There are many options for carrying a bike on the roof of a car, and typically, the question has been whether you keep the bike’s wheels on or take the front wheel off. Swedish car rack experts, Thule, has long offered a range of racks, and the choice of clamping by the fork axle (front wheel off) or by the frame (wheels on) has been a tricky decision.
Axle-mount roof racks serve the key benefit of not clamping the frame. Some lightweight road bikes or more complicated mountain bikes present issues on bike carriers, and fork-mount racks ease the pain. Likewise, they keep the bike lower, reducing the chance of bumping into things above and less obviously, are marginally better with fuel efficiency.
By contrast, the racks that hold the bike whole can be faster and easier to use. You also don’t need to worry about axle compatibility with modern bikes and there’s never a risk of reversing over your own front wheel or leaving it at home. However, such racks typically clamp onto the frame, and strange frame shapes, bottle cages or paper thin tubing all present significant issues. Thule’s latest bike carrier, the UpRide 599, aims to solve these very issues, by holding the whole bike upright by the wheels alone.
CyclingTips tech writer Dave Rome has been testing the new Thule UpRide 599, alongside a Yakima HighRoad for the past three weeks. Rome shares his early thoughts on the Thule UpRide bike carrier.
The Thule UpRide works by locking the front wheel firmly in place, and in turn, keeps the bike upright. By doing this, the rack is only clamping the outside of the tyre, and makes no contact with the frame. The rear wheel is then secured just like any other roof-based bike carrier.
“Thule are not the first to produce a rack that holds the bike by the wheels, Yakima have done so for years, which is exactly why I’m comparing the two. The benefits of doing this are obvious and by simply grasping the wheel, there is no worry about crushing delicate carbon frames, pinching cables, battling bottle cages or marring paint. Thule has worked hard in recent years to overcome all of those issues with its ProRide 598 rack (link), but nothing beats ignoring the frame all together,” explains Rome.
The Thule UpRide works with with an “X” design, where the front wheel is rolled into front bar, and then the second bar is brought up behind the front wheel and clicked into place, in turn, pinching the front wheel between the two bars. Both bars are independently adjustable to suit a variety of common wheel sizes, and a small viewing window tells you which wheel size the rack is set to before you load your bike. The rack is said to fit most bikes with wheel sizes between 20-29in in diameter, and with tyres up to 3in in width. Thule do offer an upgrade kit for carrying fat bikes, too.
“Installing the rack was easy, although the manual is much like something fellow Swedish company, Ikea, would provide. It comes ready to fit and with T-Track bolts that simply slide into the rails of common aero and round cross bars. Aftermarket adaptors are available for cross bars without the T-Track system. I put the rack on the right-hand side of the car, but it can be switched to work on the left.”
“I’ve tested the rack with both road and mountain bikes and it’s held both just fine. The heavier mountain bike does see the rack rock somewhat, but it’s no worse than other Thule racks. I do have some fitment concerns over how closely the rear bar fits with some frames and so i need to still test this with bikes that have the front wheel close to the downtube.”
The UpRide is priced at AU$369 and comes with two lock cores, one for the rack itself and the other for the integrated cable lock that reaches to the rear of the bike frame.
CyclingTips will be publishing a comparison review between the Thule UpRide and Yakima HighRoad in the coming weeks.
Check out the wide range of car bike racks on offer from leading retailers across the country right here, at BikeExchange