Thule's usual high standards of thought and attention to detail are evident in the XT2 rack. This shows in how quick and easy it is to attach to the car's tow bar and to set it up for use. The solid construction means it's heavy, so beware of lifting this 17.9kg rack even though it comes with a convenient carrying handle. With slight changes to the position of the ratchet straps and perhaps the inclusion of a carrying bag in the substantial price, the XT2 would score a full five-star rating.
Very quick to fit
Ease of locking bikes to rack
Expensive for a two-bike rack
Rear ratchet position is awkward to reach
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Thule has a well-earned reputation for how easy and intuitive its products are to use, and the XT2 tow bar-mounted two-bike car rack is not about to upset that apple cart. It comes in the box ready to fit to the car, so there’s no pre-assembly required or messing about with Allen keys, straps, or bolts.
As it comes out of the box, the XT2 is in its folded storage position, which means the two halves of the rack base are in the vertical position and form a built-in carrying handle. Just as crucially as this, the handle is placed so the 17.9kg weight of the Thule rack is perfectly balanced, making it much easier to carry to the car and lift on to the tow hitch. This makes fitting the XT2 a true one-person job, where other tow bar racks we’ve tried have required two people to attach them safely.
Once the XT2 is resting on a cleaned tow ball – it needs any grease removed to ensure a tight grip – you can alter the clamp action with a knurled adjuster. After that, simply push down on the lever to tighten the clamp on to the tow bar. This needs a bit of muscle, so you might find it easier to use your foot while holding the rack in place. We found it was no bother to get the XT2 sitting level as it naturally assumed this position as it rested on the tow bar as we fixed the clamp around it. An integrated lock secures the rack to the car.
Before folding down the two halves of the rack, it’s a quick job to plug in the XT2’s electrics to the car. It comes with a 13-pin socket, which is suited to most vehicles, or you may have to buy a 7-pin adapter. The auxiliary lights of the XT2 are bright and their styling adds a touch of class missing from the usual light board type used with many bike racks.
Now it’s time to drop down the two sides of the XT2. As you do this, the number plate holder glides into position. Attaching a number plate is a quick job, so you can swap the XT2 between different cars without the faff of unscrewing a registration plate as this is held in by two pop fasteners.
Lifting a bike on to the XT2 is no bother and the tyres sit in dedicated tracks that naturally guide the bike to the centre point for good balance.
There are separate clamps for each of the two bikes that attach to the rack's metal upper hoop. They can be dismounted quickly and lock in position when the clamp is fixed to the bike’s top tube.
Each clamp has its own locking and key mechanism, both using the same key for ease of use. With this done, you can strap the wheels to the bottom track and, as we expect of Thule, this is a rapid job thanks to the ratchet action of the fixing. Our only gripe here is the ratchets for the bike closest to the car are at the back, which makes them a bit of a reach around or through the wheel. This is not ideal in wintry weather or with a muck-spattered bike.
The XT2 can carry two bikes up to 60kg combined, so it’s also able to be used for transporting e-bikes. For this, you will want to add the optional bike ramp to make it less of a spinal strain when loading and unloading. And while we mention options, it’s a shame Thule doesn’t provide the carry bag as standard as the XT2 is so easy to remove and store in a car’s boot when not in use to keep it secure. Having the bag would mean the car’s interior stays clean whatever the weather. On the upside, the XT2 is a doddle to sluice clean with a hose.
This is a very minor complaint, however, as the superb design of the Thule XT2 far outweighs spending a little more for a carry bag. The speed it can be fitted and in use more than compensates, and it’s simple to change over to another car. Factor in the XT2’s excellent quality and this is just about the only two-bike tow car rack you’ll ever need.
Value and conclusions
Thule's offering is not a value orientated option, however, in performance it far outshon cheaper racks on test. Fitting was simple and easy, it packs away neatly when out of use, and the build quality was admirable.
- RRP: £700
- Number of bikes: 2
- Maximum bike weight: 60kg
Tow bar bike rack FAQ
How does a tow bar bike rack work?
How do I use a tow bar bike rack?
You'll need to already have a tow bar, or have one fitted. These are not univeral and it is recommended that they are professionally fitted. The bike rack then clamps onto the vehical's towball.
You'll need a numberplate for your tow bar bike rack, and you will need to connect up the lights to the vehical's 12v system. The system will be 7-pin or 13-pin, you can purchase an adapter if yours is not compatible.
What styles of car rack are available?
Why go for a tow bar bike rack?
There are many styles of bike rack available. You can opt for a roof rack, rear mounted rack - which attaches via the boot - or a tow bar rack. The tow bar rack makes it very easy to remove bikes. Most modern designs still allow you to access the boot, too. However, they are costly and usually heavy.
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