Contrary to the House Stark mantra, summer is coming. Yes, folks, we’re rounding the end of March, and though it’s snowing here at the Streetside HQ in Kansas City, these are just the writhing death throes of winter. Knock yourself out, coldie. We know you’re not long for this world. Soon we’ll be carrying our coats and going on road trips, which we’ve already proven is the best way to see America.
The only trouble with road trips is fitting everything in your vehicle, especially if you’re hauling along a big ‘ol family. You need your small, commute-friendly daily driver to have the capacity of a massive old Roadmaster or Safari. But only for the trip. Thankfully, Thule-
Hang on a second. Before we proceed, change the way your brain just read “Thule” to “too-lee.” Yeah, it’s weird, but only if you’re not from Sweden, and it would be just as weird for us to hear about somebody’s Plye-mooth Superbird. Okay, carry on.
Thankfully, Thule makes a host of awesome external travel accessories to expand your territory. And they offer a pretty huge selection, so it can be pretty tricky finding out which ones are right for you. We’re here to help with this guide, and we’re starting with bikes.
First, we need to figure out where you want to store your bikes: On your roof, your trailer hitch, your trunk lid, or your truck bed. Roof racks…well, they just look cool. You can’t beat that sleek, old-school practicality. But some vehicles are too tall to wear bikes as hats and still clear the roof over the ATM lane at the bank on your way out of town.
There are two main types of roof racks: Standup and Fork-mount. Standup racks require no disassembly of the bike. You can just lift the whole bike up to the roof and set it in place, then use an arm system to lock over one of the wheels, as in Thule’s Sidearm system, or over the frame, as in their Big Mouth rack. Once again, overhead clearance can be a problem for standup systems, depending on vehicle height.
Fork-mount systems, such as Thule’s Domestique, don’t generally have height problems, since you have to remove the front wheel when you put the bike in place. But if the wheel is covered in East Texas red clay or something, you might not want to put it inside.
Hitch-mount racks are extremely easy to install and don’t require nearly as much bike lifting to use. All of Thule’s hitch-mount racks swing away for full access to the hatch or trunk lid. A hitch rack does, however, use up your hitch, so if you’re pulling a trailer or hauling your hitch-mount grill or car umbrella or somesuch, you’re toast. Also, to use a hitch-mount system, you need a hitch.
There are a couple of options for hitch-mount racks: suspension and platform. With suspension racks, you hang your bike along the frame from a pair of supports. These racks, like Thule’s excellent Apex, are simple and small, and Thule has even developed tech to help minimize back and forth sway. You will, however, need to secure your handlebars to prevent them from turning while mounted.
Platform systems support your bike from beneath the wheels. These are generally larger, longer racks, but completely eliminate sway over the road. You won’t need to do any extra securing. Thule’s awesome T2 platform rack is a two-bike rack that offers another two-bike expansion.
Trunk-mount bike racks are simple, affordable, and compact enough to store in the car when not in use. But they put your bike in the prime target zone for fender benders.
Truck-bed mounts don’t have any cons. If you have a truck, this is the way to go. You can secure and lock your bike in the bed so it won’t flop around while you’re hooning and so you don’t have to break some lazy punk’s jaw for trying to steal your bike. You can raise your eyebrows and take some video of the hilarious struggle.
Now might be a good time to mention that all of Thule’s racks lock securely. With a key and everything.
But that’s enough about bikes. What about all your other stuff? Thule also offers cargo boxes and baskets to fit on your roof or hitch. Roof-mount boxes like Thule’s Atlantis offer sleek, aerodynamic design and free up the hitch, but they can be difficult to reach if you need to get in and out of them often. Hitch-mount boxes, such as Thule’s Transporter, restore that easy access (and tilt out of the way of the gate, like Thule’s bike racks), but eat up the hitch.
And then there’s the baskets, like their awesome M.O.A.B. unit, which looks cooler than James Garner desert racing an Oldsmobile, and offers limitless, open-weather storage.
Have fun this summer. And don’t let cargo stop you.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.