Cycling Contemplations

The SeaSucker Bike Rack Experience

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Cycling somewhere new, away from home, is one of my greatest joys in this sport. The SeaSucker bike rack has been my ally in these ventures, transporting my bike safely over hundreds of kilometers. It’s practical, reliable, comes with a few quirks, and it’s not necessarily something I would pay its asking price for.

How’s the hold?

The first question that comes to mind is: will it hold? If I hit the highway and drive at the limit of 140kph, what’s the risk that my precious bicycle will fly off and crash on the asphalt, breaking its carbon frame into a million pieces, possibly causing a wreckage of cars behind it?

Clearly, everyone who’s considering using a SeaSucker must have the same concern, because most of the company’s advertising focuses on how strong the hold is:

In all the travels I had with the rack so far, it held well. I drove in scorching heat, in pouring rain, and at times as fast as 160-170kph, and nothing came off. Admittedly, I was still paranoid, checking and adjusting the vacuum pads every time we stopped—which coincidentally is what the manufacturer advises.

One time I had trouble getting one of the pads to suck onto the car roof. One of the pad’s sides didn’t quite fit, even when I pressed on the rack firmly. I had to locate the exact spot where air was coming in between the body and the rubber, then press that spot, and then it worked fine. Didn’t have any issues with the pad further down the road, but it shows that caution is nonetheless warranted.

Convenience of mounting

The racks can be mounted on any surface—horizontal, vertical, possibly even upside down. If you own a van, truck or SUV, you may want to mount it on the rear of your car, but for most vehicles it’ll be the roof. This has the disadvantage of having to lift bikes high to mount them, and once you arrive, having to clean them thoroughly from all the insects they’ve crashed into. I personally despise that.

The roof-mounted position also devastates your car’s aerodynamics (you know what I mean, if you’re a serious cyclist). Fuel consumption goes up and there’s an upsetting, swooshing sound at higher speeds.

Mounting is quick and easy. Removal is even easier—you just lift one of the vacuum pad’s sides and poof! vacuum’s gone. In fact, it’s so easy that the racks are trivial to steal, with or without the bikes attached to them.

This may well be the devices’ biggest flaw. There’s no (reasonable) way of locking the bikes to prevent (or at least delay) thievery. The company’s own advice for security is laughable: use a cable! and buy their window cable anchor to fasten it to the vehicle.

Would I buy it?

I’m not sure. To date I’ve always been renting them and haven’t decided to buy one so far.

They’re expensive. Approx. €400 for the one-bike model is two- to three times as much as a regular rack would cost. The three-bike Bomber model costs twice as much.

On the upside, they can be used with any car, so if we buy a new one or take another car, ie. rented one, we could still use them. And they’re much smaller than regular racks, because there’s no rail between the front and rear grip, making them easy to store them at home. The bike shop where I’m renting them stores these sucked onto a glass wall.

I like to act in a data-based fashion, meaning: do I use it often enough to justify buying? So far, no. I used it four times this year, each time paying approx. €25 for the rental, totalling €100, which is still a lot less than a new one costs. And I don’t need to store it, or service, or worry about it in any matter.

Maybe the next time we change cars, we’ll have a towbar mounted to it, and rent racks that fit onto it. These are both cheaper to rent than a SeaSucker, and much less damaging to the cars aerodynamics. They’d be a pain to store at home, but as long as we’re renting, that won’t be an issue.