kayak roof rack saddle or j cradle?

I was just wondering what everyone thinks using a roof rack saddle (or rollers) vs. a j-cradle type set up. I just got a roof rack and now I’m torn between a saddle or j-cradle; I like the idea of being able to use two sets of j-cradles since sometimes I go with my friends - though usually I’ll just be transporting my own kayak. Is there any signficant advantage to a saddle? Any recommendations?

If you are not tall
and your car is tall, I would make sure you can reach high enough before purchasing J cradles. I bought the Yakima Hullraiser a few weeks ago and have had nothing but trouble; even with a step stool and an assist from another person. It is just a tough reach to place a 50 lb. yak on a high car over the J portion of the cradle. Once it’s up, it is very secure after being tied down.

I’m tall, car is not
I am actually quite tall for a woman, 6’2" and I have a 4 door sedan. I’ve been using foam blocks for a little while, and can get my 12.5’ kayak on the roof by myself. So hopefully getting it up over the J won’t be too hard.

If your kayak is plastic
Go with the J-cradle. Plastic kayaks are strongest on their sides, and will be less prone to deform in the hot sun or long trips if they’re stored that way.

For what it is worth
I have both saddles and J cradles.

The only draw back that I can see with the J cradles is that they are higher in the air, and you might not be able to get into some parking garages with them.

I have had the saddles for years and carry both plastic and composite yaks with them.

I just went with the J cradles on one of my vehicles and have carried both plastic and composite yaks on them and they seem to be working well.



Rollers and sadles
I use rollers in the rear and saddles in the front on my Subaru wagon-- easier to load when by myself and stable when the 'yak is on top and strapped down. One trick with a wagon: carry a towel or something soft to protect the upper ridge of the car and the bottom of the 'yak when pushing the 'yak onto the rollers.


I don’t know of any “car” that…
Is 6’-2"… You should have no problem With J cradles. Just lift the kayak on its side & let it roll into the racks…

Paddle easy,


Try the Malone Gullwing
I have just been debating the same issue. I bought the Thule Hull-A-Port last week and thought the mounting systems seemed pretty weak. I also didn’t like the way the boat rode in the cradle. It seemed precarious to me. Yesterday I bought the Malone Gullwing. I’m really happy with this setup. The quality is very good and because of the single point attachment, I’m able to get two Pungo 140s on top of my Jeep Liberty. (40” between towers) Check them out in the Buyer’s Guide under Boat Transportation.

J-cradles all the way!

– Last Updated: Jun-08-05 9:11 PM EST –

I use J-cradles and I really like them. The kayak fits perfectly on them and feels very secure. Since I have a plastic boat, it's better to keep your kayak on its sides where they are more resistant. Furthermore, it's really easy to fit the kayak in those cradles. Only one place to go.

Best of both?
My Saris saddles pivot. I can side load like a J cradle - onto the outbard saddles that I’ve tilted toward me for even lower height - and then roll the kayak down into the other saddle. Reverse for taking off. Super easy.

Saddles are more secure
When I strap a boat into saddles, I get no movement, even at highway speeds. That’s because the cradles conform to the hull shape and hold it rigidly. J-cradles flex and allow the boat to move around, since they don’t conform to the shape of the boat. Because they’re taller and the boat is on it’s side they create more “sail” area in crosswinds and increased stress on the load bars. Unless you have a compelling reason to use J-cradles, I suggest that you stick with saddles.

I pretty much agree
with what has already been posted.

I have used Yakima saddles + Hully Rollers, but now have Malone Autoloaders with a Yakima Boatloader.

Saddles = slightly lower profile

Hully Rollers = ease of loading, but possible hull deformation on longer boats

J cradles = more boats (or other accessories) per set of bars

J cradles = more difficult loading (hence my Boatloader)

J cradles = greater hatch opening on station wagons

With a relatively short boat, you have many options.


When you talk about “sail” area…I think this is open to a little debate…

I can definitely see your point from a crosswind standpoint, but when you examine the aerodynamic lift created from the shape of the kayak, I would argue the boat creates much more lift when it’s positioned upright on top of the car.

The airflow moving over the top/deck of your sea kayak produces an area of higher velocity/lower pressure airflow than whats traveling over the lower velocity/higher pressure air moving across the bottom/hull.

…I don’t know,does this sound convincing??

Anyway,I’ve been using cradles and they’re pretty rock solid, the only flex or movement I’ve experienced was in strong crosswinds.

I Like My Malone AutoLoader J Cradles
I am sure that what Brian says is true, as I did have to stop once to re-adjust when I was driving at highway speed with a heavy crosswind. This happened only once and I’m heading into my second season with them.

I bought the Autoloaders because I scratched up the back of the roof of my last sedan loading into saddles from the back by myself. As already suggested, a towel helps with this. However, I felt that there was more fumble risk when loading from the back than from the side.

I have my Autoloaders mounted close to the edge of the car. Since I’m only 5’6", I keep a short step stool, which makes loading pretty easy unless I’m really tired. I find Malone’s little “loading ramp” really does help to load the boat into the cradles.


Thumbs up for
Malone’s “Loading Ramp”.

I would hate to have to deal with Yakima or Thule J-cradles that do not have this feature.


Definitely Malone Autoloaders!
best of both worlds.

Bruce… No offense, but…
How tall are you? You make it sound like you are all of 3 foot tall & have the lifting capacity of a 12 year old…

I haven’t seen a car yet that is over 4’6" to the roof line (other than those ugly a$$ Aztecs). Hell I know my 03’ Blazer is only 5’9" to the top of the Thule bars I have on it. J-cradles would only add another 2 1/2" of lift. I don’t even have to extend my arms all the way to load my kayak on to my “Stakkers”, and I am only 5’7". My boat weighs all of 46 lbs & I consider myself to be in great shape, since my highschool days are 15 years behind me…lol

Not trying to critisize… Just a question.

Paddle easy,


In My Humble Opinion…

– Last Updated: Jun-09-05 12:28 PM EST –

IMHO, I think the J racks are fine if you have a low roof car, and a light weight kayak. Or if the roof is low, and you will always have someone to help you put a heavier kayak up into the J racks.

I tried putting the J racks (hullraisers) on my Dakota 4x4 and it took 2 people, with 2 step ladders to get the kayak up into them.

After about 5 minutes of "trying" trying. I took them off and got Yakima Mako Saddles. I put the felt pads on to protect my composite kayak, and I really like this set up.

Good Luck!

Why no go with both…
I use a set of standard saddles in the middle for my kayak and then add on 2 sets of Js on the sides when I need to carry more than one boat. It works great for river shuttles and the Js will even carry a set of wide, dumpy canoes:


Two considerations
If you think about it, a kayak is shaped more like an inverted airfoil, so it may actually create downforce rather than lift. I don’t know of anyone that’s actually measured this, so we’re probably just guessing at this point. I have had an unstrapped kayak stay on the roof of my car until it hit ~60 mph, whatever than means (aside from meaning that I was pretty stupid for setting it there and not strapping it down immediately).

Secondly, if the kayak does produce lift one way or the other, putting it in J-cradles would cause torque on the cradles and the rack, which seems more likely to be a problem than lift on a saddle.