raises and lowers by simply unlatching a single latch on each rack support and to keep someone from removing the crossbar with saddles the Thule XSporter bar comes with four locks (all four locks work off one key and come with the rack) that install in the latches themselves. In the winter should the lake freeze over I will remove the rack from my truck and place it in storage while leaving the base units in place.
Saddles are available for most any possible method by which you wish to attach your kayak and the Thule 883 saddles that I use were easy to install on the rack.
There are only two things that I do not like about the XSporter rack. First it whistles like a Stuka dive bombers coming in for a kill between 30 and 60 MPH, above 60 it disappears. Now remember this is with my pickup truck and if your driving something different then you may not experience this at all, if itís raining out it doesnít whistle at all, go figure!!
In an effort to figure out were the noise was coming from I removed the saddles just incase they were causing the noise but to no avail, the whistle was still there. Itís going to take some time but I will figure out exactly were its coming from yet!
The only other thing that I would change on the XSporter rack is to allow the #877 Rollercoaster saddle to attach to it. The #877 is a great ideal and would prevent the kayak from scratching the rear bar while loading the kayak. I noticed several scratches on the bar from sand, etc that collects on the keel of the kayak and is rubbed into the bar as you slide the kayak onto the rear bar. To solve this I installed a piece of water pipe foam insulation over the bar and then covered it with black duct take, it looks great and solves the problem.
Time will tell but overall Iím very pleased with the XSporter #421. It is well made, very solid and pleasant to look at and I no longer have to have my kayak hanging over the tail gate of my truck. Expensive, Yes but when I added up most of the major manufactures racks with saddles they all came out to be about the same price, and I no longer have to keep looking in my rear view mirror wondering if the car behind me is going to run into my kayak!!