Head to just about any cycling related event and you’ll see a long parade of cars wearing bike racks… and I’ll be prepared to bet my bike that the majority of those racks are made by Thule. If you’re a roof mounted type you’ll be pleased to know that Thule has released a new option, the catchily named Thule ProRide 598.
However you choose or try to pronounce it, Thule are one of the dominant forces in bike carrying equipment… in fact, you can use their racks to mount just about any piece of sporting equipment to your roof, tow bar, tray or trailer. I've depended on the previous generation 591 racks for around 10 years. I tried to move to a tow bar option but it did not float my boat. The old 591’s have not let me down once and have managed to keep my bike (and others) securely fastened to the top of my car for countless k’s.
I’ve tried many bike racks and always come back to the relative simplicity of the 'both wheels on’ roof mounted option. The set up keeps all bike bits out of the car, is simple and super fast to load, there are no bikes rubbing against each other, and I think a very secure option. The only downside is that some people get worried about crushing their down tube with the bike clamp.
The 591’s have done their tour of duty, but Thule has made some tweaks and introduced the ProRide 598. It's an evolution. I’d describe the Thule 598 as a 591 with additions and changes that you never knew you wanted. So what’s changed and is it worth the upgrade?
First up and most noticeable is the change in clamp shape and size. It’s much larger and more encompassing and even when not tightened down has more of a hook shape to stop your bike falling toward you once it’s in place. This is particularly useful if you’re trying to get a bike onto a tall car or you’re someone that needs to carry a milk crate around to stand on to reach stuff. I also like the extra padding in the surface that comes into your bike that manages to hug your frame rather than squeeze it.
Second up is the ratchet mechanism that holds your bike. It contains a nifty torque limiter that is designed to stop you crushing your pride and joy. This is pretty easy to do and I’ve heard many stories of crushed carbon from over zealous tightening.
Third up and in no way functional is the availability of the 592 in all black (598002). I’ll say nothing more than this looks very cool and if you’re a stealthy all black car and bike kind of person the black version (that’s a few dollars extra) will complete your designer stealth look.
Number four, the ratcheted wheel securing mechanism is offset so that the strap crosses the wheel at an angle. Now, apparently the reason is to hold your wheel more securely and at first I could not see how this would improve the wheel movement or wobble I used to get a bit on the older 591, but it does a great job and the wheels don’t appear to get the shakes, and there’s no need to be the worlds strongest to buckle the wheels down.
When it comes to mounting, they use Thule T-track system that is pretty easy to use and does not require any tools. They fitted easily to my existing Rhino bars and should fit a wide range of roof bars.
The 598 can handle bikes up to 20kgs. I tried it with a few road bikes, carrying a Giant TCR in small, Speciaized Tarmac, BMC GF02 (58), and my Baum Corretto (my size roughly 58). I also threw on a couple of mountain bikes and a Giant Cross City. The 598 ProRide did not even blink. Thule tell me that the 598 can take a fat bikes 3” to 5" with the addition of accessory 598101 ($69) that deals with the wheel sizes.
RRP of the new 598 in silver $299 or in stealthy black is $329. Now the all-important question…. Is it worth it over the previous 591 version that is available for $449 for two racks (working out to $225 each)? I’m going to say I’d go the 598 every day of the week… why, well I love new stuff, it’s a genuinely better product with design features that make your life the bit easier, and help prevent you damaging your bike… that can cost you a lot more than the price difference were talking about here.
If you’ve got the 591’s now there’s no doubt they are great racks, so don’t go dumping them for the 598… just wait until you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket… or you want some stealth racks to match your stealth bike.
Disclaimer - Thule Australia sent us two of these racks for review… I liked them some much that I went out and bought a third.