Reviewed: Whispbar WB200 fork-mount roof rack
Whispbar’s WB200 fork-mount roof rack is simple, elegant, quiet, and highly versatile, allowing for easy swaps between road and mountain bikes (even with thru-axles), easy locking, and a secure hold. In other words, it is just about everything one could ask for in a fork-mount roof rack.
It should be, given the price — a whopping $270 for each tray, and $450 for a pair of Flush Bar aerodynamically shaped crossbars. For reference, a Rocky Mounts Pitchfork tray is only $110, and Thule Paceline 527, an excellent mid-range option, is $200. Normal round or square crossbars can be had for well under $250.
So what do you get for the extra cash? Premium looks, for one thing. The design is sleek, curved to match the roof line of modern cars, and colors are subdued. The racks are no eyesore. On the right car they can even improve the look, applying the hint of rugged outdoorsiness. Like a carefully groomed beard for your roof, if you will, or perhaps some tailored flannel.
Those sleek shapes aren’t all about good looks. The Flush Bar crossbars are aerodynamically shaped, which theoretically improves fuel efficiency and certainly decreases noise. The Whispbar racks do indeed live up to their name, staying almost completely silent even at highway speeds. Add a bike and you get some noise, of course, but that is unavoidable.
The WB200 is versatile, too, much more so than the less expensive options mentioned above. The fork mount can be easily swapped between standard 9mm quick release and 15mm thru-axle compatibility — simply pull the lockable quick release axle out of the rack head, flip a small switch, and voila, the rack is now ready for a 15mm thru-axle fork. The process takes less than 30 seconds, and is far easier than messing with adapters.
Security is excellent; both the crossbars and trays can be locked in place, and both 9mm quick release and 15mm thru-axle bikes can be locked to the rack.
It should be noted that we tested the latest version of the WB200, which will hit shops in the next month or so. Whispbar’s first stab at the WB200 was not the company’s best work — the connection between the crossbars and the bike trays was poorly designed on the first set we received last fall, and the racks quickly developed a heinous rattle. The trays were never in danger of failing or falling off, but the noise was unbearable, as if a gnome was wailing on the roof with a tiny hammer. The latest version has solved this problem by improving the tray/crossbar interface.
If you’re driving a clunker, the Whispbar system is probably not a particularly attractive option. You pay a premium not only for the versatility and security, but also for the looks. But if you’ve spent serious cash on a car and don’t want to deface it with an ugly, bulbous rack system, the Whispbar is a fantastic option, perhaps the best combination of design chops and clever engineering on the market.