Yakima ShowdownGET IT
As the single kayaker in my house, it didn’t take long to realize wrangling help to load a boat onto the roof of my car is a pain. That’s what makes a self-assisting rack so appealing—the promise to make the chore a solo effort. To see if one is worth the price, which can be between up to four times more than a standard roof rack depending on the brand, I tested the Yakima Showdown over a few weekends by loading and unloading my 14-foot-long, 53-pound Old Town Castline kayak off the north shore of Long Island.
The two-part Showdown rack attaches to crossbars, slides out, then pivots down stopping a few inches away from the car doors. From there, each rack has a fold-down arm that helps keep the boat steady, so you only have to lift the kayak to about chest height. Once it’s all strapped up, you have to pull the boat away from the car, rotate your grip to push the kayak up and level with the roof of the car, then push the rack in as it slides closed. I paired the Showdown with Yakima’s JetStream crossbars ($200), replacing the factory-installed versions on my Subaru, and the Skyline towers ($200).
Installation out of the box is pretty simple, though you need crossbars that extend at least 3 1/2-inches past the towers, and as you can imagine, setting both Showdown racks the same distance away from the end of the crossbar is important. Each rack has a pair of twist knobs that tighten clamps onto the rails, and they bite securely. I loaded the boat myself without an issue, centering the cockpit roughly between the racks. The build is just stiff enough to not hit the side of the car when loaded (although folding in side mirrors is a good idea). From there I slid the inboard cradle on each rack down to support the underside of the boat. Take your time here to make sure the hull is touching all the cradles as I had to readjust the boat a bit, which is easier before the straps are in place. The locking pin that keeps the rack from sliding out while you’re driving is a really tight fit and fussy because you have to thread it through four holes.
Once the bow and stern tie-downs were added, the kayak felt secure cruising at 55 to 60 miles per hour. The only issue after loading a few times is you have to make sure you’re pushing the boat up and onto the roof at roughly the same speed so the rails don’t bind. While Yakima says the rack provides 30 to 45 percent weight assistance, depending on the boat, you still need to be strong enough to push some of the kayak’s weight above your head and tall enough to lift it in-line with the top of your car. The rack’s 80-pound load might not work with some larger fishing kayaks, which kitted out can inch close to about 100 pounds, but it should be plenty for most recreational boats. The Showdown can also hold a pair of SUPs. — Sal Vaglica, Senior Editor
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