Thule Roof Bike Rack: Which Is the Best Bike Rack ?

Thule Roof Bike Rack: Which Is the Best In 2018?

If you’re like me, and quite a lot of people, you wish you could just ride your bike everywhere and forget about the car. Unfortunately, there are times when you need to cycle far away, such as on holiday or to a race. This is where Thule roof bike racks come into play. With so many models event sorting out the Thule Sidearm vs Proride gets confusing. (hint Sidearm is the wheel mount one, Proride is frame mount)

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Compare The Best Thule Roof Bike Racks

Thule ProRide 591


Thule ProRide 598


Thule FreeRide 532


Thule OutRide 561


Why Thule?

Thule is a market leader in transportation and have been selling bike carriers for over 25 years. Thule roof bike racks are consistently rated the best by reviewers and customers alike.

There are many brands who produce bicycle racks but none of them provide the ease of use, quality and aesthetics that Thule bike racks have.

Problems with transporting bikes on the rear of the car

There are several types of rear mounted bike racks. There are racks that ‘hang on’ to the rear of the door. There are also racks that attach to the tow bar of the car. While both of these options will work for most people, there are some problems in using them.

If you attach something to the rear of your car, inevitably it’s going to cover your number plate and/or lights. Covering any of these is illegal, so you will have find some way of attaching lights to the front of the rack, and getting a new number plate made for displaying on the rack.

Another problem is that once you have the rack and the bikes attached, you generally can’t open the boot/tailgate. You can with some rear mounted racks, but if you have something on your roof such as a roof box then it’s going to hit the roof box and stop you fully opening the rear door.

Frame holder or fork holder

Frame holders are generally more popular than fork holders, as the front wheel doesn’t need to be removed with a frame holder.

Fork holders are ideal if you have an expensive carbon frame bicycle and don’t want to risk the frame getting damaged. Thule roof bike racks come in both flavors, but it does get confusing.

The Thule ProRide 598 received high marks in a Autozone review an is generally considered to be the best frame holder bike rack, and some bike veterans over at cyclingnews forums consider Thule OutRide 561 is the best fork holder bicycle carrier.

Thule ProRide 598 Review

thule-proride-598-car-roof-bicycle-carrierThe Thule ProRide 598 is the updated version of the best-selling ProRide 591. It looks much the same as the 591, but with some important improvements.

At first glance, the similarities between the 2 are obvious. The single alloy beam houses the frame clamping arm and the tightening handle,
and the two ratcheting wheel straps also remain.

Best Features

thule-proride-598-review-soft-gripThe ProRide 598 has all the features you would expect from a Thule ProRide bike rack,
such as the frame holding arm and the wheel tray.

The wheel trays now slide right out without the need for any tools, which makes loading your bicycle onto the rack much easier. They can also be replaced with Thule’s ProRide Fatbike Adaptor, for wheel widths of 3 – 5 inches.

The tightening handle on the frame holding arm now features a torque limiter, designed to protect your carbon frame from being over tightened. The jaws which clamp the frame are now made from a soft rubber like material, further adding to the protection of your precious bike’s frame.

Removing the bike from the rack is simple thanks to the quick release lever. Simply click free the wheel straps and then pull the lever. It’s then just a matter of guiding the bicycle off your car roof.

Customer Reviews

thule-proride-598-bicycle-attachedAs the Thule ProRide 598 is still a new product, it has only received 7 customer reviews on Amazon. However all of the reviews have been positive, with an average score of 4.6 out of a possible 5.

All of the positive reviews mention the fact that this bicycle rack is simple to fit and easy to attach the bike to. One reviewer says “simple to attach… you do need adapter kits if you do not have aero bars” while another says “very easy to fit to aero bars and easy to take bike on and off”.

The only critical review mentioned the frame locks. The user said that the frame locks do not work and the frame can be released even when in the locked position.

As this was the only reviewer to mention this issue, I can only imagine that it was a faulty model or that the user did not attach the bike correctly.

BTW if you see it below, then ProRide 591 is still available in the UK, and even for US customers might be a great deal!

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Thule FreeRide 532 Review

thule-532-freeride-bike-rackThe Thule FreeRide 532 replaced the best-selling FreeRide 530, with a number of upgrades and improvements. These include improvements to the design as well as the aerodynamics from the original model.

The FreeRide 532 is cheaper than other Thule bike carriers such as the ProRides, but quality or ease of use has not been compromised. If you are shopping on a budget the FreeRide 532 would be a good option.

Best Features

thule-freeride-532-review-frame-clampThe frame holder is designed to fit most bicycle frames up to 80mm and features a quick release clamp which is ideal for removing the bike from the rack.

This bike rack comes with two locks for added security, one to lock the bike to the rack, and one to lock the rack to the car roof bars.
If you need some extra piece of mind, there are holes in the wheel straps so that you can attach your own locks for even more security.

The bicycle wheels sit on the frame of the rack, and are securely held in place by the quick release straps.
The straps have been designed in such a way that they protect your wheels when in use.

Customer Reviews

thule-freeride-532-wheel-strapsThe Thule FreeRide 532 is available as a single or a twin pack on Amazon, and they have received 154 customer reviews to date.

The average review score of the 532 is an impressive 4.6 out of a possible 5.

Most of the positive reviewers say that the bike racks hold the bikes very securely on the roof of the car while traveling.
One user states “…it’s easy to use, very very stable and is unlikely to mark or damage my bike frames”. Another reviewer said “The racks hold the bikes firm and give confidence on motorways and twisty country lanes”.

A few of the reviews mention that the instructions supplied with the bike rack are not much use. I have to say, I thought the same when I tried to assemble them. The instructions are fairly useless, but the racks are quite easy to put together, and once you take a bit of time you start to figure it out. Once you have built one rack, it takes minutes to build another one.

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Thule OutRide 561 Review

thule-outride-561-bike-attached-to-carThe Thule OutRide 561 is a fork-mount bike carrier. If you have an expensive carbon bike and you are worried about clamps damaging the frame, then this is the roof bicycle rack for you.

To use this bike rack, you will need to remove the front wheel from the bicycle. Once this is done, it is simply a matter of attaching the forks of the bike onto the front of the rack using the adjustable snap-on fastener, and securing the back wheel using the quick release straps.

Best Features

thule-outride-561-car-roof-bicycle-carrierThe Thule OutRide 561 is very easy to use, it requires minimal assembly out of the box. The bicycle locks to the bike rack, and the rack itself locks to the roof bars for added security.

There are no clamps holding the frame, so it protects your precious bike and wheels from scratching and bending.

If you buy this rack from Amazon UK it is cheaper than buying direct from Thule, at the time of writing it is about £20 cheaper. It is a very decent bicycle carrier and in my view the best for carrying carbon frame bikes.

Customer Reviews

thule-outride-561-fork-mounted-rackThe Thule OutRide 561 has 15 customer reviews on Amazon, with an average review score of 4.7 out of a possible 5.

Most of the positive reviews are clear that they think this Thule roof bike rack is a must have for carbon frame bikes.
One reviewer says “If you have carbon frame bikes and are rightly concerned about clamping on the down tube then the Thule 561 is the solution.”
While another simply says “Simply a winner…A must for carbon frames”.

There aren’t any negative reviews for this bike rack, however some of the reviews mention that the security of the carrier could be better. While only a few users mention this, like all bicycle racks it is recommended to use your own locks as well as the provided ones to add a bit of extra security,  and also to deter thieves.

Thule ProRide 591 Review

thule-proride-591-car-roof-bicycle-carrier-largeThe Thule ProRide 591 was released back in 2011, and Thule recently announced that they were no longer producing them. The ProRide 598 is the updated version of this bike rack, and I have reviewed that one here also.

Back to the ProRide 591. Now, although Thule have stopped making these bike racks, it is still available from a lot of retailers, most notably Amazon. If you can get one of these racks, they are still a very good choice for transporting your bicycle.

Best Features

thule-proride-591-review-bike-attachedThe Thule ProRide 591 (now discontinued but you can still grab on Amazon UK!) has been a best-seller for the last 6 years, and it’s easy to see why. They transformed the way people travel with their bikes, never before was it so quick and easy to attach a bicycle to your car. Easy to put together, and easy to fit. This rack will fit any of Thule’s range of roof bars, and a set of T-Track adapters are also included. The 591 is designed to fit any size of bicycle. With a max weight rating of up to 20Kgs and long straps to attach the wheels, even the largest and longest mountain bikes will have no problem fitting here.

Getting the bike into the rack is a breeze.

The frame holding arm and wheel tray automatically place the bike into the correct position, then it’s just a matter of turning the clamping handle until the frame is securely held. The wheel straps can then be used to lock the bicycle fully into position.

Customer Reviews

thule-proride-591-locks-and-strapsThe Thule ProRide 591 has received 87 customer reviews on Amazon, with a very impressive average score of 4.7 out of a possible 5. There is also a twin pack available on Amazon, and that has received 116 reviews. There is a triple pack which has received 18 reviews, but the twin pack is definitely the best value. The majority of the reviewers mention how easy it is to use the racks, with one user saying
They transform the speed and ease with which you can move your bikes… it’s such an easy job to put the bikes on the roof and drive away.”
And another saying “Highly adjustable and securable… It took no time at all to assemble and even less time to put into use.”

A few of the users mentioned the fact that they didn’t think the security of the bike rack was very good. While I agree that the locks may not be the most robust and thief-proof, they will certainly act as a deterrent to would-be bike burglars. If you plan on leaving the bikes on the car roof overnight, it’s probably a good idea to buy an extra corded padlock, just to be safe.

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See my guide on how to store a roof box to find the best place for yours