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Thule T2 Pro Bike Rack
|Price:||$579.95 & FREE Shipping|
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- Tool-free auto attach installation makes it easy to install and remove the rack
- Hitch switch lever easily tilts rack up when Not in use or down for rear of vehicle access
- Frame free ratcheting arm secures bikes quickly without frame contact
- Fits 20-29” wheel and fat bikes with up to 5” tires and hub spacing up to 142mm.
- Integrated cable lock and lock knob locks bikes to the rack and secures the rack to the receiver
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Premium platform hitch bike carrier delivers maximum strength, security and user friendliness. Available options: 9034 T2 Pro for 2" receivers, 9035 T2 Pro for 1.25" receivers and the 9036 T2 Pro 2 Bike Add-on for 2" receivers only.
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Thule T2 Pro versus the Kuat NV 2.0 versus the Kuat 2 NV versus all the other major tray racks
My family is fortunate to own seven nice bikes including two very high end dual suspension carbon fiber mountain bikes for myself and my wife. And while we have tried various mounts in the past (like roof racks) we began to exclusively use hitch mounted tray style racks about eight years ago and have never looked back due to their stability, ease of loading, less noise on the road and better gas mileage. The current kings of the tray rack competition would be the Thule T2 Pro, the Kuat NV 2.0 and its older sibling the Kuat 2 NV. (Kuat released the Kuat NV 2.0 in June of 2016.. Also, do not get the Kuat NV 2.0 mixed up with its older sibling, the Kuat 2 NV, as they are different models. Yes, I know, the Kuat nomenclature is incredibly confusing.) Originally, I purchased the Kuat 2 NV (2 inch hitch version) to use with my SUV in January of 2015 and then we later purchased the Thule T2 Pro (1.25 inch hitch version) in March of 2016 to use with my wife's SUV. I then purchased the latest Kuat NV 2.0 in late June of 2016. (You will see Amazon verified purchases for both the 2 NV and T2 Pro. The Kuat NV 2.0 I had to purchase from a separate retailer because Amazon had not offered it yet.) After using all three racks for several months now, I will try to hit upon the strengths and weaknesses of each (I will also compare the Thule T2 Pro to other racks at the end of the review):
Stability - I have owned several hitch mounted tray style racks and for myself at least, the most critical component is how tight does the rack mount into the hitch and how much sway is there in the pivoting system (that allows the rack to fold up when not holding bikes). This is vitally important because just a few millimeters of sway at the hitch can translate into a great deal of swaying movement three feet out at the end of the rack. This is even more important if you use a 2 inch hitch with a four bike rack (meaning that you are using a two bike add on with your original rack). Nothing is more annoying that watching expensive bikes swaying from a loose hitch mount or listening to weird creaks and moans while driving down the highway at 70 mph. And this is my most important consideration when buying a new rack. With my experience so far, I would rate the Kuat 2 NV, the Kuat NV 2.0 and the Thule T2 Pro as all exactly equal and with all three of them better than the older Thule T2 rack or any of the Yakima racks that my friends use. The 2 NV, the NV 2.0 and the T2 Pro use expandable cams that have you twisting a dial to tighten. This means that the square tube from the bike rack that you slide into the hitch's receiver can expand and form an incredibly tight fit that takes out all of the swaying. I have also tried the Kuat 2 NV with the 2 bike add-on extension and the fit was very good (although, this is only available for those with a 2 inch hitch). I had no swaying and no creaking sounds with four bikes on (about 220 pounds if you include the racks) at 80 mph. Another major area where one might suffer a great deal of creaking sounds and swaying is at the swingarm pivot. (about a foot out from the receiver) This was the Achilles heal of the older Thule T2 rack because they used a funky pivot system that ignored the basics of Archimedian mechanics, and that pivot would develop play and creak within a few months. However, with the Kuat 2 NV, the Kuat NV 2.0 and the T2 Pro, I am happy to report that none of them has developed play. The 2 NV and the NV 2.0 use a cam tightening system (quick release lever) to lock down the pivot into position while the T2 Pro uses an internal spring to keep the rack locked in the correct position. All three racks are about equal and none has so far generated unwanted noise or given me a fear of failure. As far as the trays which hold the bikes and the swinging u shaped tire gripping arms, they are all about equal and all three racks are solid. All three tire gripping swingarms will hold big beefy fat tires (the NV 2.0 and the 2 NV require the $10 fat tire kit which is not included while the T2 Pro arms will hold up to 5 inch wide tires without any adapter). All three racks also come with a lawyer induced warning not to use in off road conditions (but then surprisingly show pictures on the boxes with the racks carrying mountain bikes on a trail) but I have tried all three racks on multiple off road trips with no problems. For stability I would rate all three as 5 stars.
Ease of Use – The 2 NV and NV 2.0 are ever so slightly more of a pain in the butt to use than the newer T2 Pro. After you tighten the internal cam, when you first put the rack into your hitch, you have to bend down further and slide in the locking hitch pin. And when you want to swing the rack up or down, you have to reach through the bikes to flip up a cam quick release at the pivot, which can sometimes be a bit awkward to release. The brand new NV 2.0 does make this easier than the 2 NV design because of the foot assist but you still have to reach through the bikes to flip the cam (or use your foot). The Thule T2 Pro on the other hand learned from the mistakes of their older T2 system (and with an eye to beating the 2 NV and NV 2.0) and designed a super easy to grip release handle (which Thule marketing calls the HitchSwitch) at the end of the swing arm (which Thule calls the stinger arm). You simply pull the handle and then swing the arm up or down. The T2 Pro also takes less time to slide into the hitch receiver because it uses a side locking pin that is self guiding. This means that the owner does not spend as much time being bent over when hooking up the rack to the hitch. Everything else is about equal and getting the bikes on or off the racks is very easy for all three. For ease of use, I would give the 2 NV about 4.3 stars, NV 2.0 about 4.5 stars and the T2 Pro about 4.9 stars.
Security – The Kuat 2 NV and the NV 2.0 use a locking hitch pin that goes all the way through the receiver, while the T2 Pro uses an expandable cam and a side lock pin. The Kuat system is better and gives extra peace of mind. That said, the T2 Pro system is more convenient to slide in and lock and easier to take out without bending your back as much. All three racks offer braided steel cable locks, with the Kuat NV 2.0 having the thickest cables. With the 2 NV, the locks slide out from the u shaped tire holding swing arms and you can slide them through the frames of the bikes (but not the wheels) and then connect them. The newer NV 2.0 fixes this problem and has longer cable locks which slide out from the end of the trays and which will go through the rear triangle of the frame but not the back tires. With the T2 Pro, the cables can be slid through the frames as well as the front tires and then locked as well. None of the racks allows you enough cable to secure the rear wheels of your bike. One thing I did not like as much was the small amount of cable that the 2 NV allows to the user. This is done so that thieves cannot get a large leverage advantage to break the cable but the end result is that it is hard sometimes to get the bikes locked with the supplied cable. I am glad to see the NV 2.0 fixes this problem. The T2 Pro uses braided cables that are slightly longer and much easier to lock. I would also say as a warning that I would not leave any of the three racks unattended for a long period of time. Parking your vehicle with two $5000 bikes on the rack and then walking away from it (out of sight) for two hours is not something that any of the three rack are designed to handle. Any determined thief who has two foot long bolt cutters can get your bikes. All the security measures of these racks are intended as theft deterrence only, not total theft prevention. Overall, I would say it is a toss up. The 2 NV and the NV 2.0 use locking hitch pins and are about 4.7 stars in my book and the T2 Pro has the longer braided cables that can also secure the front tires and is about 4.7 stars as well.
Versatility – My wife and I have one small son and he is now up to riding a mountain bike with 20 inch wheels. With the 2 NV and NV 2.0, we have to use an adapter (Kuat will send to you for free but it costs $8 for shipping) with the swing arms that hold the tires so that his bike can be properly tightened down. With the T2 Pro we do not and it will fit all bikes with wheels from 20 to 29 inches. All three racks have held my friends road racing bikes just fine and all three will hold big heavy electric fat tire bikes just fine. The 2 NV will hold fat tires up to 4.5 inches wide (with the $10 fat tire kit (not included)), the NV 2.0 up to 4.5 inches wide (with the $10 fat tire kit (not included)) and the T2 Pro up to 5.0 inches wide (no adapter needed). The Kuat 2 NV does not allow the wheel trays to be adjusted laterally. This means that in some rare situations the handlebars of one bike may rub against the seat of the next bike with the 2 NV. With the NV 2.0, you can adjust the height of the front tire cup while the T2 Pro allows the trays to be adjusted side to side laterally. Therefore, the NV 2.0 and T2 Pro can be adjusted so that handlebars do not rub into seats usually. The older 2 NV had the most room between bikes and between the first bike and the rear of the car. The NV 2.0 is in the middle and the T2 Pro has the tightest spacing (by a small amount) and has the first bike about 1.8 inches closer to the back of the car than the 2 NV. Overall, because the T2 Pro holds my son's bike without an adapter, I would give it 5 stars, with the NV 2.0 at about 4.6 stars and the 2 NV at about 4.3 stars.
Finish and Appearance – The Kuat 2 NV and NV 2.0 are definitely going to catch eyes in this category. Kuat went with an anodized grey and copper colored finish. This anodization is also more resistant to daily wear and tear. The Thule T2 Pro uses standard aluminum, plastic and steel parts with no special bling (although, the steel swingarm/stinger is anodized black). Like most other Thule models before it, the T2 Pro is a combination of silver aluminum and matte black in color. That said, the bolts on the Kuat 2 NV and Kuat NV 2.0 began to show rust by the three month mark where as the bolts on the T2 Pro have not. One important tip to remember that neither company includes in their installation instructions is the use of blue Loctite. If you take your rack apart about once a year and apply a little blue Loctite to all the threads, you will have even less play in your rack as the mileage mounts up. The Loctite really helps to keep the bolts tight and cuts down on the weird creaking noises. The Kuat racks are mostly made in China and only the last checking steps are done in the USA. The Thule T2 Pro is 80% built and assembled in the USA at Thule's factory in Seymour, CT. While a minor point, I also like the look of the welds on the Thule better. Some of the welds on the Kuat racks, and particularly the 2 NV are not premium. And if you are mixing in contaminants or getting micro-bubbles in the welds, then the overall strength of the rack will suffer. Most of the welds on the T2 Pro are buttery smooth and look like high quality TIG welds (not sure if they are though). One thing that does drive me crazy about the NV 2.0 is that you need to carry an 8 mm allen key with you if you want to adjust the front wheel trays. Kuat recommends that you keep the allen key in the rear end cap, but if you do it will rattle around like a can of spray paint. Which makes a $630 rack sound like a used $35 rack bought on Craigslist. For myself, I just keep the allen key in the front glove compartment.
Assembly – All three racks come with instruction manuals and the Kuat 2 NV is ever so slightly more tricky to setup initially than the T2 Pro and NV 2.0. You have to make sure that the tray arms are bolted on in the correct order and facing the correct direction. The T2 Pro is a bit simpler and you only have four bolts to tighten for each tray and there are more detailed pics for how to line up the trays. The NV 2.0 is the easiest of all to assemble and there is only one position for each part. In the end, all three are fairly easy to install and any reasonably intelligent person could assemble any of the racks in 20-40 minutes. I would give the Kuat 2 NV about 4.3 stars and the T2 Pro about 4.6 stars and the NV 2.0 about 4.8 stars.
Extras – The T2 Pro does not really try to include any extras but the Kuat 2 NV includes a trail repair stand (which they call the Trail Doc) at the end of the swingarm. The brand new NV 2.0 also includes a redesigned Trail Doc that is improved over the the version on the 2 NV. This makes it easy to hold your bike as you lube a chain before a ride or check your brakes. You must tilt the rack up flat against the back of your car for the repair stand to be moved in to place. The original Trail Doc repair stand arm is not heavy duty and does not compare to something like a more expensive model from Park Tools or Var, but it will get the job done. However, the improved Trail Doc found on the NV 2.0 is beefier and will hold a heavier bike. It is also very handy to have at the end of a ride if you want to wash your bikes down. An extra half star to Kuat for including it.
Price - Typically if you check carefully here at Amazon and other major online retailers, you will find the Kuat 2 NV going for about $510 to $530, the newer NV 2.0 going for about $620 and the Thule T2 Pro going for about $550 without counting shipping or tax. (I paid $539 for my Kuat 2NV, $630 for my Kuat NV 2.0 and $430 for my T2 Pro) Let's face it, all three racks are premium kit, so the prices are not going to be cheap. Particularly the NV 2.0 and its questionable price of $630. I would give the NV 2.0 2 stars, the 2 NV 2.5 stars and the T2 Pro 2.5 stars. If you are looking for the cheapest tray rack around, these are not the models to consider.
Compared to Other Racks - Well obviously, the T2 Pro is the classic T2 but redesigned, and it is better in most ways. All three racks are better than the Thule T2 classic. Likewise, the NV 2.0 is a redesign of the older Kuat 2 NV and fixes many small problems which the 2 NV had. And in my opinion, all three racks are also better than the three or four models of Yakima and Hollywood racks that my friends use with their vehicles. Some of those Yakima racks are just a bit trickier to get the bikes loaded or do not have the adjustable cams of the 2 NV, NV 2.0 and T2 Pro. The latest Yakima black and red tray rack is pretty good but it has a screw on hitch pin which requires a wrench to tighten. That means that taking the rack on and off your vehicle frequently is a major pain in the butt. I would not say that the Yakima racks are much worse, I would just say they are not as convenient.
Overall Winner – After trying all three racks for several months now, my personal choice is the Thule T2 Pro. I just sold off my Kuat 2 NV and my NV 2.0 and used the money to buy another Thule T2 Pro for my SUV. The reasons why I like this rack better than Kuat 2 NV or the newer NV 2.0 are:
1 – The Hitch Switch makes swinging your rack up or down much easier than the quick release cam of the Kuats (or the foot pedal on the Kuat NV 2.0) Anyone including smaller women and senior citizens can now get to the back trunk much easier on a trip. The Hitch Switch really is that much more convenient.
2 – The Thule T2 Pro accepts all bikes from ultra skinny road racing tires to a full 5 inch wide fatty tire bike without an adapter. (With the Kuats, you need to purchase an Fat Tyre kit that costs $10 plus $8 shipping and that only goes up to 4.5 inches wide. (Kuat claims 4.8 inches but actually it is 4.5 inches))
3 – The Thule T2 Pro can accept any tire size from 20 to 29 inches without an adapter. With the Kuats, you have to call the company to get the free adapter for bikes with tires from 20 to 24 inches. And you have to pay for the shipping. And you have to install it which is a minor pain in the butt.
4 – Originally, I gave Kuat the nod for torsional stiffness when using the two bike add-on (so that four bikes could be carried in total). However, it turns out the University of Indiana's Dept. of Mechanical Engineering tested both two bike and four bike setups (the Kuat NV 2.0 versus the Thule T2 Pro) and the T2 Pro is actually the stiffer rack whether carrying two or four bikes (by a small margin).
5 – Initially the finish on the Kuats is of higher quality than the finish on the T2 Pro. And it remains that way on my Kuat racks to this day but the sad part is that the bolts have rusted some, while those on the T2 Pro have not. The fix for this is to gather your own higher quality stainless steel bolts from some place like McMasters online, but for $630, you should not have to do this.
6 – Thule employs over 1000 American workers at their factory in CT. The T2 Pro is 80% built and assembled there, with only the base steel beams and bolts coming from China. The Kuat racks are made entirely in China and only final precursory checking is completed at their warehouse in the USA.
In 2015, I could say that the Kuat 2 NV was the better rack against the Thule T2 Classic (I owned both). But Thule paid attention, went back to the drawing board and upped their game. The Thule T2 Pro simply beats the NV 2.0 in most qualities that matter to me most. Of course not everyone is me, and some buyers may really seek the features that the NV 2.0 can offer. The Kuat NV 2.0 does have the better locking hitch pin and the finish is better. It also includes an improved Trail Doc repair stand arm. However, for me personally, I do not use those features as much and I do my repairs at home before or after a ride. I do not think the Kuat racks are bad (far from it), I just think that the Thule T2 Pro is more convenient. As things stand now, I would give the Kuat 2 NV about 4.2 stars, the Kuat NV 2.0 about 4.5 stars and the Thule T2 Pro about 4.9 stars. Happy trails and hope the review was helpful.
(Sorry to say, but it seems that once Amazon saw this product page was getting a great deal of views, they decided to up the price. I only paid $430 for my T2 Pro and hopefully, as 2017 wears on, the price will drop back down.)
1. Ease of Use
2. Integrity of Function: Does it hold securely to prevent my bike from falling off?
3. Security to Deter Theft
As one might expect, this Thule rack shines on #1 and #2 above. In fact, its design is amazingly advanced and even genius, especially in the design of the anti-wobble/rattle mechanism, but this fact is tainted by serious failings on criteria #3 above. If I had spent $500+ for a bike rack (I received this one free of charge as an Amazon Vine reviewer), I would expect it to shine on all 3 criteria. Instead, I am left with a rack that I would only use if I used 2 separate cable locks--1 around the bikes and one around the rack and the bumper. This seems ridiculous, and I wonder how Thule could have missed some serious security issues in design. Thieves know where to look for high quality bikes. Where I bike, there are lots of people with bikes $5000+, meaning that this rack could, in theory, hold far in excess of $10,000 worth of bikes, and it is far less secure than many cheaper racks that I have owned.
The first security flaw is that the bike trays with the ratchet arms and cable locks that the bikes sit on are held on with four 5mm Allen head screws each. A thief with a cordless screwdriver with a 5mm Allen head bit could just lay on his back and have all eight of the screws out in less than 30 seconds. The bikes, bike trays, ratchet arms, and cable locks would all be gone. You'd still have half of your rack connected to the car, if that is any consolation.
The second security flaw is that the main hitch assembly is only a tab/pin to hold the rack in place from sliding out of your hitch. A high-quality locking hitch pin is not even an option here. I understand the cable locks on this rack for securing the bikes are only a deterrent, but that same lock system is used on the hitch assembly to keep it from being removed. These cheap little lock cylinders that Thule designed are encased in plastic. I believe a thief could probably steal the whole rack and the bikes with it in 2 seconds by breaking these cheap locks. My past hitch-mount racks used a basic hitch pin, which allowed me to upgrade to a high-quality locking hitch pin for $20 or less. Such a locking hitch pin ensures the rack is not coming off the vehicle without a cutting torch.
Perhaps Swedes are so good natured that they have a hard time imagining somebody working around their designs to steal the bikes. In any case, I do not feel secure with this rack, and I'd feel foolish with multiple cable locks around the rack to overcome its design flaws. I hope that Thule responds to these deficiencies and makes this rack everything it should have been. They were 90% of the way there.