With a wide range of bikes that come in and out of our European HQ to test, it can sometime be a bit tricky to keep track of how to get them to and from races and to destination trails. While we often rely on roof mounted trays for their stability and for not adding to the overall footprint of the car, now that so many bikes use different axle standards it has been a bit more difficult to deal with. Most fork-mount bike racks offer some versatility in the thru-axle department, but often with the compromise of losing the ability to lock the bike or just being fixed to one axle size. Our solution for the last year has been a ProRide 951 carrier from Thule. We’ve used it to head into the Alps on several occasions, as well as to get to all of our regional cross races. Have a closer look after the break to see how it has fared in our travels…
The upright ProRide carrier doesn’t require removing either wheel, so fits most bikes independently of axle standard. As several US commenters have noted, the ProRide is the EU-only name. In the US it is sold under the Criterium product name, which is however the same carrier (although does not appear to include the T-track hardware.) The tray is designed for road to mountain bike tires, but is not compatible with wide fat bike rubber or deep section aero wheels greater than ~65mm with cross tires or maybe 80mm with narrow road tires. It does however get rated to carry bikes up to 20kg (44lb) although we’ve used it exclusively for road and cross bikes, favoring a fork mount or hitch mount for heavier bikes.
The carrier works by strapping both wheels to the tray, then clamping the frame by the downtube with an adjustable arm. The shape of the downtube clamp arm and s-bend tray adjusts to fit bikes of different wheelbases, with the front wheel always falling just in front of the locking mechanism. An offset adjustment knob, sits just behind the horizontal load bars and up off of the roof inline with the clamp arm where it is easy to reach. Simply balance the bike in the tray and turn the big gray knob to tighten it down. A lock secures the knob, preventing it from releasing the bike, and a second lock secures the carrier to the load bars. To release, just press the small grey button (just visible behind the lock cylinder above) and the jaws open up around the downtube.
The large rubber coated jaws of the downtube clamp securely grip frames with round downtubes as small as 22mm and shaped downtubes up to 100mm deep (max round tube 80mm, max oval section of 80x100mm.) We’ve clamped a lot of bike on the roof and haven’t yet found one that didn’t feel secure. The jaws do a good job at not scratching the frames and don’t exert much clamping force on carbon tubes. But we would be reluctant to secure a really light carbon bike by clamping it in the middle of the downtube. If you have ever watched the bike on the roof of someone else’s car, it’s pretty shocking to see how much the bike moves around, and this oddly placed force is most likely not a good idea for superlight bikes. Our only issue with the clamp is that we have sometimes had to locally clean the down tube of muddy cross bikes when washing wasn’t possible at a race venue. Not cleaning the bike meant that we were very likely going to scratch the frame, although it still was attached to the rack securely.
The ProRide uses the same quick-release adjustable straps as other Thule roof racks to hold the wheels securely in place, and keep the bike stable at speed. While it works perfectly well for the rear wheel of a fork mount carrier, the front wheel of the bike on this rack is free to rotate a bit. So really tight clamping is needed on the front wheel, otherwise you’ll end up with the wheel shaking back and forth at speed, especially if you get in the turbulent wake of a big truck. While it hasn’t been too noticeable on most occasions, we have taken to cinching a toestrap through the front wheel and downtube when any real extended highway driving is planned.
Other than that, the ProRide has done everything we have asked of it: carry bikes and keep them secure. The base parts of the ProRide carrier are symmetric, so it can be reconfigured for loading from either side of the car’s roof. It also includes clamps to mount to round, rectangular, or oval load bars, and also comes with T-track adapters to mount to Thule’s grooved aero base bars. We’ve used it on a small round base bar, where we can easily and quickly (about 2 minutes) add it in between two fork mounts when we need the extra storage.