Tuesday, March 29, 2022

KCS kayak V cradles for side loading roof racks test and review.

KCS are producing many new products these days and this V cradle for side loading roof racks really caught my eye. At £210 for a pair they are not cheap but exude quality and thoughtful design. 

Side loading roofracks such as the Kari-tec Easy Load Roofrack have transformed the transportation of kayaks especially for those slightly older kayakers who load and unload alone. The risk of shoulder rotator cuff injuries caused by lifting above your head increases dramatically with age. I have had both surgery and years of painful physiotherapy for my shoulders. 

With a side loading rack you do not need to lift the kayak much above your waist. However, the existing J bar kayak support cradles (as in the photo above) are not stiff enough or angled enough to support the kayak while you strap it on. You either need to have help, which partially defeats the purpose of the side loading rack, or you need to stand against the middle of the kayak and try and stretch to tie the straps on, as best you can,  yourself.

The elegant solution is this set of cradles from KCS. Unlike J cradles, which carry the kayak on edge, these carry the kayak keel down when on the roof. When the rack is down the side of the car, the extended lower cradle holds the kayak completely securely while you sort out the straps. It works so simply and effectively! The foam is 15mm thick and the supporting arm on the left hand front cradle is deeper than on the rear cradle to match the shape of a typical kayak. The left hand cradles can be supplied with a different shape if you have a kayak with a more extreme measurement, such as the Rockpool Menai 18. The cradles are supplied with appropriate fitting kits to suit various  makes of side loading rack. In terms of expected durability, I still have my original set of KCS J bars with 5mm foam, which I bought 20 years ago. They still have exactly the same shape as the day I bought them.

This is a P&H Volan resting on the cradle in the down position but without being strapped on it is still very secure... no visible means of support as they say!

This is the Volan, now secure in the horizontal position, on top of the roof rack. I tried these cradles on a P&H Volan, P&H Cetus MV,  P&H Aries and Evolution Nomad 17, which are all shaped very differently. This was an early prototype rack but even so the fit on each kayak was very acceptable. Since I borrowed this rack, KCS have tweaked the shape for even better fit for most common kayaks.

Any snags? My car is a mid size car and there is just enough room for a second set. A smaller car would not have room. However, if you were carrying two kayaks there is plenty of room for a set of J cradles alongside these V cradles and of course the other paddler could then help with the lift! So it is not really a problem at all!

Overall this is a brilliant bit of kit for anyone with a side loading rack.  I would say even if you do not currently own a side loader rack, you should still consider getting a pair of these now instead of Normal V or J cradles. You can still use them as V cradles on a conventional roof rack but you will then have them for when you inevitably need to move to a side loading rack to save you ageing shoulders!!!

Friday, March 18, 2022

The Beaches of Scotland by Dr Stacey McGowan Holloway: Book Review

This beautiful book is an illustrated  guide to over 150 beaches scattered round the 19,000 km coast line of the Scottish mainland, the Hebrides and the Northern Isles. 

I particularly liked the introduction in which the author discusses beach safety, how to visit (responsible access), types of beach, seascape and geology (contributed by the author’s husband who is an oceanographer), how and when to travel (this includes valuable advice for those who choose to travel by car or camper van rather than by foot, cycle or public transport). I especially liked why the author has chosen the beaches included in the book. 

“The reasons for a beach being chosen for this book were multifactorial, based on its beauty, uniqueness, location and importantly whether it has the infrastructure in place to sustain tourism.” 

I applaud the author for this approach. Several of my favourite beaches are not in this book and I am pretty sure the author knows them well. However, each has some sort of issue that would be exacerbated by a significant increase in visitor numbers, such as threat to wildlife habitat or access problems including car parking and serious erosion of access paths. This approach might be considered by some as elitist but the publication of a recent guide to mountain bothies has already resulted in the closure of two bothies as a result of overuse and indiscriminate parking.  Another example of attracting too many people to a limited natural resource is the Fairy Pools in the Skye Cuillin which have now been well and truly "Instagrammed". In contrast, this book will disperse visitors over a very wide area.  In doing so, it serves as a wonderful introduction to Scottish beaches and leaves the visitor the joy of exploration and discovery of “new” beaches in each area.

Each beach is illustrated with a photo and descriptive text. There are also key facts including access, toilets and activities. In a guide like this there is not enough room for small scale maps of individual beaches so, for many of the less accessible beaches, an OS map will be useful and the key facts include Lat/Long co-ordinates (for GPS input) and OS map grid references. There are large scale maps showing the location of multiple beaches, which will be invaluable when planning a trip to an area.

This book will have wide appeal to walkers, swimmers, cyclists, kayakers and paddle boarders. I recommend it thoroughly.

PS I have contributed a photo of one of the remoter beaches in the book. The publisher contacted a friend, who is an accomplished photographer and author of guidebooks to see if he had a photo of this beach. His reply was “If anyone randomly has a photo of an obscure and remote 1km-long beach in the Western Isles sitting on his hard drive, it’ll be him…” I guess that qualifies me to both review the book and comment on the choice of included beaches.

The Beaches of Scotland, Dr Stacey McGowan Holloway, Vertebrate Publishing, publication date 7/4/2022, ISBN 978183981078