Hands-on Gear Review

Thule Raceway Pro 2 Review

Thule Raceway Pro 9001
Editors' Choice Award
Price:  $350 List | $278.95 at Competitive Cyclist
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Stable, Compact size for storage, fits a wide range of vehicles
Cons:  Small security cable diameter, pricy, creates vehicle access issues
Bottom line:  The Raceway Pro is our favorite trunk rack and the clear winner of our Editors' Choice Award.
Editors' Rating:   
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Style:  Trunk
Bike Capacity:  2
Weight:  20lbs 9oz
Manufacturer:   Thule

Our Verdict

The Thule Raceway Pro 2 is the winner of our Editors' Choice Award for trunk-mounted racks, dethroning its predecessor the Raceway. The Raceway Pro retains all of the key features that made the Raceway a staff favorite and incorporates key upgrades that make it more versatile, and secure. The primary support arms are now individually adjustable increasing compatibility with full suspension bikes. We love the Fit Dial system, which specifies a support arm position for all compatible vehicles, taking the guesswork out of setup and attachment. The Raceway Pro uses a ratcheting steel cable system, rather than the nylon straps used by its competitors in our review. A cable lock for the bikes and an upgraded locking system that better protects the cable system, making it more secure than its predecessor, and far and away the most secure trunk mount rack we have tested.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Bike Racks for Hitches, Cars, and SUVs


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Curtis Smith

Last Updated:
Friday
September 1, 2017

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Though it still suffers from the same fallbacks as other racks that use the frame as a primary point of attachment, the Thule Raceway was our favorite trunk mount rack. It is extremely versatile regarding vehicle fit and is ideal for someone who cannot fit a roof rack or hitch mount rack on their car.

Performance Comparison


The Raceway Pro in action!
The Raceway Pro in action!

Ease of Everyday Use


Loading and unloading bikes is easier with the Raceway than some other trunk racks in our test but harder than racks such as our Editors' Choice Thule T2 Pro XT.


The Thule Raceway Pro folds up into a nice compact size when not in use.
The Thule Raceway Pro folds up into a nice compact size when not in use.

The loading height depends on the height of your vehicle but is nearly as low as the hitch mount Kuat NV, when used with a sedan. Positioning the bike on the rack is easy with traditional frames but can be a bit more complicated with tiny bikes, and many full suspension frame designs will require some trial and error to get the support arms in a functional position.

It is important to note that adjusting the angle of the support arms to accommodate a given frame design may make it impossible to securely attach the second bike with a differing design or size. With small bikes, it may be necessary to position one of the frame supports inside the front triangle and rest the other support at the junction of the head tube and down tube outside the frame triangle. Rubber straps are used to wrap over the top tube, securing the bike.

The Thule Raceway Pro
The Thule Raceway Pro

The Raceway Pro features No Sway cradles that contact the seat tube; in our experience, their effectiveness is limited and dependent upon the size and shape of the frame being attached. Thule recommends the use of included nylon straps to secure bikes to the rack by wrapping through the wheels and frame to prevent sway. This extra step reduces the ease of use and increases the time to load and unload bikes. Bike-to-bike contact is an issue with two bikes on the rack; nylon straps must be used to secure the bikes and prevent contact.

All of the models we tested that use the frame as a primary point of attachment can potentially damage your frame, paint and cable stops. Any movement of the bike as a result of the wind, road vibration, etc. is directly transferred to the frame and paint. The addition of any dirt, mud or sand creates a highly abrasive situation, regardless of the material the clamps are composed of. This should be taken into account concerning the potential of damaging your bike, as well as the extra time and care that must be taken to ensure your bicycle and the rack are clean before use.

Ease of Removal and Storage


The Raceway Pro packs up smaller than any of the hitch or roof racks we tested. Removal, however, is arguably more involved than most hitch racks due to the multiple points of contact and the adjustment required to attach the model to different vehicle types. It is, however, the easiest trunk mount rack we tested when it comes to installation due to the Thule Fit Dial System which takes the guess work out of the operation.


Versatility


The Thule Raceway Pro is quite versatile regarding vehicle fit.


Thule has a fit guide on their website, and also includes a fit list with the rack instructions. The Raceway will fit the vast majority of sedans, wagons, vans, and SUVs, and can carry two bikes with a 35lb per bike weight limit.

Ready to hit the road. The Thule Raceway Pro
Ready to hit the road. The Thule Raceway Pro

This model does not receive as high of a versatility score as other tested racks such as the Editors' Choice Thule T2 Pro XT, primarily due to a design that utilizes two horizontal supports and straps to secure bikes through frame contact. The Raceway Pro is best suited to carrying bicycles with traditional open front triangle designs with horizontal top tubes, such as most road and commuter bikes.

The Thule Raceway Pro
The Thule Raceway Pro

However, the Raceway Pro now has individually adjustable arms, allowing the arms to be in different positions, which can help when trying to accommodate bikes with non-traditional frame design such as full suspension mountain bikes. In addition to being adjustable in angle, the arms are also adjustable in a span from a 6.5" to 10.5", increasing compatibility with smaller bikes. This is a significant upgrade from the original Raceway design. We still recommend a tray style hitch mount rack such as the T2 Pro for full suspension bikes, but if a trunk mount rack better fits your lifestyle, the Raceway Pro is more likely to accommodate your bike than any of the other trunk mount racks we have tested.

The Thule Raceway Pro features support arms that can be adjusted individual for both angle and spacing.
The Thule Raceway Pro features support arms that can be adjusted individual for both angle and spacing.

Ease of Assembly


This rack shines when it comes to assembly and vehicle attachment.


The patented Fit Dial system is a cut above other trunk mount racks we tested. The Raceway comes with a Fit Guide, which specifies a number between 5-11 for all compatible vehicles. The given number is then selected on the Fit Dial of the rack, and the support arms are set to the optimal angle for the chosen vehicle. The Fit Guide also has a fit tips section for each vehicle that guides the user through the process of attaching the cables to secure the rack to the vehicle.

The cables are released by pulling up on the tab that corresponds to the cable you wish to loosen.  Thule Raceway Pro
The cables are released by pulling up on the tab that corresponds to the cable you wish to loosen. Thule Raceway Pro

At 20.4 lbs, the Raceway is the heaviest of the trunk mount racks we tested, but we did not feel that the weight made it harder to install. This contender is the only trunk rack we tested that uses steel cables in place of the nylon straps used by our other test models, such as the Saris Bones 2-Bike. Four ratcheting knobs are turned by hand to tension the cables and secure the rack in place. We found the cable and ratcheting knob combo to be the easiest to adjust of all our tested trunk racks. Before attaching the rack to your vehicle, it is important to ensure that the surfaces where the rubber pads will make contact with your vehicle are clean, to prevent damage to the finish caused by abrasion.

Security


This award winner is the most secure trunk mount rack in our test group, and the only one with an included cable lock.


The cable lock deploys from the horizontal support and loops over the outside bike on the rack, preventing its removal, as well as preventing the removal of the inside bike.

The locking cables are a bit short and barely reach due to the frame diameter of this bike.  Thule Raceway Pro
The locking cables are a bit short and barely reach due to the frame diameter of this bike. Thule Raceway Pro

The design does not allow you to lock a single bike on the rack if it is placed on the inside cradle, so if you are carrying only one bike, it must be loaded on the outside cradle to be locked. We like the inclusion of the cable lock, but wish it were a bit more substantial in diameter. The cable is skinny and could likely be cut with a decent pair of wire cutters.

The Thule Raceway Pro utilizes locking covers that prevent tampering with the cable release and ratchet internals.
The Thule Raceway Pro utilizes locking covers that prevent tampering with the cable release and ratchet internals.

The other security feature employed by the Raceway Pro is a separate lock that prevents the attachment cables from being loosened and protects the internals of the ratcheting system from being tampered with. The previous version of this rack did not employ a cover to prevent tampering with the ratcheting system. With the lock engaged, it is impossible to remove the contender from most vehicles without cutting the steel cables. However, when used on some hatch back vehicles, it is possible to release the fit dial arm and bring the pivot point of the rack in towards the vehicle.

This can create enough slack in the cables to allow the rack to be removed without cutting the cables or destroying the cable lock system. We tried to duplicate this maneuver on several sedans without success, so security of the rack is somewhat dependent upon the vehicle it is attached to. These security features make the Raceway the most secure of any trunk mount rack in our test group, by a large margin, but the contender still falls short of the most secure racks we tested such as the Kuat NV.

Durability


The Raceway Pro received the highest durability score of any trunk mount rack in our review. The high score is due primarily to the use of steel cables for vehicle attachment rather than the nylon straps used by other racks. The Yakima King Joe 2, for example, relies on nylon straps for vehicle attachment that are prone to degradation from sun exposure. Some of our testers expressed concerns over the long-term durability of the ratcheting knobs that tension the cables on the Raceway.


With the concerns of our testers in mind, we researched Amazon and REI Reviews. Of the 104 reviews on Amazon, 71 were five stars, and 13 fell in the 1 and 2-star range. We could only find three negative reviews in the 1-2 star range relating to malfunctioning cable tensioners. Based on our test results and research, we do not see any compelling evidence that there are widespread durability problems with the ratcheting knobs and cable tensioners.

The Thule Raceway Pro is secured using steel cables with rubber padding to protect your vehicles finish.
The Thule Raceway Pro is secured using steel cables with rubber padding to protect your vehicles finish.

Rubber straps are used to secure the bikes to the rack, and over time these will likely need to be replaced, as they will eventually break down with repeated stretching and exposure to the elements. Despite this, the Thule Raceway is a durable rack and should stand up to years of use.

Best Applications


The Raceway Pro is a great option if you do not use your rack on a daily basis, and do not wish to leave the rack attached to your car at all times. It is small when folded up and easy to store for those with limited space. Due to its design, it is best suited to carrying bikes with traditional, triangular shaped front triangles, such as most road, cyclocross, and hard tail mountain bikes. If you plan to use it with a full suspension mountain bike, we recommend you attempt to secure your bike to a test or display model before purchase to confirm compatibility. With a 35lb per bike weight limit, the Raceway can handle most bikes, short of heavy downhill and trail bikes.

The Thule Raceway folds up for easy storage.
The Thule Raceway folds up for easy storage.

Value


With an MSRP of $339, the Raceway Pro is over $100 more expensive than the other trunk mount racks we tested. But, it is the only trunk mount we tested that uses steel cables for attachment, increasing its durability and strength. It holds bikes in the same manner as all of the other trunk mounts, so it lacks the versatility of other styles of racks such as the hitch mount Kuat NV. The security features of the Raceway put it in a class of its own among trunk mount racks. Despite the much higher price compared to other trunk mounts, we still feel the Raceway is a good value due to its class-leading security features and excellent construction.

Conclusion


The Thule Raceway Pro is our Top Pick for a trunk mount rack. Features such as a cable lock and the ability to lock the rack to your vehicle set it apart from its competitors. The Fit Dial system takes the guesswork out of attachment, and the steel attachment cables provide long-term durability. If you are looking for the best trunk mount rack, this is the one to get.
Curtis Smith

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Most recent review: September 1, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
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