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Hands-on Gear Review
Thule T2 Classic Review
The Thule T2 Classic is a tray style hitch mount rack, similar in function to our previous Editors' Choice, the Kuat NV. A favorite among our testers, it is the less expensive, blue-collar option when compared to the more refined and visually pleasing Kuat NV or new Editors' Choice winner, the Thule T2 Pro. The T2 Classic can carry nearly any type of bike regardless of wheel size, fork dropout style, or frame design. It offers a level of versatility only matched by the Kuat NV. A ratcheting arm clamps the front wheel and tire of the bike, eliminating frame contact, plus cable locks provide security for the bikes and a hitch lock secures the rack itself.
RELATED: Our complete review of bike racks
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
This model is a tray style hitch mount rack that uses the bicycle wheel and tire as a primary point of attachment. Great ergonomics, durability, and a competitive price make it a viable alternative to our Editors' Choice winner, the Thule T2 Pro.
More versatile than any arm style hitch mount rack, like the Thule Apex Swing 4-Bike or the Allen Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Carrier, this model receives top scores for versatility/capacity. It has a weight capacity of 100lbs, (note: the 2"reciever version has a 160lb capacity) less than the 120lb capacity of the Kuat NV, and the Thule T2 Pro but this is due to the 1 ¼" receiver not the construction of the rack. The T2 will accommodate almost any bike with a wheelbase of 48" or less and wheels from 20" to 29". The only limitaion is tire size. Fat bike tires and some of the new 29" plus tire and wheel combinations are to tall, or wide for the ratcheting arms to clear. The Thule T2 Pro has design features that address this issue. A ratcheting arm clamps the front wheel, and a ratcheting strap secures the rear wheel. There is no contact with the bicycle frame. The T2 Classic is the only hitch mount tray style rack we tested that has, bicycle trays that are adjustable both fore and aft, and side to side on the hitch base, allowing the trays to be positioned in an offset manner to eliminate bike-to-bike contact. The adjustable trays allowed us to configure the rack in a manner that prevented the handlebar/saddle interference that was an occasional issue on the Kuat NV, and the Yakima HoldUp.
Ease of Assembly & Attachment
This model comes out of the box in multiple pieces, and requires a bit of time and patience to assemble and properly adjust. The directions for assembly are excellent and Thule includes two wrenches and a 5mm hex key. In addition to the included tools, you will need a ½" socket for assembly of the wheel trays and a flat head screwdriver. The T2 Classic was not as easy to assemble as the Kuat NV, but some of the additional work is due to the more adjustable design of the T2. The wheel trays on the Kuat NV and the Thule T2 Pro are fixed in position, but the T2 Classic has wheel trays that are adjustable, allowing the user to position them in the best location to accommodate their bikes. Attaching the T2 Classic to a vehicle is a bit more involved than the Kuat NV. With a weight of 56.1lbs, the this particular model is heavy and a bit awkward to carry around. The rack slides into the receiver and a threaded hitch pin must be tightened with the included wrench to eliminate wobble in the receiver. The Yakima HoldUp also relies on a similar design to eliminate wobble. Both the threaded hitch pin and the expanding insert anti-wobble systems are very effective, but the Kuat and the Thule T2 Pro require no tools to take the rack on and off the car, which makes them easier to use.
Ergonomics & Ease of Use
This is the only rack we tested that comes anywhere close to our Editors' Choice Thule T2 Pro or previous Editors' Choice, the Kuat NV, in terms of ergonomics. A low loading height and easy to use ratcheting arms make loading and securing bikes a simple task. When loading and unloading bikes multiple times a day for shuttle runs, no other type of rack can equal the tray mount style of the T2 Classic and the T2 Pro. Tilting down this contender when loaded with bikes is a much more difficult process than the the T2 Pro, because it requires the user to briefly un-weight the lowering mechanism by lifting up on the rack while pulling the release lever. Not a huge deal, but we have to give the T2 Pro the nod for ease of lowering, due to the awesome load release handle place on the end of the main support arm.
This competitor is a well-constructed, durable rack. The body of the rack is steel with a long-wearing black paint. The trays are sturdy, and despite the use of plastic wheel trays, we had no issues with durability. The design of the rack allows for easy replacement of the individual trays should one become damaged. Some of our testers have been using previous versions of this rack for several years with no durability issues.
This contender comes with a locking hitch pin, as well as cable locks that deploy from the wheel clamp arms. Both the hitch pin and the cable locks take the same key, and Thule includes two keys and a blank key that allows you to pull the lock cylinders for replacement if necessary. The T2 Classic utilizes individual cables and locks for each bike. The cables pull out from the wheel clamp arms, and are designed to be looped through the front triangle of the bicycle frame. We wish that the cables were long enough to be looped through the front wheel for additional security, but that is not the case. The cables are thinner in diameter than the cable used on the Kuat NV, but they are substantial enough to act as a deterrent to thieves.
This rack will carry nearly any bike. From road bikes to downhill bikes, it will provide you with years of service. That being said, it truly shines when used for transporting heavy bikes, due to excellent ergonomics and a design that does not rely on the bicycle frame or fork for attachment. This rack is an excellent choice for vehicles with a high roof height that are not well suited to roof racks. From shuttle runs to road trips, the T2 delivers.
This rack is the blue-collar answer to the higher priced Kuat NV and Thule T2 Pro. For $399 you get most of the function offered by the Kuat NV and save well over $100. It does not come with a work stand and does not have the aesthetic appeal of the NV, but it is well designed and durable. This rack is an excellent value, and we would not hesitate to recommend it to those looking for a slightly more affordable alternative to the Kuat NV, or the T2 Pro.
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— Curtis Smith
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 17, 2016
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