Say what you will, but we think there’s something very attractive about bikes mounted on a roof rack. However, we don’t want a roof rack all the time as they tend to be noisy and can increase fuel consumption, so what are we to do? And of course what about those among us who simply can’t use a trailer hitch, or don’t want to have surgery performed on their cars just to haul bikes? A Florida company called SeaSucker has the answer; and their latest solution, called the Mini-Bomber, can go virtually anywhere with enough surface area for a couple of vacuum cups.
Yes, that’s right. We said vacuum cups. SeaSucker started out as a marine accessory company. Since nailing things down is a generally poor idea in the marine industry, they came up with the idea of using industrial-grade “vacuum technology” to attach everything from chairs to SCUBA diving racks to boats. As one would expect, when they expanded from marine into the bike rack market, SeaSucker dealt with some initial skepticism about how well suction cups would keep bikes attached to a car. To put any worries to rest, they put a couple bikes on top of a NASCAR and took it around an oval at 140 miles an hour.
Needless to say, we were certainly convinced. And since we had a need for a rack that didn’t mount with a trailer hitch, but still held bikes securely without damaging the frame, the Mini-Bomber was right up our alley. The Mini-Bomber gets its name, we imagine, from the front attachment which has a profile not unlike a B-2 stealth bomber (if this isn’t already, it should be the official story). There are four 6″ vacuum cups along the bottom of the rack, each with a pull-strength of 210 lbs. Even after pulling on the vacuum cups with all of our weight, we were confident that the rack simply wasn’t going to budge unless the seal on all four cups was released completely. Three mounting points for bike attachment are present between each set of cups and feature six mounting holes a piece, in case you need to mount a fork at an angle instead of head-on.
The rack comes with a pair of fork mounts, which means removing the front wheels to transport bikes, but also allows for the quick release to be locked down to prevent theft. The mounts are adjustable just like a normal quick release, with a screw cap on one end and a lever on the other. We have had no trouble accommodating different width forks and bike styles, though if you’re a mountain rider, you may need the 15mm or 20mm options SeaSucker has available for an additional $5.00 when buying the rack.
The rear tires are held with a single vacuum cup each and are secured with 1.5′ wide Velcro straps. While we haven’t had the straps come loose at all, and they seem more than sufficient for transporting bikes, these can also be upgraded to a more standard locking strap if one so chooses. The locking strap is narrower, so if you ride a high-spoke-count rear wheel, this may make it slightly easier to secure, rather than spinning the wheel for the larger gap to pass the Velcro through. The vacuum cup is rated to the same 210 lb. strength as the fronts. So no matter which locking mechanism you choose, your rear wheel isn’t going anywhere.
Compared to getting a trailer-hitch rack on and off, installing the Mini-Bomber is almost too easy. Although it still has its own list of “things to remember” that aren’t immediately obvious. Clearly, you need a clean, smooth surface to mount a vacuum cup to; that one is a no-brainer. What we didn’t immediately realize was that, if you want a really good seal, spray the bottom of the cup with water. It helps to maintain the seal and make sure your bikes stay where they’re supposed to be—on your car. There’s also an order to sealing the cups. It’s best to pump all the cups down, then go over them again just to make sure. The process takes perhaps a minute in total, but it surprised us when there was an extra pump or two left in some cups that we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. And when it comes to securing our bikes, we like to be extra careful.
Getting the rack off, it turns out, has a similar system of double-checking the seals of the cups. The seal is released via a rubber tab on the cup that you lift toward the body of the rack. This releases the vacuum and allows the rack to be removed, at least ideally. In actuality, we found that the pressure on the cup from the others that are still under vacuum is enough to re-seal it back to the car. You can probably see where we’re going with this….removing the SeaSucker is like a lightning-round of whack-a-mole: release all four cups, guess which has re-sealed and release that one to take the rack off the car. Far from being a negative, we look at this as a positive—the Mini-Bomber is not coming off your car. Of course this means that your bikes aren’t going anywhere, either. Let’s just say we can live with a few extra seconds taking the rack off for the extra sense of security this provides.
Getting a bike on and off of the Mini-Bomber is largely a function of where you place it on your car, as well as how tall said car is. Our test car is a Ford Focus ST, which sits fairly low to the ground in comparison to, say, a Subaru Forrester. This means we don’t have any trouble with reaching the quick release on the front fork mount, or fastening the Velcro at the rear. If you’re especially short, or just drive an exceptionally large vehicle, you might want to think about different placement for the rack than the roof. You can even consider an angled setup over the rear hatch, as we’ve seen done on other cars.
We’re enjoying our time with the Mini-Bomber, and find it to be a great option for hauling bikes, whether or not you have a trailer hitch. We like the fact that it goes on and off in less than a minute, doesn’t leave marks, and doesn’t require us to modify our cars. We can swap it between editors and don’t have to figure out where to store it in the meantime—the Mini-Bomber is small enough to simply drop into your trunk when you’re not using it. We haven’t seen a more convenient rack yet, and SeaSucker’s certainly impressed us with this one.