Review: Thule T2 Hitch-Mount Rack

The bullet-proof bike rack

By Vernon Felton

Damn near indestructible--I've beaten on this rack for seven years straight and it's still performing like a champ.

First, a disclaimer: the rack you see here has “Sportworks” stickers plastered all over it—this is because that particular company created the T2 rack shortly before selling their consumer rack division to Thule. The T2, however, remained relatively unchanged for years, which is testimony to just how good the original recipe was.

I picked up this hitch-mount rack the week it went on sale–this was back in 2005—and I’ve abused it daily ever since. Snow, rain, sleet, mud, drunken friends stumbling and falling onto the rack, legally-blind grandmothers driving their Buicks into it: the T2 has withstood it all and never once crapped the bed.

All of the above continues to astound me because I’ve tested several other racks that, despite being brand spanking new, shake like they have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (that’d be “Mad Cow” for the less scientifically-inclined types out there), are an absolute bear to fold up, and simply don’t do the whole Carry-Bikes-Safely-from-Point A-to-Point B thing half as well at the Thule. In short, the T2 has aged miraculously well.

Sure, mine’s a bit rusty and bent out of shape (that’d be the nearsighted octogenarian in the Buick), but I’ve never had to replace the wheel straps or the telescoping arms. I’ve never even snugged up a bolt, added a drop of grease or considered performing any action resembling maintenance to the T2. And let me just be clear on this point: this rack has spent every single day exposed to sun, wind and rain since I pulled it out of its box. No cozy garage time for this puppy. I am a cruel master.

The ratcheting retention arm secures your bike to the rack in seconds. The latest version of the T2 will accommodate tires up to 29 x 3.0 inches. Impressive.

Actually attaching your bike to the T2 takes all of five seconds and once you’ve tried this style of hitch mount rack, you’ll never willingly go back to hassling with a rack that requires you to either:

(1) Attempt to slam dunk your bike onto the roof of a car; or

(2) Remove your muddy front wheel and toss it into the back of your car where it fouls your jersey, clothes and whatever else it was that you’d meant to keep clear of dirt and dog poop-encrusted tires.

As if all that wasn’t impressive enough, you can also add a two-bike extension onto this rack. Four bikes on a single rack? Easy. I’ve hauled four bloated DH bikes on this thing and the T2 never wiggled, groaned or whimpered.

Thule has made several changes (for the better) to the T2. In 2010, Thule tweaked the retention arm so that it clears 29er tires more easily (having said that, I can still get my first-generation arm over a Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4 tire, and that’s a beefy 29er tread). The new Thule arm is supposed to clear 29×3.0 tires.

Likewise, Thule added a locking cable to the arm in 2011, which enables you to lock your frame to the rack. It’s not the kind of anti-theft device that guarantees peace of mind if you have to leave your bike sitting on the rack overnight in a really bad part of town, but it’ll fend off the average grab and dash.  The entire rack, for that matter, also locks to your hitch mount now (another feature my pre-Thule model lacks).

Rusty, dinged up, missing the little plastic cap...my T2 has been abused but the beauty of a mechanism constructed from thick-gauge steel is that it shrugs off bad treatment. It ain't pretty anymore, but it still works like it was brand new.

What’s not so groovy? Well, taking the rack on and off can be a bit of a pain because it’s one heavy mofo. Then again, that ridiculously stout frame is what enables you to haul four bikes around on an inch and quarter receiver. In short, I’ll vote for heavy and over-the-top sturdy every single time when I’ve got several thousand dollars worth of bikes riding on my rack.

The price ($440 for the latest iteration, the Thule 917XTR T2) is also fairly steep, but this is definitely a case of getting what you paid for. I’ve never treated something so badly and had it work so well. I would have burned through several lesser racks by now and this thing just keeps on keeping on. In short, if you’re looking around for a bullet-proof bike rack and are wondering why you see so dang many battered Thule T2s at the trail head, well, there’s a good reason for that: this thing rocks.

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Add a Comment

  • Luc Albert

    I would keep a close eye on those brackets to prevent this. Watching your bike slide down the freeway in heavy traffic isn’t fun…

    http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e276/lalbert/Rack_1.jpg
    http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e276/lalbert/Rack_2.jpg

  • Vernon Felton

    Ugly…haven’t seen that in my years with the rack, but I’ll take your word for it. That sounds awful. Consider my brackets watched. That said, i definitely stand by my T2: it’s been amazing.

  • Luc Albert

    And believe it or not, that was a replacement rack I got after my original Sportworks Transport rack broke. After that T2 incident I went ahead and traded my car in for something I could fit my bike(s) in the back.

    At least Thule was nice enough to cover the damages to my bike and replace the tray/bracket.

    I’ve also seen the end tray get loose and slide off the end of the rack – IMO there should be some safety bolts on the end to prevent that.

  • Christian Sasseville

    Even though my story isn’t related to that model, I haven’t had a good experience with my Thule rack compared to my old Swagman. I had a Swagman last year that I had to change due to a car incident. I bought a Thule since it could lock and at that time I was told that it was better than a Swagman for the same price. Well, it didn’t last a full year and the link below proves it. And not I didn’t abuse it. The culprits are gravel roads that lead me to the trails I love.
    My suggestion to everyone: Avoid plastic parts if you can.
    Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea that the vertical post can move forward and backward instead of left and right. And you only have one click-trail on one side of the vertical post, cutting in half your possibility of securing 2 bikes of different forms.

    https://plus.google.com/photos/112784151022031305591/albums/5766280416445684321?authkey=CPPswJKuhoaoBw

  • John Thurgood

    I just bought the T2 bike rack and have some issues with it. It’s the 917XTR which mounts to a 1 1/4 inch hitch. I had a Draw-Tite hitch installed which is one of the best hitch manufacturers in the business. The rack was installed by the dealer. Here are my problems:

    1) The bike rack has a large amount of play at the hitch mounting. I went to the Green Mtn Stage Race and a racing team had the 916XTR and it all perfectly fit snug throughout. I wrote Thule support and they said say that the play and bouncing of the rack is basically just the way it is.

    2) The bike trays move so they don’t stay parallel. The installer did all they could to snug them up.

    3) When lifting and lowering the trays I have to use two hands as the mechanism is to tight (it’s not the weight of the system).

    4) With a Honda Civic and Draw-Tight hitch the inner wheel tray is 3/8 inch too close to the bumper (touched at first) so I had to cut it down. I wouldn’t expect this is an uncommon combination of car and hitch.

    I am frustrated as I really like the system. I will appreciate any ideas you might have.

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