If, like me, you are upgrading from an earlier Thule FreeRide FR35 then preparing the clamping mechanism for the bike frame is unchanged. The black ends of the clamping arm each have two holes and you use the one which corresponds to your frame size. If your partner or children have notably different bike sizes to you then you might have to change this regularly…on the previous model I never had to change it in about 10 years.
Rather than going for a pack put together by a roof rack shop or supplier I decided to visit the Thule website, find the make, model and year of my car to create a shopping list of the parts required. This is a simple but crucial process as the different possible combinations of bars, foot pack and fitting kit is enormous. Once checked I sourced each of the parts from different suppliers on Amazon. This saved around 20% and as I have Amazon Prime included free delivery.
I used the rack with a standard road bike and a mountain bike with a big chunky downtube, both were clamped snuggly in place as the rubber lining of the clamp moulds around the tube whatever its shape. We got the quick release wheel straps over a set of Cannondale Knot 64mm deep section wheels and there was plenty of strap to spare. The design of the mounts also means any width of tyre will fit with the possible exception of fat bikes.
I originally purchased my Thule rack system in 1985 (for use on a Land Cruiser) and ‘upgraded’ in 1990 to the new style Thule racks (for a 4Runner), so I have a fair amount of experience with these racks. Although I have not purchased much new Thule gear lately, all of my 15-20 year old accessories work great. I use the 58” bars in the winter to hold my ski carrier and box. In the summer I use 78” bars to hold 2-3 canoes or kayaks, plus bikes. Given that most of my gear is so old, it is made of solid aluminum and steel and hasn’t given me one failure. Sure, I broke a fairing when I hit a flying rock at 60mph. And, I’ve lost a few of the nuts and nylon bar ends but these were easily replaced. But never have I had a fear of the rack coming off my truck. I’ve even caught a tree with one of my 78” bars, which bent the roof of my 4Runner pretty good. Still, the rack did not budge. My rack has spent a lot of time in Alaska and Minnesota winters and rust has never been much of a problem, either.
Shortly after we bought the rack, our little mazda 2 was rear ended by a texting idiot. Before the car was repaired, I decided to try and test the rack to see if I could damage the tailgate with the rack. I tightened it up really hard and grabbed the mounting arms and shook the car around on it's suspension and it did not bend or damage the tailgates panel edges at all.
Aluminium bars include T-track slots which allow you to use the full length of the bars for load carrying. The WingBar not only looks good but more importantly includes a device which reduces wind noise to the minimum, as well as reducing drag. Many customers leave their Thule WingBars in place from week to week, especially if they are taller vehicles and fitting is awkward.