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Towball mounted racks - the good, the bad, the ugly. Please help me make the right purchase


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I have two Thule racks, the cheap fold up type which stores in a bag. Made to take 4 bikes but I removed one pair of the bike holders. Used on a few road trips and the benefit is you can take it off and store in the boot at your destination. Use pool noodles and bungey cords to secure bikes together.

The other is a 4 bike, tilting older unit. Heavy but its lasted well. Can be difficult to mount 4 road bikes but sized up and once again protested with pool noodles you will be ok. Takes 2 or 3 bikes comfortably. 

Buy 2nd hand.

I use a separate chain to lock the bikes to the car's towbar to prevent theft but then don't like to leave the bikes unattended for long, even at pitstop stations, etc.

Thule is expensive but quality and longevity have a price.

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I have had a rather expensive experience with these racks.

Although the ball is rather tough, the tow bar and the way it is mounted on the vehicle has restrictions that a vehicle owner is not necessarily aware of. Any tow bar mounted on something like those Land Rover struts should be fine, but many are mounted somewhere down there where it is out of sight and out of mind. Do not be caught out!

 Remember having bikes at any offset from the ball is a lever. Your rack may be rated for 60Kgs but you drive along the roads going through the bumps and potholes, those bikes on the rack exert a force many times more than the rack's rating. And when you add the bike rack to towing a caravan or a trailer, that force and load adds to the strain a tow bar must bear. My tow bar broke of underneath the car on the road between Mariental and Windhoek. Long distances and a steady slow metal fatigue doing its thing.

Just be careful.

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58 minutes ago, LBKloppers said:

Remember having bikes at any offset from the ball is a lever. Your rack may be rated for 60Kgs but you drive along the roads going through the bumps and potholes, those bikes on the rack exert a force many times more than the rack's rating. And when you add the bike rack to towing a caravan or a trailer, that force and load adds to the strain a tow bar must bear. My tow bar broke of underneath the car on the road between Mariental and Windhoek. Long distances and a steady slow metal fatigue doing its thing.

Just be careful.

Yup, and always mount the heaviest bike closest to vehicle. Being aware of the lever effect freaks me out when I transport both my wife's eBike and my trail bike together behind my Golf... But we've done dozens of trips (and probably more than a hundred with only my bike) and it's held up just fine.

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20 hours ago, Furbz said:

 

Make sure the tires and rims while using the rack are clear and not at the same height as the exhaust pipe.

I learnt an expensive lesson.

 

Also. Get one that tilts, I cannot explain how often I have used that function. 

 

Can't reiterate this ^^^ enough.

Especially with Toyota Fortuners - a mate of mine wrote-off a brand new carbon wheel on a bike rack on the back. When he got back to the shop they mentioned "it happens quite often"

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Most of the items have already been mentioned, so only adding the following (sorry if I missed these) :

 

- Vehicles, and towbar heights differ ... on some the bike is just low enough that the vehicle flicks up stones and chip away at the rims ....  (same as checking the exhaust outlet vs the wheel positions)

 

- On our current vehicle the rear window is very vertical, which means the first bikes handle bar is CLOSE to the window.  If the rack moves a bit the bar touches the window.  MOST vehicle windows are tilted enough that this is NOT a common problem

 

- DUST .... if your are doing longer dry gravel roads expect LOTS of fine dust on the drive train ..... I brush this off even before removing the bikes from the rack.  (that fine dust is grinding paste !!)

 

- Parking bays .... you start looking for tandem bays to accommodate your longer vehicle .... every so often you see somebody trying to park in a standard bay, with the bikes hanging out over the road .... just something to be aware of.

 

- Anti-theft idea .... due to our upright window I mounted my bike for the last trip, then loosened the two stem bolts, turned the bars by 90-degrees, tightened the bolts.  Another 20 seconds on the other side .....  Only later did I realise that if somebody did remove the bike he would have had one horrible time trying to cycle away with the bars at 90-degrees  (dont expect the average opportunistic thief to have the right size alankey with him)

 

- DO get one that "folds up" for smaller storage at home.  This thing takes up a wack of space in the garage ....

 

 

NOTE .... the benefits FAR outway these small niggles. :clap:

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20 hours ago, Adr!@n said:

I've had 2 Buzzracks. Shouldn't have sold the first one, but I did and ended up buying the same one again. 

The Buzzrack agent in Midrand was very helpful when I needed a new lock and straps, and I had no issue with the prices of spare parts either. 

Definitely get one that tilts, it makes getting access to the rear door of your car a breeze. Maybe someone else can chime in about which models don't work, but I haven't seen a tilting rack that still didn't provide access to the rear of a hatchback/SUV. You're out of luck if your car's rear door swings open to the side, which is what I had the first time round and there's no rack that works for that. 

On the swing door note, I saw this the other day, which is very cool, skip forward to 1:00 on the video:

 

 

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8 hours ago, LBKloppers said:

I have had a rather expensive experience with these racks.

Although the ball is rather tough, the tow bar and the way it is mounted on the vehicle has restrictions that a vehicle owner is not necessarily aware of. Any tow bar mounted on something like those Land Rover struts should be fine, but many are mounted somewhere down there where it is out of sight and out of mind. Do not be caught out!

 Remember having bikes at any offset from the ball is a lever. Your rack may be rated for 60Kgs but you drive along the roads going through the bumps and potholes, those bikes on the rack exert a force many times more than the rack's rating. And when you add the bike rack to towing a caravan or a trailer, that force and load adds to the strain a tow bar must bear. My tow bar broke of underneath the car on the road between Mariental and Windhoek. Long distances and a steady slow metal fatigue doing its thing.

Just be careful.

Ja, jot all towbar's are created equal. Mine has a vertical weight limit of 250kg, whereas some are as low as 60kg.

Ladder frame chassis have sturdier towbars, but monocoque bodies usually don't have as sturdy mounting points.

OP, Just check your towbar before loading four bikes.

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On 7/16/2021 at 7:50 PM, PhilipV said:

Ja, jot all towbar's are created equal. Mine has a vertical weight limit of 250kg, whereas some are as low as 60kg.

Ladder frame chassis have sturdier towbars, but monocoque bodies usually don't have as sturdy mounting points.

OP, Just check your towbar before loading four bikes.

Good point

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On 7/16/2021 at 1:23 PM, ChrisF said:

Most of the items have already been mentioned, so only adding the following (sorry if I missed these) :

 

- Vehicles, and towbar heights differ ... on some the bike is just low enough that the vehicle flicks up stones and chip away at the rims ....  (same as checking the exhaust outlet vs the wheel positions)

 

- On our current vehicle the rear window is very vertical, which means the first bikes handle bar is CLOSE to the window.  If the rack moves a bit the bar touches the window.  MOST vehicle windows are tilted enough that this is NOT a common problem

 

- DUST .... if your are doing longer dry gravel roads expect LOTS of fine dust on the drive train ..... I brush this off even before removing the bikes from the rack.  (that fine dust is grinding paste !!)

 

- Parking bays .... you start looking for tandem bays to accommodate your longer vehicle .... every so often you see somebody trying to park in a standard bay, with the bikes hanging out over the road .... just something to be aware of.

 

- Anti-theft idea .... due to our upright window I mounted my bike for the last trip, then loosened the two stem bolts, turned the bars by 90-degrees, tightened the bolts.  Another 20 seconds on the other side .....  Only later did I realise that if somebody did remove the bike he would have had one horrible time trying to cycle away with the bars at 90-degrees  (dont expect the average opportunistic thief to have the right size alankey with him)

 

- DO get one that "folds up" for smaller storage at home.  This thing takes up a wack of space in the garage ....

 

 

NOTE .... the benefits FAR outway these small niggles. :clap:

Awesome feedback. Thanks so much

 

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run a thule velocompact with the optional 4th bike adaptor

we have a system for 4 bikes

which way round which order bikes go in on which bike goes more left and more right etc

to put 4 bikes on takes at most 3 minutes

i however put a strap on when all mounted just to make sure

and yes the tilt function to access the bakkie with bikes on is a winner

 

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Availability of spare parts is a factor to consider. A few friends bought four-bike bike racks from boatssa.co.za. On two of the three racks the footer that holds the bike wheel to the racks has come loose and detached while the bikes were on the racks (on one rack multiple footers on a single trip). Tried getting hold of the BoatsSA on numerous occasions via telephone and website to buy new footers and never got a reply - very different to the good service prior to the sale. 

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1 hour ago, Shebeen said:

another option for garage rack storage when off the car - fix a cheap a towball onto your garage wall.

you can then also use it as convenient bike storage for 1/2 bikes.

There was a company in Europe that manufactured a towball that could be mounted directly to a wall for the purpose of storing bike racks, but they didnt ship to SA. Do you know where to get a wall mounted towball, or if you have pics of how to mount a towball meant for a vehicle to the wall would appreciate it. 

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