Thule ProRide 598
The easiest way to put your bike on a car?
To start this review we need to do a little bit of a back story as to how I came to choose Thule as my choice of bike rack.
When I was getting my kit sorted for tours with clients back in 2018, I went along to my local Halfords and checked out the stock they had. I compared the different styles of bike racks available looking at the ones that go on your roof versus the tow bar, ones that kept the bike altogether versus ones that removed the front wheel, and finally ones that attached to the bike frame versus ones that attached to the front and back wheel. Before I get onto the type of bike rack I went with, the first thing that was obviously different between the bike racks was the quality of those between the Halford own brand and the Thule brand. The difference in the quality of the material used, the flimsiness of the moving parts, and how secure the demo bike felt was apparent immediately. I knew straight away I wanted to get the Thule kit.
Now for those who don't know, the Halfords bike rack is about half the price of the Thule kit, so it was a big ask to commit to something at double the cost. But I knew I would use these bike rack lots, and buying something cheaper, I worried I would end up buying another one sooner as it broke due to poor quality. Plus they were looking after client's bikes so I needed the best.
At this point I contacted Thule to see if they wanted to become partners with Mammoth Journeys. We had a few emails back and forth, but after a few weeks of quiet I thought it was a dead deal. I found the gear online I wanted and had it in the basket ready to purchase. I was distracted by some work so didn't click 'buy', shortly later I received a call from Thule explaining they had agreed to partner with Mammoth and would support our transportation needs. So I was massively excited we had Thule on board, especially as I almost bought £700 worth of their kit.
I tell you this story to give you an idea how high I value their kit, even before we were partnered with them.
Now, onto the review!
Type of rack:
I've decided to discuss this so you can understand my rationale for my decision, and perhaps it may answer a few questions on the set up you are needing.
So I decided for two reasons to go for the bike rack that went onto the roof of the car. Firstly I didn't have a tow bar, and secondly if I did I would still need regular access into the boot so didn't want the faff of removing/titling the tow bar bike rack option. So even the option of getting a tow bar fitted would not have helped us here. For our tours where we need that regular access to the boot this option is very helpful. It's this reason we didn't also go down the route of the bike rack that attaches to the boot of your car. On trips where we are simply driving from A to B with our bikes on the roof and not trying to get access into the boot, I do think a tow bar option would be simpler. It would be easier to attach the bikes onto the rack as you don't have to lug them onto the roof, and it probably would be more economic from a fuel perspective. However, you wouldn't keep the tow bar bike rack in place all the time, so if you ever needed to transport your bike you'd need the faff of putting it back on, compared to the roof rack which can generally stay on.
Another factor to consider is what else you would put on your roof. We can put two racks and a box on our car, but if we needed to take four bikes and the box, we wouldn't be able.
The next question we had was what type of bike rack would we use. Would we use the one where you keep the bike fully assembled or the one where you remove the front wheel. Originally I was drawn to the one where you removed the front wheel. I initially thought it would mean I could get more bikes on the roof rack, however this wasn't the case as we could get four on using either the ProRide option of keeping the bike fully assembled or four of the TopRide option which removes the front wheel.
I am so glad I went for this option. I honestly cannot think of any practical reason why removing the front wheel would be of any benefit. The extra struggle of aligning the front forks to fit in the bracket would annoy me, and then the hassle of what to do with the wheel - which could potentially be dirty. When I have a full car of riders with kit, I am so happy I don't have to think about storing an extra 4 wheels in the car at the same time.
So this is how I came to the decision of getting the ProRide 598 set up.
I am still undecided whether practicality or robustness is more important, so like all thorough product reviewers I flipped a coin!
The initial set up of putting them on your car is super easy. It took probably less an hour for me to put my roof bars on aligning them up correctly, and then installing and fitting four bike racks. Ultimately pretty stress free to get it all set up.
I was then able to mount the bike on first go with a little bit of fumbling but it only got easier. You can pretty much do the whole thing with one hand whilst you hold the bike with the other.
Whenever new people can see I am about to mount the bike, they politely ask to help, but within 30 seconds it's all done. It is super easy with minimal effort. This is crucial if you arrive back at the car and it's raining or you are cold. You don't want to be messing around with poorly designed clips and brackets, you want it to be easy.
The second point on it's practicality is how adaptable it is with a variety of bikes. We never put the same bike back in the same rack (we should, but we don't!). But altering the set up for a different sized bike is super easy and adds mere seconds to the mount. It also makes no difference if you are putting in a road bike or mountain bike the tyre cradles can cope with either. You do need specific Fat Bike tyre mounts however.
The clasp that goes on the frame can also cope with different styles of frames. I have used my carbon aero road bike frame with no issues. There is an adapter you can put on carbon frames to help protect them. We have used them, but also we don't as well if we forget, and it doesn't seem to effect the bike. However they are clearly designed for a reason - everything at Thule has a purpose and is thought through, and I think if you have spent potentially £1000+ on your bike the investment on some extra protection on the frame is a wise move - but this is personal preference.
As time has gone on, and we've used more Thule kit it becomes increasingly obvious how 'well thought out' all the Thule kit is. With the bike racks it isn't initially obvious, but the more you use them, with a greater variety of bikes in all types of conditions you realise how thoughtful each feature is.
Finally, a true showcase on the practicality is that anyone who has tried to mount a bike on one of our Journeys learns very quickly and can mount the bikes with us!
I have had the ProRide 598s now for 4 years. I have used them a lot in that time I can promise you that. They work as well today as they did on the first day I bough them in 2018. Nothing on them has broken, and the function on them has not changed in the slightest.
I initially had an irrational fear that the bikes may fall off the top of the car. But now I have zero concern when I start any trip with them that they will not perform. I never have to worry that half way into one of our Journeys the bike racks will fail.
This is why Thule are priced at what they are. You are paying for that trust in a high quality product.
The ProRide 598 has two methods to secure your bike. Firstly the bike rack locks onto the roof rack, and secondly the clasp around the frame locks down stopping it from being released. Before deciding which frame to buy during my research I found a video on YouTube showing two people climbing on top of a car and pulling the bike out of the "locked" clasp (the video was from a train station in the UK!). The video was of the older 591 model and Thule have claimed (not related to this video) that the 598 clasp lock is more secure than the 591. However I was always still conscious so I would travel with the bike locked so that if I stopped in any cities or towns and left the bikes, I knew they would be safe.
Recently I spoke with a family member who is a police officer in a large English city for almost 20 years. I asked them how often he hears of bikes being stolen from car roof racks and he could not remember one occasion.
I do think I am being over cautious on this one, and since that chat with the police officer I have been less precious on using an extra bike lock on top of the standard Thule locks. Can you imagine being in a town centre and someone casually climbing onto the roof of a car and pulling abike off the rack? I'd like to think perhaps someone may say something!
These are bike racks, and will make any car look strange. I have searched other bike racks and they all look the same. The Thule ones are no different I feel to other brands - neither better or worse. I will say however, that the TopRide option from Thule could offer a more aesthetically pleasing option than the ProRide, if you were concerned what they look like when the bike isn't in them. No-one has ever commented on this but if this is important to you it's something to consider.
I would recommend the ProRide 598 to anyone who is looking for a roof mounted bike rack. They are robust and super practical, and you get what you pay for. A big tick from me.
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