The problem with a lot of bicycle hitch racks is that they don’t fit 5″ fat tire widths or you can only get them in a 2″ truck-sized size hitch. I recently bought a new car with a towing hitch, so I could get a hitch rack capable of carrying a fat bike. Fat bikes are heavy and can bend the arms of a trunk-rack anchored by webbing straps. That was the fate of my last bike rack, which had also been getting on in age and was starting to rust.
I knew I wanted to replace it with a hitch rack, so I shopped around and bought a Thule T1 9041 Single Bike Platform Style Hitch Rack, which is compatible for wheels up to 5″ wide and can fit both one and a quarter and two inch car hitches. I’m super happy with it, as I explain below. I thought about getting a rack that could hold two bikes, but the price difference between a one-bike and two-bike fat bike compatible rack is significant and I didn’t want to pay for something I’d only use occasionally.
Specs at a Glance:
- Weight: 29.1 lbs
- Capacity: 1 bike
- Max carry capacity: 500 lbs
- Max tire size: 5″
- Hitch compatibility: 1 and 1/4 inch or 2 inch
- Security locks: 2
- Lock hitch to car
- Lock bike to rack
Advantages of Hitch Racks
If you’re on the fence about getting a hitch rack, they have many advantages over roof racks or trunk racks, especially for fat tire bikes. I wish I’d had a hitch on my old car. It would have made my life a lot simpler.
Better for heavy bikes
Hitch mounts have been around for years, but a lot of people still use roof racks to transport their bikes or the kind that mount over your car trunk using straps. Those are both good solutions for conventional bikes, but fat bikes are too heavy to lift over your head and can bend a trunk rack because they’re so heavy. The Thule T1 Single Bike Hitch Rack is a platform style rack that has a capacity of 500 lbs (which you’re unlikely to ever exceed) and its low height, just above bumper height, makes it easy to load or unload a heavy bike.
Disk brake alignment
There’s also the subtler issue of disc brake alignment. If you’ve carefully adjusted your disc brakes so that they spin freely and *don’t* rub against the wheel rotor, you’re going to want to keep them that way. The best way to do that is to keep your wheels on their hubs. Hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes can be a real pain to adjust at trail heads (or at home), so save yourself some grief and get a Thule T1 hitch rack that lets you keep your wheels on.
The Thule t1 rack has a padded swing arm that hooks over your bike’s front wheel and clamps it to the rack in a vertical position. The swing arm is designed like this so it won’t scratch your frame. It’s surprisingly reliable and stable, even in wind at highway speed. I’ve also driven down many horrendously eroded and bumpy dirt roads in my car and the rack and attached fat bike haven’t budged. I’m not sure I understand why the swing arm keeps the bike so secure, but it does the job. The rear wheel is secured by a ratchet strap.
Portability and security
The Thule T1 hitch mount rack is also easy to put on and take off your car. It simply slides onto your hitch receiver and locks in place with a restraining bolt for transport. When you want to take it off, you unscrew the bolt them and slide the rack off. The rack has a handle that makes it easy to carry, so you can store it in your garage or house.
Why would you take off a hitch mount? Better gas mileage is one reason, but security is another. When you’re not carrying a bike, you don’t want the hitch stolen. While the Thule T1 rack I bought does have a lock that you can secure over the restraining bolt to prevent theft, it’s not that substantial. While it’s a fine deterrent for highway rest stops and the trailhead, I wouldn’t trust it to protect the rack overnight in an urban area. That’s a good time to take the rack off and store it indoors.
Rear lift-gate access
While it’s not a sure thing on all cars, I can open the rear hatch of my Subaru Crosstrek with a bike on the T1 hitch rack. I need to do this often to collect roadkill for the stew pot (just kidding), so this is a handy feature in my neck of the woods.
Road surface clearance
Another advantage of a Thule T1 hitch rack over a trunk rack is road clearance. With the T1, you always know that the bottom of your tire is resting on the rack platform, which is level with your rear bumper. If you have a high clearance vehicle, you get to use all of the clearance it provides. Worst case, you’ll drag the rack platform on the ground, but your bike will remain safely on top of it.
That’s not the case with most trunk and some hitch racks, where your bicycle wheels can hang below the level of the rear bumper. Driving down bumpy dirt roads with your wheels hanging low is a good way to bend the rims or destroy them. With the Thule TI, your wheels remain safe because they sit on top of a steel beam, which protects them from road rash.
Thule T 1 9041 installation
Assembling and installing the Thule T1 9041 Bike Rack takes 30-45 minutes. You can do it entirely yourself without having to take it to a shop. Thule’s assembly instructions are very good, although you’ll want to double-check the spatial orientation of certain parts to make sure you’ve assembled them properly. The product includes all the tools you need for installation (mainly Allen wrenches), although I found a flat head screwdriver useful as well.
The Thule T1 rack is compatible with bike tires up to 5″ in width. While that’s immediately evident with the front wheel, you do need to readjust the rear wheel strap to fit larger tires, since the factory installed position is the shorter of the two. Simply remove the strap and re-thread it higher up on the rear wheel chock. This will give you another 6″ or so of strap length, plenty long to accommodate 5″ and even larger tires. There’s also nothing to prevent you from using the T1 rack with bikes that have narrower tires,
The Thule T1 9041 Hitch Rack is a great rack for hauling fat tire bikes with wheels that are up to 5″ wide. It’s easy to install by yourself, and take it off or put it back on again between trips. After years of hauling bikes around on a trunk rack, I cannot believe how convenient it is to haul a bike that on a platform-style hitch rack. Getting a rack like this has made it far easier for me to get out on weekday rides because there’s so much less overhead involved it attaching it to my car and lifting a bike onto it. I’m also more confident about the level of protection that the rack gives my bike, even when I drive down horrendously eroded forest service roads for a some wheeled wilderness exploration. Highly recommended.
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