Ford Flex and Transporting Kayak Advice?

I’m strongly considering a Ford Flex AWD. Does anyone have one to be able to comment on boat transporting on it. Which rack system/bars do you use? Does anyone have the optional roof bars, and are they adequate for strapping boats, and with which system? Thank you in advance.

Here’s a link to a review of the slightly re-tooled 2013 Flex, in case anyone else is considering it. I know its looks are an acquired taste. Thanks.

Fit guides
I don’t have a Flex but it has a nice long flat roof that should be great. Check Yakima or Thule site for their fit guides. They can give you all the options for bars and racks.

how about this?

from a Flex forum

I like the revised 2013 model. Now for a surfer “woody” option!

Tahnk you
These are all great links and suggestions. I learned that I don’t need the factory rack, that I can just buy the appropriate Yakima and secure it to the grooves and I should be all set. I got this from your Forum links, and for that, thank you.

Flex for hauling kayaks
I don’t own a Flex, but did rent one for an extended week and found it to be well suited to hauling both kayaks and bicycles. I am 6’ tall and found it slightly too tall for easy loading and unloading by myself. My regular car is a Volvo XC70 wagon that is just enough smaller to be much easier to load. Accordingly, if you buy a Flex and plan to load your boats on a roof rack without an assistant, I would suggest you consider the Yakima system with the rollers to aid loading. This might not seem like a big deal until you have a windy day. Of course if you have a helper then there would be no issue. In every other way the Flex is a very good choice. They are roomy, comfortable, have a lot of capacity, and are very reliable. I got about 19-20 mpg in a mix of use over about 1000 miles on my rental. They look utilitarian, which has grown on me. In my estimation the Flex is tough to beat in this class of vehicle.

Any vehicle for any kayak

– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 3:15 PM EST –

Ingenuity makes transport possible on any car

People aren't using super stretch station wagons
and large truck-like vehicles to enjoy the sport

Options exist

Wee vehicles are not a good option
The links that Willi provided depict a variety of very poor choices for roof loading kayaks. I believe that in some geographic locations such an obvious mismatch would be considered illegal (too much overhang) and frankly they ought to be outlawed everywhere. A vehicle longer and heavier is required for stability at highway speeds and in windy conditions when kayaks or canoes are loaded on top. If a small vehicle is your choice, then it would be far safer to haul your kayaks using a purpose built trailer. Even then, a vehicle like a Flex or other more substantial vehicle would be a much safer conveyance. I know it is a free country, but a measure of common sense is desirable on and off the water.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 5:09 PM EST –

Pure conjecture and nonsense. Look at the RACK on the mini. It's quite substantial. You grossly overestimate the forces of gravity and crosswind with your statement regarding size and weight. that mini ain't tipping over because it's light and small and the boat catches more crosswind, this is not the Flintstones. I'd ask you to tell me where such a setup would be illegal.

Asking people to make vehicle choices based on what kind of boat they transport when they're not using the vehicle for the bulk of it's life commuting is plain unreasonable and a waste of energy. By your logic there is a whole world of loads and trailers that should be outlawed.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 5:45 PM EST –

Bill - the setup on the Mini that Willi linked the photo to is mine. Your statement that it is somehow dangerous is completely baseless and demonstrably false. I can't really let it slide, because the Mini is a good kayak hauler and the EZ-Vee is a quality product.

I've used this setup to carry initially one, and now two boats safely for 7 paddling seasons. On a daily basis, tie-down takes about 5 minutes. No boat has ever moved (at all) while on the roof of the car. Here's the setup with two boats, 1000 miles from home in Cape Breton, NS, a trip made with no incident:

The blue Q400S (15'3" long) in the photo overhangs about 2' in the back - legal. A 17' boat overhangs about 3' in back, legal with a red flag.

For background, I am a mechanical engineer, and prior to that was a professional carpenter. I spent a great deal of time researching systems, and this was the result. It is by far the most secure and quick system I have seen on any car anywhere. Here's why:

1. On this model of Mini, the towers bolt to large threaded studs which are secured through the roof skin directly to the roof frame.

2. The aero cross bars are heavy aluminum extrusions supplied to Mini by Thule.

3. The EZ-Vee is an extremely well-engineered product. The Vee portions are large sections, welded together.

4. The longitudinal section is a 1" square aluminum extrusion, with an interior X reinforcement.

5. I personally designed the adapters that attach the EZ-Vee to the cross bars, and they are massively over designed. The adapters supplied by Kayakpro for Thule and Yakima crossbars are quite beefy, as well.

6. I use a bow tie-down to the tow hook on the front bumper, but it is a redundant system.

7. As a bonus, the boat is held by Vees which are 7 to 8 feet apart. This is much gentler on a hull than typical cradle spacing of 3 feet or so - much less twisting force involved.

Also, what slushpaddler says about forces is exactly correct. I have done engineering estimates (really, my specialty is fluid mechanics) and the forces to be expected by a boat on top of a car are pretty minor, less than 50 pounds. In normal driving, I don't notice the boats on the roof - sometimes I'll feel it if there is a big crosswind or wake from a very large truck.

I get a huge number of questions about the rack, mostly from experienced kayakers who are amazed how quick it all goes together at the take-out and how secure it looks.

Forgot to mention
For the OP, the Vees are available without the longitudinal piece. If the cross bars you put on the Flex have a good separation (which I presume they would), a couple of the Vees available from Kayakpro would function really well. The owner of Kayakpro uses Vees on crossbars on a stretch van to carry several long skinny kayaks at once.

No need for massive long roof

– Last Updated: Jun-23-12 3:00 AM EST –

AWD Pontiac Vibe with 18ft Epic Endurance kayak

Transported this boat all over Detroit, MI area
and never had an issue with any police.

One side of the car has J hooks, the other
has Mako saddles, they both work just fine.

Long span
I am a strong proponent of a long distance between roof bars,which is why I bought a Focus wagon instead of sedan. The leverage factor is unescapable. I have admired the Flex for it’s long span and low hight for use as a canoe hauler,but it’s out of my price range. I usually haul canoes,but the principle is the same.


Thanks !
These are great answers. Thanks so much.

I appreciate that Bill used the Flex and liked it. Good info.

I thought you take apart guys did not
need a rack!!!

Remember, the right thigh is Xmas and the left thigh is New Years so come up between the holidays and see me sometime!!!

re: Wee vehicles are not a good option

– Last Updated: Jun-25-12 11:08 AM EST –


As one engineer to another, I would like to respond to your thoughtful reply with some additional clarifications directed to all who have responded negatively to my cautions. It never occurred to me that a cross wind could topple a small car like a Mini, and although I suppose it is possible, such an outcome is quite unlikely. From your description of your setup it seems reasonable that the boat is quite secure to the car. I had assumed that this would be so, but hereby verify and accept that it would be possible to securely attach the boat to the car, no matter the size of the car, and that you have done so.

My concern and the reason I stated that small cars such as the Mini would not be safe under high wind conditions has to do with directional stability and control. A long boat mounted to a small car has a significant increase in sail area and the combination of the increase in overhang and the relatively light weight of the car make this combination unsafe in certain environments. I am an old guy (64), have been doing this paddle sport thing since I was a kid, and can attest that there are places all over North America where there are dangerous cross winds at times. States where the police might choose to intervene in my experience include New Hampshire, Washington, Wyoming, Florida and virtually all of the Canadian Provinces, especially out west. In addition to dangerous cross winds, there is the problem of high speed, two-way highways with one lane going in each direction. On these roads a large trailer truck approaching in the opposite direction can cause significant buffeting due to wind wash. A car that is quite small is much more influenced than a bigger one in these conditions. Adding a significant amount of sail area to smaller vehicles is not something that can be handled safely under worst case conditions. This is plain physics and as an engineer you know this. Additionally, when my wife and I were young and did not have a lot of money we had small cars, starting with a Volkswagon Beetle, probably the worst car for hauling canoes and kayaks ever devised by man. Yes we hauled our canoe on the roof of our VW, I learned what I am talking about in the school of hard knocks. We have also owned other small cars and still do (my wife's current car is a Subaru, we have owned and loved a couple of Mini Coopers for that matter) and can attest from over 40 years of experience that what I am saying here is truthful and accurate, whether you want to accept it or not. Stay safe out there and try to remember not to shoot the messenger.


Fair enough

– Last Updated: Jun-26-12 12:06 AM EST –

But I'm not sure why you mistrust my years of experience. The modern Mini is a road grabber, and at ca. 2500 pounds, it is not more susceptible to cross-wind buffeting than any other car. My 1978 Mercury was more adversely affected by cross winds. I travel at high speeds on busy highways in the metro area, and haven't experienced any failures, or even any slips with the setup.

The one problem I had was when I let a friend attach Thule J-cradles to my factory rack. While crossing the causeway from Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay, a severe microburst took hold of his kayak and bent the J-cradles right over flat, bending the cradles and thumbscrews. The boat was retained by the straps, enough to get us over the bridge and we could secure it better. The Mini was buffeted, of course, but my boat on the EZ-Vee was not dislodged, and there was no damage to the crossbars. We were going about 40 mph, and I estimate the cross gust to have been around 60-70 mph.

Obviously the damage to the J-cradles would have happened regardless of the vehicle they were attached to, and I will never use them myself. I think in general the weak part of the rack systems out there are cheap, undersized fasteners and crappy OEM crossbars made of thin stock. The car itself is a pretty robust part of the equation, as long as you're not using a vintage VW Beetle, of course.

While I normally use my Focus to
transport my kayaks, I have a 2011 Flex that I use for longer trips with the family when I need to transport more people/luggage.

I use 58" Yakima bars with Q-towers. I have 2 sets of Thule Hull-a-Port Pros. I transport two Perception Carolina 14’s on it with no problem. That is, other than the fact I need some help getting the kayaks up that high (I’m only 5’4" on a good day.) I use Thule Step Up wheel steps to get the extra height I need and there is usually someone around to give me a hand.

I took them to Cape Hatteras last year and had no problem with the cross winds going over the Oregon Inlet bridge. I’m well satisfied with this setup.

Small cars carrying kayaks
I drive a Honda Fit, and I often carry two sea kayaks for hundreds of miles. Bill Stevenson is entirely correct in saying that larger, heavier vebicles are more stable when transporting kayaks in crosswinds. You simply cannot negate the laws of physics. However, smaller vehicles can be more fun trying to keep from being blown off tbe road with each passing truck - both oncoming and overtaking.

Well, …
An 18 wheeler is heavier and larger but A LOT more susceptible to cross winds than most small cars… (I’ve seen them on their side along a highway due to winds that would not have pushed a car over, provided the driver is not asleep at the wheel). Let’s not generalize like that.

I would agree that if the rack is strong and the spread is big, there is very little chance of anything bad happaning.

Of course, the light and short (not simply small!) car will be more affected in the general case than a heavier and longer low-riding car, but most cars these days, save for a Smart4Two or an Aveo will have little trouble holding a line in cross winds with an allert driver behind the whell…

On the contrary, mix heavy wind or a large bump on the road with a ANY vehicle (heavy or not) with a crappy rack or a rack with too narrow spread and you either get a broken rack or a dented/broken kayak.