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Thule Velo Vise 511

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      02.05.2002 14:16
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      One of the (many) problems with living in Essex is the distinct lack of hills. This is especially true when it comes to mountain biking. Cross-country riding is all well and good but everyone likes the challenge of an uphill struggle followed by the downhill reward. So it really leaves me with only two options, either move house or drive to somewhere where there are hills, taking the bike with me. Obviously moving house is a little drastic (although hilliness may be something I look for when I buy somewhere!), so transporting my bike is the only sensible solution. Now there are several ways of transporting a bike using a car. The first option is to fold the back seats down and put it in the boot. This tends to be fine for the outward journey when the bike is spotlessly clean, but the return leg can be extremely messy. Even with tarpaulins/bin-bags etc, I prefer to keep the bike on the outside of the car. The second option, carrying the bike on the outside of the car, can be sub-divided into two categories. The first is the rear-mounted cycle carrier, a strange looking contraption that somehow hooks over the boot and holds the bikes across the back of the car. This looks well and good but I had heard numerous warnings from friends (and strangers in the bike shop) that on moderate to long trips these carriers can work loose and end up damaging paintwork or, even worse, denting the car. Given the ease with which my Peugeot 306 dents/chips/scratches a rear-mounted cycle carrier was too much of a risk. Which left the roof-mounted carrier as my only option. A visit to Halfords revealed that there are two types of roof-mounted carrier. Both are based on an aluminium channel approximately 5 feet long that the bike wheels sit in. The first has straps for both the front and back wheels with an arm sited about half-way along the carrier which rises up to clamp the down-tube of the bike, thus holding the bike upright. Read spider-monkeys op on the Ha
      lfords Deluxe Roof Mounted carrier for more details. The second type of roof-mounted carrier involves removing the front wheel of the bike. The front fork then fits over two pegs at the front end of the carrier and are clamped in place while a strap secures the back wheel. Obviously this is the carrier I opted for and there are a number of reasons, most of which came from helping a friend use his grabbing-arm carrier a few weeks back. It proved extremely awkward to get the bike on while lifting the grabbing arm up, needing at least 3 hands. He also had a problem with the clamp not quite fitting the frame of his bike. That's not to say his bike fell off (it didn't and he made a 70 mile journey home without incident), it just didn't look particularly stable. Having made my decision (and my purchase) I got home and went about assembling it. The kit itself comes in 3 parts. The main bar, the front-fork clamp and a bag of bolts. The supplied instructions are easy to follow and I had the carrier assembled for the first time in under 10 minutes. At this point, it's worth noting that the roof-mounted carriers, unlike the rear-mounted carriers, are not a stand-alone unit and need roof-bars to sit on. I already had a set of Thule aero-bars and so the Thule carrier attached to them with the greatest of ease, slot the t-headed bolts into the bars and then screw the carrier onto them. The carrier has been designed for use with the aero-bars but it does come with an adapter kit for the more traditional 'square' bars so you should be OK whichever type you have. As Thule pretty much set the standard for after-market roof-racks, I would imagine that the carrier will fit most other bars as well, but please don't take my word for it. So with the carrier and roof-bars securely attached to my car it was time to load up the bike. I opened the fork clamp on the carrier and took the front wheel off my bike. Hoisting the bike on to the
      roof of my car wasn't too much trouble (luckily it's fairly light, especially without the weight of the front wheel). Not too much trouble, that is, until I tried seating the fork over the prongs of the clamp. They were simply too close together ad my fork would not fit! Putting the bike down and checking the instructions revealed a clever adjusting wheel in the middle of the clamp. Turning it one way widens the specing of the prongs, turning it the other, closes the gap. So I opened it to the maximum setting and placed my bike on the carrier with the greatest of ease. With my bike now sitting on the carrier I started closing the gap on the clamp, dialing in a much narrower setting to ensure that when I closed the lid of the clamp (shaped remarkably like the mouth of a crocodile) it gripped firmly onto the forks. Given the amount of effort it took to close the clamp I was happy that the front forks weren't going anywhere so I diverted my attention to the rear wheel. To keep the rear wheel in place there is a sliding 'choc' with a heavy duty plastic strap. The idea is that the choc is pushed right up against the back edge of the rear wheel and the strap used to secure the wheel to the carrier. Moving the choc was easy, but getting the strap fastened tightly around the back wheel wasn't. The strap is just under an inch wide covered in ridges which lock it into place using a ratchet type device on one side. The idea is that you pul on this strap as hard as you can until it clicks firmly into place. Unfortunately, when the carrier is in the middle of the roof of your car, it's very difficult to get much leverage on the thing. So I came up with the bright idea of deflating the rear tyre slightly. This made it far easier to compress the back wheel and I got much more of the strap fed through the ratchet. This done, I simply pumped up the back wheel a bit more to give the snuggest of fits (just make sure you mount the bike so that the
      valve on the back wheel is closes to the carrier). Bike firmly attached to the roof of the car, i shoved the front wheel in the boot and off I went in search of some hills. Actually, I took it to the Lake District, some 300 miles away. I admit that I stopped twice within the first 50 miles, just to check that nothing had worked loose and that the bike was still there. But for the rest of the trip I had every confidence in the carrier keeping my bike safe. Sure enough, when I got to the Lake District it was still there. OK so it was covered in dead flies but it was still in one piece. An excellent job all round. Taking the bike off was even easier than putting it on. Undo the strap on the back wheel, lift the clamp on the front fork and lift the b ike down. Refit the front wheel and you're ready to ride. So that's it really, an excellent bike carrier that is very sturdy, simple to fit and easy to use. It takes up hardly any space when it's in storage and it even looks pretty snazzy. One more thing, for security it comes supplied with a lock for the front clamp which prevents anyone from running off with your bike while you're in a motorway service station (although being paranoid, I still chained it to the carrier/roof-bars). When it comes to driving with a roof-mounted carrier there are a couple of things you should bear in mind. - Your car is much higher than it usually is, so I strongly advise you to measure from the floor to the top of your mounted bike. Knowing your height clearance can be surprisingly important. - Your fuel economy will go through the floor if you drive 'enthusiastically' with a bike bolted to your roof, keep it sensible. - You will be significantly more prone to the effects of a cross-wind on the motorway, I was surprised at how much of a difference it made. - It is noisy, either use the noise as reassurance that your bike is still there or turn your stereo
      up :-)

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