Review: Thule’s T2 Pro XTR Makes Bike Hauling a Breeze

THULE Bike Rack Lead
Geoff Nudelman | SPY

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Biking seems to keep increasing in popularity, and as a result, more people are looking for ways to carry said bikes, meaning bike racks of all shapes and sizes are also in-demand.

The type of bike rack you need varies widely on the kinds of bikes you have, your vehicle and how much you ride. In the case of this review, we put Thule’s top-line T2 Pro XTR to the test, which is best suited for avid and frequent bikers given the feature-heavy layout and $800 price tag.

The T2 line has long been a popular choice among bikers due to its functionality and stability for a pair of bikes, but the XTR (“R” meaning “rolling”) features a set of wheels for the first time, giving this 52-pound rack some much-needed transport help.

So is it worth the investment?

The short answer: If you’re a regular adventure cyclist looking for an easy way to securely transport two of your two-wheelers (without having to remove a wheel), the T2 Pro XTR is an excellent choice. Once you’ve overcome assembly, you’ve got a competitive carrier that makes destination biking that much more worth it.

Below, you can read SPY’s full review of the Thule T2 PRO XTR, including pros and cons, specifications, features we loved (and those we didn’t), overall quality and some alternatives to consider.

Thule bike rack Courtesy of Thule
  

Specifications

  • Load capacity: 120 pounds
  • Maximum bike weight (per holder): 60 pounds
  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 54 by 43 by 15 inches
  • Folded Dimensions: 54.7 by 22.5 by 33.8 inches
  • Weight: 52.04 pounds
  • Maximum tire width: 5 inches
  • Maximum wheel size: 29 inches
  • Maximum wheelbase allowed: 50 inches
  • Distance between bikes: 12.5 inches
  

Assembly & Installation

Be aware that if you choose to set up the T2 PRO XTR yourself, the included instruction manual is awful. It’s more just a series of diagrams and doesn’t clearly explain the assembly process at all.

Fortunately, there are dozens of YouTube videos from those who have already done the dirty work. Do a quick search and watch a couple to familiarize yourself with the process before getting started. Unless you’re an experienced handyperson, you’ll want a friend to help you hold pieces in place during assembly.

The bike rack comes in three main parts, the wheel basket holders and a few other needed components. Assembly is somewhat straightforward, but it will go faster and smoother if you have something powered like an impact wrench. Listen closely to the tips in the videos to understand how to position the actual bike holders to best fit your particular bikes.

I found it easiest to build the rack while positioned in the hitch receiver. Once complete, you simply lock the whole unit into place.

Thule Pro bike rack image from Geoff Nudelman Geoff Nudelman | Spy
  

Design

I should preface this conversation by noting I am not a weekend warrior biker, hauling spec machines long distances with the mechanical know-how to put the bike back together once I get to my destination.

That’s why “platform” bike racks like this one are clutch.

The design is relatively straightforward — multiple long platforms are connected to a central anchor arm and fold out when needed and in when you don’t. One aspect other reviewers (and this reviewer) like about the T2 Pro XTR is that the fastening system is easy to use. A lever arm locks the front wheel into place while the back wheel secures with a ratcheting strap.

For added security, there’s a nifty cable lock built into the lever arm, although it is a bit short, and I found it challenging to get the cable around the fork of the bike. Another 4 to 6 inches of this cabling would have made an enormous difference.

If you can manage to get the cable fully around your wheel and back into the lock, it’s a bit of dexterity and a key challenge to actually lock it. Suppose you don’t have the cable perfectly positioned into the lock. In that case, you’ll have difficulty turning the key, especially coming from the awkward position underneath the lock and in-between bikes. (This will mean most of the time, and with bigger bikes, you’re probably securing the front wheel, which isn’t going to deter hardy thieves.

The rack itself locks in through a built-in mechanism on the hitch connector that locks into the receiver and easily spins when engaged. It feels relatively secure as any willing thief would have to cut through thick steel to remove your precious rack. Unlocking it is pretty simple when you’re ready to remove it.

Thule Pro bike rack image from Geoff Nudelman Geoff Nudelman | Spy
  

Carry Quality & Use

For a first-time platform hitch user, I think there was a small dose of nerves locking in bikes into just two mechanisms and setting off on the journey. That being said, even over bumpy pavement, my bikes felt secure with only a slight wobble.

Thule puts their products through multiple tests that attempt to replicate any force or impact the rack may face — much of which is well beyond what I’ll ever put it through on the way to the trail. They even put it through a “salt fog chamber,” which attempts to account for “corrosive maritime environments.”

Long story short, looking at how the rack held up through my rearview mirror, it’s safe to say your bikes will arrive right along with you. Both locking mechanisms do a great job of keeping bikes in place while also preventing damage to expensive wheelsets and frames under most circumstances.

One of the big selling points of this rack is that it can hold the weight of two complete e-bikes, but that doesn’t necessarily take into account the logistics of lifting a 40+ pound e-bike onto it and getting it properly situated.

The T2 Pro XTR doesn’t have a compatible rack attachment, so you’re on your own to lift the bike onto the rack. If you don’t have the upper body strength or a friend to help, getting a heavy bike onto either platform (especially the rear one) can be challenging. If you’re regularly hauling heavier bikes, it’s something to keep in mind.

One major plus: the anchor arm folds down to provide rear trunk access without removing the rack.

As for road noise, I found the rack to be whisper quiet when attached correctly to the hitch receiver. Everything stays in place, and the whole experience is quite pleasant.

Thule Pro bike rack image from Geoff Nudelman Geoff Nudelman | Spy
  

The Verdict

The Thule T2 Pro XTR is a high-end, feature-heavy bike rack with a price tag to match. No matter the price of your bikes, you’re probably not going to find a much better bike rack to carry them than the T2 Pro XTR. It’s a super-functional, easy-to-manage bike rack that installs on and off with ease.

You could justify the top-tier pricing knowing that you’re buying one rack now that you’ll use for a long time and take with you to your next vehicle. For peace of mind when transporting your favorite bikes, this is it.

Geoff Nudelman | Spy
  

Should You Buy It?

Yes. It’s a well-built, well-thought-out bike rack that will most certainly offer years and years of practical bike hauling.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Added wheels are a critical modification
  • Top-range weight capacity
  • Anchor arm flexibility
  • Rapid bike locking and unlocking

Cons

  • Poor directions for initial assembly
  • No rack attachment for heavier bikes
  • No natural way to attach extra lights or reflection materials

Score: 9/10

Thule bike rack Courtesy of Thule
  

How Long Will It Last?

The company has a limited lifetime warranty on its bike racks, but I don’t expect to use it unless there’s a manufacturer defect. Thule battle-tests all of their racks through a range of condition and impact tests, so unless you’re doing extremely heavy-duty hauling regularly, you should experience plenty of longevity of out the T2 Pro XTR.

  

What Are Some of the Alternatives?

Bike racks are more popular than ever, which means there are more options than ever. When it comes down to choosing the right one, you need to consider your needs first and foremost. If you’re carrying a couple of low-cost cruisers most weekends, you probably don’t need to spend more than a few hundred dollars for a basic trunk-attaching rack/carrier. If you have high-spec road machines with a price tag higher than your first car, then, yeah, you’ll want to invest in a high-quality rack to protect your investment.

  

Kuat Sherpa 2.0

REI Bike Rack Courtesy of REI

Kuat makes a couple of popular options in the platform category, including the updated Sherpa 2.0. This rack has a similar folding anchor arm but does not include the Thule rack’s rolling wheels. Kuat has a similar reputation for quality, although Thule is generally more well-regarded for its commitment to stricter testing standards.

  

Yakima FullSwing

Yakima FullSwing bike rack Courtesy of Backcountry

This option from Yakima can hold up to four bikes without any additional attachments. Although it does stick out further from the rear of the vehicle as opposed to a folding platform-style rack, it does swivel fully out of the way of the trunk for easy access. Some bikers may also prefer the more secure quality of a platform rack instead of this latch-heavy style.

  

Rocky Mounts Backstage Swing Away

Rocky Mounts Backstage Swing Away bike rack Courtesy of REI

The Swing Away is very similar to the T2 Pro XTR. This rack has a high weight capacity and a similar folding mechanism to Thule’s. However, Rocky Mounts adds in an extra swivel to move the frame entirely away from the trunk for easier access. Think of it as a combo option, including features from our other comparisons. It’s worth remembering, though, that you’ll need the extra clearance around the car to utilize this feature fully.

  

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