gull wing vs. j cradles?

Planning on purchasing my first kayak soon. What are the pros and cons on gull wing vs. J cradles for car-top transport.

By “gull wing” I assume you mean …

I use both J cradles and saddles.

Right now I have saddles on the vehicle, because I am only carrying two boats.

Next week I need the extra room for an additional canoe, so I’ll switch to J cradles which don’t take up nearly as much room as the saddles.

If I was only carrying one or two kayaks, my choice would be for saddles.

I like the way the kayaks nest in them, and they are a lower profile.

Jack L

depends upon hull profile
I have the rubber faced Thule saddles that adjust in 3 positions. The support my wife’s kayak rounded hull very well with almost 100% contact. My hard chined boat not so. I did install a custom foam block between front saddles with a vee notch that supports the similar shaped hull well. Not so at rear. I have looked at some of the gull wing style, one by Malone and another from Florida seen at show in SC. Both look like they would support a vee hull better. The J cradles do stick up more from roof line. And many report thme being easier to load and with benefit of reducing the space required for a boat being more narrow on edge.

I’ve used both…
And I’ve got Marcos Saddles on both sides of my rack now.

I prefer them for long fiberglass boats because I can have big wide supports under the bulkheads (also a function of cross bar spacing) that also make loading easier. Neither of my big boats goes skittering off when I load solo, because the bow goes into the “V” of the rear saddle and I walk the boat up and onto the car.

I think they also prevent the dreaded bow wobble at highway speeds because of their shape and size. Kinda scary in a high wind with a 17’6" boat!

I even really like them for whitewater boats because cinching the boat down pretty tight does not cause it to oilcan. I can flip my friend’s playboat (which has a nice flat planing hull) upside down and rest the slightly curved deck in the “V” shape saddle.

And Bonus! I can pull into the carport with boats on roof, which the J cradle was just a hair tight for.

I’ve got Marcos saddles mounted on Thule Slipstream XT adapters, mounted on Yakima round bars, mounted on the factory tracks of my new car. It sounds complicated, but this is what really long trips with really big boats has evolved to!

J cradles for me were hard to load solo with big boats. I mentioned the clearance issue with the carport. I didn’t like how little of the boat was supported as well.

And don’t forget door number 3…

– Last Updated: Jul-14-10 4:56 PM EST –

I like the look of those Marcos saddles - they look better than most.

Depending on the car and the boat, you might consider a third option, which is a V-bar style rack: either the Kayakpro EZ-Vee or a less expensive version, V-bars by Keystone Kayaks. They really lock the boat in place, the supports are quite far apart and they have the quickest tie-down of any type of rack.

This is the kind I mean:

I've been using a Kayakpro for 4 years, and am adding a Keystone this weekend so I can carry a second boat. The manufacturers of these racks only use heavy bungees to hold the boats on, but as you can see in the photo, I add straps which I think is prudent.

PS I get more questions about my roof rack setup than any boat I've ever carried, especially since I finish loading 10-20 minutes before everyone else.

be careful with some cradles
I have tried several types of cradles and not all worked for the kayaks I transported.

BE VERY CAREFUL with some fibreglass kayaks in the heat, transporting them on cradles that don’t distribute the load over a wide area: the kayaks can deform!

I have written a little article on the different types of cradles that I have used, including pix of the damaged kayak:

“BE VERY CAREFUL with some fibreglass kayaks in the heat, transporting them on cradles that don’t distribute the load over a wide area: the kayaks can deform!”

I think you mean to say PLASTIC kayaks?

Fiberglass usually don’t bend much.

I have both…
The saddles are easier to load alone.

J racks take up less room.

After a shoulder injury I can’t load the J racks alone.

Both are Malones.

J-Cradles with Telos Loader
Started with Yakima Hully Rollers and Mako saddles, but could only carry one kayak and had trouble loading it. Now I use Malone AutoLoader cradles with the Telos loading system. It enables me to carry two boats on the car and with the ratcheting Telos system I can load an unload the boat(s) myself.

abc, you read right: fiberglass kayaks
abc, you read right: fiberglass kayaks can deform too.

Not all but I had a few that did that!

If you check the link that I attached in my post you will see images of deformed hulls of carbon/Kevlar clear coat kayaks.

The dimples popped out but little stress mark was left where it dimpled.

I am not the only one with that problem with THOSE kayaks either…

Rowers carry shells on those things
With a longer front-to-back bar.

Good rig for an outrigger canoe.

The only thing I don’t like about the two piece saddles is that I have to readjust them for different boats with different hull designs. You don’t have to do that with the one piece gullwings or the J racks.

That’s where they come from — I don’t know why sea kayakers don’t adopt them. Once loaded, the boats just don’t move at all. The long bar acts as a shock absorber too, so the boats receive less stress.