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Thule Vs Yakima Bike Racks

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In the world of outdoor adventure, where the exhilaration of biking meets the desire for dependable gear transportation, two popular brands continue to inspire: Thule and Yakima.

Which of these bike-rack behemoths reigns supreme? Which of them makes the ideal product for you? The world of bike racks offers a bewildering array of solutions.

In this article, we dive deep into the battle of the Yakima vs Thule bike rack.

Thule Vs Yakima: Which Is Best?

Below, we pit the top bike-rack brands against each other in a series of categorized Thule vs Yakima bike rack contests.

Yakima StageTwo 2-Bike Hitch Rack (Best For Hitch)

Yakima StageTwo 2-Bike Hitch RackPin

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  • Rack type: Platform-style hitch rack
  • Bike capacity: 2
  • Weight: 66 lbs (29.93 kg)
  • Weight capacity: 2 x 70 lbs (140 lbs/63.5 kg total)

You won’t often be disappointed with a Thule hitch rack, but the Yakima StageTwo 2-Bike Hitch Rack is a strong, well-built product. It can take bikes of up to 70 lbs and has a useful tiered platform system to stop bikes from obstructing each other.

Thanks to its use of wheel hooks rather than frame clamps, this is also a versatile rack that accepts most bikes with wheel widths of up to 3.25″.

A loading ramp is another add-on option for those that need help mounting heavy bikes. Integrated security prevents casual bike theft.

One downside of this rack is its unusually heavy weight, which hinders installation.

What We Like

  • Build – an extremely sturdy rack.
  • Capacity – takes bikes of up to 70 lbs in weight.
  • Tiered – tiered platforms to help with unobstructed loading.
  • Add-ons – useful add-ons to increase functionality if you need them.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – heavier than most hitch bike racks.

Alternative: Thule T2 Pro XTR 2-Bike Hitch Rack

Thule T2 Pro XTR 2-Bike Hitch RackPin

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A hitch rack of renowned quality and functionality is the Thule T2 Pro XTR 2-Bike Hitch Rack, and it’s a worthy rival to the Yakima StageTwo.

This rack accepts bikes up to 60 lbs, and it holds fat bikes without needing separate adapters, but there’s no ramp option.

A close call.

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack (Best For Roof)

Thule UpRide Roof Bike RackPin

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  • Rack type: Roof-Mounted
  • Bike capacity: 1
  • Weight capacity: 44 lbs (19.95 kg)
  • Weight: 17 lbs (7.71 kg)

The Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack is a durable carrier that holds your bike on the car roof with reassuring firmness. This rack is designed to safeguard your valuable bike, too, as there is zero contact with the bike’s frame or fork.

The Thule UpRide is compatible with bikes with wheel diameters ranging from 20″ to 29″, so it’s versatile. One drawback of this roof rack, like with some other roof racks, is that the lock cores must be bought separately if you want to enable its security capability.

What We Like:

  • Versatile – accommodates various bike types and wheel sizes.
  • Preservation – secures the bike by its wheels, preventing harm to the frame or fork.
  • Firm – holds your bike firmly in place.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Additional Cost – you’ll need to spend extra if you want locking capability.

Alternative: Yakima FrontLoader Upright Bike Mount

Yakima FrontLoader Upright Bike MountPin

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The Yakima FrontLoader Upright Bike Mount has a marginally lower weight capacity than the Thule Upride at 40 lbs, but in most other ways it’s a match for its rival.

It, too, protects the bike’s finish by holding onto the front wheel.

You’ll still need to buy lock cores separately.

Yakima FullBack Premium Trunk Bike Rack (Best For Trunk)

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  • Rack type: Trunk-Mounted
  • Bike capacity: 2 (3 also available)
  • Weight: 22 lbs (9.97 kg)
  • Weight capacity: 2 x 30 lbs (60 lbs/27.21 kg total)

An iconic bike rack is the Yakima FullBack Premium Trunk Bike Rack, which has to win this category for its unique set of features. The rack looks smart and is solidly made.

Installation of the FullBack is straightforward. You adjust the interlocking hub to the correct setting, which you’ll find on the special Yakima Infolookup page of the manufacturer’s website. That setting ensures that the rack aligns with your vehicle’s shape and features.

The Yakima FullBack is one of the few trunk bike racks to offer security. It achieves this using a reinforced strap with an anchor that goes inside the locked car.

One downside is that the integrated bike lock is only long enough to secure the outside bike, which doesn’t work if you only have one bike loaded.

What We Like:

  • Security – built-in security is a rare feature among trunk racks.
  • Hub – Yakima’s interlocking hub with predetermined settings aids installation.
  • Sturdy – robust construction.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Locking Restriction – locking system relies on the rack being fully loaded.

Alternative: Thule Gateway Pro Trunk Rack

Thule Gateway Pro Trunk RackPin

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If you don’t need the security feature of the Yakima, the Thule Gateway Pro has other benefits like a slightly higher 35 lbs capacity per bike.

It, too, has a numbered hub system (FitDial) that assists installation.

Yakima HoldUp EVO Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack (Best For SUV)

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  • Rack type: Hitch-Mounted
  • Bike capacity: 2
  • Weight: 50.63 lbs (22.96 kg)
  • Weight capacity: 2 x 50 lbs (100 lbs/45.35 kg total)

The Yakima HoldUp Evo Hitch Bike Rack comes in a 2″ hitch version that is well suited to SUVs and trucks. You can add a separate extender to this version if you want to double the capacity to four bikes.

This platform-style hitch rack is more versatile than many rival products and accepts wide tyres of up to 4.8″ without need for adaptors.

The Yakima HoldUp Evo holds almost any bike with 20″ diameter wheel sizes or above. Installation is tool-free and there is a cable lock for each bike. There’s also lots of space between bikes.

A downside to this Yakima rack is its unrefined appearance. It’s not the most stylish of platform racks, but it is durably built and has a rugged look that will suit some vehicles.

What We Like:

  • Durable – rugged construction that inspires confidence.
  • Versatile – holds most bike types with a 20″ minimum wheel diameter.
  • Space – plenty of space between bikes to reduce the possibility of damage.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Functional – this rack is more about substance than style.

Alternative: Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier

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If you need a cheaper option that fits various SUVs, look at the Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier. This is a versatile Thule bike rack that goes onto many different vehicles. However, it’s not ideal for any vehicle with a plastic spoiler at the top of the hatch.

Installation is helped by Thule’s FitDial hub system, which helps you to optimize the rack to the shape of any compatible car. This is obviously not the solution you need if you’re planning on carrying heavy off-road bikes into the wilderness. Load capacity is 35 lbs per bike.

Thule EasyFold XT 2 Hitch Rack (Best For Heavy Bikes)

Thule EasyFold XT 2 Hitch RackPin

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  • Rack type: Hitch-Mounted
  • Bike capacity: 2
  • Weight: 45 lbs (20.41 kg)
  • Weight capacity: 2 x 65 lbs (130 lbs/58.96 kg total)

For sheer weight capacity in a Thule vs Yakima bike rack contest, the Yakima StageTwo is the one to beat. But it’s the Thule EasyFold XT 2 Hitch Bike Rack that offers the most complete solution for loading heavy bikes, thanks to its generous capacity and built-in loading ramp.

This is a quality rack that’s designed for e-bikes, but it’s suitable for other hefty machines, too. The EasyFold uses frame clamps to secure bikes, which are generally less versatile than wheel clamps. But they are lockable in this case, which is a big security plus point.

The EasyFold XT 2 has a compact folded design, a carry handle, and integrated wheels.

What We Like

  • Ramp – convenient loading ramp for mounting heavy bikes.
  • Capacity – accommodates most weights of bike, excluding extreme machines.
  • Convenience – easy mobility with built-in wheels and handle.
  • Security – lockable frame clamps are superior to cable locks for security.

What We Don’t Like

  • Clamps – frame clamps are less versatile than wheel clamps and less desirable for carbon bike frames.

Alternative: Yakima OnRamp Hitch Rack

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A direct rival of the Thule EasyFold is the Yakima OnRamp Hitch Bike Rack, and the latter has a lot going for it. The OnRamp, too, has a built-in ramp and can handle bikes of up to 67 lbs apiece. It’s also a fair bit cheaper than the Thule rack.

We feel the Thule product has to edge this category because of its easy manoeuvrability off the vehicle and its lockable frame clamps. These lockable clamps are more of an obstacle to theft than cable locks like those included with the Yakima OnRamp.

Thule HangOn Tow Bar Bike Rack (Best For Families)

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  • Rack type: Tow ball mounted
  • Bike capacity: 4
  • Weight: 22.7 lbs (10.3 kg)
  • Weight capacity: 4 x 33 lbs (132 lbs/60 kg total)

If you want a very basic bike rack that secures to a tow ball on your vehicle, the Thule HangOn Tow Bar Bike Rack awaits. This will carry up to four bikes bikes, albeit not with a load of space between them.

This rack is strong, comes ready assembled, and folds flat for easy storage. The tilting mechanism is theoretically intended for use when the rack is unloaded. You can buy a separate lock for the rack if you want to leave it on the car.

Soft rubber straps hold bikes in place. The rack is ideal for the family’s knockabout weekend bikes, although officially it’s okay for carrying carbon bikes, too.

What We Like

  • Simple – easy installation using the provided tool.
  • Storage – folds flat for easy storage in the car or home.
  • Capacity – holds 4 bikes (you may need separate adapters for step-through bikes).
  • Locking Potential – can be locked to the car using an optional lock.

What We Don’t Like

  • Space – close spacing is not intended for high-value bikes.

Alternative: Yakima HangTight 6 Hitch Rack

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A more elaborate and pricey choice for multiple bikes is the Yakima HangTight 6 Hitch Rack. This rack, which holds bikes vertically, requires a 2″ hitch receiver and is less economical for the average family on a budget. It does offer loaded tilting and in-built security, however.

Brief History Of These Brands

Thule

Thule is a Swedish brand renowned for its exceptional outdoor transportation solutions, with a notable emphasis on bike racks. The company was founded in 1942 by Erik Thulin, initially focusing on manufacturing fishing equipment and other metal products.

It was in the 1960s that Thule began to shift its attention towards vehicle roof racks, marking the beginning of its journey as a leading bike rack producer.

Recognizing the growing popularity of cycling and the need for convenient ways of carrying bikes, Thule invested in research and development to create innovative and reliable bike rack systems. The brand’s commitment to quality, durability, and user-friendly designs propelled its success in the market.

As Thule’s reputation grew, it expanded its range of bike racks to cater to diverse needs. The company introduced roof racks that securely held bicycles on top of vehicles, ensuring safe and efficient transportation.

Thule hitch bike racks were also developed, allowing easy loading and unloading of bikes at the rear of vehicles. These racks became popular among keen cyclists, providing a handy solution for road trips and outdoor adventures.

Over the years, Thule continued to refine its bike rack designs, integrating features such as anti-sway mechanisms and easy installation systems. The brand’s dedication to improvement and innovation solidified its position as a leader in the industry.

Thule racks have become synonymous with reliability, versatility, and high performance, earning the trust of cyclists worldwide.

Video: Thule US Manufacturing and Testing

Yakima

Yakima’s history began in 1973 in Yakima, Washington. Otto and Jeanne Lagervall founded the company based on a passion for crafting handmade roof racks.

What started as a small operation quickly grew into a thriving business as Yakima recognized the increasing demand for innovative transportation solutions.

In the early years, Yakima’s roof racks gained popularity for their durability and functionality, catering to outdoor enthusiasts’ needs. As the company expanded, it ventured into bike rack production, revolutionizing the way cyclists transported their bikes.

Yakima’s commitment to innovation led to the development of groundbreaking bike racks. For example, the Yakima KingJoe Pro stood out as an exceptional trunk-mounted rack. Its unique design featured an integrated folding mechanism for easy storage, adjustable straps for a custom fit, and premium padding to protect the vehicle and the bikes.

Over the decades, Yakima continued to introduce advanced features, including integrated locks, improved aerodynamics, and enhanced ease of use. The company’s dedication to quality and customer satisfaction propelled its success.

Today, Yakima remains a leader in outdoor transportation solutions, offering a wide range of products that enable people to transport their gear with confidence.

From roof racks to roof boxes to bike racks and beyond, Yakima’s history is a testament to its commitment to innovation, functionality, and helping adventurers embark on their next exciting journey.

Features Of Car Bike Racks Compared

Ease Of Installation

One thing nobody wants after buying a bicycle rack is to be grappling with it for hours as they try to assemble and install it. Racks that come already assembled and offer tool-free installation are always welcome.

Clear instructions also help.

Winner: Thule for the tool-free installation of the T2 Pro XTR hitch rack, though products like the Yakima HighRoad roof rack also compete.

Bike Security

Bike security on racks is often almost nominal, as bike thieves can easily get past the integrated cable lock that is common on a rack.

Locking clamps are more of an obstruction and feature on products like the Thule EasyFold, but Yakima racks also offer some clever security features.

Winner: Yakima for the unique and innovative security offered by the FullBack Premium Trunk Bike Rack. This rack also uses Yakima’s “SKS” feature (Same Key System), comprising a locking mechanism that secures the bikes to the rack and the rack to the vehicle.

Read more: Locking bikes to hitch racks

Video: Yakima FrontLoader SKS Lock Core Installation

Versatility

Features that make bike racks versatile include wheel clamps rather than frame clamps, generally speaking, and wheel trays that accept a wide variety of tire widths.

Winner: Thule for the ProRide XT Roof Rack. Thule racks excel in accommodating different bike types, including various frame styles, tire sizes, and wheelbases. The ProRide XT holds frames by their down tubes, which makes it compatible with many bikes.

Stability & Durability

Nobody wants a bicycle rack with a 6-month lifespan.

Stronger racks with sturdier constructions tend to be more stable, albeit often at the cost of more weight.

Winner: Yakima for the HoldUp Evo hitch rack. This isn’t the prettiest rack, but it’s made with strong materials, ensuring excellent stability and durability even on challenging terrains

Read more: Stopping bikes from swaying on a rack

Accessibility

One thing trunk racks never give you is access to the rear of your vehicle when they’re loaded. You need hitch racks or roof racks for that, the latter avoiding the issue altogether.

Yakima and Thule are evenly matched on this front, though Yakima’s BackSwing adapter is worth special mention. This adapter lets you swing your hitch-mounted bikes completely out of the way for vehicle access.

Winner: Thule for the Apex XT Bike Hitch Rack, a solid hanging hitch rack which tilts easily using Thule’s ergonomic “HitchSwitch” lever.

Compactness And Portability

Portability and compactness are useful qualities in a rack, especially if you’ll often be removing it from the vehicle like you would a trunk rack. It’s tempting to award this to the Thule EasyFold hitch rack for its exceptional features in this regard. However ….

Winner: Yakima for the compact HalfBack trunk rack, which is designed to fold and store easily. Trunk racks are always likely to be removed from the car, so easy storage is important.

Hitch Compatibility

Something you always need to keep an eye on when buying a hitch rack is the size of hitch receiver it’s compatible with. There are two sizes that car owners should concern themselves with: 1.25″ and 2″.

The bigger 2″ hitch size is usually installed on larger vehicles and has the potential to carry heavier loads. Be careful not to exceed the tongue weight capacity of your vehicle when loading a hitch rack with bikes.

See Trailer Hitch Technical Information to learn more about tongue weight and hitch classes.

Winner: Thule for its EasyFold XT 2 Hitch Bike Rack. A feature of this and other Thule hitch racks is their ability to fit either a 1.25″ or 2″ hitch receiver out of the box. A removable 2″ adapter is already attached to the rack to allow this.

Read more: Bike racks for SUVs that do not have a hitch

Thule and Yakima Racks: The FAQs

Are Yakima And Thule Bike Racks Interchangeable?

Different bike racks fit different cars and are not necessarily interchangeable, although hitch racks and roof racks offer broad compatibility.

Yakima and Thule trunk racks would be far less likely to fit exactly the same cars.

Are There Any Specific Bike Racks That Are Unique To Each Brand?

Both Yakima and Thule hold many design patents for their products, which require their inventions to be completely new.

Yakima’s Fullback trunk rack is unlike any in Thule’s range, and the Thule EasyFold XT 2 hitch rack has a feature set that no other e-bike rack has.

How Do I Determine The Right Fit For My Vehicle When Choosing A Bike Rack?

A roof rack has to be compatible with the crossbars on your car.

A hitch rack must be compatible with your car’s hitch receiver size if it has one a receiver (1.25″ or 2″), and a trunk rack must conform to the shape and features of the car trunk.

Thule Or Yakima: Which Car Racks Are Best?

Both Thule and Yakima offer high-quality car racks, but the best choice ultimately depends on individual preferences and needs.

Thule offers versatility, ease of use, and an extensive product range, while Yakima is known for its durable construction and innovative designs.

We hope we’ve shown you some of what Yakima racks and Thule racks offer. Did you find this article useful? Please feel free to share it or leave a comment.

Read more: Kuat vs Thule bike racks compared

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Glenn Harper
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When Glenn isn't writing for BikePush, he can often be found cycling on his local rural roads. If he can help you benefit from bicycling in some small way, He’ll consider it a win.

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