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Trail Tested: Thule T2 Bike Rack

It wouldn’t be an overreach to speculate that the Thule T2 is the most popular hitch rack in America. A quick trip to your local bike race will invariably turn up countless examples of this ubiquitous bike hauler in its two and four bike configurations. Some of those racks may even display decals from Sportworks, the original maker of the T2. Thule realized they had perhaps missed the opportunity to design their own awesome rack and simply bought Sportworks in a wise, can’t beat them so let’s buy them, maneuver.

The T2’s popularity can be pinned to two key attributes starting with its ease of use. At the time it was introduced, few racks could accept any size or format of bicycle with so little fuss. The rack also had the added benefit of not contacting the bicycle’s frame. For finicky owners like me, that was an attractive feature. To load a bike on a T2, the user simply rests the bike on the full-length tray with the front wheel in the deep cradle. The large hook-shaped clamp is then slid down over the front wheel near the fork crown. The ratcheting clamp engages to hold the bike in place and a secondary locking mechanism keeps would-be thieves at bay. Start to finish it takes under 30 seconds to load and lock one bike.

As the owner of a T2 going back to 2005, the year of the Sportworks/Thule transition, I have used my T2 over the course of tens of thousands of bike transporting miles. It has never failed to deliver my bikes safely from point A to B. Because the individual mounts can be adjusted fore and aft as well as side to side, there are never conflicts with getting bikes to fit. On newer versions of the T2, the locking clamp is now paired to a retractable cable for even more security. The T2 also comes with a threaded hitch pin to eliminate unwanted wobble, and an included lock to secure that pin in place. The T2 can also be raised to a vertical position when not transporting bikes, and lowered to facilitate access to the rear gate of the vehicle. It’s a thoughtful design oft imitated by other manufacturers.

Testing products is hard work, but it’s what we do.

Expedition Portal is frequently included in some amazing opportunities, few quite as fun as the launch of the newSalsa Bucksaw full-suspension fatbike. Seeing an opportunity to put in some quality “work,” we loaded up three overland vehicles with a fleet of Bucksaws and embarked on a four day trip to explore Arizona’s finest riding and camping destinations. To shuttle the bikes around we used three Thule T2 racks fitted with their new Fatbike Adapters. Traversing bumpy roads from Sedona to Black Canyon and beyond, the T2s performed admirably. I will admit, we may have pushed the racks well behind their designed parameters, but they did rather well considering.

We did encounter the off-road limitations of the T2, but it really had nothing to do with the rack itself. We tried, perhaps optimistically, to use a T2 on the back of an off-road trailer. This is not to say the trailer or the rack failed us, but the combination of the two just didn’t work. The added leverage of the T2 on the back of the trailer caused the bikes to bounce around with unbelievable violence. How the bikes didn’t get launched into the next zip code was amazing. While the T2 struggled to hold onto the bikes in rough terrain, I can’t imagine any rack doing better in that situation. On the backs of the other vehicles, the T2s ferried their bikes without complaint, even as the road turned ugly. That we trusted these racks to carry the only Salsa Bucksaws currently in existance––speaks volumes.

The overland disclaimer.

No manufacturer in their right mind would advocate using their bike racks in genuine off-road situations. There are just too many variables at play to guarantee the racks will hold up and your prized bicycles not get damaged. I won’t even recommend you use a T2 off-road, but understand that it’s bound to happen. I can say that after our four days of torturing our T2 racks and the beautiful Bucksaws atop them, I would be hard pressed to not give kudos to the T2. It is built with heavy-duty components and judging by my own experiences traversing many miles of rugged roads, is an excellent choice for the overlander.

www.thule.com

 


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Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.