Thule EPOS Towball Carrier review: best bike rack I’ve used

by 37

The Thule EPOS Towball Carrier is low faff, quick fitting and loading. It’s the best bike rack I have ever used. And I’ve used a lot of them. 

  • Brand: Thule
  • Product: Epos 2-bike Towball Carrier
  • From: Freewheel
  • Price: £999.99
  • Tested by: Mark for 7 months

Pros

  • Low faff, quick fitting and loading
  • Strong enough for ebikes
  • Easy to remove and store

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Needs a tow bar
  • 60kg weight limit also applies to the 3-bike carrier

I’ve been putting bikes on and in my cars for the better part of 30 years now and I reckon I’ve just about tried every iteration and innovation at some point. This is the latest and in a skip to the end type introduction, it is by far the best rack I’ve ever used. Or, in an awkward quandary introduction… Bikes on cars: it’s one of those awkward conversations that crops up ever more frequently.

The fact that so many of us claim to be cyclists and are happy to adopt the slightly green and sustainable label that comes with that niche, and yet so often a vital part of our hobby involves transporting our sustainable transport device around the country using our fossil fuelled vehicles. I have been driving an electric car for more than 7 years and we charge mostly at home via our 100% green energy tariff from Ecotricity. We even have solar panels for the house. And yet, that still doesn’t really give our lifestyle a pass to go driving around with our bikes loaded on the back of it.

The real answer is a truly integrated, reliable and cheap public transport system. Even in the dreamworld where that exists, there are still going to be cars and there are still going to be people like us who use them to take our mountain bikes to new places to ride them. I’ve reconciled myself with that but I’ll still look to make better choices.

Now I’ve established that transporting bikes is part and parcel of what we as a community do with mountain bikes, I present to you the best bike rack I’ve ever used.

From the simple to the complicated, all the racks I’ve tried over the years have had one thing in common – Faff! Whether that be having to lift each bike above your head and locate wheels into a narrow slot on a roof rack to strapping down wheels and inserting pads between contact points on a rear mount rack, they all take time and care to load correctly.

But now, at last, there’s some real innovation with the Thule EPOS tow ball rack. Yes, it’s crazy expensive at a coin under £1k but for that investment you get the least amount of faff I’ve ever known in a bike rack. It can literally be fitted and locked in place in seconds (certainly well under 1 minute), including the electric hookup (with all lights and indicators built in). Two extending arms let you grab your bikes (Two in the model I have, but up to three in the next model up) at any convenient point on the bike – seatpost, downtube, toptube… Wherever is easiest. The locks and straps are built in, and best of all the entire rack folds up in seconds to the size of a small suitcase.

On our instagram account I demonstrated how you can load a bike on this rack in just a minute from it being folded and in the boot to outside, on the tow bar, with a bike attached.

I have a fairly small boot opening, and the folded rack does indeed fit inside nice and easily.

It opens out and fits on to the tow ball simply, and with all the electrics built in, you just plug it in – no flapping boards like you so often see dangling on the motorway. There’s also a neat panel into which you can put your numberplate.

Load the bikes on and clamp them in place wherever is convenient, and strap them down at the wheels using the ratchet straps. The clamps lock for a little extra security.

If you’ve got the bikes on the rack and then realise you need into the boot of your car, you just tilt the whole lot forward.

Overall

The Thule EPOS Towball Carrier is low faff, quick fitting and loading. Strong enough for ebikes. Easy to remove and store. A really impressive bit of kit. It’s the best bike rack I have ever used. And I’ve used a lot of them. 


Thule EPOS Towball Carrier specification

  • Telescopic locking arms with pivoting wrap-around clamps allows bikes to be securely clamped almost anywhere
  • New clamp design spreads the load through 360 degrees, offering more security with less clamping force, better for lightweight frames and parts
  • Folded dimensions are just 69 x 27 x 73 cm, meaning it will fit into most car boots
  • Foot-activated smart tilt function, keeping your hands free to move the bikes, allowing easy access to the rear of the vehicle
  • Max wheelbase 1350 mm
  • Weight limit of 30 kg per bike
  • Load capacity – 60 kg
  • Max Tyre Width 3.2 inches, can be upgraded to 5 inches using accessory TH985000
  • Pump buckle straps for wheels
  • Lockable both to bike and towball using standard Thule lock cylinders
  • 13-pin connector for full light functionality

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Review Info

Brand: Thule
Product: EPOS Towball Carrier
From: Freewheel
Price: £999.99
Tested: by Mark for 7
Author Profile Picture
Mark Alker

Singletrack Owner/Publisher

What Mark doesn’t know about social media isn’t worth knowing and his ability to balance “The Stack” is bested only by his agility on a snowboard. Graphs are what gets his engine revving, at least they would if his car wasn’t electric, and data is what you’ll find him poring over in the office. Mark enjoys good whisky, sci-fi and the latest Apple gadget, he is also the best boss in the world (Yes, he is paying me to write this).

More posts from Mark

Viewing 37 posts - 1 through 37 (of 37 total)
  • Thule EPOS Towball Carrier review: best bike rack I’ve used
  • sharkattack
    Full Member

    Just as easy to use as my Buzzrack with all the same features but at 3 times the price. Good old Thule doing what they do best.

    Mark
    Full Member

    The difference between this and Buzzrack system is in the versatility and flexibility of the retaining arms. On the Thule they are individually adjustable in both length and position rather than being attached to a fixed length rail. Also the clamps on the Buzzrack are dials that you turn to open and close the gripping jaws rather than the complete loop and ratchet system on the Thule. Being big flexible loops mean they can wrap around square sections of frames. While the Buzzrack does fold up like the Thule it’s not as compact.

    Rubber_Buccaneer
    Full Member

    It sure is a lot of money for a little bit of extra convenience. In the run up to its launch I was hoping for a rack that grabbed the tyres rather than clamping onto my gritty post ride frame and blemishing the paint.

    Mark
    Full Member

    Yup.. It’s objectively VERY spendy. But I’ve honestly not used anything that works as easily. How much you value the extra convenience and security is of course entirely subjective. 

    Rubber_Buccaneer
    Full Member

    I can totally see that. I have to lug my older style Buzzrack some distance from the shed, screw the tow ball connector on then tighten it with a ratchet spanner, fumble around plugging the electrics in. Over the years a little extra convenience would be worth paying for…but £1k…I just couldn’t personally

    mandog
    Full Member

    We need one that just grabs the tyres. Like the ones they get in the US of A.

    whatyadoinsucka
    Free Member

    it seems Thule have taken the buzzrack good points and improved upon and then trebled the price.

     

    iainc
    Full Member

    I was very tempted by one of these when replacing rack a few months back. Unfortunately the towball clamp doesn’t fit on the new breed of shallow profile retractable towballs as fitted to BMW EV’s.

    Atera Strada it had to be.. 😞

    sharkattack
    Full Member

    The difference between this and Buzzrack system is in the versatility and flexibility of the retaining arms.

    I own 3 bikes and the Buzzrack fits all of them perfectly plus my mates various bikes. I’m not sure how much more versatility I need.

    I can totally see that. I have to lug my older style Buzzrack some distance from the shed, screw the tow ball connector on then tighten it with a ratchet spanner, f

    I know what you mean but my newer model has a lever rather than a nut so no tools required anymore.

    The Thule might be more compact folded up but it makes no difference to my double garage.

    I’m not a Thule hater, I’ve had loads of their stuff and it’s very well designed and well built and lasts forever. The pricing now is aimed squarely at the ‘money is no object’ crowd and I’m surprised there’s enough of those people to keep Thule afloat. Especially when all the hardware lasts so long, how often do you need to make a purchase?

    Lots of other available at much more sensible prices for those of us who don’t need everything to be ‘the ultimate thing’.

    gray
    Full Member

    My Atera Strada takes seconds to fit into the towball. However, with multiple bikes, it’s the threading of the arms through frames that takes the time.

    It’s kinda hard to tell from the video – does this one have a separate uppy bit for each bike? 🙂

    Mark
    Full Member

    @gray

    Yes. Each bike has it’s own extendable arm and lockable clamp/strap.

    gray
    Full Member

    Thanks Mark. Hmm, that does seem very convenient… I’ll add it to the list of things to buy once I’m rich!

    Might need them to bring out a four bike version though! The kids’ bikes are nearly too big to go in the boot.

    prontomonto
    Full Member

    Anyone know why you don’t see the US style ones which grip the tyres over here? Or indeed the vertical ones?

    the_lecht_rocks
    Full Member

    I’ve got the predecessor, the Thule Easyfold XT
    The lower aluminium base has detached from the upper plastic runners and is now gorilla taped to the max.
    Dreadful quality and poor construction for a princely sum.
    Is the new design aluminium channeled into the upper plastic?
    If so be interested to see how long it lasts.
    Also UK road salt must be a potential nightmare for tha aluminium

    sharkattack
    Full Member

    Anyone know why you don’t see the US style ones which grip the tyres over here? Or indeed the vertical ones?

    I’m no expert but in the UK we have tow balls and in the USA and Canada they have receiver hitches. This a big square into which you can plug all sorts of accessories (including tow balls). It gives a much stronger interface for such a high, heavy item.

    rootes1
    Full Member

    Does look a great rack, but really can’t see the cost uplift from something like Buzzrack E-Scorpion 2.

    In the text review of the Epos, citing integrated lights, number plate and wiring is not really a differentiator, as most decent racks have this.

    Whilst the arms do no adjust in length, they are central between the bikes and they can be moved in many location individually and as a pair up and down, and the clamps fit so many different profiles from big carbon box sections to skinny steel and plenty of room for XL 29ers

    buzzrack

    It folds up enough to easily put in the boot. Easy to put on the ball – holds itself level and them quick to tighten

    buzzrack-e-scorpion-2-bike-carrier-06Z

    and is less than a kilo more than the Thule (18.1kg, vs 17.3kg), will do two ebikes, and even has some little wheels and will take a 3 bike adapter

    £375 from Roofbox..

    Cheapest 2 bike Epos I can find  is £850…

    Just can’t why you would shell out an extra £500 or so (and saying that as a previous Thule rack owner)

    Mark
    Full Member

    The price differential is indeed extreme for the extra benefits of the Epos over the Buzzrack. Purely on functionality the loop ratchet straps on the Epos are a revelation to use compared to the threaded jaw clamps of the Buzzrack. and indeed previous Thule racks of the same ilk.  The independent arms for each bike are much more useable on a variety of bikes than the more rigid arms on previous Thule’s and the Buzzrack. There is a lot of convenience been carefully considered with this new Epos over previous designs.

    But I’ll end in the same manner as I started. There’s a huge price premium for the amount of extra benefits. But benefits they still are.

    rootes1
    Full Member

    Not a single bike (from 29ers, to road, to kids bikes) that have had any issues accommodating.

    But in this case the only difference appears to be the little strap clamps, but if you think it is worth the extra £500 then fair enough.

     

     

    Mark
    Full Member

    That’s not what I said really. There’s more than the clamps, there’s the arms, there’s also the ergonomics with the convenient carry handle that makes it very easy to lift and move about. Like I said, there’s lots of little refinements that make it the best rack I’ve ever used.. The price is off the scale. But that’s immaterial to it’s function.

    rootes1
    Full Member

    The price is off the scale. But that’s immaterial to it’s function.

    Not really as you always have to balance function and cost.

    The article implies that many of the features are unique and new (The Scorpion has a centrally mounted lift handle btw), but that simply is not the case. Now if you have been using order racks of various flavors could see how such ease of use features would seem brilliant, i found the same when going from my old Thule to the Scorpion.

    Anyway hope you didn’t have to pay retail for it!

     

     

     

    Mark
    Full Member

    I’m glad you are happy with your purchase. For me though, if I had a choice between the two and didn’t have to pay for either, there’s no question the Thule wins. It’s as good as bike racks get, right now.

    We don’t pay for review product.

    mrchrist
    Full Member

    Ahhh leave Mark alone. 

    bigrich
    Full Member

    i’ve got one of the older ones with the arms like angry geese and it’s not too dissimilar, I rate it. Lot of money in one go when I bought it three years ago, but is covered in far more expensive bikes and has added flexibility.

    its a lot cheaper than buying and running a van.

    reeksy
    Full Member

    scaredypantsFull MemberI want*  a vertical rack, like https://ebikespartsandaccessories.com/en-gb/products/vertical-bike-rack-4-bicycles?variant=46764386615628&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Google+Shopping&currency=EUR&country=GB&gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAtOmsBhCnARIsAGPa5yaUXAbxuxb7UkF6xRdw9i9X5o5dfUWmlVxigcwLJU-uDGR0ACLvvFcaAsmGEALw_wcB

    * I do not want to be 1400 euroslighter

    edit:  never mind 1665 euros !

    Well worth it IMO.

    Takes seconds to load a bike. Also it doesn’t obscure the lights.

    IMG_7059

    chiefgrooveguru
    Full Member

    Mark (or anyone else), have you tried an Atera Strada Evo 3?

    Unlike the Thule you can add a fourth bike but it’s also rated for e-bikes (but only two unless they’re lighter ones). And it’s about half the price and you can open vertical tailgates. Wondering if I’m missing anything?

    iainc
    Full Member

    I have the next model down, bought last summer, the Atera STRADA E-Bike XL 2 bike carrier.  Works fine with a FS eMTB and a gravel bike, haven’t tried other combinations

    Fetchezlavache
    Free Member

    I’m still in shock about the price… I simply can’t get past it to justify it in any way whatsoever even though I’m currently the last one in the pub as the others lob their bikes in vans or have Atera Stradas…

    benp1
    Full Member

    I had the Atera Strada Evo 3 on a Merc E class estate. It worked great when I needed to use it. Opening the tailgate was a piece of cake

    I’m using a transporter now and have a DL3 to use if I’m not putting them inside

    Neither fold up though, the footprint remains the same, just the vertical bar that folds down towards the horizontal bar

    radbikebro
    Full Member

    I have to say, I really want those racket strap arm things – I wonder if I can buy them aftermarket somewhere to put on my rack.

    TroutWrestler
    Free Member

    Look at Fiamma arms for Motorhome/caravan bike carriers. Different lengths are available. Not lockable, but who trusts bike carrier locks?

    https://www.agentfiamma.co.uk/fiamma-carry-bike-accessory/

    yoshimi
    Full Member

    Does anyone know if these tilt enough for a VW T6 with barn doors?

    Thanks

    jimfrandisco
    Free Member

    Elements of a classic ST thread:

    Person 1: “This is my objective review and I have personally found this rack the easiest I have ever used”

    Persons X,Y,Z: “I have never clapped eyes on this rack, it’s more expensive than mine, therefore your opinion is wrong”

    dropoff
    Full Member

    Can you redo this review after using said rack for 4 years every weekend with either 3 bikes or 2 ebikes. If it lasts it may be worth the investment, if not.?

    gray
    Full Member

    With the uprights being so adjustable on every direction, doesn’t the bike move forwards / backwards (from the bike’s perspective) quite a bit? I know the wheel straps would stop it going too far, but still…

    I think I’m probably more careful than many. With my Atera I generally put three extra straps on. One from each side in such a way that they tension against each other to limit that kind of motion plus a third straight through the frames to the rack as a worst case scenario safety net to drag the bikes along behind the car if aliens zapped half the rack out of existence. Do you guys normally add straps, or just rely on the frame clamp and wheel straps? If I trusted those on this Thule then the decrease in faff factor could well make it worth it for me…

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    I always use an additional lock, holding the frame to the rack. I do this on my own rack and always did so when I was carrying bikes for a living. Having said that, I’ve never used an additional strap or lock for roof mounted bikes, so think of it more as a security measure than a safety one.

    mashr
    Full Member

    Do you guys normally add straps, or just rely on the frame clamp and wheel straps?

    Not once, in many years of using racks. Figured that 3 securing points would do the job.

Viewing 37 posts - 1 through 37 (of 37 total)

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