Top positive review
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Great cost effective carrier for 4 bikes. Investigated and reported on main problems reported by others - READ THIS!
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.
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.