Thule is synonymous with high quality bike racks so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most recognizable brands in the rack business. In the same league as Yakima and INNO, Thule bike racks are renowned for their proven designs and versatility, as well as an enormous range of styles. As you probably know, you pay a little extra for most Thule racks – compared to similar racks from lesser known brands — but there’s no doubt the quality you get is well worth the price.
The Thule Sidearm Universal bike mount rack has all the quality hallmarks that have come to define the Thule name brand.
The Thule Sidearm universal bike mount offers incredible ease of use and versatility. It carries multiple bike types no matter the size or frame type. The rack secures your bike by the wheels so your frame remains in pristine condition always. With its amazingly quick load system, you can have it set up and get your bike loaded in no time.
The Sidearm fits with Thule square bars as well as round and factory crossbars. Using the Thule-One-Key lock system (purchased separately) to secure your bike to the rack adds a layer of security to thwart theft. In the rest of this post, we learn the features that set this rack apart and how to make use of them to transport your bike safely and securely.
Features & Setup
The Thule Sidearm Universal bike rack is unique in that it accommodates a wide range of bike sizes and also offers a universal fit for different car roof racks. The Sidearm is a single-bike carrier measuring 56 inches long and weighing 15 pounds. Maximum bike weight it carries is 50 pounds.
It uses a proprietary SecureHook arm to hold the bike’s front wheel in place. The arm ratchets up and down to accommodate different wheel sizes; maximum wheel size is 29 inches. Since the attachment point is the front wheel, there’s no contact with the frame, which means there’s no risk for your bike getting scratched. The rack features a reinforced steel wheel tray with rust-free protection. The tray accommodates wheel sizes of up to 2.9 inches in width.
The rear wheel strap holds the rear wheel firmly onto the tray to prevent swaying. A rubber rim adapter for the strap offers added security. To ready your car roof rack system for bike loading, you need install the bike rack first. The Sidearm ships with 2 sets of bolts – in medium and small size – for attaching it to the crossbars (roof rack system). This way, the rack easily offers a universal fit for different sized crossbars, including round, square, aero, and a wide range of factory crossbars.
To install the rack on the roof, simply place it across the bars and line up the metal brackets with the front and hind bars respectively. Now secure the brackets onto the bars using the supplied wing nuts. Tighten the nuts to create a firm joint. The best part here is that you don’t need any tools at all, which is one of this rack’s beauties.
Once installed, you can then load the bike: lift the bike up and rest it along the tray, with the front wheel resting against the wheel brace s that it keeps in one position. Once the bike is properly set into place, hook the SecureHold arm onto the front wheel. The arm ratchets up and down by pressing a button, in order to fit snug with the wheel. Finally, secure the rear wheel with the tie down strap and you’re good for the road.
- Toolless installation. You can setup the rack on the crossbars and load the bike without touching a single tool.
- Easy bike loading.You don’t have to remove the front wheel, as with fork mount roof racks. The bike is loaded upright with both wheels on.
- Ergonomic design. The Thule Sidearm has an efficient and practical design that focuses on ease of use.
- Accommodates a variety of bike sizes. If you have a fat bike, chances are the Sidearm can carry it. A 2.9-inch wide tray and a ratcheting hook arm offer versatility to accommodate a wide range of bike sizes.
- Does not damage your frame. The Sidearm uses a SecureHook arm to secure the bike to the rack. There’s no risk of damaging your frame.
- Height clearance issues. The Sidearm is an upright roof mount bike, meaning that it greatly increases your car’s height profile, thus causing height clearance problems. You’re obviously going to have many issues with low overhangs.
- Limited capacity. As you already know, you can only carry one bike with this rack. Sure, your car can carry a second one but you need a separate rack for that and it wouldn’t be a wise move in terms of saving.
- Unless you’re very tall, loading the bike up onto the roof of your vehicle is usually a hassle. If your car is tall, putting loading the bike up is simply out of reach without assistance. A temporary solution is to pack a small ladder or stool on your trips.
- If you’re going to be loading and unloading your bike very often, this (like most roof mount racks) is not the best solution.
- It is expensive. Paying more than $150 for a single bike carrier is definitely on the pricier side of things. That said, the quality of Thule racks is tried and true, and is usually worth the high price.
Like most Thule racks, the Sidearm Universal bike rack focuses on efficiency and ease of use. It’s easy to setup and loading the bike is a breeze too. It uses an ingenious ratcheting arm to secure the front wheel of the bike, thus avoiding contact with the coating on the frame.
It’s a pricey rack though and also comes with many of the pitfalls of roof mount racks, particularly height clearance problems for low overhangs. Overall, the Sidearm is one of the best roof mount racks you can invest in. There’s no questioning its quality and efficiency. If you have the means and want a single bike roof mount carrier that is solid, the Thule Sidearm is a top pick.