We have anxiously awaited to see what Thule has had up their sleeves regarding the redesign on their iconic (and long in the tooth) T2 hitch rack. On the outside it looks great and has some welcome additions, but when a company commits to a re-do of their “adopted” iconic flagship model, they’d better do it right.
Can the T2 Pro hold its own and live up to the reputation of its ancestor?
Having been around since 1942, Thule was a pretty well established brand mainly known for their roof racks and cargo boxes until the mid 2000’s. While big in Europe, (they’re based in Sweden), in the US, they had a much smaller presence than the U.S. based Yakima who could mount about anything, anywhere on a vehicle. To compete and increase their branding, Thule needed to greatly expand their lineup. Sportworks, a successful yet still niche brand at the time was purchased in 2005 by Thule, and at the top of their line-up was the T2 hitch rack. The Thule T2 has been tested more than any other hitch rack on the market, and aside from a few minor updates, (because of 29ers & fat bikes, and locks were eventually added), the T2 has remained practically the same for more than 10 years.
The most noticeable feature of Thule’s T2 Pro are the wheel trays and holders. Obviously built to accept fat bikes, the channels within the wheel tray are shaped so that everything down to a road bike tire will fit snug and securely. The tensioning strap, though functionally similar to the previous version, is beefed up for a secure, long lasting hold.
The redesigned “SecureHook” is wider with a stiffer and more secure mechanism. They use the same basic “Snug Tight” lock that hides within the arm when not in use. The cable wraps around the frame and locks to itself, which is really just a deterrent while grabbing a coffee. Even the folks at Thule say if a bike is going to be left unattended for any amount of time, invest in a good chain lock that can be looped through the frame & both wheels and secured to the provided open space on the hitch’s main body.
One of, if not the BEST feature of the T2 Pro is the re-positioned lever for folding the rack up or down. Despite being much more robust, the T2 Pro actually weighs the same as the current T2, but folding it up with the handle release lever located further out felt twice as easy. This also makes tilting the rack down with bikes on it to access the tailgate much MUCH easier since you don’t have to reach through a bunch of dirty bikes to engage the release lever. What makes it even better is that the handle mechanism simply detaches to add a 2-bike extension and reattaches to the extension, functioning just the same. This is a big improvement as when the standard T2 is fitted with an extension, it is virtually impossible for one person to reach the lever while folding the rack up and especially down with bikes on it.
Another improvement is the tool-free “AutoAttach” hitch interface with a built in lock making swapping the rack between vehicles much easier.
Thule extended the rack’s distance from the vehicle by 40% to help clear rear mounted spare tires and increased ground clearance by a whopping 35% over the standard T2. Jeep Wrangler owners rejoice! The bike trays also sit an additional inch further apart from each other so there is less of a chance of the bikes interfering with each other. So, yes, it will stick out a good bit further than before. The rack will fit anything from 20 to 29 inch wheels.
According to Thule’s Communications Manager, Chris Ritchie, the rack is assembled in the US and features parts made in the USA and abroad. The mast, spar of the clamping arms and folding hitch portion (aka the large, heavy items that take a lot to ship) are all made in the USA.
The T2 Pro will retail for $549, plus $399 for the 2 bike extension and be available in February 2016. For those that want a great bang for the buck hitch mounted tray rack, Thule will still be selling the now “Classic T2” for a reduced $399.