Roof-Topping the Triplet

We decided to go ahead and bring the triplet along with our tandem to this year’s Georgia Tandem Rally, even though it appeared that it wouldn’t be needed due to a change in plans by one of the prospective 2nd stokers that no longer necessitated the additional triplet at GTR.

We did this in part just to remind ourselves of what all is involved with roof-topping a rather large bicycle in terms of the logistics of getting racks back on the roof of the truck, getting the rather large bike hefted onto those racks, the amount of wind noise it would generate, how steady it would ride and of course how much of a hit all that added drag would have on our fuel mileage.

The first step was reclaiming our Yakima sports rack roof hardware from our son, who had borrowed it several years ago for purposes that still remain rather obscure, as I don’t think they actually used them to transport bikes: they were more or less roof-top decorations that made their vehicles look a bit less pedestrian.

Once I had them back I realized that I’d need to pick-up some new Q-Clips for the Toyota Tundra as well as a new wind deflector as the one we had from “back in the day” wasn’t nearly wide enough to do much good. Well, at least that took care of the fork mount at the front end of the truck.

For the rear wheel, the defacto solution was to bolt Yakima’s roof tracks onto the top of our A.R.E. fiberglass shell and then attach some existing towers, cross bars and wheel trays to the roof. Well, that didn’t seem like an attractive arrangement for a number of reasons.  So, I went on line to see what else might be out there and discovered something called the Sea Sucker’s vacuum mount rear wheel holder.

It seemed like the perfect solution since it eliminated putting holes and installing permanent hardware on the very clean roof line of my truck’s topper shell and was also flexible in terms of where it could be installed,  i.e., 4′ back for a tandem and 6′ back for the triplet.

However, since we were talking about a rather large bike that would catch a lot of wind, particularly cross winds, I opted to buy a pair of the Sea Suckers mounts so I could go with a belt-and-suspenders approach to the first use; basically building in some redundancy if you will.

To ensure the two separate mounts would share in holding the rear wheel of the triplet on the roof I attached a small Yakima rear wheel tray to the attachment screw bosses on the SeaSuckers. I also used the original velcros wheel straps to double-up on the 3/4″ bolts that were used to attach the wheel tray to the SeaSuckers so that they wouldn’t be the weakest link in the beta test, noting that you really didn’t want a 10′ long bike flailing around on the roof of a vehicle moving at 70mph in the event the vacuum didn’t hold.  I also tied a safety line around the rear wheel that I snaked through the rear hatch of the trunk and secured to a tie-down hook inside the truck bed such that if the SeaSucker’s lost their hold on the camper shell the safety line would keep the tandem’s rear wheel squarely positioned on top of the shell.

I’m pleased to report that the system worked quite well.

However, car-topping the 45 lb triplet took our fuel mileage from about 17.5 to 15.0, noting I tend to drive about 10-over, so this cruising at 75- 80 mph. I’m guessing we’ll drop $93 for gas on this trip vs. the $80 it would have cost without having a bike on the roof. For comparison purposes, hauling two 800lb motorcycles on an open trailer that probably goes about 700 lbs with the same driving habits takes our fuel mileage down to about 11.5 mpg.

I’ll probably try using just the one SeaSucker rear wheel mount going home with my safety line in place just to see how it does.  I’m hopeful this will work as it’s nice having a system that can be completely removed from the truck in about 5 minutes.



About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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3 Responses to Roof-Topping the Triplet

  1. Mike Wilkinson says:

    That SeaSucker looks like a great device for many purposes. Thanks for the info!

  2. Chris Timm says:

    Hi Mark,

    thanks for the info on the SeaSucker. I just use three cross bars on our van. This allows me to transport the triplet alongside singles or tandems. Our van is just long enough to fit the triplet. Adding the factory rear rack (for an additional three singles or the child trailer) on the trunk takes away a couple of inches usuable roof length, making the roof a tad too short – with three kids you need a lot of stuff. Thus, I now use full-length single bike wheel trays between the two rear-most cross bars. That allows for greater flexibility in placing the triplet’s rear wheel.

    I can unload the (heavy) triplet alone, but need a second person to put it on the rack.

    Call me chicken, but I prefer to tie the triplet down from the rear-most seat tube with a strap to keep it from swaying.

    You can find a picture of the original setup here.

    Fuel economy has gone down from 28 to 25 mpg.

    Greetings from Germany,

    • TG says:

      Hey Chris! So good to hear from you!

      I’ve not had any swaying issues with our triplet, but I do use a safety chord that runs from the rear wheel to a tie-down inside the bed of my truck “just in case” that Sea Sucker stops “sucking” for any reason. I’m still using a pair of Sea Suckers in tandem with a short wheel tray as well; call it belt & suspenders.

      The only thing I’ve found that gives the Sea Suckers fits is side-loading on anything less than a perfectly flat surface. I’ve had my rear-most Sea Sucker loose about 80% of its holding strength over the course of a 200-mile trip as a result of that less than ideal placement, hence my continued use of two Sea Suckers. It’s not the fault of the Sea Sucker, it’s just a by-product of how long our triplet is and where the Sea Sucker’s end up.

      Again, so good to hear from you and see that you’re still in the “tandem game”.

      Warmest Regards..

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