Handirack hints, tips and experiences

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Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by bib_bob_euroslap »

Hi All,

I'd be keen to hear people's experiences of using the inflatable roofracks, particularly as part of a fly-drive paddling trip.

Are they good / bad? Anything go wrong? Anything to prevent damage to hire cars? How many boats can you realistically put on them for a week? Any other hints or thoughts?


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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by maryinoxford »

A friend and I used one for a week with a hire car and two lightweight folding kayaks. (Assembling a folder can take up to an hour - if practicable, it's easier to transport them assembled.)

If it's raining, the straps will conduct the rain straight into the car, and soak the seats. If driving in the rain, try to use plastic bags to protect upholstry from water. When we parked off-road overnight with the boats loaded, we undid the Handirack straps and dangled them outside the car doors, leaving the bow and stern straps to hold the kayaks in place. (Our B&B parking spot was sheltered from wind.)

We found it easier to load the boats upside down, with the coamings resting on the rack tubes. On one trip, one boat coaming slipped off the tube on to the car roof, and scraped off a coin-sized patch of paint before we noticed. (We'd paid the extra damage insurance, so it didn't cost us.) We then moved the tubes a little closer together, to make sure the boats were kept off the roof.

With a not-very-big car, and 2 boats with 24" beam, they wouldn't quite fit side-by-side. We put one boat down flat on the rack, and the second slightly on edge, leaning against it. That worked okay. (Folders, with inflatable tubes along the side inside the skin, can be easier to strap on than hardshells, because the skin dips a bit under the strap and gives it more grip.)

We'd heard that grit can collect under the Handirack and damage the roof paint. Every day or two, we undid the rack and sponged the roof clean, and we had no grit scratches.

We were only using this for short trips (<20 miles) and moderate speeds.

Not in Oxford any more...

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by wezzzy »

Yep, the water does come on when it rains, no way to stop it when moving.
The roof of my car is covered in scratches now, as said grit can get under the tubes but seeing my boat is worth more than my car I dont worry about it.

I have had 3 creekers on the top for 100 miles without any problems, plenty of straps/bungies though.

When setting them up put the front strap of the rack as far forward as possible or you will end up with a scratched/rubbed forehead, not comfortable and you look silly.

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by Liam »

We've used handiracks twice for fly drive. We always pay the excess to reduce your liability to zero.

The first time there was no problem, no scratches but the roof does dent although this bings back out afterwards with no easily visible marks.

The last time we used them was this Easter in Scotland. It rained for a couple of days and we reduced the water coming in by doubling the triangular flaps back under the inflatable tubes instead of feeding them into the car with the straps, this made a big difference, the straps were wet when it rained but we got no drips. This time we scratched the car roofs to buggery, not just surface, but quite deep ones goind right down through layers of white primer. As such we were very glad of having paid to reduce our excess to zero.

Both times we've used the handiracks we've had 4 boats on the roof, as long as you use straps and also tie off front and back there is no problem; just be careful careful loading boats on the roof. We make up a package of the 4 boats, then manhandle that onto the roof and use ratchet straps to secure the whole lot through the handirack rings; loading the boat package isn't as easy with solid bars as it's far easier to gouge the paintwork as we often did this year.

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by Sophie »

I've found handiracks to do a serious amount of damage to a car roof, especially if you're driving on rougher roads. The last couple of fly-drive trips we've done, we've taken out roof bars and blocks of foam with us (easy enought to strap to your paddles for the flight out). We've then put the 4 blocks of foam at the corners of the roof and used them as 'feet', laid the roof bars across them and threaded a standard stap throught the (hollow) roofbars. Done the straps up inside the car, much as you do for the handiracks, and voila, you're very own 'proper' roofrack. We've regularly carried 4 boats like this, not something I would recommend for a handirack. No damage to the roof and secure bars and boats. Its well worth the hassle of taking bars with you, especially when shared between a few people. I would never go back to handiracks.

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by MikeR »

I've done the Pyrenees and Alps on fly drive and have never entertained the idea of the handyrack as they are way too heavy and can do an unacceptable amount of damage to a car.

Better solution: fly to airport, pick up hire car, drive to 'Le Halfords' buy a proper roof rack, drive back to airport, fit roofrack, pick up all your kit and go boating. I've never struggled to find racks and even sold one back in the UK for more than I paid for it (don't you just love Ebay!).


PS Anyone need a roofrack for a Citroen C4. Yours for a very reasonable price and comes with French instructions ;-)

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by bib_bob_euroslap »

Thanks for all the replies!

Most seem a bit negative, Does anyone have any succes stories or ways to reduce the risk of damaging the car?
I've heard about people putting a roll matt under the handirack, does that work?

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by flea »

We have used handiracks a couple of times in the US and Canada. Despite the negatives (the rain one being the most annoying) I will continue to use them as it is usually the cheapest and easiest option with a hire car. We carried 4 playboats on the roof for a 4 hour journey (each way), no scratches with the carrymat.

I don't know why they are made from such abrasive material - we always take a few strips of carry-mat with us to put under the handiracks and that stops any scratches.

The rain is a problem - we did try Liam's method which reduced the rain coming in when moving. (when parked up we took the straps out of the car)

The other problem we had was putting air into the handiracks in the morning in Canada in near freezing temperatures, and then forgetting that all that air would expand during the 25 deg heat in the daytime. POP! (2 of the chambers ripped/burst! Though we managed with one chamber on each one + a foam 'noodle' from Walmart!)

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by ol »

I managed to pop two by over-inflation. Go easy, they don't have to be rock hard. Otherwise, they are pretty handy and can take 4 boats ok, whether that is entirely safe is up to you. Protect the roof and they are fine.

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by John-Row »

Just back from a week in Turkey's black sea coast / creeks using handi-racks:

Handi-racks are useful, taking them off the roof overnight gives the roof a chance to pop back into its normal shape however we did find that the roof did crease slightly (Renault).

This said, everytime you wish to put the rack back on make sure you have wiped the roof to reduce and dust or grit to save the roof.

The most valuable bit of advice I would give you is to pay the slightly higher premium for the hirecar and get the insurance excess waiver or zero excess. That way, whatever damage is caused will ultimately cost you nothing more than the added premium.

Hope this helps.


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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by Debaser »

I managed to pop two by over-inflation. Go easy, they don't have to be rock hard.
Originally I used to inflate them to their limit, thinking they'd then be like normal roof bars. However, some kind soul advised me to keep them 'squidgy' (come up with your own definition there, mine is to have just a little 'give'), so that the boat will settle into the bladder, or the bladder will conform to the boat - to a degree. First time doing this did worry me, but it seems OK, just have to be satisfied with the tightness of the roof straps.
"Summat funny and insightful here..."

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by Ross M »

Hi if you're going to buy one get it from Aldi for £30 as opposed to kayak retailer for £50 ish.

They work fine bit dodgy and if you find them scratching the car with dirt and dust, then wrap cling film between rack and roof. Also deflate them when not in use and don't leave them in the sun.

Have fun


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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by DaveWortley »

We met some people out in Slovenia who dumped their Handi-racks for this home-made option which stopped the roof from buckling.


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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by tom_d »

Yeah I saw that too absolute quality! So just find some logs and you're good. We had a handirack on the car when I saw the car with the wooden rack. All I would say is that I was very happy with two boats on it but not for more. Playboats would be better than creekers of course! Don't blow it up too hard, clean the dirt off and avoid bumps and it's ok. We used one for 10 days and had no problems or damage. We took the boats off every night as well.

Good trip back Slovenia Scout?

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by clarky999 »

I've driven to the south west coast of France with playboat, paddle and body boards with no problem - put some karrimat under the straps to stop grit getting in and scrathcing stuff. Have also driven to the Gower coast in wales a few times with heavier loads (2-3 hour drive) with no problems.

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by Tom_Laws »

Pay the waiver, tie down the ends of the boat, destroy the roof.

The only time I've ever seen them not do this was on the Smart FourFour which has a plastic roof.

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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by ChrisMac »

Ive used them a number of time with upto 4 plastic surf boats on the roof. Had no problems apart from the well documented rain intrusion. Scratches to the roof have occurred but we put that down to spending so much time at the beach. We have dented the roof over tightening everything but were able to pop it out from the inside. Fortunatley most hire companies never look at the roof when they check the vehicle in :-)


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Re: Handirack hints, tips and experiences

Post by wrig99 »

We don’t need no stinking handi rack…….

We’ve got wood !!!!

Instructions for construction of your very own Flintstone 500 eco roof rack:

- Take 1 handi rack and burn immediately
We used ours to carry 3 boats from Trieste airport to Bovec, and spent the whole trip listening to the roof gently pop in and out- not recommended for a relaxing start to your trip.

- Buy closed cell foam from your nearest over priced Slovenian kayaking outlet and cut into blocks for feet.

- Gaffa tape thin blocks of wood to the top of your foam.
This evens out the bar load, which stopped the foam getting overly squashed and sinking scarily towards the roof.

- Send two of your manliest kayakers out to find wood.
We managed to find plenty of branches lying around by the river get outs, much to the disappointment of the guys, who in the end only got to fell one tree. When picking your wood, the straighter the better, as it makes loading easier. Also avoid sections with lots of branches sticking out. We spent ages sawing these off, only to find this makes the wood very weak.

- Once you’ve worked out your bar positions gaffa tape the bars to the foam and place on the car.

- Take a long strap and loop over the top of one of the bars, feed this through the car and loop over the other end of the bar. Tighten until the bars no longer move, if the wood makes a crunching noise you’ve gone too far! Repeat for the other bar.

- Load test your bars, by hanging burly kayakers off each end of the bar. If the bars survive they are ready for use. Have a camera on hand in case of amusing wood breaking incidents.

- Place boats on roof, and strap down. Again it’s probably best not to use the usual brute force you apply to your metal roof bars.

Vola, you have your very own set of rustic roof bars. Ours have worked quite nicely on our 8 day trip, and have had many rave reviews:

“They look so flimsy, yet are so strong”- a shit lot of German Kayakers.
Is your club full of shuttle shy,” I don’t have roof bars” newbies? Present them with a set of these beauties, will fit any make and model of car, easily adjustable with saws and gaffa tape.

Allenburys Canoe club

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