In the ancient world, Thule (pronounced “too-lee”) was considered the northernmost part of the habitable world. In medieval and classical literature, “ultima Thule” represented a distant place located beyond the known world.
The world is an adventure just waiting to happen. Sometimes the thrills are just outside your door. Other times, when you’re craving something new and different, you’ve got to travel to discover those exotic locales. Although you can’t pack your family on the back of your bike, you can pack your family bikes on your Thule bike rack so you can ride when you reach your destination!
Thule’s high-quality racks enable you to transport your bikes safely and easily, but how do you know which one is best for you?
Don’t worry. BestReviews is here to guide you through the options to find the rack that will get your bikes there in one piece. This article includes information on the different types of racks Thule offers, as well as some loading tips, answers to some frequently asked questions, a couple fun facts, and the details on three of our favorites.
Types of Thule bike racks
There are four different types of Thule bike racks, categorized by where you mount the rack: rear, hitch, roof, or truck bed. Each has its individual considerations .
Rear: These racks mount to the rear of your car and are the best option for vehicles that don’t have a hitch or a roof rack. Depending on the model, these racks can carry two or three bikes. Some racks include locks so you can secure the rack to your car and secure your bike to the rack. It’s important to know that a rear-mounted bike rack won’t fit all vehicles, especially those with rear window wipers.
Rear bike rack prices: These range from $170 to $450.
Hitch: A hitch mount is also located at the rear of your car, but it features options that a rear mount doesn’t support. Depending on the size of your receiver (either 1.25 inches or 2 inches) and the weight class of your hitch (one through five), you can transport up to five bikes. You have the option of choosing a hanging mount or a platform mount. Platform mounts are typically easier to load and can accommodate a wider variety of bikes — some will even accommodate an electric bike. Additionally, some hitch mounts tilt away to allow easy access to the rear of your vehicle.
Hitch bike rack prices: These range from $250 to $580.
Roof: Thule’s roof-mount bike racks are a more affordable option. Lightweight racing bikes are the best fit, but some heavier bikes might be accommodated. Each rack holds one bike, either by the frame, the fork, or the wheels. Additional racks can be added if needed (and if your vehicle can support them). A roof rack enables you to have access to all car doors and the rear hatch or trunk. The downside is that you must be very cautious when approaching bridges and underpasses. Note: A roof mount requires your vehicle to have a roof rack or factory-installed crossbar system.
Roof bike rack prices: These range from $160 to $240.
Truck bed: If you have a pickup truck, you already have the space you need to bring along your bikes. The only problem is that your bikes won’t last very long if they’re bouncing around in the truck bed. Truck bed bike racks enable you to attach your bikes either by the wheel or the fork, so you can safely transport them to your destination.
Truck bed rack prices: These range from $160 to $330.
All doors must be open when mounting a roof rack to your vehicle.
Check all straps, bolts, locks, nuts, screws, and knobs before every trip to make sure everything is secure and there are no signs of wear and tear or corrosion.
Check all the above and the load balance after every stop to be sure everything is still secure.
Know the local and state laws regarding objects that extend beyond the perimeter of your vehicle.
Remember, you’re carrying something larger than your vehicle. Use extra caution when driving under trees and bridges and when entering a parking garage.
Depending on the size of your vehicle, the added weight can adversely affect handling and stopping distance.
Remove anything of value from your vehicle if you plan to leave it unattended. Thule locks deter vandalism, but they aren’t theft-proof.
Keep a spare key for the rack inside your vehicle for emergencies.
Q. As long as I don’t exceed the maximum load recommendations of my Thule bike rack, I should be good, right?
A. Not exactly. Don’t forget, your vehicle has a maximum load limit, too. Check your owner’s manual or the sticker on the frame of your driver’s side door to see how much your vehicle can safely carry. After adding up all of your cargo, occupants, bike rack, and bikes, that number must be less than the maximum load. If it isn’t, something’s gotta go. Preferably, something other than one of your bikes.
Q. Does it really matter how I load my bikes on my rear rack?
A. Yes, it does. You should always put the heaviest bike on first, so it’s closest to your vehicle. The other important thing to remember is to alternate your bikes so they aren’t all facing the same direction. Also, make sure you secure the bikes with straps and check the tightness of all bolts and knobs before you set off on your trip.
Q. My lock is getting a little hard to operate. Any recommendations?
A. All the locks on Thule bike racks should be moved and turned periodically so they keep operating smoothly. If you notice a lock that’s getting a little tough to turn, graphite or a dry lubricant will get your lock back to an optimum performance level.
Thule bike racks we recommend
Best of the best: Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack
Our take: A high-quality hitch-mount bike rack that’s suitable for up to two bikes. It fits 1.25-inch receivers.
What we like: Designed to fit a wide variety of bikes ranging from carbon frames to fat bikes (except for 27.5-inch fat bikes). It can carry a maximum of 100 pounds, with the maximum weight for a single bike at 60 pounds. The unit tilts down to allow access to the rear of your vehicle and folds up when not in use.
What we dislike: Even though it has tool-free assembly, the initial mounting can be a little confusing.
Best bang for your buck: Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier
Our take: An entry-level, rear-mount strap rack suitable for transporting up to two 35-pound bikes.
What we like: Adapts to carry a wide range of bike sizes, from child to adult. Soft rubber cradles help protect your bike frame, and soft cushion pads help protect your trunk. The strap buckles are coated in vinyl to help guard against scratches, and the arms twist and fold down when not in use.
What we dislike: Locks are not included with this rack. They’re available, but they must be purchased separately.
Choice 3: Thule Insta-Gator Truck Mount
Our take: A quick and easy, one-size-fits-all solution to transporting your bikes in your truck bed.
What we like: Holds one bike upright (with no frame contact) in your truck without the need for drilling or bolts. Sized to accommodate bikes with 20-inch to 29-inch wheel diameter with tires up to 3 inches wide. The anchors lock when the tailgate is closed, and the bike is quickly secured with a ratchet system.
What we dislike: This rack won’t work on trucks with a shorter bed (less than 51 inches), and it’s a little pricey.