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WHISPBAR WB201 RACK

23rd March 2015

    

WORDS AND PHOTOS: ANNA BECK

Whispbar is a company with its roots firmly in the aviation industry, this aerodynamics are a key informer of their products' form and function. The WB201 is their roof rack using 'SmartHold' technology; that is, it enables carriage of bikes on your car roof without the removal of wheels by securing the frame's down tube. This has several advantages; not having to fuss over removing the front wheel, difficulties with newer front axle technologies (Maxles and Lefty), and enabling more space to carry things inside your car.

When I first opened the WB201, the first things I noticed is how visually striking the rack is. The brushed silver rack boasts sleek lines that would not look out of place on an Audi or BMW. Indeed, Whispbar states that a major driver of their innovation and styling has been trying to make car accessories that enhance the aesthetics of a vehicle. When not in use, the SmartHold frame clamp lies smartly flush with the main strut of the rack, also increasing aerodynamics.

Installing the WB201 to existing Whispbar racks with QuickDock technology is a piece of cake; it’s a case of lining the rack up, dropping the rack into the ‘T-slot’ and securing with the levers on each side of the racks mounting system. I needed to be a little more forceful with one end of the rack, but it is essentially a very easy system to mount. The WB201 can be used with other racks and comes with adaptors, check the Whispbar website for compatibility.

The rack itself will hold up to 20kg of bike, depending on the positioning of the bars, however the rack really excelled when using smaller, lighter bikes due to the requirements of lifting a whole bike above-head onto the roof.

The beauty of the SmartHold frame clamp soon became apparent: once you have you bike in the correct position with the arm located around the down tube, you press down the lock and the clever frame clamps are able to ascertain the size of the tube and clamp appropriately. I tried this with bikes of different down-tube diameters and some that had atypical down tube shapes, and the rack performed every time.

I also tried positioning the SmartHold arms at different angles prior to mounting the bike, in order to avoid the awkward bike-mounting dance and resulting old –person groans. The optimal position varied with each bike, depending on a few factors such as height of bottle cages, angle of down tube, frame size and chainring set up and clearance (if bringing arm up from its resting position).  Once I figured out the best way to do this for each bike, however, the user experience of the rack was greatly enhanced. A small stool or crate would make things easier.

Securing the bike is a case of positioning the wheel in the docks, then placing the retaining clip over the wheel and into bilateral ratchets on each side of the wheel. This was perhaps the trickiest part of the bike mounting process and I felt that the ratchet design could potentially be simplified into a one-sided affair, therefore reducing the huffing and puffing associated with short people trying to secure their bike on a roof mounted system. Plus there was the time I accidentally didn’t secure the clips back in the rack after use and went for a drive... needless to say it was purely user error but I cursed while dodging traffic to pick them up!

The Whispbar WB201 certainly ticks many of the boxes for roof-mounted bike racks; it’s nice to look at, doesn’t require wheel removal and the SmartHold technology means you needn’t fear using the rack on even the fanciest of carbon frames. If I was looking a pure ease of use the bulkier Yakima branded racks would probably win out. If I was concerned about the aesthetics of vehicle, I would be choosing the Whispbar WB201 over other racks on the market, especially for road and XC bikes that are lighter weight and a little easier to wrangle over your head.

 

HITS

  • Elegant appearance
  • Holds the bike securely
  • Wheels stay on the bike

 

MISSES

  • Could do with a simpler rachet system
 

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