Are you in the market for a high-quality, stable bike rack? Good news. We went to great lengths to track down the 5 best Thule rooftop bike racks worthy of your consideration.
Within Thule’s lineup of rooftop bike racks, cyclists across all disciplines will find a rack that works with the specific bikes they ride and the vehicles they drive. Whether you’re a hard-core road warrior racking up miles on skinny tires, or a bruised-up mountain biker running steep trails and hitting fat jumps, this article will help you choose the right Thule bike rack for you.
Now the question is, which Thule rooftop bike rack ranks higher than the rest?
|Ranking||Product||Stlye||Frame contact?||Carbon compatible?||Bike Styles||Capacity||Review||Price|
|#1||Thule UpRide||Wheel-mount||No||Yes||Road, mountain & fat bikes (with adapter)||44 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#2||Thule ProRide||Frame-mount||Yes||Yes (with included frame protector)||Road, mountain & fat bikes (with adapter||44 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#3||Thule ThruRide||Thru-axle fork-mount||No||Yes||Thru-axle mountain bikes & thru-axle fat bikes||35 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#4||Thule OutRide||Fork-mount||No||No||Road & mountain bikes with quick-release hubs||37.5 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
|#5||Thule Tandem Carrier||Fork-mount||No||Yes||Tandem and single road bikes and mountain bikes||55 lbs||Read Review||See Price on Amazon|
Finding a Thule Bike Roof Rack that Fits Your Needs
Cycling is a very diverse and adaptable sport. There truly is something for everyone and a different style to match each individual’s needs and preferences.
But this abundance of variety in the world of bikes proves problematic when it comes time to invest in a rooftop bike rack that matches your unique style and bike choice.
Not only do you need a rack that works your specific bike—or bikes—you need to make sure it’s compatible with the vehicle you use to get from your home to the trailhead or race. That’s why I’m going to walk you through the most important factors to consider when shopping for a rooftop bike rack, specifically, a Thule rooftop bike rack.
First up, let’s talk about the bikes you ride so we can make sure your rack is matched to your two-wheel-drive steed.
What kind of bikes do you need to transport?
Thule currently offers seven different rooftop bike models. Each one is better suited for different styles of bikes.
Certain models work better for road bikes, some better for mountain bikes. Furthermore, certain Thule bike racks are compatible with carbon fiber frames. Others are not. And that’s just the beginning…
If you ride a road bike, fork-mount rooftop bike racks are generally your best bet for the most stability during the car ride. Wheel-mount racks are also a good option for transporting road bikes, and though they aren’t quite as stable, are a great option for road bikes with carbon fiber fork dropouts.
Generally, frame-mount racks are the last style you’ll want to consider for hauling road bikes—especially those with carbon frames. The stress placed on the downtube of the frame by the securing mechanism can cause damage.
For mountain bikes, wheel-mount and frame-mount rooftop bike racks are typically the best options as they allow you to keep the front wheel on the bike. That way, you won’t have to worry about stashing a bulky, muddy front wheel in your nice clean vehicle after a long day of hitting the trails.
Certain styles of mountain bikes, however, do better on fork-mount rooftop bike racks. If you ride an aggressive downhill mountain bike with a big rear suspension system, frame-mount racks are likely out of the question as there might not be space on the frame to establish a secure question.
Additionally, if you own a mountain bike with a thru-axle front fork, you’ll need to look into an entirely different style of fork-mount bike rack. Luckily, Thule makes one of the better thru-axle rooftop bike racks on the market today.
If you rock a fat-tire bike, you’re dealing with an entirely different beast. The good news is, practically all the Thule rooftop bike racks I’ve selected can accommodate fat bikes with special adapters, some better than others.
If you own multiple styles of bikes, you’ll need to look into a Thule bike rack that can haul them all. Because who wants to buy a different bike rack for every bike in the garage?
How many bikes do you need to transport at any given time?
Need to transport bikes for yourself, your spouse, and your child? You’ll need the ability to mount multiple rooftop bike racks on your vehicle.
Some models are on the bulkier side. Others are slimmer with the latter being better-suited for running doubles or triples.
Price also becomes a big factor when shopping for two or three rooftop bike racks at a time. So while the higher-priced racks might technically be a better fit, chances are you’ll be able to lower-priced option work without taking such a big dent out of your wallet.
In terms of mounting multiple racks on top of your car or SUV, the biggest problem you’ll face is having enough space between the bikes so that the handlebars aren’t hitting each other.
An effective solution for this is to install the bike racks in opposing directions. For example, if you were to mount a three-bike rack on top of your Subaru Forester, the middle bike would need to be facing backward.
Wheel on or off?
Fork-mount bike racks—both for quick-release and thru-axle bikes—require that you take the front wheel off your bike every time you want to transport your bike. Are you willing to do that extra step?
On most bikes with quick-release skewers, this isn’t much of a hassle. But if you have an axle with bolts—a common feature on fixed-gear bikes—it can be a real pain to have to dig out a 15mm wrench to remove the front tire.
If you want to keep your front wheel on, go with a wheel-mount or frame-mount bike rack and call it a day.
From a stability standpoint, fork-mounted bike racks are the clear winners.
Think about it. With the front wheel removed, the bike’s center of gravity is lower to the vehicle. With the primary connection point being the two dropouts of the front fork, you get three places of contact versus two.
Thule has come up with some innovative solutions to reduce the wobbles on their wheel-mount and frame-mount racks. However, they’re still not as stable as a fork-mount.
Selection Criteria: How We Ranked the Best Thule Bike Roof Racks
It seems so simple: rack goes on the car, bike goes on the rack, you go on a beautiful bike ride.
But the problem is, with hundreds of different rooftop bike racks on the market, sorting out which ones are worth the money and which ones are better suited for the dumpster is a daunting challenge.
Choosing to stick with a single brand—Thule—is a smart way to narrow down the scope of your search. But even within Thule’s lineup of offerings, figuring out which are truly the “best” requires some serious homework.
Today’s your lucky day because I did all that homework for you. Here are the criteria I used to decide which Thule rooftop bike racks are worthy of your hard-earned dollars and which should be culled from the herd.
Compatibility with different bike styles
If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on a new Thule bike rack, it’s nice to have the option to transport many different styles of bikes with the same rack.
As you’ll see, our top pick is the most versatile rooftop bike rack made by Thule. It allows you to haul your road bike, mountain bike, fat tire bike, and even youth and BMX bikes with smaller frames.
Why buy multiple bike racks if you don’t have to?
Ease of use
If you’re an avid cyclist, you probably like riding every day and you like the idea of loading with minimal effort. That’s why ease of use weighed heavily in my assessment of the best Thule rooftop bike racks.
Your new roof rack should be easy to use and should only take a few minutes—if not seconds—to get your bike loaded up. Iff it’s difficult or tedious to use, chances are you won’t use it. That would be money wasted.
Quality of materials
You need to be able to rely on your bike roof rack and have unwavering trust that it will get your two-wheeled chariot from point A to point B and back safe and sound. That’s why quality of materials and build is incredibly important when shopping for bike racks.
Thule is generally known for producing high-quality products, but as you’ll see in our reviews, users have reported some inconsistencies from rack to rack.
This doesn’t mean you should skip Thule altogether. Just know that it’s a good idea to give your new Thule rack a once-over inspection as soon as you get it home and installed on your vehicle before mounting your bike.
This factor may seem contradictory to the first parameter I laid out—versatility—but cycling can take on many specialized forms. Riding a bike with unique requirements? It’s important to get a rack that takes those into consideration.
For example, not all rooftop racks will hold a fat bike. Similarly, not all Thule racks are suitable for use with carbon fiber frames. Luckily, Thule has some solutions to accommodate the unique needs of such bicycles.
Positive user reviews
Overall, Thule bike racks have a lot of positive user reviews from cyclists who have put them to the test in the real world. The models that made this “best of” list are the most well-received from the lot.
However, Thule bike racks aren’t perfect. If you scour online reviews long enough, you absolutely will find some horror stories. These include the guy who had his $5,000 road bike fall onto the roof of his car while driving down the interstate because of a rack failure.
More common complaints relate to racks not being compatible with specific factory-installed crossbar systems on cars and tedious return processes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
There are a lot of questions about Thule bike racks floating around the interwebs. Here are the most common and the best answers I could find.
- Can you lock your bike on a Thule rooftop bike rack to prevent theft?
- Do Thule rooftop bike racks work with fat bikes?
- Do you need crossbars on your vehicle to install a Thule rooftop bike rack?
- Will a specific Thule rooftop bike rack work with my specific vehicle make and model?
- Are Thule rooftop bike racks safe to use on carbon fiber bike frames?
- Do Thule rooftop bike racks work with children’s bikes?
- Are Thule rooftop bike racks noisy going down the road?
- Do Thule rooftop bike racks work with E-bikes?
Can you lock your bike on a Thule rooftop bike rack to prevent theft?
All of the Thule rooftop bike racks on our list can lock up your bike to prevent theft when left unattended. However, this is only possible by purchasing an additional locking core system offered by Thule.
Thule’s One Key Lock system integrates seamlessly with all the bike racks listed below. According to Thule’s website, the One Key Lock “locks the bike to the bike rack and the bike rack to the vehicle (locks sold separately).”
Do Thule rooftop bike racks work with fat bikes?
Fat-tire bikes have become increasingly popular in recent years, and fortunately for wide-tire enthusiasts, Thule offers some transportation solutions.
Certain models of Thule rooftop bike racks do work with fat bikes out of the box while others require Thule’s Fatbike Adapter to accommodate tires up to 5 inches.
Do you need crossbars on your vehicle to install a Thule rooftop bike rack?
Yes, in order to mount a Thule rooftop bike rack on top of your vehicle, you’ll need to have appropriate crossbars already installed.
If your vehicle has factory crossbars installed, chances are a Thule rack will work with it either straight out of the box or by purchasing special adapters offered by Thule.
Thule racks are actually very versatile in this regard. They can be mounted either directly to t-tracks if available or with adapters that wrap around the crossbars.
If your vehicle doesn’t currently have rooftop crossbars installed, you’ll need to invest in these first. Thule, as well as other manufacturers like Yakima, make crossbars for a wide range of vehicles.
You’ll have some homework to do to figure out which crossbar system is right for your vehicle and the bike rack you want to use.
Know without a doubt that you want to purchase a Thule rooftop bike rack? The easiest, most seamless solution is to simply go with a crossbar system made by Thule. That way you won’t have to track down any special adapters or hack together a Macgyver-esque solution.
Will a specific Thule rooftop bike rack work with my specific vehicle make and model?
This is one of the most common questions that comes up, and unfortunately, the answer is almost always “it depends.”
Luckily, Thule has a “fit my car” tool on their website that helps you figure out whether or not a specific rack with work with your vehicle. Check it out here.
Are Thule rooftop bike racks safe to use on carbon fiber bike frames?
As you can see in the table above, some Thule rooftop bike rack models are carbon-frame-friendly while others are not. For more detailed information on whether your prized light-as-a-feather carbon frame bike will be safe, check out the specific reviews below.
Do Thule rooftop bike racks work with children’s bikes?
In general, all Thule rooftop bike racks will hold bikes with tires as small as 20 inches. That means most youth and BMX bikes are fair game.
However, any smaller than that—i.e. 16- or 12-inch—and rooftop transportation might be out of the question. In that case, a hitch-mount bike rack might be a better option.
Are Thule rooftop bike racks noisy going down the road?
It’s inevitable that some additional wind noise will be added to your car ride with a Thule bike rack on the roof. This is simply a matter of the extra wind-drag caused by your bikes sticking up off your car.
In terms of other noises, Thule’s bike racks hold the bikes very secure and any noise from rattling or wobbling is reported by users as being minimal or non-existent.
To reduce wind noise, some suggest installing a windscreen for a more streamlined and aerodynamic vehicle profile.
Do Thule rooftop bike racks work with E-bikes?
Weight capacity is the main issue when loading up an electronic bike on top of your car as they can run on the heavy side.
In our reviews, we included weight capacities for each Thule rooftop bike rack. So as long as your E-bike weighs less than a particular rack’s weight restriction—while also meeting the other parameters of the rack—you should be in the clear.
Research and Reviews of Thule Bike Roof Racks
Thule is one of the most recognizable names in the world of bike racks. So when I started researching to find the best Thule rooftop bike rack, my expectations were very high.
I must say, the more I dug into Thule’s offerings, the more I became convinced that it’d be hard to go wrong with any of the models they’re currently offering.
But with that said, one stood out among the rest as being what I would consider the all-around best. Keep in mind, however, that just because I think this particular model is “the best” doesn’t mean it’s right for you and some of the models further down the list might be better suited to your cycling lifestyle.
Without further ado, enjoy this thorough rundown of Thule’s most promising rooftop bike rack offerings to help you decide which is right for you.
Our #1 Pick: Thule UpRide
- Bike-carry style: Wheel-mount
- Load capacity: 44 lbs.
- Rack weight: 17 pounds
The High points
- Can be used with practically any bike style and size without modification or adjustment—great if you own multiple styles of bikes.
- Wheel-on mounting offers quick and easy loading.
- Accommodates bikes with any frame design, front and rear suspension, bottle cages, and other things that get in the way with frame-mount or fork-mount racks.
- Carries fat bikes with tires up to 5 inches wide using Thule Fat Bike adapter (sold separately).
The Low Points
- Works with skinny-tire road bikes but the hold isn’t as secure as wider, grippier mountain bike tires.
- Not as sturdy as a fork-mount rack.
- Locks, but locking mechanism is sold separately.
Why it’s our top pick
The Thule UpRide is the upgraded version of the Thule SideArm. That was very popular among cyclists but had a few kinks that were worked out in the new UpRide.
The versatility of the Thule UpRide is really what won me over. That earned it the title of “best.” As a true universal rooftop bike rack, the UpRide allows you to haul practically any bike regardless of style, frame design, or wheel size.
This is the rack for cyclists who ride a range of bikes—road, mountain, fat-tire, even beach cruisers—but don’t want to have to purchase multiple bike racks. The only kind of bikes you can’t haul with the UpRide are tandem bikes, recumbent bikes, and children’s bikes with wheels smaller than 16 inches.
As a wheel-mount bike rack, there is no frame contact made which means it’s one of the best options for transporting bikes with carbon fiber frames. It’s also well-suited for bikes with odd-shaped frame designs or tubing such as downhill mountain bikes with rear suspension systems integrated into the frame or bikes with lots of frame-mounted accessories.
From a bike-holding standpoint, the only issue I could see encountering would be if you had a touring road bike with front pannier racks installed. Since the wheel arm must make contact with the tire, it would seem racks would interfere with the fit.
The UpRide is also a great option for bikes with thru-axle front forks. After all, it doesn’t matter what form the axle takes since you keep the front wheel on the bike when using the UpRide.
Finally, as a wheel-on bike rack, the UpRide is one of the better options on the market for mountain bikers who often find themselves with muddy tires at the end of a day of hard riding.
What reviewers say
While the Thule UpRide is a versatile and great-looking roof rack that’s overall well-received, it has had some mixed reviews both in terms of functionality and quality.
Some reviewers report that it holds their bike securely. Others have had their bikes come loose while driving down the interstate—not good.
One of the primary criticisms is that the installation instructions are confusing. That leads to improper installation, rack failure, and the rack generally not performing as advertised.
Is this a case of user error? Most likely. Still, Thule should do a better job explaining how to properly install the UpRide. Then, users can get the full benefit of what otherwise is an awesome rack.
Other users have complained about their UpRide racks not coming with the necessary components for successful installation. This doesn’t directly relate to the quality or functionality of the rack.
However, it is definitely annoying. It is certainly something to check on if you decide to invest in this rack.
On a positive note, one reviewer commented that the UpRide is a huge improvement over the Thule Sidearm, which they had used for years with good results before upgrading. They remarked that the UpRide is both easier to secure the bike to the rack. It works better with smaller hybrid bike tires than the Sidearm.
Users also comment on the versatility of the UpRide when transporting different types of bikes including fat bikes using the Thule adapter.
In terms of quality, many users report that it’s built exceptionally strong. It gives them good peace of mind to trust it holding their bikes securely. Contrarily, others have complained of different parts failing—particularly screws and bolts stripping.
Features and considerations
The UpRide uses a two-piece hook arm that grabs the front wheel of the bike. Then it uses a ratcheting mechanism to hold the bike securely in place.
One arm of the hook goes around the front-top part of the wheel while the other comes up from below, grabbing the front tire from behind near the bike’s downtube.
This two-part hook encloses the wheel creating a very secure connection. The best part? It’s entirely self-adjusting so in order to fit bikes with different wheel sizes, all you have to do is tighten the ratcheting mechanism.
To secure the rear wheel, a ratcheting strap goes through the spokes and holds the rim of the wheel firmly against the rear wheel tray.
When not in use, the hook arm folds flat. Although it’s definitely bulkier that fork-mount bike racks, the hook arm remains out of the way allowing you to keep the bike rack installed on your vehicle without it looking out of place.
Like all Thule rooftop bike racks, the UpRide is lockable but you must purchase the Thule One Key System separately.
Keep in mind that while the UpRide is overall very stable, as a wheel-on roof rack, the UpRide won’t be as sturdy as a fork-mount bike rack. Therefore, it isn’t as well-suited for long distance road trips traveling at high speeds.
As a final consideration, even though the UpRide will hold practically any bike you can hoist into its ratcheting hook arm, it really shines when securing bikes with wider tires inflated to lower pressures—i.e. mountain bikes, hybrids, cruisers, and fat bikes. Simply put, the hook can grip the bigger, softer tires easier than with the skinny, high-pressure tires found on road bikes.
The Next Best: Thule ProRide
- Bike-carry style: Frame-mount
- Load capacity: 44 lbs.
- Rack weight: 9.9 lbs.
The high points
- A wheel-on design with more stability thanks to a frame-mount mechanism.
- Frame holder automatically positions the bike when tightened for easy loading.
- Carbon fiber-friendly frame clamp with extra protection from included frame protector cuff.
- Great for fat bikes with Thule Fat Bike adapter.
- Built-in torque limiter ratchet minimizes frame damage.
The low points
- Not as versatile for transporting bikes with unconventional frame shapes or elaborate rear suspension systems.
- Not ideal for the lightest of carbon fiber bike frames.
- Locking mechanism sold separate.
The Thule ProRide isn’t quite as versatile as the Thule UpRide. However, due to its frame-mount mechanism, it provides a very stable and secure way to transport a wide variety of bikes.
This is a great rooftop rack for mountain bikers and road cyclists alike. With its frame arm it can accommodate even the most nontraditional tube shapes.
Depending on how unique the shape of your bike frame is or how many accessories you have mounted, however, the frame clamp system may not be able to secure your bike as well as a wheel-mount rack.
While the Thule ProRide is said to be safe to use on carbon fiber bike frames. That is thanks to an included frame protector cuff. If your carbon bike has ultra-thin walls you may feel more comfortable transporting your trusty steed with a different rack that doesn’t make frame contact.
What reviewers say
The biggest praise from reviewers for the Thule ProRide is for its ease of use. Users comment that loading and securing a bike into the ProRide is a painless process and the ability to keep the front wheel on makes for faster loading times.
Another crowd pleaser is the ProRide’s self-positioning frame clamp that automatically puts the bike into the proper position upon tightening.
Users also find the ProRide to be very versatile when hauling different types of bikes. They don’t have to make adjustments to accommodate differences in frame or wheel size. The torque limiter frame clamp takes care of everything.
Once the bike is secured in the ProRide, users comment on how rigid the fit is. The bike is held securely in place with minimal effort from the user.
Those who have installed the Thule ProRide on their vehicles find that the rack is aesthetically pleasing, blending in with the lines of their cars and SUVs.
The ProRide’s design is unobtrusive. With a bike mounted, it almost looks like the bike is held up on its own. Very slick.
The biggest criticisms of the ProRide comes from users who found that the rack didn’t fit the factory crossbars on their particular vehicles. So if you’re interested in the ProRide, be sure to use Thule’s “fit my car” tool to make sure it’ll fit. Maybe even give them a call to be sure.
Features and considerations
On the Thule ProRide 591 or 598, the arm that grabs the frame has been designed to eliminate damage to the bike frame or shifter cables on the downtube. This is accomplished with a clamp that has a large surface area for even weight distribution. It also has soft rubber pads that conform to the shape of the tube.
For further protection, a torque limiter integrated into the frame clamp ensures that you won’t over-tighten the clamp. That could dent your frame or crush your shifter cables.
This device functions similar to a preset torque wrench you’d use to tighten bolts on your car or truck to a precise tightness. It takes the guesswork out of securing your bike.
In addition to the frame clamp, both wheels are secured using diagonal ratcheting wheel straps. So instead of two connection points like you get with a wheel-mount rack, with the Thule ProRide you get three making this rack inherently more stable.
For even greater stability, the diagonal orientation of the straps self-aligns the position of the wheels in the trays for a better fit and connection.
While the frame clamp arm is adaptable to different frame tube shapes, it’s not as well-suited for bikes with non-traditional frame designs—particularly those with in-frame rear suspension systems.
Similarly, if your bike has a lot of accessories mounted to downtube—extra water bottle cages, air pumps, or bike locks—there might not be enough for the frame clamp to function properly.
Thule does classify the ProRide as “carbon frame friendly” but only by using the included frame protector. But let’s be honest: this little protective piece of rubber and plastic that secures to the frame is a good idea to use even if you have a steel or aluminum frame for maximum protection of your bike’s paint job. It’s included so why not use it?
Since the ProRide secures the bike by the frame, this would be a great choice for cyclists who like to keep fenders mounted on their bikes for riding in wet climates. No wheel contact is made other than the ratcheting wheel straps at the bottom of each wheel, so there’s nothing to interfere with fenders—or pannier racks for that matter.
If you ride a fat bike, the ProRide is one of the better options on the market—as long as you purchase the Thule Fat Bike adapter which is sold separately. The Fat Bike adapter simply gives you wider tire trays and longer ratchet straps to accommodate tires up to 5 inches wide.
As a final note, the ProRide works best with standard adult-size bikes with wheels in the 26 to 29-inch range. It will work on smaller-framed youth and BMX bikes down to 20 inches, but any smaller and you’ll run into issues.
Our Next Favorite: Thule ThruRide
- Bike-carry style: Thru-axle fork mount
- Load capacity: 35 lbs.
- Rack weight: 6.2 lbs.
The high points
- Fits thru-axle bikes out of the box without the use of a special adapters.
- Universal adjustable axle clam accommodates different axle sizes.
- Works with quick-release axles using an adapter (sold separately).
The low points
- Metal axle clamp could potentially cause damage to fork dropouts.
- Potential clearance issues on bikes with large disc brakes.
For mountain bikers riding thru-axle bikes, options used to be quite limited for transporting such beastly bikes. You either had to use a wheel-on rooftop bike rack or make a standard quick-release fork-mount bike rack work by using an adapter.
Now, with the Thule Thru Ride, you get the stability of a fork-mount for your thru-axle bike straight out of the box.
This rack landed in our number three spot. That is because it isn’t as versatile as the Up Ride or Pro Ride. After all, not everyone rides a thru-axle bike. But in the realm of thru-axle rooftop bike racks, the Thule Thru Ride is one of the top options available today.
Keep in mind that this style of bike rack is relatively new to the marketplace. There are still some kinks that need to be worked out.
It isn’t perfect, but if you envision yourself driving up a bumpy 4X4 road to get to a remote mountain bike trailhead, you’re going to appreciate the stability of a fork-mount rack for your thru-axle bike.
What reviewers say
In general, users find the Thule Thru Ride easy to install and easy to use when securing bikes.
The bike’s universal axle clamp is a crowd pleaser as users can expect their thru-axle bikes to fit the rack without any special adapters to fit their specific axle configurations.
A stable ride is experienced across the board and once secured, users don’t have to worry about their bikes wobbling or coming loose—even on the bumpiest roads.
One of the biggest complaints about the Thule Thru Ride relates to the products quality and durability with some users reporting that the rack broke after only a few uses.
Overall, Thule appears to make quality products. However, the issue of quality seems to come up time and time again in reviews of all their products.
Could it be that only those who have trouble take the time to review and satisfied users remain silent? Either way, if this is something that concerns you—as it should—you may want to look into other brands before investing in a rooftop bike rack.
Another criticism is that the axle mount can damage a bike’s thru-axle dropouts if you aren’t careful and tighten it down too much.
And as with all the other Thule bike racks, users are frustrated by the fact that the ThruRide doesn’t come with the locking mechanism needed to prevent theft of bikes. They say that for such a premium price, these racks should come with the locks as it’s such an essential component of any rack system.
Features and considerations
To load a bike into the Thule ThruRide, the front wheel must be removed then the bike lifted into the rack.
The bike’s axle is placed into a slot at the front of the rack that is adjustable to accommodate the most popular thru-axle sizes. A small dial inside the clamp mechanism allows you to make micro adjustments to find the right fit before tightening down and fastening the clamp.
One nice thing about this adjustable system is that once you find the right setting for your specific thru-axle bike, you can leave it in place so you don’t have to fiddle with it every time you load up. Just drop in the axle, close the clamshell-style clamp, and you’re ready to go.
To secure the rear wheel, a quick release strap goes through the spokes and holds down the rim.
The rear wheel tray slides freely on the bar allowing you to find the perfect fit for bikes with almost any wheelbase length. Unique to the ThruRide, the rear wheel tray can even slide directly over the rear mounting hardware for easy adjustments—most other racks require disassembly and reassembly to make such adjustments.
The quick-release adapter that Thule sells separately essentially takes the place of a thru-axle. It provides the typical clamping mechanism you’d find on standard fork-mount bike racks.
Although this does require a separate purchase, this greatly extends the versatility of the ThruRide, allowing you to haul any road bike or mountain bike you own with quick-release axles.
4. Thule OutRide
- Bike-carry style: Fork-mount
- Load capacity: 37.5 lbs.
- Rack weight: 5.5 lbs.
The high points
- Very stable ride thanks to a fork-mount system.
- Adjustable axle clamp offers universal fit for bikes with quick-release hubs.
- Thru-axle compatible with adapter (sold separately).
- Lightweight, low-profile design is unobtrusive and can be left on your car without looking out of place.
The low points
- Not compatible with carbon fiber fork dropouts—the metal clamping device can cause damage.
If you’re comfortable removing your front wheel every time you need to transport your bicycle, the Thule OutRide is a great choice for fork-mount rooftop bike racks. But before you invest in this rack, make sure your bike is outfitted with quick-release axles. That way you aren’t having to pull a wrench every time you want to load up your bike.
Also, make sure that you don’t have “thru-axles” as these won’t work with the OutRide—well, you can transport a thru-axle bike but you’ll need to buy a special adapter made by Thule. If that’s your situation, it’s overall a better idea to go with the Thule ThruRide which ranks higher on our list.
One of the benefits of the fork-mount OutRide is that since your bike rides lower on top of your vehicle, there’s less air drag generated by your bike for less noise on the road. Additionally, by using your bike’s front fork dropouts, a substantially more secure connection is made for more on-the-road stability.
You must remove the front wheel to use the Thule OutRide. Therefore, this rack is a good option for cyclists that have trouble hoisting their entire bike onto the roof of the car. Without the weight of the front wheel, the bike is significantly lighter and easier to lift.
Just don’t forget to put that wheel in the trunk or else your ride will end before it ever begins.
What reviewers say
As one of Thule’s newest offerings, there haven’t been significant numbers of authentic user reviews generated online as some of Thule’s other racks.
Of the reviews that are available, users report that the OutRide is very easy to install as long as you have the proper crossbar system in place on your car.
On top of that, apparently, the OutRide installs more easily when mounted to the t-tracks. Otherwise, you’ll have to use adapters to secure the rack around the crossbars.
As with the other Thule rooftop bike racks, a major criticism is the fact that the OutRide doesn’t come with a locking mechanism and instead must be purchased separately on top of what many agree is already a high-priced item.
Features and considerations
Bikes are secured to the OutRide by first removing the front wheel, lifting the bike up, and placing the front fork dropouts onto the adjustable axle clamp on the rack. Then, you simply tighten down the axle clamp just like you would when installing the front tire on your bike.
The rear wheel of the bike is secured by a quick-release wheel strap. The design of the rear wheel strap doesn’t appear to be as secure or stable as the diagonal ratcheting wheel strap used on other Thule rooftop bike rack models. It’s a mystery why Thule wouldn’t go with the more stable diagonal strap design on all their offerings.
The Thule OutRide differs from other fork-mount rooftop bike racks on the market. That is because the axle clamp is adjustable for a universal fit on a wide variety of bikes with a maximum fork width of 3 inches.
At 5.5 pounds, the OutRide is one of the lighter bike racks made by Thule. It is great for anyone who likes to remove the rack when not in use. For those who wish to keep the rack installed, it has a very low-profile design that doesn’t stand out when a bike isn’t in it.
So go ahead—leave it up there.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the OutRide is that it isn’t compatible with carbon fork dropouts. But if you ride a steel or aluminum bike, the OutRide will serve you well.
5. Thule Tandem Carrier
- Bike-carry style: Fork-mount
- Load capacity: 55 lbs.
- Rack weight: 23 lbs.
The high points
- An easy and secure way to transport a tandem bike.
- Also works with single-rider bikes for more versatility.
The low points
- Lack of stabilization bars like other tandem racks have results in a slightly more wobbly ride.
If you ride a tandem bike, options are slim for transporting your bike on the roof of the car. The Thule Tandem Carrier is Thule’s answer to this problem and for the most part, does a good job at its intended purpose.
Think of the Tandem Carrier as an elongated version of the Thule OutRide. It’s a straightforward fork-mount rooftop bike rack that has a longer bar and sliding wheel trays to accommodate the long wheelbases of tandem bikes.
What’s nice about the Tandem Carrier is that it can also be used to transport single-rider bikes, adding to its versatility and giving you more bang for your buck.
What reviewers say
According to users, the Thule Tandem Carrier is easy to install, works with a variety of crossbar systems, and is easy to load tandem bikes into.
Most users report being able to easily load a tandem bike in solo, so if your riding partner isn’t up to the task, you’ll still be able to get where you’re going without help.
The biggest criticism of the Tandem Carrier is a slight lack of stability due to the rack not having side stabilizer arms as found on competing tandem bike roof racks. To overcome this, one reviewer recommends securing the bike with an additional ratcheting tie down strap—check with your local hardware store—on the bike’s crossbar for extra stability.
Excessive wind noise is another issue relayed by users, but this is mostly due to the larger profile of a tandem bike and no fault of the Tandem Carrier. Adding a windscreen to the front of the vehicle’s roof can eliminate some of the noise, making for a more peaceful ride.
Features and considerations
The Thule Tandem Carrier functions just like other fork-mount bike racks. A tandem bike is loaded by removing the front wheel, hoisting it up, placing the front fork dropout into the axle receiver, then tightening to secure.
The rear wheel is secured by a quick-release strap, just like what’s found on the Thule OutRide.
In addition to the basic front and rear connection points, the Tandem Carrier also features handlebar straps to offer more stability. And as the aforementioned reviewer commented, it’s a good idea to tie down the bike’s crossbar to make sure your tandem won’t wobble or sway while in transit.
To use the Thule Tandem Carrier for single-rider bikes, simply slide the rear wheel tray forward as much as you need to fit the shorter wheelbase.
That’s about all there is to it. It’s like you get two bike racks in one. It is a great choice if you’re a tandem rider who also rides single—or vice versa.
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