The Thule T2 Pro XT sets the standard for hitch mounted tray style racks. It is the winner of our Editors Choice award for hitch racks. The original version of this model was the previous winner of our Editors' Choice award, and despite an aggressive influx of new models from competitors, the T2 Pro XT maintains its position as the best hitch rack on the market. Smart features like a remote tilt release handle at the end of the rack, and a tool free vehicle mounting system, show Thule's commitment to a user-friendly design. The design of the T2 Pro XT is not perfect, but the execution of the design principle is superb, every feature works as intended, and the result is a hassle free rack that will handle nearly any bike on the market.
Thule T2 Pro XT Review
Cons: Hefty, Pricy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Thule could easily have left the T2 Pro alone — it was a great rack and the previous winner of our Editors' Choice Award. Instead, they took an amazing product and made it even better by increasing the spacing between the trays and growing the lateral tray adjustment range. These changes are barely noticeable without comparing the old and new versions of the model side by side; but when we put the new T2 Pro XT to the test, the increased clearance between bikes was noticeable. Thule also added a new all black color option, which we found to be markedly more impervious to scratches than silver color we tested previously.
The T2 Pro XT maintains all of the ground breaking features that established it as the benchmark hitch mount rack; remote tilt release handle, and a tool free vehicle attachment system. Its innovative features are what vaulted it into the top position in our previous review. Our current round of testing includes some racks that have copied some of the Thule design features. Despite many other racks now employing the same features, Thule maintains the top spot due to its impeccable execution of conception compared to its competitors.
Ease of Everyday Use
The T2 Pro XT is hands down the most user-friendly rack we have ever tested.
Thule was the first brand to bring a hitch rack with a remote tilt release handle to market and despite intense competition from Yakima with the Dr. Tray and RockyMounts, the T2 still has the smoothest most user-friendly release mechanism on the market. The two factors that have the greatest impact on ease of everyday use is the tilt mechanism and the ease of loading bikes. We tilt our rack every day whether we are out riding or running errands, access to the rear of the vehicle is always a priority. The low loading height and easy one handed front wheel clamps make loading bikes simple and easy. The Dr. Tray has tool free tray adjustment which is a great feature especially for those who frequently load different combinations of bikes. However, we seldom needed to move the trays on the T2, due to the 13" of tray spacing, and we set the rack up with the greatest lateral spread possible, so bike to bike interference was rarely an issue during testing.
Ease of Removal and Storage
The T2 Pro uses a tool-free system to secure the rack to a vehicle.
Just slide the rack into the hitch receiver and release the stinger pin, which drops into the hole that traditionally would hold the locking pin. Then, a knob is turned on the body of the rack that secures the rack to the vehicle and prevents wobble. One of the included keys is used to ensure the knob, preventing theft. The Kuat NV and the Yakima Dr. Tray uses a similar knob and cam system to prevent wobble, but still, require the utilization of a locking hitch pin to prevent theft. This may seem like a trivial feature, but if you are removing your rack from your vehicle on a regular basis, it can be huge time saver. Both the Yakima Hold Up and the first generation Thule T2 Classic use a threaded hitch pin to prevent wobble that requires a wrench for attachment and removal. While the threaded pin system works quite well, using a wrench can be frustrating and time-consuming due to the cramped working space.
The T2 takes up a lot of space when stored, and moving it around on a regular basis is not all that enjoyable. The Kuat Sherpa and the Yakima Dr. Tray are both lighter and easier to carry to and from the garage. If limited storage is an issue than the 1Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack packs up smaller than any other hitch rack in the test.
The T2 Pro is one of the more versatile racks we tested. Wide V shaped tire trays effectively hold any tire, from skinny road tires up to monster 5" fat bike tires.
Other contenders like the Kuat Sherpa and the 1UP are limited to 3" tires, so they are not Fat Bike friendly. Other racks will work but may require modification such as extending the rear wheel straps. The individual trays are adjustable laterally on the main mast arm of the rack, making it easy to avoid bike clearance issues by straddling the trays. Other competitors we tested, such as the Kuat NV, have fixed tray positions and do not allow for this adjustment. Our only complaint is that the trays are not adjustable fore and aft, so the distance between the trays is fixed.
The first generation Thule T2 Classic and the Yakima Dr. Tray feature trays that are adjustable both laterally and fore and aft, a feature we have always liked and one of the reasons that the Thule T2 Classic has always been a favorite with Outdoor Gear Lab testers. That being said, the T2 Pro has more clearance from the back of the vehicle to the inside tray than many racks we tested, which decreases the likelihood of vehicle clearance issues.
Ease of Assembly
The T2 Pro requires tools for assembly.
The trays must be attached to the main support mast, and some work is also required to attach the plastic front wheel baskets and the rear wheel straps. When compared to racks like the 1Up USA which comes fully assembled or the Yakima Dr which requires very limited assembly, this rack is a bit of a project. We were able to assemble this model with one person, using the included tools except for a Philips screwdriver.
Attaching the trays is best accomplished with the support arm of the rack attached to a vehicle. Four hex bolts secure each tray to the support mast. The design is similar to the RockyMounts BackStage, but we had a much easier time setting up the T2 Pro due to the near perfect alignment of the threaded female inserts with the attachment brackets. When assembling the BackStage we had a much harder time due to poor alignment of components. If you are averse to assembly, there are many easier racks available, but we feel that the end product is worth the extra assembly time with the T2 Pro.
Securing your bikes during transport is a major concern for most riders, and the ability to secure the rack you are using to transport the bikes is equally important.
The T2 Pro attaches to your hitch receiver with an expanding wedge that is forced against the inside portion of the receiver tube, this prevents wobble and prevents the rack from falling out of the receiver. Many of the racks we tested use a locking hitch pin for rack security, including the Kuat Sherpa and the RockyMounts BackStage. While locking hitch pins are secure, they add a piece of complexity into removal and installation. Thule has a novel approach to security for the T2 Pro, the knob that is turned to expand the wedge that holds the rack in place can be disabled by turning a lock within the knob. Once the lock is secured, the knob just free spins and it is impossible to release the wedge. We feel that this system is just as secure as a locking hitch pin and much easier to use.
The T2 Pro also comes with cable locks to secure bikes. The cables are housed in the front wheel clamp arms and can be pulled out to wrap around a bike in the rack. While this system is straightforward to use, the short length of the cables only allows you to loop around the front fork on most bikes. When carrying road bikes we were able to get the cable through the front triangle, but the geometry of most mountain bikes we used in the test prevented us from attaching the lock to anything but the fork.
Other contenders we tested, like the Kuat Sherpa and the RockyMounts BackStage, come with long noose style cables that can be threaded through wheels and frames for added security. In addition to the short length of the cables, the T2 Pro uses the smallest diameter cable of any hitch rack we tested. There are advantages and disadvantages to every security system. The main benefit of the cable system on the T2 Pro is ease of use, but the overall safety of the system is not on the same level as other racks we tested.
We felt that the first version of the T2 Pro was exceptionally durable, and the new XT version improves on the design with a bomb proof black paint that was impervious to scratches during testing.
The previous version had a silver finish which scratched easily. The overall construction of the T2 Pro is stout, and it weights to prove it at 51lbs. It is not, however, the most durable rack we tested, that honor is bestowed upon the 1UP USA due to an all metal design and no plastic parts. The T2 Pro has some plastic pieces that are prone to degradation from sun exposure. With that said, the moving parts are almost entirely made of metal, and despite some pretty serious abuse, the T2 Pro functioned flawlessly during testing. If anything we would describe the T2 Pro as being overbuilt, if durability is high on your list of required attributes, then the T2 Pro should be on your short list.
The T2 Pro is well-suited to carry nearly any type of bike, from a 15lb road bike to a 40lb downhill machine. It is best suited to those who intend to leave their rack in place, due to its weight.
With an MSRP of $580, the T2 Pro is one of the most expensive racks we tested and is only trumped by the Kuat NV when it comes to price. Despite the high price, we feel that it represents a good value, due to its versatility, ease of use and durability.
We have tested a lot of hitch racks here at Outdoor Gear Lab. Every time a new model comes out with a host of impressive features, we can't help but get a little excited. Despite having a pile of the best racks on the market in the garage, 99% of the time, the T2 Pro is the one we grab. There are lighter competitors, better-looking racks, and racks with better security features. But when it comes down to it, the T2 Pro is the easiest most intuitive model we have ever used, and the one-handed tilt feature is better designed than the competition. Frankly, ease of use trumps every other factor for us, and it doesn't hurt that the T2 is one of the most durable and reliable pieces of gear we have ever used. If you want the best all around hitch rack on the market, this is it.
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Most recent review: September 1, 2017
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