Drag Penalty for Bikes On Roof? - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 09-29-2014, 10:07 PM   #1
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Drag Penalty for Bikes On Roof?

Does anyone have any reasonable comparisons for fuel mileage with and without bikes on top of the car (Highlander in our case) when towing an Escape? There is a definite drag penalty for bikes on the roof under normal highway driving, but I'm wondering if it's that much worse compared to the big hit already incurred from towing.

We have a great Saris rack that fits in the receiver on the Escape, but it's really heavy. That and the two bikes add more weight back there than I'd like. If it's not too big a mileage hit, I think I'd move the bikes to the roof of the car, but I hate to invest in more bike rack stuff just to try it.
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Old 09-29-2014, 10:22 PM   #2
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We often have kayaks on the roof of the Ridgeline. The mileage penalty is 1-2 mpg without the trailer. It tends to drop to 16-17. With the Escape hooked up and the kayaks we seem to drop about 1 mpg from the trailer with no kayaks. With the kayaks and trailer it's about 10 to 10.5.

I think we get drag from the kayaks or the Escape, but it doesn't double when we we add both.
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Old 09-29-2014, 10:28 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bisonbill View Post
I think we get drag from the kayaks or the Escape, but it doesn't double when we we add both.
That's what I was hoping to hear. Towing, I'm generally driving a little slower, which also helps with the drag situation. I really appreciate an actual comparison with numbers. Thanks.
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Old 09-29-2014, 10:40 PM   #4
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Maybe you should compare it both ways? Yes there will be added weight on the rear, which means your tongue weight will decrease and maybe require the shifting forward of cargo, but there would be almost no wind resistance mounted on the rear. Maybe its a wash?
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Old 09-29-2014, 10:47 PM   #5
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That's what I'm trading off. The rear rack keeps them down out of the wind. They do get really crudded up from road grime, but that's not terrible. It just always feel wrong to load that heavy steel rack and then two bikes that far behind the axles, even if things balance out okay, statically at least. Dynamically, that's a lot of weight in the wrong place. But then we've towed them several thousand miles that way, so maybe I have a solution looking for a problem.
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Old 09-29-2014, 11:01 PM   #6
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Yeah, I dunno. As long as handling and stability aren't affected. Was just thinking about the gas mileage.
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Old 09-30-2014, 12:05 AM   #7
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Perhaps this may be of help. On my former Escape 19, I carried two bikes that weight a total of 66.4 pounds and the Thule rack was 23.1 pounds, total of 89.5 pounds. The tongue weight was reduced by 40 pounds, from 360 to 420 lbs, when carrying the bikes.
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Old 09-30-2014, 12:15 AM   #8
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We have not carried bikes on the roof, but we have carried a large canoe and (not at the same time) used a Thule rooftop carrier box with and without our current trailer (which is roughly as tall and wide as an Escape 19'). Without the trailer the canoe and box both certainly add drag, but with the trailer the canoe or box makes little if any difference to fuel consumption. Bikes are terribly shaped compared to this box or even the canoe, but maybe in front of the trailer they won't matter much?
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Old 09-30-2014, 12:24 AM   #9
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Although rearward weight shift (seen as reduced tongue weight) is one result of adding mass to the back of the trailer, it is not the only effect. Adding mass out at the ends is bad for stability, and just adding more mass to the front to restore the tongue weight does not counteract the adverse effect on stability.

Although it is not desirable to have bikes in the airstream - for drag, or for the bikes - the tug's rooftop seems to me like a better place for them than the back of the trailer.

We have not carried bikes with the trailer; we have with our motorhome, in a rack on the back, but in that case on the back is the only reasonable option - the roof is certainly out of the question.
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Old 09-30-2014, 06:23 AM   #10
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I've carried two bikes and a swagman rack on the back of our previous 17 and had the same result as above - tongue weight was 40lbs less. I added weight ( water jugs with sand, so I could adjust easily). I drove 12k miles or so overall with them on, and never noticed a problem with stability.
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