Subaru roof rack noob question- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Subaru roof rack noob question

    Hi all, I'm new to biking (only a little over a year or riding) I have an 01 Subaru outback sport (same body as a WRX wagon if you are not familiar with Subarus) I usually just take the front wheel off of my bike and I can throw it in the back (provided I fold down the seats. Am I the only one who transports bikes this way? I've never seen anyone else transport bikes this way. My GF has just gotten into riding again, however, now the inside of my car is getting crowded, if I put both bikes in the back I have every little room for anything else. I was looking into getting a roof carrier, (my car has a roof rack on it) do these roof carriers just mount to the stock roof rack, or do I have to take the stock rack off? How much should it cost me for a decent bike rack? I mean am I looking at 100 bucks for like 1,000 bucks? How safe are these thing? I've always been afraid my bike would fly off on the highway or on a turn.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  2. #2
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    Hey Steve,

    I've got an '05 LegacyGT wagon. I also started out sans rack - transporting my bikes in the cargo area. In fact I could transport three bikes and three people that way, but it was a pain in the @$$. I ended up going with a Thule T2 hitch rack. I paid about $300 for the rack and another $150 for the hitch (I installed the hitch myself). I bought the T2 when REI had their 20% off sale - I'm not sure how much it would cost for a roof rack system. For me, going with a hitch mounted rack was a no brainer because I'm lazy and didn't want to have to heft my bike on top of my car after each ride. I was also concerned that at some point I might drop the bike on my car or end up doing the classic "drive into my garage with the bikes still up on the roof" thing. I think either way, your bikes will be secure once locked down.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks for the info, I was actually thinking of getting a hitch mounted carrier. My parents 00 Legacy outback has a small hitch for this reason, but they don't have the carrier itself. I also like how you can still use the rear hatch even with the carrier on the car. I will check out that carrier system. Plus, I'm sure it doesn't hurt your MPG like a top mounted system would. Thanks again

    Steve

  4. #4
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    I have an '02 WRX wagon and run Yakima mounts, Thule cross bars, and Yakima fork mount carriers and it works great. The mounts attach to the factory roof frails very securely. I think you're probably looking at somewhere between $300-$400 for everything you need. The downside is that your gas mileage does suffer and your bikes are getting pelted by rain, bugs, etc. I am presently thinking of moving to a hitch mount system for those reasons.

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    I've heard that the Saris one is also pretty decent. I must say that it's very simple and quick to use. I'm not a physicist or engineer, but I suspect that a loaded roof rack will increase wind resistance more than an mounted hitch rack. My mileage sucks with or without the bikes on, so I can't really say how much my fuel economy is dropping as a result of the rack... <sigh>...

    If you're a poor, broke student like me, I'd definitely advise waiting for an REI sale - I saved about $60 on the rack that way - made it a lot easier to convince my wife that I "needed" it.

  6. #6
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    I have an 04 WRX wagon. It already has the longitudanal bars that would allow roof racks to be put on. I was already planning on putting a hitch on it and a Thule (sportworks) T2. I trust my LBS guy though, because I used to work for him, and he said that to put a roof rack on would cost about $400 total when all was said and done, and in the end you can easily rip your bikes off in a drive through or on your garage, screwing up the car, the bikes and the rack.

    Not only that, but a roof rack will cause a significant penaly in terms of aerodynamics, especially with the bikes on, but even with them off. This will add up over time and the hitch-mount rack will essentially "pay for itself" in terms of gas. And you don't have to lift your bikes over your head ever.

    My advice is to go for a T2 with a hitch, the subaru will take a hitch, so you got a good setup to start with.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  7. #7
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    Minor hijack......

    Hey Stib,
    Nice set-up there. I also have an '05 LGT wagon. I use a Thule roof rack for when I take multiples....I just lay my bike down in the back with the seats down if I'm solo. But I HATE bugs getting splattered all over my bike. It's turning into an obsession. I have used those covers on the front of the bikes, but it gets old messing with those, and hurts mpg even more. I've been thinking real hard about a hitch and either the T2 or the Saris rack. The question - do you have any trouble with the hitch/rack and the ground clearance on the LGT? We're sitting awfully low to the ground in that car. I'm afraid of scraping the rack everywhere I go. Did you get the Hidden Hitch....how was the installation?

    Thanks,
    Randy

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    Thanks guys, I was looking on the web, and I used the Yakima site that lets you choose the vehicle and it gives you what will work on your car. My Subie only lets me have a class I hitch, but all the hitch mounted carriers say "Not for use with class I hitch" Am I doing something wrong? I think I'm going to go with the hitch mount (assuming my car can be fitted with one.) The more that I think about it, the less I think I will like a roof mount, you can't take it off, lessens your MPG, and it will be a pain to wash and wax the roof. It's a pain now with the stock rack, I can only imagine if I put more stuff on it. Plus with the hitch mount it's easier to put the ski carrier on (which I might get because to haul my skis I have to fold down the rear seats and that means I can only take 1 other person.)

    Thanks for the info,
    Steve

  9. #9
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    I have an 06 LGT 2.5 wagon with the stock roof rack. I had some trays from a previous vehicle and they work great. They're Rocky Mountain trays, the urban camo, and they look sweet on a silver car with smoked windows (sorry...latent roadie coming out again..)

    I got the trays at Jenson USA, price matched to an internet company (therackshop.com or something like that). Much cheaper than either Thule or Yakima, IME.

    As for gas mileage, I did a 400 mile trip last Sat. with my Intense on the roof and did not experience any mileage difference. None. Perhaps you'll realize a difference with two bikes up there, but not for me with one bike on that trip.

  10. #10
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    Randy, yeah, I got the Hidden Hitch. I think I have the newer design, which I have heard is not as good as the older design. The older design used round tubes, whereas the newer design has square sections. I am scraping on some driveways - not all, but I do have to think about departure angles now. The part that I am scraping on is the actual hitch though (on really steep driveways and when the cargo area is loaded down, I'll scrape part of the hitch as well - the part that attaches to the hitch), and not so much the rack itself. I'm scraping less than I thought I would, but more than I'd like. Honestly, I'm not very concered about damaging the hitch or rack, but am worried that the scraping will loosen the bolts holding the hitch to the car.

    The problem is that I was unable to get the plate of the Hidden Hitch above the little tow loop on our car, which means that the hitch sits a couple cm lower than it needs to. I might try reinstalling the hitch again, but right now I'm way too lazy.

    If you have the right tools - a decent socket wrench with an extension for the socket and a buddy - the actual installation shouldn't take very long. Me, being a stupid, broke student, worked with what I had - a plumber's wrench and a vise grip. After a long time and a lot of cursing, I finally called a friend who let me borrow his crescent wrench - still not as good as a socket wrench, but good enough to do the install. I used blue loctite on the bolt threads, but wonder if I should have used red. I haven't had any problems with the bolts loosening yet though.

    Randy, I don't think you can go wrong with either the Saris or T2. I have heard good things about the Saris and I really like the convenience of the T2. I actually bought mine on the advice of my riding buddy who swore by his.

    Steve, I'm no expert when it comes to hitches, but I think the Legacy is a class I hitch. I believe the classification has more to do with the tongue weight capacity and towing capacity than whether or not you can use a hitch rack. I think on the Legacy, the tongue weight capacity is a couple hundred pounds - more than capable of holding the rack and two big bikes - haven't had problems carrying two RFXs. If you're real paranoid, you might want to check out an Impreza forum, like nasioc.com. I am sure they have plenty of threads on hitch racks and the Impreza. I personally got a lot of good advice from legacygt.com.

    Anyways, good luck guys.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by stib

    . If you're real paranoid, you might want to check out an Impreza forum, like nasioc.com.
    HA HA I'm a member there and I didn't even think to check there LOL Thanks

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    Thanks for the info, Stib. I may make that a project for the winter.

    Do you post on legacygt.com? I thought when I saw your post and pictures here that I had seen them somewhere else before. I visit there sometimes, but rarely post. Sort of like here

    Randy

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    Quote Originally Posted by rwitte
    Thanks for the info, Stib. I may make that a project for the winter.

    Do you post on legacygt.com? I thought when I saw your post and pictures here that I had seen them somewhere else before. I visit there sometimes, but rarely post. Sort of like here

    Randy
    yeah with great infrequency.
    i posted those photos up there, so it's likely you did see them on legacygt.com.
    i was just worried about using a 1.25" hitch (vs. a 2") and potential issues with flexibility. i couldn't find any 2" bolt-on hitches for the legacy, and i didn't want to shell out for a welded on custom job, so i went with the 1.25". my friend had his 2" hitch welded on his old RX300, but it cost him $300+ and he somehow managed to find a bolt-on 2" for his prius. no such luck for me.

    the 1.25" does sway on the freeway at higher speeds, particularly when undulations come in a rhythm (like a sort of resonance frequency?) - I found it unnerving at first, but it really doesn't bother me now. the rack is on there pretty solidly - but i do find myself glancing back at the rear view mirror more frequently than before!

  14. #14
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    I have an outback, and generally transport my bike as you described (inside with the front wheel off).

    I do have a roof rack, which I use when I have to haul stuff (i.e., the car is more or less full). I know as others have said that there is an aerodynamic penalty, or at least there should be - I drove from San Francisco to Houston then to Baltimore a few years ago with 2 bikes on the roof rack and found I was within 0.5mpg of my normal highway mileage, says to me the penalty isn't as much as some make it out to be. The factory rack is so low, I'd bet it's in the turbulent layer and doesn't really affect mileage when the carrier is empty.

    Rocky mounts makes a nice carrier that fits on the factory cross bars. If you put the carrier on backwards (so the bar is facing the rear of the car) you can still open the back.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joules
    I drove from San Francisco to Houston then to Baltimore a few years ago with 2 bikes on the roof rack and found I was within 0.5mpg of my normal highway mileage, says to me the penalty isn't as much as some make it out to be. The factory rack is so low, I'd bet it's in the turbulent layer and doesn't really affect mileage when the carrier is empty.
    Aerodynamics do not work like that. Desipte whatever experience you may have, that is not how aerodynamics work. On a smooth surface, the turbulent layer is very close to the surface, not in the order of 6 inches or a foot, but far far closer, and adding anything such as a rack, introduces many points where airflow will be not just more turbulent, but seperated, on all of the little protrudings, behind the air-deflector if installed, directly behind the cross bars, etc. I can't tell you what mpg you got with your bikes on the car, only that aerodynamically the penalty is pretty great having bikes on top in addition to the rack, increasing your Cd significantly. At slow speeds (less than 40mph) one would probably not see much difference, but faster and you really start to notice how the drag increases as a square of velocity, and it WILL cost you to lose a significant amont of mpg. For whatever reason, you did not observe those results, but those results are easily proven with the drag equation and the power or thrust required to maintain a certain velocity with a certain coefficiant of drag.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  16. #16
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    I'm sorry, I don't see it in your profile, where is your PHd from? You don't have one? then you don't really understand aerodynamics do you?

    Can you tell me the Cd of my car with and without bikes? Have you done wind tunnel testing with your car with bikes on the roof? No? then you have no idea whatsoever what it does to the Cd. None.

    the factory cross bar is about 2 inches from the roof, not 6 or 12. The roof of a car is not a smooth surface, it's immediately behind the windshield. Stick your fingers out of a sunroof, you'll feel the instant your hand is outside the boundary layer. It's about the height of a factory roof rack (wonder if that's a coincidence - maybe subaru has people who actually understand aerodynamics working for them... maybe they do something crazy like wind tunnel test their cars... nah, that's probably a waste of time, they could just post on an internet forum and get some peanut gallery answer from someone who took high school physics and thinks that makes them an expert).


    I'm telling the OP, I drove over 3000 miles, much of it in the 80-90 mph range, calculated gas millage every time I filled the tank, and was within 1/2mpg of my normal highway driving. That's enough miles, and consistent enough results to dismiss the possibility of it just being a fluke. I suspect the reason for this, again despite the peanut gallery responses, is that bike is pretty narrow and doesn't really contribute to the Cd as much as some think. IOW the Cd of a bike is insignificant compared to a car.

  17. #17
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    i know this thread is mainly dealing with subarus, but I know that the rack on my honda civic sedan costs me in the neighborhood of 4 mpg at highway speeds, and a couple more when the bikes are on it. but even at worst its still getting 32 mpg or so so im not whining

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    Thanks again guys, I'm gonna go to my LBS next week and have them set me up, it's gonna be an early X mas gift from my parents. I want a roof mounted carrier (since I already have a roof rack) and it seems the most logical for me. thanks again for all your help. I'm either going to get a Thule or Yakima brand, which one do you think is better and why? I see a lot of Thule carriers in my area, but I was just wondering which is better.

    Thanks,
    Steve
    Last edited by jetfan2207; 11-22-2006 at 04:38 PM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joules
    I'm sorry, I don't see it in your profile, where is your PHd from? You don't have one? then you don't really understand aerodynamics do you?.
    Well, my Bachelor's Degree is in Aeronautical Science, and I'm doing my Master's in Saftey Science (aviation concentration). Thanks for playing.

    You're assumption that the boundry layer is equal everywhere is entertaining.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmba guy
    i know this thread is mainly dealing with subarus, but I know that the rack on my honda civic sedan costs me in the neighborhood of 4 mpg at highway speeds, and a couple more when the bikes are on it. but even at worst its still getting 32 mpg or so so im not whining
    And that is right. It may not be the end of the world to you, but it is significant and definite.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  21. #21
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    I'm on my 2nd Subaru. Both are WRX wagons, the first one was white 02 and now I'm driving a black 06 limited edition that I've modified to an STI wagon. I've always had roof racks to haul my bikes around, and yes there is a mileage penalty as well as a handling penalty due mainly because it's an aerodynamic atrocity. No, I have no science degrees. I'm a baller that makes mad scrill, but my butt dyno (as well as my experience from being on a dedicated racetrack) substantiates my claim. Personally, I prefer the rook rack over a hitch, but that's just my personal preference.

    My one piece of advice for you is to try to stick with Thule. And that's coming from an avid Yakima supporter. I don't see any performance advantage between the Yakima and Thule crossbars, but I think Yakima missed the boat w/ the King Cobra bike mount. I made the mistake of purchasing these before doing any research. I started having problems with the bike staying secured. I called Yakima, and they told me that I had to pre-load the upright prior to closing up the red knob (look up the King Cobra in product reviews and you'll see what I'm talking about). The problem is the red knob loosens up and the bike will start swaying on top of the car. It actually would take alot to lose the bike, but still, I don't like that lack of security. After a few rides, I noticed one of the support tubes on the King Cobra started to bend.

    Lucky for me, I bought in from Performance (I know they suck online, but their brick and mortar is pretty decent). It was almost 8 months after the fact, and they refunded every penny. I would've bought my Thules from them, but they didn't have the one's I wanted, so I went to RackAttack.com.

    Good Luck and Subarus rock!

  22. #22
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    Thanks for all your replies. Anyway, what are the advantages and disadvantages are there between the racks that you take the front wheel off and the ones that you can put the bike on the rack with the front wheel on? I assume the one without the wheel (where you attatch the fork directly to the rack) would be more stable. Any insight would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by jetfan2207
    I assume the one without the wheel (where you attatch the fork directly to the rack) would be more stable. Any insight would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Steve
    Well, not really. QRs aren't "that" strong without your weight on the bike constantly pushing down, I've sold and dealt with enough bike racks to know that there isn't really any advantage to "taking the front wheel off", in fact the big disadvantage is that you can't put a 20mm or 25mm or whatever they design next-front hub in there unless you get a new adaptor for the bike. You may not think that you'll ever use a bike with a 20mm front hub, but eventually the axles on even XC bikes will get bigger, Maverick (with their own proprietary size) makes mostly XC bikes and the front forks are 25mm. So, for the best future compatability, go with one where you do not have to take the front wheel off. The big locking-arm that cinches the front wheel in this case is pretty strong and sturdy, it gives a lot of support and is what makes it pretty darn stable, at least as stable in my experience than the ones where you can take the front wheel off. The disadvantage is that your bike sticks up a little further.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  24. #24
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    Smile Bike Transportation

    Hello Guys and Galls,
    Have a look at a new system invented in the UK for rolling bikes into hatchbacks.
    check out www.xrack3.co.uk for transportation, storage and maintenance.
    This system was specifically designed to take on board the 'Green Issues'.
    Especially fuel economy, safety & theft.
    The site doesn't list every vehicle on the planet, but the Guys at 'xrack3' personnally
    measure up any new vehicles enquired about.

  25. #25
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    Nice, but with a big fork there's no way my bike would fit inside my WRX wagon like that (I've tried). In fact, you still have to take off the front wheel with that as well as it seems to not fit unless the seatpost is taken out of the bike, so IMO that's highly inconvientent. In my buddies jeep cherokee where there was enough space to put the bikes like that, we simply bungeed the bikes to the rear seat belt-hangers, and it worked out great every time. I see little benefit with that "rack". Not to mention you could make your own rack out of a 2x4 with QR mounts from the local bike shop.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  26. #26
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    No good

    Quote Originally Posted by ODDSOX
    Hello Guys and Galls,
    Have a look at a new system invented in the UK for rolling bikes into hatchbacks.
    check out www.xrack3.co.uk for transportation, storage and maintenance.
    This system was specifically designed to take on board the 'Green Issues'.
    Especially fuel economy, safety & theft.
    The site doesn't list every vehicle on the planet, but the Guys at 'xrack3' personnally
    measure up any new vehicles enquired about.
    This is the second post I have read of yours laying out the same crap/spam. Nobody is going to pay $200-300 US for something that goes inside the vehicle when we can all pay $10 and mount a fork block in our SUV/hatchbacks.

    Taking a look at your D+ product it looks like it would have a hard time with brake calipers.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by rwitte
    Hey Stib,
    Nice set-up there. I also have an '05 LGT wagon. I use a Thule roof rack for when I take multiples....I just lay my bike down in the back with the seats down if I'm solo. But I HATE bugs getting splattered all over my bike. It's turning into an obsession. I have used those covers on the front of the bikes, but it gets old messing with those, and hurts mpg even more. I've been thinking real hard about a hitch and either the T2 or the Saris rack. The question - do you have any trouble with the hitch/rack and the ground clearance on the LGT? We're sitting awfully low to the ground in that car. I'm afraid of scraping the rack everywhere I go. Did you get the Hidden Hitch....how was the installation?

    Thanks,
    Randy
    Late to the party. I have pretty much the same setup as Stib. '05 legacy wagon, but with a Draw-tite hitch and Saris rack. With the Draw-tite, no problems attaching the plate to the tow loop, but it sticks out a little more, which also causes some clearance issuses. Really any hitch on these cars will be an issue because of the low clearance, and as mentioned you have to watch your approach angles in steeper situations. I have scraped off some of the tension knob of the rack. Honestly if I had to do it again, I would prefer roof mount (if it weren't for the extra large sunroof-which is awesome!). I really hate putting on and taking off the very heavy rack. I don't have a garage so I have to bring back and forth from back yard shed when needed. I don't want to leave it on the car as it will only get destroyed and kill the gas milage. As soon as I get a new car for myself (Sub is wife's) I want to sell the rack and take the hitch off.
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  28. #28
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    OK guys I got my V2 bike rack and the ride on adapter. I have a quick question: I just put the ride on adapter on my factory corssbars and they seem pretty tight, kind of like the bolts provided weren't long enough. There is a 1 1/2 centimeter gap between the top mounting clamp and the bottom clamp. How tight should these bolts be? I'm assuming these are pretty high quality hardware. However, it says "don't over tighten" everywere in the manual, I tightened them pretty well. The adapter seems secure, but I just don't want to loose my bike on the highway.

    Thanks again,
    Steve
    Last edited by jetfan2207; 11-29-2006 at 03:34 PM.

  29. #29
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    Sorry for bringing back the aerodynamics debate but, depending on what car and what rack you have, mpg can take a bigger hit on trunk and hitch mounted racks than roof racks. Some combos make the bikes stick out a lot from the back of the cars and a bike creates much more drag on it's side then mounted aligned with the wind... Again, it depends what car and what rack you use and it's usually more a problem with sedans or sport cars with a sweeping roof line, much less with wagons and SUVs (as if SUV owners cared about mpg anyway).

    As for me, I recently bought a used 2000 Outback and even though it already has a 2" hitch, I found a used set of Thule crossbars, mounts for factory racks and locks for 100$ CAD in very good conditions. After having experienced losing my bike along with two friend's bikes on the road with a failure of a trunk mounted rack and seeing another of my friend's bikes being completely destroyed on his hitch rack when someone hit him from behind, I much prefer roof racks...
    Last edited by Dan Gerous; 01-03-2007 at 08:53 PM.

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  30. #30
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    Glad to see/read about so many BL/BP5 LGT owners out here in the ether.

    You guys have inspired me to go for a hitch/rack.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gerous
    After having experienced losing my bike along with two friend's bikes on the road with a failure of a trunk mounted rack.
    Does that have anything to do with a hitch mounted rack?
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem
    Does that have anything to do with a hitch mounted rack?
    Did it have to?

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    In case anyone has questions about the MPG suffering from the rack and bike. The MPG has gone down slightly on my 01 outback sport. With the bike on there it suffers a bit more, but it's not as bad as I thought. I still spend less than 100 bucks a month on gas and drive about 1000 miles per month.

    Steve

  34. #34
    Elitest thrill junkie
    Reputation: Jayem's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    31,689
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gerous
    Did it have to?
    You said it did. I'm just wondering why that was a factor in not getting a hitch rack? You can have good reasons for not wanting a hitch rack, but you stated that one of the reasons was because you'd experienced the failure of a trunk rack. I thought that was pretty wierd.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

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