In certain areas of life people might say I am “handy.” But drilling holes into the roof of a car? That is outside my comfort zone. So it was a couple months ago that I drove to a Rack Attack store, a national chain that specializes in “all things rack.” This includes the mounting of trailer hitches, the assembly of complex vehicle sport racks, and taking drill bits without pause to the roofs of cars.
My situation arose after the purchase of a vehicle that was not easily fit with out-of-box rack components. Our new family transporter, a minivan, was bought with the intent to tote kids, dog, bikes, and camping gear. But the van did not have factory-installed rails, which are the common lateral bars on which you secure roof-top boxes or bike mounts.
After consulting with an industry friend, I got in touch with a local Rack Attack shop in Minneapolis and made an appointment to have a system literally bolted to the top of the van.
The product, Thule’s Top-Track kit, is a bolt-on rail in which rack “feet” fit for mounting on rack bars and then accessories on top. The Top-Track becomes a permanent part of your roof hardware.
The Top-Track, which costs about $150, is a low-profile anodized aluminum grooved bar that affixes almost flat on top of a vehicle. Rack feet mount into the track grooves, and they slide forward or backwards for adjustment with the quick loosening of a bolt.
All told, the custom install required four products from Thule, including the track, rack feet, load bars, and parts called the “fit kit” to mate the feet to the track. Total cost for the Thule parts is more than $400. Rack Attack charges $120 for custom jobs like this install. Though pricey, the end system is sleek, strong and pretty much requisite for an outdoorsy family like mine that needs to haul bikes and loads of gear.
For one adventure this past summer, after the rack was built, we loaded the van with a roof-top box and a bike mount. On back, a hitch rack supported three additional bikes. We drove loaded with camping equipment in the roof box. Bikes were cinched on top and in the rear, all balanced and secure as a part of a sleek new system that we now cannot live without.
—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.