Hitch racks are certainly my preferred method of bike transportation. Like many people, I’ve had a rooftop disaster. Luckily, it didn’t damage my bike too much, but it did over $1000 in damage to the roof of my Subaru (yeah, not the best trade-off). Thule has one of the most copied hitch rack designs on the market and the T2 continues to be one of the finest hitch racks money can buy.

Thule T2 Bike Hitch Rack Features:

  • SecureHook™ with integrated cable lock secures the bike without making frame contact
  • Hitch Switch™ lever folds and stores platform when not in use and tilts carrier away from vehicle for rear of vehicle access.
  • Reinforced tray provides maximum strength and rust-free protection
  • Adjustable wheel strap quickly secures back wheel to tray
  • Fits 20″ to 29″ wheel diameter bicycles with up to 3″ wide tires
  • Accommodates bicycles with disc brakes, thru-axles and other non-traditional frame designs
  • Included Snug-Tite™ receiver lock virtually eliminates hitch carrier movement in receiver and locks the carrier to the vehicle.
  • MSRP: $440

Thule T2 Hitch Rack Review

I’ve now come full-circle when it comes to hitch racks. Many years ago, I reviewed the original T2. Since that time, I’ve tested many other hitch racks from Yakima and Kuat, so it was perfect timing coming back to the original and keep everyone else in check. Like all hitch racks, it arrives ready to assemble. Like the rest, the assembly process is easiest tackled once the rack base is inserted into your vehicle’s hitch. At that point, the assembly process is pretty straightforward, unless you have little helping hands like I did (thanks kids). Everything you need comes in the T2’s box — including lock cores for the hitch and both bikes.

My test T2 rack came in 1-1/4″ receiver, which is perfect for my Subaru. The only drawback with the smaller tongue size is it’s lack of expandability. The 2″ receiver version can be doubled in size to carry 4 bikes while mine is only capable of carrying 2 bikes.

Older hitch racks suffered from rack sway, but most all racks now lock tightly to the tongue for sway-free hauling. With the T2, the hitch bolt cranks the rack down tightly so it stays put — wiggle-free even after weeks of use. It does lock it down a few degrees off kilter, which is only noticed when the rack is upright. This doesn’t affect the rack’s performance at all, so don’t worry about it one bit.

The three Hitch Switch positions are changed using an easy-to-reach spring-action lever. Two notches hold the rack in either upright and flat positions. The positive engagement of the locking mechanism provides added peace of mind, but did sometimes require some wiggling to get the square locking mechanism to seat in the notch.  Should you need access to the rear of your vehicle, the rack can be tilted back and out of the way for unfettered hatch access (though it does require removal of the safety pin to do so).

Now for actually using the rack. The process for installing a bike onto the rack is as simple as they come. The front lever arm design allows for secure attachment without touching your frame — no matter how funky your frame may be. This is especially critical for carbon fiber frames (like my Specialized Roubiax SL3 above). Clamping something around the tubes is not recommended. The T2 clamps down equally well with my road bike, my 29ers and my wife’s standard 26″ mountain bike.

The best process for attaching your bike is as follows:

  1. Extend the front wheel arm all the way open and forward
  2. Open the rear wheel strap
  3. Set your bike onto the rack with the front wheel in the tray and the rear wheel centered in the strap
  4. Once you configure the rear strap for your bike, the clamping it down is as simple as slipping the T-shaped attachment in place and clamping down the lever (once I got the strap length dialed for each bike, this process was even simpler)
  5. Once the rear wheel is secured in place, you can actually let go of the bike
  6. Next, move the front arm into position so it is nestled between the fork and the front wheel and push down firmly

Bike removal is just as easy with the only caveat being the “T” end of the rear wheel strap, which tends to hook onto your spokes and catch your rear wheel. Other rack designs feature a straight strap that never hooks onto spokes. The two-tiered strap placement design requires the “T” to select an upper or lower strap position (lower for road bikes, upper for mountain bikes), so it’s a trade-off for adaptability across wheel and tire sizes.

As far as theft deterrence goes, you can opt for the cable lock only, arm ratchet lock or both. But, to do both, you’ll have to obtain two additional lock cores (3 are included for the hitch pin and each integrated cable lock). I opted to use the retractable cable lock that’s housed inside the front wheel arm. The cable extends to loop around your frame and back onto itself. When unused, it easily retracts back into the lever arm and stays neatly in place.

Something else to note is the overall tight construction of the rack. Rack wiggle and t2 should never be mentioned together because this rack offers the most stability of any hitch rack I’ve tested. While other racks have started to get some play in the pivot bushings, the T2 has remained ultra-solid — even after extended use and up/down rotations.

Good T2

  • Sturdy and wiggle-free design
  • Super-easy bike install, works with all 20-29″ bikes — road and mountain
  • Once rear wheel strap length is set, it’s no-fuss
  • Bike holds itself up with just the rear strap
  • Several built-in anti-theft options for added security
  • Rack tucks up against rear of vehicle when upright

Bad T2

  • Rear wheel strap’s “T” hook gets caught on your spokes when removing the bike
  • Spring-action Hitch Switch position lever requires wiggling to get into place
  • Small rust drips from the arm connections onto the silver trays are appearing already

Bottom Line: Thule T2 917XT Bike Rack

The original is still tops on the list in stability, durability and ease-of-use. Without question, the Thule T2 can haul any kind of bike in any kind of terrain at any speeds without flinching. This is one of the most stable bike racks on the market and remains the design to beat.

Buy Now: Available at REI

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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