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A Cracking Carrier
Halfords High Mount Cycle Carrier
Member Name: collingwood21
Halfords High Mount Cycle Carrier
Advantages: Sturdy, Fits a wide variety of car models, Easy to adjust
Disadvantages: Some assembly required on first use, Instruction book could be better
Tow bar mounted carriers are generally considered the sturdiest of the three, but are somewhat redundant if your car (like ours) doesn't have a tow bar. Adding a tow bar just to take a cycle carrier that will have only casual usage was an expense that it just wasn't worth bearing. Likewise, we didn't have the roof bars that would allow fitting of the roof mounted carrier (and it would cost us at least £50 to buy them), but this style wouldn't be much use for us anyway, as one of our requirements was that we needed a carrier that I could use alone if necessary. Being short (I am only 5' 2"), lifting my bike on and off the car would prove almost impossible if there was no-one else to help me. This left the option of the rear mounted carrier, which are supposed to be easier to fit and able to be used by one person without assistance, so seemed the best option all round for us. As the name suggests, this sort of carrier fixes to the rear door of your car, and you carry the bikes over your rear window; for safety reasons, we opted for a high-mounted variety to minimise the obstruction to our view when driving, and to avoid the bikes covering the lights and number plate of our car.
We bought our carrier from Halfords for the simple reason that they had a summer sale on that included special offers on a range of cycle carriers; we also wanted to buy offline as we found many websites didn't provide advice about the models each carrier would fit, whereas out local Halfords had a fitting guide that reassured us we were buying something suitable for out car (a Renault Clio). The High Rear Mount 3 Cycle carrier we choose was reduced from £90 to £60, and you can view it here: http://tinyurl.com/38yde6b
**Fitting the Carrier**
The carrier is supplied in one large box and comes partially assembled (despite the "fully assembled" description give on their website, I might add). You are supplied with a folded metal frame (which makes storing the carrier when not in use easier) and a selection of straps and fittings that have to be added to the frame before the first use. All the straps are made from very tough material, but you can buy replacements from Halfords should you ever need to. As you are required to attach and adjust the straps the first time you use the frame, this makes the first use a slow process, but it becomes much quicker afterwards, as you have everything in place already. It is for this reason that I suggest assembling and fitting the frame to your car once before you plan to take your bike out on it. You also get an instruction book in the box, which is clearly written but could benefit from better illustrations to help you work out which way the straps go on and which straps go into which fitting - we did have to backtrack half way through the process when we found we had attached the bottom straps to the top of the frame, an easy mistake to make. I think a system of colour-coding the straps rather than referring to them by length would have made the process a lot more straightforward.
In a recent test by Auto Express, this model came out the "best buy" winner for price, ease of fitting and sturdiness. The guys who conducted the test are clearly not amateurs, as they have the fit time down as 4 minutes. In the perhaps more realistic situation of two people who have never used a cycle carrier before trying to fit one, what happened? Well, at first use it took around 40 minutes for the carrier to go from in the box to on the car with one bike strapped into it. Subsequent uses require no assembly and less adjustment, and we found that later on the fit time got down to 8 to 10 minutes with two of us working on it, starting from the carrier being folded away in the boot of the ca, and finishing with one bike strapped on.
To fit the carrier, you need to open your boot and pass the first two straps through the top of it; they are held in place by plastic "dumbbells" when you close the door. With these in place, you fold out your frame if you have been keeping it in the compact storage shape, lock the frame in its folded-out shape with the strong clasps on either side, and then lift it onto the back of your car. The contact points between frame and car are padded with rubber, so your paintwork won't be damaged when you use the carrier correctly. The straps from the top of the boot are then secured onto the top of the frame, and two other sets of straps are used to hold the frame firstly to the sides of the back door and then to the underside of the car. All the straps are fairly easily to adjust to get a tight, secure hold to the car, although the last bit of tightening is quite stiff and on colder days I did find I struggled quite a bit with tightening the straps sufficiently. Finally, you lift your bike onto the two rails sticking out from the carrier so that it hangs from its crossbar, and secure it in place with your last two sets of straps, one with velcro around the contact point with the rails, and one to tie the lower part of the frame in place. All in all a not too difficult process, and it is possible to do it with just one person using the carrier, although it does take me about 15 minutes if I am doing it alone.
**Other Things to Consider**
As a point, I should add that this carrier is designed to carry bikes with a horizontal crossbar; the crossbar rests on the rails and takes the weight of the bike. This doesn't mean that the carrier can't be used for bikes without this feature, but you will need to buy a false crossbar to adapt your bike to the carrier. A false crossbar is simply a rod with secure fastenings at either end that clips onto your bike beneath the handlebars and under the saddle to provide a horizontal beam for hanging. The Halfords own-brand one that I use cost £18 and is very easy to use.
But how does it affect driving? Well, we haven't noticed any problems with the general handling of the car while the rack and cycles have been fitted, but you do need to allow a little extra braking distance to accommodate the extra weight your car is carrying. Having a single cycle mounted doesn't restrict vision to the rear a huge amount, but there was a noticeable difference with two bikes on board; this is to be expected with any rear-mounted carrier, however, and although we find we tend to drive more slowly and cautiously when we carry both our bikes, we have never felt our safety is compromised by doing so. Sharp braking has never dislodged the bikes, although you can reasonably expect a bit of movement if they are hanging from a false crossbar rather than using the bike's crossbar for suspension. This isn't a major issue and again has never caused any damage to car, bike or carrier, but on longer journeys you may want to stop and check the straps are still secure for this reason.
In terms of security, if you think you are going to be in a position where your bike is on the car but you are not with it, and then take your bike lock with you to secure the bike to the carrier. Halfords did try to flog us special carrier locks for this purpose, but they are a pointless expense if you have your own lock anyway.
Another possible expense is a light board, but whether you will need one will depend on the shape of your car. Should you take to the road with your bikes or carrier covering either your number plate or lights you will need one, as it will result in a fine if you get caught obscuring either of them (and hiding your brake lights from the car behind you never seems a very sensible option anyway). Light boards do increase fitting time and cost around £30, so do consider this if you are going to buy a rear-mounted carrier. On our Clio, a light board is not necessary.
On the whole we are very happy with this purchase; it is a sturdy cycle carrier that carries two adult bikes comfortably and we have yet to experience any problem worse than it being a bit fiddly on the first use. Although on early uses we were tempted to stop and check the straps mid-journey, we have not experienced any loosening and no damage or scratching has ever occurred to either bikes or car from using this product. We have not tried it with three cycles on it, but given the maximum load of the carrier is given as 45kg, I would not recommend mounting three adult bikes on it, even for a short journey. At the full price of £90 I might have felt a bit more negative about it, but at the offer price of £60 I think this carrier represents good value for money and would be an appropriate buy for anyone looking to take one or two bikes out on a casual basis. This is not an item for anyone wanting long-term, regular or long-distance use from a carrier, but for a family just wanting a few summer weekends out, then it's ideal.
Summary: A decent cycle carrier for the casual user