The bow downs themselves are great products; some of the complaints here really deal with mounting to round bars. I have two sets of these... one set for about five years... and they are sturdy and protective.
When I had these mounted to my SUVs oblong crossbars they were solid as a rock. I later had to have these mounted to a round bar and I can see the difficulties of something mounted to a round bar and spinning issues. At first glance, not confidence inspiring.
The spinning issues are really only a problem when you are loading or unloading the kayak Annoying for sure. But once the kayak is strapped to the cradles it acts as a connecting brace. At that point the racks can only rotate a few degrees.
I just cannot see how some of these horror stories have happened if the kayak is correctly and properly strapped to the cradles. I have taken several 10 hour interstate trips with kayaks on these racks on round bars and never had an issue or concern.
Remember that the manufacture strongly recommends that you also use bow and stern tiedowns in addition to strapping to the cradles. Personally I only do this with my long tandem kayak.
I had to leave this review because I felt that this product is much better than the above rating. Again, I had one set for years and liked them so much I bought a second set for two kayak set ups. I would give the total setup four stars when used with round bars and five stars when use with any other kind of bars.
If I'm not mistaken, Yakima is phasing out the round bars from their new product line up anyway.
However, when I replaced my square bars with round Yakima bars, the situation changed dramatically. As other reviewers have mentioned, The BowDown carriers just spin around the round bars if any sideways pressure is applied. Note that there is a relatively cheap and easy fix for this: I have attached two 1-1/4" stainless steel hose clamps on the Yakima round bar at each point where the BowDown contacts the bar. I positioned the screws on the hose clamps on the bar to act as stops to prevent the BowDown from spinning. You probably only need 2 clamps where the bottom arm attaches, but I used a total of six for each carrier, 2 at each contact point. It was finicky to set up but is rock solid now.
That being said, if you have round bars, I would not purchase the Bowdown. The Jaylow is a much better design. The Jaylow attaches easily and securely to round bars, has 2 separate connections to the bar (less likely to catastrophically fail), has a stacking mode option, and is cheaper. It is not quite as well padded as the BowDown, but it is still protective.
I purchased a pricey used fishing kayak 300 miles from home,installed the bow downs on my Camry to a Yakima rack system and hit the interstate with no issues. To their credit, I was impressed with the seemingly solid connection of the components, but my 'yak looking like an orca fin sticking straight up is a bit disconcerting. I purchased the Yakima Boatloader to assist getting the boat up in the cradles by myself,but when i attempted the load, the Bowdowns spun back&forward on the round bars. The black plastic coating on the round bars is a crappy design flaw; no matter how hard you tighten them down, they'll move.
So yesterday I was going down the interstate with the yak on my roof for the fourth trip,telling myself to relax,I've made it safely to the lake 3 times now,then near disaster. All of a sudden,my left view is obstructed by my kayak! I get over to the side of the road&luckily a guy behind me (stranger) pulls over immediately,he said he saw it unfold. The boat was inches from pavement in front, luckily stayed on upright on the rear. The front Bowdown had rotated on the crossbar.With the help of my new friend,we unloaded it,switched to the passenger side of the car to attach the Bowdowns, and reloaded it. I somehow settled my nerves & proceeded to the lake, determined to not make this episode in futility. I made it home with just a dent and some scratches in my once immaculate black car.
I'm really worried about trying this transport method again,as you could imagine.I've spent about $800 on my rack set-up in lieu of using a truck bed (like previous owner), or trailer (not an option for a 2012 Camry). I may just let my beloved fishing machine gather dust while I purchase a truck to carry it. I'm a motorcyclist as well; the thought of a kayak flying at me on the interstate, or worse you or your loved ones probably will initiate the sale(and $ loss)of the whole rack system.
- Alarmed & disappointed.
First, I'll address the road noise. These racks will whistle at speeds of 40mph or higher. I just turned on the radio and didn't really worry about it much. But then I also sold the car and bought a truck... so I guess I didn't deal with the whistling for long.
Second is the spinning. The racks are easy enough to install, and even get tight. The issue I noticed is that the weight of the rack with a little push of sliding the kayak would actually spin the round crossbars. However, the loaded kayak acts as a brace between the two and prevents them from rolling when in route. So really as long as you strap the kayak securely to both bowdowns, you shouldn't have an issue.
I felt comfortable driving with this rack at highway speeds without using the bow or stern straps. I recommend this rack with the exception of the road noise.
Lesson learned with 2 kayaks mounted, a strong crosswind broke the hinge part on one of the Bowdowns. I call Yakima and asked they send me a replacement part which they agreed to immediately. Yakima customer service is superb. In two days I had, not the broken part, but a new set of Bowdowns delivered to my front door. I took a another users advice and when carrying two kayaks always tie the kayaks together. If only carrying one kayak tie the kayak to the opposite side rail as a preventive measure. Wind gusts are unpredictable and no matter what you use the automobile speed and wind combination can shear anything if it hits it just right.
Yes, they fold down, but the wind noise at highway speeds is unacceptable in that position. The Hullaports added a little noise when the moonroof was open, but nothing like the howling and whistling from the Bowdowns, even with all the windows and the moonroof closed (they don't make noise when the kayaks are loaded onto them). On the other hand, they go on and off with ease. So now I take them off when I'm not using them to transport our kayaks. Not what I expected when I bought them, but they did solve my problems -- the open moonroof is quiet and I can park anywhere in the garage at work.