September 16, 2013
Secure and very easy to use (if you can lift your bike over your head)
Ever since the mountain bike film ‘Tread’, where an old American station wagon raged through the Utah desert with nine bikes on the roof, I’ve always associated the fork-clamp style of bike rack as being what the serious mountain biker uses. There’s something mean and purposeful about the head-down look of a fork-clamped bike on a roof rack. Conversely I’ve always, perhaps unfairly, lumped the ‘whole bike on the roof’ style of racks as simply being for families – and riders who don’t know how to take the front wheel off…
However, I’ve been finding myself increasingly stuck when trying to carry bikes on the car, with three different axle standards (9mm, 15mm and the occasional 20mm) to accommodate. The Thule ProRide 591 is here to change my opinion about all that.
The 591 slots securely into Thule’s oval or aero roof bars and offers a single arm that clamps onto downtubes up to 100mm in size, while both wheels are secured to the rack tray with ski-type bindings. You simply lift the arm so it’s ready, hoick the bike up onto the roof and into the waiting clamp and, steadying the bike with one hand, turn the (lockable) dial that’s located conveniently closer within reach to the car roof, with the other. This ratchets down the clamp to securely hold your bike in place. Strap down both wheels with the (extra-long) ski bindings and you’re away in a very short time. To release, you simply undo the wheel straps and flip the quick release knob next to the dial, then pull your bike down.
For a change, let’s start with the downsides: the rack will only work if you can physically lift your bike overhead in a ‘clean and press’-style move to get it onto the rack tray. If your bike is heavy, your car is tall or you’re not that strong, then you won’t be able to use it unaided.
If you have two racks, you either have to have one bike forwards and one backwards (with the clamp coming from the ‘wrong’ side) or you can flip the clamp before installation, although this will offset your bikes by around 40mm.
Your fuel consumption will also soar. With two bikes on the roof, I reckon my 1.8l diesel Skoda does 10mpg fewer than with the bikes inside. And finally, although the downtube clamp lock is pretty secure, I’d still want to back it up with another lock if I was leaving the bike on the roof anywhere unattended. Repeated use on a gritty bike will also eventually wear the paint, so keep things clean or use a rag to protect the downtube under the clamp.
The good stuff? It’s so easy to finish a ride and have the bikes on the roof in 30 seconds. Great when you’re keen to get home or out of the rain.
It’s happily taken everything from road bikes to downhill monsters (and has a 20kg weight rating, which should cover most bikes). I’m now a convert to the ways of roof-top, wheels-on racks for shorter journeys and when there’s no more room in the car.
Overall: Secure and very easy to use (if you can lift your bike over your head) – if you can afford the fuel bill.