When the Westfalia bike rack – more specifically the Westfalia BC 75 – arrived at our office via courier for a review, I wasn’t in any kind of rush to unbox and mount it.
I loathe instruction manuals and was certain the exercise would take up a fair amount of my mental capacity, lead to a level of frustration and eventually test my DIY skills.
So I wimped out and asked a colleague to deal with the parcel and disappeared into my office in search of more stimulating work.
Minutes later he emerged with a smile – if truth be told, a smirk – saying it was child’s play to mount it. He did not tell me the unit is delivered ready-to-use and requires no assembly at all.
The BC 75 bike rack, or bicycle carrier, is designed to carry two bikes and, at 15kg according to manufacturers Westfalia-Automotive, it was fairly easy for one person to carry to the vehicle in the parking lot.
At this point it was folded into a compact square arrangement that looked complicated to untangle and I had little faith the fitment would go as easily as my colleague predicted.
The first step was to mount the folded version onto the tow bar. This turned out to be as easy as unlocking the clamping lever with the supplied key, pulling it up and lowering the device onto the ball of the tow bar.
We pushed the handle down and it engaged without any problems. Not trusting the mechanism completely, I put some sideways and vertical pressure on it and was amazed at how stable the rack felt.
The Westfalia bike rack was mounted and it took us all of 10 seconds!
The manufacturers warn users to make sure the bike rack is aligned properly – both horizontally and vertically and at a 90-degree angle to the back of the car – before locked in place.
We decided to plug the electric wiring into the bush on the tow bar – exactly the same as with a trailer or caravan – before fitting the bicycle.
Next we flipped up the aluminium mounting bracket and locked it in place at a 90-degree angle, folded out both light clamps until they engaged with a click, and did the same with the wheel supports.
The bike rack was now ready for its cargo – a hardtail mountain bike with 29-inch wheels. The wheel supports are designed to fit both fat and narrow tyres and therefore cater for mountain and road bikes – or a combination of the two.
We simply placed the test bicycle on the wheel rails and pushed the wheel supports from the outside in so that it cupped the front and rear wheels.
We tied down the wheels with the plastic drive belt (which comes with a rubber rim protector), a system that looks and works similar to that used on some mountain bike shoes. For the older generation, much like toe straps.
The Westfalia BC 75 comes with two bicycle clamps of different lengths, which are attached on the mounting bracket on the one side and the bicycle frame on the other to form a rigid support structure.
Some more wiggling followed and we were again astounded by how solid and stable the system is. We added a second bicycle – a road bike – and found the depth of the loading space more than adequate to keep the bicycles from rubbing against each other.
We stood back to admire our handiwork and realised we had no number plate. Even though the vehicle’s plate was partly visible through the triangle of the bike’s frame, the elegant design of the bike rack called for a number plate to round it off.
I jumped into the car and was back an hour and R180 later with one.
The number plate holder is fitted with two clamps at the bottom. When these are disengaged, you simply shove the plate in and clip the clamps into position again.
This system allows you to change your number plate for different vehicles – logical but brilliant.
We mounted the bike rack on two different vehicles – one a sedan from the late nineties and the other an SUV from this era. Its position and design blended in perfectly with both.
A road test followed and we started by putting the Westfalia BC 75 through its paces on a nearby grassy hilltop with plenty of undulations – some which required four-by-four mode to clear.
In terms of stability, the bike rack once again came through the test with flying colours. We also noticed that the ground clearance was more than enough and the rack never came close to digging into the ground when the vehicle tackled steep inclines.
The manufacturers say it will handle a load of 60kg (excluding the weight of the rack) without any problems, which means even two weighty e-bikes.
We found a deserted road with a less than smooth road surface and performed stability tests at speed with both vehicles.
In both instances, we slowly increased the speed to 120km/h and found that the bike rack with its load performed as if it were an extension of the vehicles.
We simulated overtaking with slow bursts at higher speeds and it proved equally capable.
A single key locks and unlocks the clever anti-theft protection for the rack and bikes and a fold-down mechanism makes it possible to access the boot when the bicycles are fitted on the carrier.
Westfalia-Automotive are credited with the invention of the ball tow bar in the 1930s, so one would imagine that there aren’t many companies out there who understand made-for-tow-bar products quite like them.
Overall impression: I have never been the biggest fan of bike racks, especially those mounted on the roof of a vehicle. I don’t particularly care for the aesthetics and the fact that bicycles are exposed to the elements. When I travel with two bikes, I use a trailer. However, from the minute I locked the Westfalia BC 75 onto the tow bar, I was converted. The simplicity of the design and ease of use won me over. It is also a looker. Although there are similar products at slightly lower and higher price points, this is a quality product that I can recommend.
Availability: The Westfalia BC 75 is available from Positive Sports Solutions in South Africa.
Price: R5 999 including VAT and delivery within SA.