As I drove down I-84 towards Hood River, OR, I heard nothing. Nothing at all. Sure, the hum of my tires on the asphalt, but that was pretty much it. Which surprised me, considering I had a rack on the roof of my car and some accessories. Why is this a surprise? Let me turn on the way back machine to 28 years ago…
I got my first Yakima rack back in 1988. Those round crossbars across the roof were my portal to adventure. First came skiing. Then snowboarding. Then biking. All with these classic round Yakima bars and Yakima’s nifty accessories for carrying my various toys. Since that first rack, I’ve had a number of other cars and made use of a number of Yakima’s other racks and mounts to carrying my gear around: everything from roof racks and all the attachments to hatchback/trunk racks to trailer hitch mounted racks. You name the activity, and Yakima had something for getting my gear from the front door to the start of my next adventure. The matching lock cores, while not unique to Yakima, were sweet, too; one key to rule them all.
But the heart and soul of the system (less the trunk and trailer hitch racks
) was always this simple round bar rack system with a variety of towers that would somehow attach to the roof of damn near any car - even an old Volkswagon bug with its rounded roof. And recently, as pictured above, I saw a Porsche 911 with a Yakima roof rack in Death Valley, CA. But here’s the catch: ease of attachment and versatility were great things, but lash that sucker to a roof and hit highway speed and the racks nearly always made a surprisingly loud amount of noise. But it was the type of noise one easily and automatically tunes out - like when you live next to a railway yard or near a highway: after a week or so, you sleep through that midnight express or the din of rush hour traffic. So after 28 years of rack noise, I never knew what I was missing until I experienced Yakima’s new JetStream bars, one of the new aero shaped roof rack cross bars Yakima is rolling out with their new StreamLine System. Golden, blessed silence reigns supreme as you get from A to B with them on the roof. It may not be complete and total silence, but it’s a noticeable improvement over the old round bars. And really only noticeable by its absence.
This new crossbar shape is the face of a new rack system for Yakima and spearheads the largest makeover in the company’s history. On the one hand, Yakima is coming out swinging with the new bars and accessories designed for them, but Yakima overhauled and redesigned nearly every other rack in their line, too, from roof racks and accessories to trunk racks to spare tire mounts to nearly all of their trailer hitch racks.
But if the bars are the face of the new StreamLine system, the manner in which one attaches those bars is the heart and soul of the new system. To accommodate them, Yakima had to completely re-design all their towers, making them stronger, more streamlined to fit in with the design philosophy of the new bars, more adaptable by building in pitch adjustments, and by creating a variety of foot pads and clips for various roof and rail attachments - the clip library for the new towers can now accommodate an astounding 95% of existing vehicles on the road today without any modifications. And if you've got the old round bars and all the accessories to go with them but just need a new set of towers and clips for your new rig, no problem: the new towers and clips will also work just fine with the old round bars, too; as Yakima’s Product manager put it at the roll out for the new racks, “We can party with everyone.
And while the new racks stole the show, Yakima also debuted their new breed of cargo box: the Showcase. The main thing about the Showcase design is that it's meant to blend with the diminishing lines of today’s vehicles, so it's a lot easier on the eyes than, say, the original Rocketbox or even the more modern Skybox.
The ShowCase was also designed to allow better hatch clearance - no more cracking your noggin on a partially open hatch back as you grab groceries, etc with a box on the roof. The push button opener makes one-handed entry into the box much, much easier, too. The only ding I can make on the new boxes are that they have 36 and 37 inch wide profiles respectively; this new shape takes up no small amount of space on the racks, so if you plan on carrying a SUP or a bike rack on the roof-top, plan accordingly with some wider bars vs something just wide enough for the roof-top.
Overall, it’s a pretty sweet makeover. I had the use of a ShowCase 20 for a month and a bit, and that thing redefined the term black hole. It held nearly everything I could put into it and then some, making it even easier for me to get to where the fun starts.
More on Yakima's whole line-up at www.yakima.com
Words and photos by Colin Meagher.