Two Years ago when Candice decided to ride the Northeast AIDS Ride with me, it became necessary to invest in a rack system to transport the two bikes. My Chrysler Mini-Van had a factory installed Roof Rack but of course there were no bike add-ons available so I went shopping. I asked around and the one name that kept coming up was Thule.
I have recommended them to family members and friends alike without reservation. I put these racks on the car and have left them there ever since. Of course the one reservation that needs to be mentioned is that since this carrier system uses the OEM rack, the weak spot is that OEM rack! Be careful not to exceed its maximum weight carrying ability! Other than that put them on your car and fuhgettaboutem!
The result of my investigation was the Thule 889 Bike Rack Package, which I purchased from Rack Warehouse Dot Com along with an additional 589 bike carrier tray to make it a two bike system. Perusing their web site did very little to reassure me that I was indeed purchasing the correct items so I dialed their 800 number and spoke with a live person. I explained the van I had, he said you need the 889 and the 589 and the price was agreed upon and two days later the product arrived.
The instructions for assembly were just the slightest bit confusing as I recall in terms of the exact sequence of events, but the rack assembled easily once you got through the confusion of the instructions. All the tools necessary for assembly and installation are provided. As I was assembling the rack I wondered what was to prevent someone with an allen wrench from disassembling the rack and running off with it. The answer came in the final phase of assembly when it became apparent that the same device which locks the bikes into place also covers the hardware necessary to remove the racks. Since I mounted the racks to the van, I have never seen fit to remove them although I could quite easily.
The rack system consists of an aluminum extruded channel which forms a trough into which the bike's rear tire fits, secured by a nylon ratcheting strap which allows the rear wheel and tire to be drawn down quite tightly with little effort. This channel is secured to the OEM roof racks through a series of standoffs which accommodate varying distances of support separation. The key to the system is the front end of the rack which locks into the front wheel quick release drop outs.
There is a latch or lever which is lifted up to release the hold down. When the release is lifted, it exposes an adjustment wheel that allows the user to set the spread of the locking mechanism to accommodate varying fork widths. Once adjusted, the bike is securely locked into the rack by pressing down on the latch and locking it in place with the supplied key. Once closed, the latch also covers all the removal hardware, making it impossible to remove the rack from the car without the key. So the system is quite secure. What is to be said regarding performance? OK the bikes have never fallen off. They are very safe from theft and the racks are easy to use in terms of mounting and locking down the bikes. The system works.
1) The choice of roof rack versus trunk mount or hitch mount is a personal one and one which includes a consideration of personal stature and reach. Mounted on my mini-van these racks are quite high in the air. I literally use the sliding doors to create a step to reach the bikes for installation and removal. Because the bikes are so high in the air, low tree branches need to be noticed or damage can result. In the beginning I had some trepidation regarding low Parkway overpasses, but this concern proved unfounded. Mounted in the racks the bikes are held upright by precisely the same support points they are designed to work with, namely the wheel dropouts and frame members, so there is no chance of damage to the frames or the running gear from transportation bumping.
2) The way this roof mount supports the bikes will never cause any derailleur misalignment. The same can not be said of bikes banging into each other as you drive along with them on typical rear mounts. In Trunk or Hitch Mount Systems the bikes are supported under the top tube and they are somewhat free to swing back and forth with the accelerations and braking forces of normal driving, often banging against each other. No such motion or banging is possible with this roof mount. Additionally a "non-insurance claim bump" from another car could cause a very expensive issue with bikes hanging off the back, even at speeds which would normally cause no damage to the car itself. A simple rear end tap with a couple of 2K or better, expensive road bikes, hanging over your bumper could get real expensive, real quick! So, I opted for a roof mount system. OK so I am screwed in a roll over!
3) I can only carry two bikes with my system but a hitch system can carry four or more. Although I might be able to fit a third, the mounting and dismounting the third bike would prove difficult. So, two is really the practical limit.
4) Both systems will accommodate varying frame sizes with equal aplomb, and switching between MTB and Road is literally a simple adjustment of the knurled wheel under the latch of the system.
My only disappointments:
a) The paint failed on one of the racks peeling off about one third of one of the rails. This is not a severe problem I would guess since it has never bothered me enough to even contact Thule about it.
b) The second issue, and this one does bother me a bit, is the rust forming on the knobs of the fork retaining mechanism.
Aside from that the racks function perfectly!