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The cheapest Halfords carrier is pretty good!
Halfords 2 Cycle Carrier
Member Name: sublimatica
Halfords 2 Cycle Carrier
Date: 04/09/03, updated on 04/09/03 (10780 review reads)
Advantages: Good value, Very rigid in use, Simple to assemble and attach
Disadvantages: Squashy bike support mouldings, Weak/cheap protective foam tube sleeves, Comes with chassis hooks instead of wide bodywork ones
If you're looking for a simple, effective, good-value carrier for one or two bikes then this could be the rack for you, provided it fits your car. It's best fitted to saloons and hatchbacks, I would have thought, since it doesn't offer as much flexibility as the more expensive models in Halfords' range. However, its simplicity makes it the most stable, rigid carrier I've ever used.
The rack comes with two wide plastic-covered hooks for the forward attachment points (the bootlid or hatchback top edge) and two heavy duty non-plastic-coated chassis/bumper hooks. I don't like the idea of using my (flexible) plastic bumper's bottom edge as a load point, so I bought from Halfords some additional wide plastic-covered hooks with straps for £4.99, and with these I use the bottom edge of my bootlid to hold down and stabilise the carrier. Another positive reason to use these is that I can now open my boot with the rack (and bikes) in place - they simply swing up with the bootlid. Nice.
With my full-size mountain bike in place and the carrier tightened down onto my bootlid everything remains completely stable and pretty much rigid. I have to remove the pedal nearest the car since the carrier holds the bike close to the car's bodywork, but this is a small price to pay to achieve such good rigidity. Holding the bike close to the car also reduces the stress on the attachment points.
The carrier is supplied with two pairs of rubber mouldings designed to support and protect each bike's frame, but I've found these mouldings to be too squashy - they don't hold the bike in the precise place that they should, which can be a pain. Carrying one bike isn't so bad, but I can imagine that two would become a problem.
Protecting your car's paintwork from the carrier's load bearing tubes are two grey foam sleeves, similar to domestic pipe insulation. These wouldn't last long in regular rough use, but
as long as you're careful they ought to be OK. It would be simple and cheap to replace them with foam bike handlebar grips or something, which would last longer.
In summary, I carry a single bike on the back of my saloon cars and this carrier is almost perfect, and good value for money. It's rigid and I can open the boot without removing the rack or the bike.