My latest car is an estate/touring with a set of roof rails so requires a roofbar that can clamp directly to the rail. After looking at the OEM version I decided to take a closer look at the Thule Wing bars. Mainly because the OEM version sat quite high off the roof and from BMW would have cost a small ransom. I have had a few different sets of Thule bars in the past and still own/use a set of Thule ProRide 591 bike carriers so it made sense to have a look at the newer offerings. In addition Thule have a pretty good reputation world wide and certainly have great customer service here in the UK.
We spoke to Tom Henwood of Main Line Overland to see what the pros are using and what’s popular on today’s market. “The best roof rack is the best design for a given application, rather than a particular brand. We help customers select racks and storage systems based on what they intend to carry on their travels, where they intend to go, etc. We look for componentry that maintains a low profile and low center of gravity for off-road driving, so we often choose aluminum roof racks to keep weight down up top.”
I put these on a 2012 VW Tiguan (using the Thule Rapid Crossroad Foot Pack) and probably should have gone with the 53" version for 2 kayaks. I only anticipated 1 kayak at time of purchase but the collection grew. Ended up getting a Takima J-Low to mount one on its side and one flat on the bars. Very tight squeeze (the J-Lows max weight for 2 kayaks isn't high enough if they are fishing kayaks - 110lbs). The J-Lows are VERY noisy and whistle when empty (gotta break out some duct tape and work on that...) but the bars - you won't notice they are there unless actively listening for them when unloaded.
Every car model has its own roof shape. There are different racks to fit all roof types so you can find the transportation solution that meets your needs. Most vehicles will have either a normal roof, roof rails, fixing points or integrated roof rails. Some roofs are equipped with a T-nut profile or a rain gutter. If you have a car with roof rails, you only need roof bars (also called crossbars), which run across the car and connect the roof rails on either side. For vehicles with a normal roof, fixing points or integrated roof rails, you will need a vehicle-specific kit.
I have been a long time fan of Thule racks and accessories. Then at sixty Mph my two week old Kayak departed the rack still attached to a new pair of Thule Hull-a-ports. Thule make a bomber rack system and the Hull-a-port is a great concept but why the plastic clamps?. The kayak landed safely in a snowbank but I worry about what might have happened.
There are a few other things that are important to me, and no doubt many of you will have your own requirements depending on car and lifestyle. I for example like a rack that won’t take up much space when off the car – which pretty much rules out boot or tow bar mounted racks. I’d also rather leave it in situ for most of the time due to the amount of use.
These are ideal if you are carrying kayaks or bikes and know that lifting these into the centre of the roof will put a strain on your back. They're almost essential for safe loading on tall and / or wide vehicles. The bars slide out so you can load, for example, two bikes on the left side of your vehicle, then slide them the other way and load two more on the right. They're brilliant.