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Thule Apex Swing 4-Bike Review

The swing away design of the Apex enhances ease of use, but frame contact with the rack is a detrement to overall functionality.
Thule Apex Swing 4 Bike 9027
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Price:  $530 List | $422.95 at Amazon
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Pros:  Easy access to rear vehicle compartments, ergonomic loading, no front wheel removal
Cons:  Difficult to assemble, design not well suited to full suspension bikes, expensive, makes direct contact with bicycle frame
Manufacturer:   Thule
By Curtis Smith ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 31, 2017
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 23
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 7
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 4
  • Versatility - 20% 6
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 5
  • Security - 20% 7
  • Durability - 10% 7

The Skinny

The Thule Apex Swing is an arm-style hitch-mounted rack, compatible with 2" receivers. It has a four-bike capacity and uses the bicycle top tube as a primary point of attachment. Front wheel removal and overhead lifting are not required. A unique design allows the rack to swing out away from the vehicle, even when fully loaded. This allows for the best rear vehicle access of any hitch mount rack we tested, which sets the Apex Swing apart.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Apex Swing is a hitch-mounted rack with a four-bike capacity. Bikes are secured to the top tube by cradles with rubber straps in the same manner as other contenders with horizontal arms, such as the Allen Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Carrier. The Apex Swing stands out from other hitch racks with its unique swing away feature that allows unrestricted access to rear vehicle compartments, even when fully loaded with bikes.

Performance Comparison


Thule Apex Swing  rotates away from the vehicle even when loaded to provide access to the rear of your vehicle.
Thule Apex Swing, rotates away from the vehicle even when loaded to provide access to the rear of your vehicle.

Ease of Everyday Use


Loading the Apex Swing is easy on the back due to a low loading height, and front wheel removal is not required. This rack is the only hitch rack we tested that allows for complete unimpeded access to rear vehicle compartments, even when fully loaded with bikes. An easy to use pivoting arm rotates out and laterally away from the vehicle. The arm can then be locked in place to prevent the rack from swinging back into the vehicle, even on uneven terrain. No other trunk or hitch rack we tested can compare to the Apex Swing when it comes to vehicle access. Even the Editors' Choice Kuat NV, with its significant tilt down feature, falls short of the Apex Swing for rear vehicle access.

Bikes rest on the cradles, and rubber straps stretch over the top tube. The Apex Swing is equipped with anti-sway cradles to prevent bikes from rocking back and forth while the vehicle is in motion. We like the concept, but in practice, the cradles are difficult to adjust and are only useful on a small number of the bikes we used for testing. Thule recommends the use of included nylon straps to further secure bikes to each other and the main mast. The Apex Swing suffers from the same drawbacks of all racks that utilize the frame as the primary point of attachment: limited versatility, the potential for frame damage and lack of stability on rough roads.

Ease of Removal and Storage


Attachment is simple. The rack slides into the hitch receiver and is secured by an auto-engaging hitch pin on the contender. A knob on the "Stinger" is then turned by hand to eliminated wobble between the rack and the receiver. At 48.8lbs the Apex Swing is one of the heavier models we tested, but a built-in carry handle makes moving and attaching this competitor relatively easy.

Versatility


This rack has cradles for four bikes and a weight capacity of 140lbs. It is possible to fit four bikes on the Apex Swing, but you will be hard pressed to do so without the bikes making contact with each other. When bike-to-bike contact is present, it is likely that damage will occur to your bikes when the vehicle is in motion. We found this rack to be better suited to carrying three bikes, and we were able to space most bike combinations in a manner to prevent bike damage. The cradles on the Apex Swing move fore and aft to facilitate optimal bike positioning, giving it an advantage over other racks we tested such as the Allen Deluxe 4, which has fixed cradles.

The Apex Swing lacks the versatility of our Editors' Choice rack, the Thule T2 Pro or other tray style hitch-mount racks such as the Kuat NV, the previous Editor's Choice winner. It's hard and sometimes impossible to get full suspension bikes with unique front triangle shapes to fit on Apex Swing. Small bikes and children's bikes can also be a challenge.

Ease of Assembly


The Apex Swing is a bit of a challenge to assemble. We like the fact that all the tools required for assembly are included, and the directions are easy to follow. While not technically difficult, the construction is challenging due to the size and weight of the pieces. Assembly requires the various parts to be held in awkward positions while bolts are threaded into place. Some of the bolts are difficult to tighten due to their position, making access with the included wrenches tedious. Having two people for the job is ideal.

Security


This contender is equipped with a lock at the hitch receiver to prevent theft of the rack. The "Stinger" has a knob that is used to prevent play between the rack and the receiver. A Thule lock core is included to lock the knob, preventing removal without the key. The Apex Swing is also equipped with a cable lock that pulls out from the main mast and secures the bikes to the rack itself. The cable is only long enough to go over the top tubes of the loaded bikes, leaving wheels vulnerable to theft. We like the cable lock but wish it were longer and a bit more substantial in diameter.

Durability


The Apex Swing held up well during testing. It does have many moving parts due to the swing-away design, but the pivots seem to work well, even when dirty. The overall construction is robust and of high quality. The plastic cradles and straps are prone to wear, abrasion and degradation from the sun, but they are replaceable components.

Best Application


This rack is best suited to carrying bikes with traditionally shaped frames with horizontal top tubes. The Apex Swing excels at carrying road bikes and hard tail mountain bikes. If access to the rear of your vehicle is of concern, there is no other competitor that offers the unimpeded access of the Apex Swing when fully loaded. Full suspension bikes, bikes with unique frame shapes and children's bikes are difficult to load, and in many cases, it is not possible to secure them effectively. Use with caution on rough roads; excessive movement of the bikes can damage frames due to the retention system design.

Value


At $499.95, this model is one of the most expensive racks we tested; however, the unique design of the Apex Swing offers the best rear vehicle access of any hitch rack we tested. It does suffer from a lack of versatility due to the retention system design, and the Editors' Choice Thule T2 Pro would better serve most buyers for an additional $50.

Conclusion


The Apex Swing is a relatively expensive hitch mount rack with limited capacity due to the design. The swing away feature is nice, but tray style racks offer a more secure bike mounting solution and work with a wider range of bike frames.


Curtis Smith