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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 17 March 2016
Note - UPDATE ADDED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS REVIEW FOLLOWING 500 MILE / 5 DAY TRIP IN STORMY WEATHER

So I bought this carrier having read both the good and bad reviews on Amazon. The bad reviews seem to focus on the risk of the tilt mechanism coming loose during use and depositing the bikes onto the road. There are also a few mentions of bikes being difficult to fit or having to buy frame adaptors at (£20 each). I found none of this to be an issue.

RISK OF TILT? - First and most importantly the alleged issue (on some posts) with the clamps for the tilt mechanism coming undone and allowing the bikes to tilt while driving - I'm really unable to see how this can happen, the bolt heads have a square section beneath the head and this retains the clamp in place in the bracket even if they come slightly loose. They still can't slide-up and allow the bikes to fall (see picture). Also they need to be unscrewed a considerable way to allow the tubes to spring-out of their recess in the bracket before they can actually tilt. All I did was what I always do when carrying bikes on a car, drive a few miles and re-check the tightness of all fastenings/straps as things do bed-in a little and loosen when you first go over bumps. I've been carrying bikes for over 20 years on all kinds of racks and always do this - things always need an adjustment on any carrier, the security of the load is the responsibility of the driver. I also check the load every-time I stop for breaks etc. On my test drive with this rack and four bikes there were no issues. I suspect anyone having the bikes fall would have not tightened the fastenings in the first place, and certainly not having safety checked the load after a few miles. Anyone who is a little on the weak side should invest in a grippy gardening or workshop glove for a few pounds to get a better purchase on the head of the fastening, it will make all the difference. As a belt and braces-approach you could also run a Cycle Toe Strap under the protruding pivot and over the clamp to prevent it from rising if it did come loose. Easy to fit and release in seconds.

FRAME ADAPTOR BARS. NEEDED? - Without the use of additional frame adaptor bars (£20 each) - we were able to mount 4 different size Mountain Bikes (see picture), An adult bike with full suspension, an adult hybrid bike without suspension, a 9 year old's 24 inch wheel mountain bike, an 8 year old's 20 inch wheel mountain bike with rear suspension. As suggested in other's posts on here, it takes a little bit of fiddling and experimenting the first time you load, twisting the rubber bike mounts on the tubes as required, but the bikes all fit snug and safely without sticking out the sides of the car. The first time loading the bikes took me about 1 hour to decide how they should all go on. I then took a photo so I have it memorised. The second time loading (once I had a system) took around 15 minutes. I had to remove a clip-on mudguard or two - which I would have done in any case as 70mph would probably have seen them unclip themselves.

DOES TOW-BALL MOUNTING SYSTEM WORK & IS IT SECURE?: Simply YES & YES. It was with a degree of doubt I followed the instructions and cleaned the tow ball before fitting the rack, tightened the bolt with the provided wrench and knowing my weight is a little over that of the four bikes I would mount I jumped-on the end of the rack and did push-ups. I got off, pulled and jiggled. This tow-ball clamp is rock solid.

LIGHT BOARD NEEDED? - Yes, you'll need to invest in a light / registration board if you don't have one. 4 bikes obscure the cars number plate and lights for sure.

OTHER TIPS:

LOADING: As mentioned above experiment when not under time-pressure to get loaded and try the bikes in different positions and sequences. Twist the rubber bike mounts on the carrier to the angle you need them. Don’t think about simply mounting under the cross-bar, be creative (but safe). When you have the perfect solution….. Take a Picture so you will remember.

BIKES WITH REAR SUSPENSION - These were the trickiest to mount until I found that instead of trying to get both rack tubes under the crossbar - mount the rear rack tube behind the frame just under the seat post clamp. Strap it down diagonally around the seat post / over the frame. The seat post clamp takes the vertical weight and the bike sits centrally on the carrier. This was the key discovery for me to getting all four bikes-on. You can see in the pictures I've done this on the yellow bike. You can see the rubber strap passing around the frame just under the seat post pin.
I also found on a more conventionally framed hybrid, it was better to mount the diagonal down tube rather than through the frame under the crossbar.

CARRIER SECURITY / SAFETY: I'm also buying the additional Thule tow ball lock thing that is supposed to prevent anyone undoing the bolt on the tow-ball fitting. Even though this extra does (as commented elsewhere) look a little flimsy it will stop the casual thief / tampering. If the thing is missing I’ll know to suspect tampering.

BIKE SECURITY: As for bike security I never rely on the locks provided on a carrier. I use a long Kryptonite motorbike chain and two small u-locks passed through the bikes and locked at one end to the tow-bracket or cars own tow loop, and at the other to the last bike on the carrier. I happen to have one chains of these lying around, but you get the principle. I’m pretty confident that the bikes will still be there after a motorway-break. Sometimes I also use a bike cable lock to hold onto quick release wheels etc.

BIKE DAMAGE AND SCUFFS: I’m old-school so still remember toe-clips with straps. I always keep a bunch of cheap cycle toe-straps handy when biking, I use them to strap parts of different bikes together on the carrier so they don’t rub or bash each other, or preventing wheels or handlebars from turning, keeping unnecessary scuffs and damage to a minimum. You can buy them on Amazon for less than £1.50 a pair.

EXTRA LOAD SECURITY – If in doubt about the security of one of the rubber mountings / straps you have used, put a cycle toe-strap (Use the internet if you are too young to understand) around the bike carrier tubes & bike frame, it takes a few seconds. (Belt and braces).

CYCLE TOE STRAPS – in-case you didn’t get it from the above, always have some cheap cycle toe straps around as they enable you to make everything that bit more secure, take seconds to fit and remove them, and are cheap as chips. You can buy them on Amazon for less than £1.50 a pair. They are like having large re-usable cable-ties.

CHECK THE SECURITY OF THE RACK AND BIKES AFTER THE FIRST FEW MILES - Re-tighten everything. Every trip it takes seconds. On long trips check again whenever you stop-off, or stop half way specifically.

BICYCLE WORKSTAND – When I lifted the first bike onto the carrier I realised it was pretty much at the right height to work-on. supports the bike under the frame leaving everything else free to work-on. This is now my work-stand. It only takes a couple of minutes to fit the rack to the car. Perfect!

FURTHER TESTING - I’m doing a 400 mile fully-loaded round-trip over Easter and will feedback any issues.

PS: I don't work for Thule, and am not in any-way connected to Thule or the sale of Bike Accessories, or the cycle industry. I'm a manufacturing/engineering consultant in non-related industries.

--------------------------------- UPDATE BELOW --------------------------------------- FOLLOWING 500 MILES in WIND/RAIN (over 5 days) ---------

Just got back from a five day trip from Staffordshire to the New Forest / Lundhurst / Bournemouth, with the rack mounted 100% of the time, night and day. The first thing I need to address is the accusations of the clamps for the tilt mechanism coming undone. I saw no evidence of this on my trip and spent the first 300 miles monitoring these clamps very closely every 50 miles or so (as I was a little dubious / suspicious having read some of the negative reviews) - they did not come loose the whole trip! I can understand how an issue may arise though - and that would be if you didn't fully tighten the clamps BEFORE loading the bikes. The clamps squash the tubes into their recesses and their is no way anyone would be strong enough to do this with the weight of the bikes on the rack. They MUST be fully had tightened before loading. I suspect anyone who had problems didn't do this.

In-fact I had no problems with the rack during the whole trip - except for a creak developing (after a few days/nights of rain / use) which I was able to cure with mild lubrication of the tubes where they pass through the tilt mechanism recesses. This also made tightening them easier as the slippery tubes sank fully home in their location more easily.

The tow ball mounting was rock solid the whole time, and again needed no tightening - even though I tested it frequently.

The reports on here of the whole rack 'bouncing around a bit' interested me, so loaded with four bikes I gave mine a wobble to replicate the movement I could see in the rear view mirror. Almost all of the movement was a result of the car's tow-bar flexing - not the bike rack.

I used the tools supplied / bare hands to tighten all fittings as directed in the instructions, the rubber straps worked without a problem. I'm now very confident in the safety of the rack when fitted correctly, and that I have the ability/skill to do-so. It is very quick to install, and once you've loaded / unloaded it a few times and developed a standard system loading the rack with bikes is a doddle also. I've made one more adjustment to how I load the bikes as they were originally all hanging out a few inches to the passenger side of the car (still within the width of the car and mirrors. I altered one bike's position to hang out of the drivers side by the same amount - just to balance wind pressure on the bikes / rack at motorway speeds.

This was half the price of the other four-bike racks I could find and is totally fit for purpose. Moreover, loading the bikes onto the back of the car was much easier than the roof-bar loading option which I used on my last car, and no need to carry a step-ladder.

NOTE - testing conditions: Mixed roads (South Staffordshire to Hampshire) including extended motorway driving (70mph) into similarly strong head winds / gusts of storm Katie on Easter Monday 28/03/2016, plus some A roads, and a lot of bumpy country roads along with no-end of speed-bumps. The rack was on the car from Sunday night to Friday night and the bikes were loaded and locked (chains / U-locks) onto the carrier the whole time (when not riding). Temperatures were between 0 and 12 degrees C. and included torrential overnight rain and overnight snow.
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on 22 July 2013
OK, so I don't "do" reviews - I selfishly read them and never post any...until now...this is a **seriously good product** and I cannot recommend it enough.

If you're like me, you'll have read the reviews and perhaps have some doubts about whether it can take "modern" bikes without a crossbar, whether its secure and whether its robust. Let me put those to rest for you...

It easily takes four bikes and they don't need a standard cross bar. We have two adult bikes (1 typical "male" frame and 1 typical "female" frame) and two kids mountain bikes, both without cross bars and a modern sloping/diagonal frame. So, that's 3 bikes out of four without a crossbar - they all fitted with no hassles or problems and are rock solid on the carrier. My advice would be to not constrain yourself to the rubber fittings being upright, turn them 45 degrees or whatever they need to be to accomodate the bike frame, and twist the bike slightly - don't force yourself to put the bike on horizontal. They will go on!

Secure? Its absolutely rock solid! Its a really clever piece of engineering to hang everything off the towbar, on one simple fitting and I am truely amazed at how secure it is. It keeps your bikes well clear of the rear of the car and in the slipstream of the vehicle - so no wind noise at all and no noticeable difference to fuel consumption.

Robust? Yep, again, its rock solid and really well made. Easy to assemble, folding storage feature does what it says, quality rubber mounts and straps. I won't pretend that the bikes don't move about a little in the rear view mirror - they do, but that's just what you'd expect of anything on a trailer.

Final tips - have a practice run at getting your bikes on and don't leave it until the morning you're off on holiday! Yep, you need to have the boot fully loaded first (because the chances of folding the carrier down, for boot access, with four bikes attached are slim - think Geoff Capes sized arms) - which means the family are practically ready to go before you start loading the carrier...you don't want to be messing around at that point :-) I ordered on a Monday, delivered Wednesday, test loaded on the Friday night and got it nailed on the second attempt. I just remembered the bike "order" and "arrangement", and it took no longer than 30 mins on the Saturday morning.

1500 miles from Scotland to Wales, to the Midlands and back to Scotland - bikes on and off four times during that time and on the last load I'd got it down to 15 minutes.

A four bike carrier, for sub-£100, no balancing bikes on the roof, scratching the wings/door/roof in the process, out of the way at the back...it really is a no-brainer. Love it!
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on 3 August 2015
DANGEROUS - AVOID!!!!
the 2 knobs which screw tight to stop the rack unhinging come loose during driving - VERY DANGEROUS. Fault with my item or just the design? Having studied the design, it is most definitely flawed, and missing a more secure locking mechanism.
Thule are meant to be leaders in this field, but this fails because of their including the ability to hinge the rack without removing it off the tow bar. Sounds handy but in reality it means the rack is likely to hinge down whilst driving, due to poor locking mechanism.
Despite turning the knobs as tight as they would go, i was able to rattle the rack manually and see them starting to come loose. A short drive (3 miles) on normal road, and then a quarter mile down a rough farm track and one knob had come completely free.
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on 26 July 2015
BEWARE - COLLAPSIBLE BIKE RACK. We bought a Thule 9708 in order to take our bikes away on holiday to Cornwall with us, and were reassured by the good reviews we read. We have recently taken it for a test run to a local mountain bike trail, around 5 miles from our house. The rack was easy to fit onto the tow bar, but getting the 4 bikes on first time was a bit of a pfaff, but we got there in the end. On route to the trails, it was disconcerting to see the bikes bouncing around a little in the rear view mirror, despite being in a relatively urban area and not going above 40mph, however, we thought that was to be expected and weren't too worried. Unloading the bikes, I was concerned to find that the locking screws on the side, used to enable tilting, had become loosened, so tightened them as much as I could. After the ride, when putting the bikes back on the rack, I rechecked to ensure that both side screws were as tight as I could make them. Half way home, the bikes and rack were bouncing quite noticeably, and very shortly afterwards, the whole rack fell backwards on to the road, scraping all the bikes along until we could stop safely. We found that the screws on the side that enable tilting had once again loosened, presumably by the bouncing up and down of the bikes, and then the whole rack had tilted back whilst we were still moving. Fortunately there was no traffic close behind, however, all of our bikes suffered severe damage via buckled wheels. This seems to be the only rack in the range that has no safety catch on the tilt function. Why is that? Thus buyer beware - be very careful about this rack tilting back as you are travelling, and dragging your bikes at high speed along the road. We will certainly not be using this rack ever again, its just not fit for purpose.
33 comments| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 March 2012
Very disappointed to discover that this rack, despite being well designed with a secure tow bar fitting, cannot be used with mountain bikes, of which I have four of various sizes. To fit a mountain bike, or lady's framed bike, you need a £20 adapter for each bike, so for me that's an extra £80 before I add the £30 for a light board.

It is a shame that the Amazon description doesn't explain this.

So for me, it's a 2 star review.

However, if you have racing bikes or very large mountain bikes (they need to be at least 20" frames) you will love this rack.
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on 14 February 2011
Fine item, just back from a weekend away with 2 adult and 2 kids bikes. Absolutely no problems easy to fit and load, would def. recommend.
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on 25 July 2011
just returned from 350 mile roundtrip with 3 bikes in tow and not a budge out of it. So easy to put on (I'm female!!) did it no problem and secured all the bikes very easily. So glad i picked this one as its so secure when driving
22 comments| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 August 2011
Bought this after much searching for a four bike affordable bike rack option and really happy with it's simplicity. Takes about 10 minutes to put on and load up with 4 bikes and when they are on they are on. A solid and safe rack and having gone 1000 miles across Europe and back with this on the back of my car spotted no difference in fuel consumption. Not only that but with the position of the bikes on the rack I didn't need a lightboard as the lights could still be seen and just needed to purchase a new numberplate to sit on the back bike.

Read some reviews that it was difficult to put kids bikes on the rack - I had no such problems with this rack as the rubber clips can fasten on to all parts of the bike.

So why not 5 stars - simply because the tipping functionality (to allow you to open the boot) is simply not credible - you will need two people to manage it and the strength of 3 to control the weight of the bikes. This aside the rack is brilliant.
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on 16 February 2012
Need this product to carry three downhill bikes ,i found out that holds the weight perfect n i can drive with confidence without worrying.Good product at reasonably price-great service from amazon n package.
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on 15 September 2013
Needed a bike rack to take 3 bikes to Switzerland. This product works a treat and very simple to use. One of our mountain bikes had to be moved around a little to make it fit but easy enough to do. It looks, works and is very well made. Good or bad,,, I completely forgot that the bikes were on the back of the car!!
Bad points..
No, this product does NOT come with any form of lock. Not to lock your bikes but to lock the rack to your car.. With several thousand ££ worth of bikes on the back leaving them unattended in France would be a worry.
DO NOT buy the lock that they sell for this rack, it is plastic and jokingly I kicked it to show my kids what a piece of rubbish it was AND it broke off!!! I suggest you buy a small chain and lock (cheaper also) and somehow fix it to your under carriage or tow bar. The other thing to remember is that in order to open your boot at any point, then EVERYTHING has to come off the back. I would have thought that they could design it so you take off the bikes and then be able to fold the frame down while still attached to the car!!,
In general though we are very happy with it and recommended it to anyone.
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