Review: Thule Epos Hitch Mount Bike Rack And How Sweden Restored My Faith In Humanity

Transporting your bikes is stressful enough, make it safe and easy with the best rack I’ve ever tested.

byMichael Febbo|
Accessories photo


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I’ve been serious about cycling, on and off, most of my life. I’ve had all sorts of bike racks. For sports cars and hatchbacks, the obvious choice was a roof rack. They hold the bike securely by the front fork and the rear tire, sometimes with an arm to the frame. Now, like most people, I drive an SUV, and getting bikes on the roof is a struggle—even at 6-foot-3. Putting the bikes on the rear of the car is the best option, and the most secure way to do that is with a bike rack that mounts on a trailer hitch receiver like the Thule Epos rack you see here.

Scandinavian Design: More Than $50 Bookshelves

I'm in roughly two decades of reviewing cars and consumer products. Somewhere around year 12 or 13 I was convinced I had become yet another jaded car writer. My soul was a dark cold vacuum devoid of enthusiasm for what had gotten me here. Too many years of driving supercars through the Alps before laps at the Nurburgring, all while being stuffed full of rich foods like a Christmas goose in November, had left my feelings towards cars, dead. Then I had an epiphany: it wasn’t all about me. Over those 20 years of waning enthusiasm, more and more I was driving and testing products developed by teams of people who, like dead chickens, were all out of clucks to give. The cars and products I was testing were becoming stale and boring because those designers were losing their passion and going through the motions, doing work that was, at best, adequate.

There’s a certain irony that it isn’t a car or a bicycle, two things I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid, that reawakened my enthusiasm for design. Instead, a rack that joins together two of the things I love. This is a bit of a spoiler this early in the review, but Thule, or more accurately a team of designers at the Swedish outdoor giant, makes one of the most thoughtful and well-executed products I’ve ever tested. 

Platforms Matter

Let's talk about the options for holding bikes on the back of your vehicle. The least expensive and most popular has two rods sticking out the back of the car, either off a large bracket installed on the hitch or using a lightweight frame held onto the car with nylon webbing. The bikes hang from the rods, traditionally by the frame's top tube, but with bike frame geometry getting weird, sometimes the frame and through a wheel, or whatever works.

I've never liked the rod-style rack. The bikes bang into each other and sometimes the car. A more recent innovation is the vertical style. Bikes hang from a wheel or handlebar cradle—check out a Yakima rack of this type I reviewed. These are great for ground clearance, and fitting multiple bikes, but harder to load. Then, there is the platform like this Thule Epos. The bikes sit naturally on a platform and are generally secured by the wheels and/or the frame. 

The Epos rack is available for either 2 or 3 bikes and has several accessories and options to customize the rack to meet your needs. The 2-bike model starts at $999.95 while the 3-bike rack starts at $1099.95 on Thule’s website and at most retailers. When I say “starts at,” you get a fully functioning rack for that price. You don’t need to buy anything else, the optional accessories are just things that can make life easier. 

The maximum single bike weight is 75 pounds, enough for most e-bikes, but the total bike weight is 140 pounds for the 2-bike and 160 pounds for the 3-bike. The racks by themselves weigh 38 pounds and 51 pounds. So, for a 2-bike rack, you will want a hitch receiver with a 200-pound load limit, and for the 3-bike, you want a good 230-pound hitch, in case you would add some accessories later on.

The Beauty of Simplicity and Utility

I don’t even know how it started, but my friends and I always make jokes about everything from camera lenses to tools, “that thing is so heavy, it should come with wheels.” At 51 pounds, the Epos isn’t all that heavy for a bike rack, but Thule was still nice enough to put it on wheels to make it easier to move around when it’s off your car.

It’s also easier than most racks to install, and more secure when you do. I recently tested a rack and the instructions recommend using a torque wrench when installing—so I do. The Epos doesn’t require any tools to mount it in the hitch receiver.

The real party trick is the split-wedge design of the hitch. The 2-inch square section that inserts in the receiver is split on the diagonal, look at the photo and it will make sense. Once in, you use the locking hand crank to screw in the wedge. It expands inside the receiver, snugging it up so the rack doesn’t move or rattle like other racks. Thule isn’t the only company that does this, but it works great. From start to finish, mounting the Epos on your car and loading three bikes is a 10-minute job.

Some platform racks just grab the wheels of the bike, the Epos has wheel straps and then secures the frame with a telescoping arm. At both wheels and the arm, Thule uses ratchet straps which are quick and secure. There are optional pads for carbon fiber frames to spread out the force as composites don’t like point loads. I sometimes use a microfiber towel on mine and it seems to work fine. Also, with three mounting points, I don’t feel the need to crank them down as tight.

A downside to some rear-mounted racks, that isn’t a problem with roof racks, is they block access to the trunk. The Epos has a foot pedal release that allows the rack to tilt out of the way. This feature is usable with bikes on the rack, unlike some hanging racks that only allow you to tilt them away if there are no bikes mounted. With E-bikes, it might take a little strength to tilt the rack, but with three of my conventional bikes, it wasn’t an issue.

For storage, the rack folds up vertically, and the ends form handles to use when moving the rack around. Even the hitch mount folds out of the way. All packed up, the footprint of the rack is roughly 36 x 11 inches and it sits 30 inches tall. For a rack that holds 3 bikes, it’s barely bigger than my carwash hose-real. Thule will sell you a storage bag, which if you’re worried about it getting bumped into or damaged while not in use, might be a good idea.

The Verdict

Thule Epos Bike Rack
Ease Of Use9/10

It’s already clear that I am impressed with the Thule Epos. The only downside I see is the price of entry. But because of the quality of the rack, I still consider this a great value. It isn’t designed to live on your car like some other racks, so that may not be ideal if you live in an apartment and don’t have a place to store it. Other than that, I’m having trouble finding fault with the Epos.

As I mentioned, I’m not finding it hard to justify the price. All the individual components of the rack are high quality, I can’t find anything Thule did to save a few bucks. The team that made this rack thought about everything I was going to do with it. Whether it’s putting the rack on the car, putting bikes on the rack, or just moving and storing the rack when it’s not in use.

I like the fact that I don’t have to use tools to do anything with it. There are no extra parts I have to figure out how to store with it. Even more, I love the fact that it’s totally silent while driving thanks to the expanding wedge in the receiver. I can’t think of the last product I’ve either bought for personal use or tested for professional use that I didn’t have at least a few things I’d like to change. Car companies should probably take note.