The Thule Helium Bike Rack is an excellent, robust product that will keep your bikes safe over the roughest of roads. It’s a cinch to install, and easy to use.
Maggie and I decided to increase the range of our bike rides by putting a bike rack on her car. Up to now we could only explore bike routes within biking distance of our home, because Maggie was fairly clear that we could not load bikes into her car (“Put one of your filthy bikes in my car and die”). We did a fair bit of research and ended up with the 3-bike Thule Helium 970XT/971XT Bike Rack, which attaches to a tow hitch/receiver (which we had installed at the same time).
The Thule Helium Bike Rack is also available in a 2-bike configuration, which I suspect is an even better option – and it’s definitely cheaper. This review is about how the 3-bike option works for us, and whether it seems to be worth the expense for average cyclists.
First of all, there was the installation. Rack Attack told us about two hours, but it was closer to four hours – and as the only place we were close to was Ikea, that turned out to be a pretty expensive wait. However, the installation was perfect, and the next day we tried it out.
Putting the Thule Helium Bike Rack on the car
First off, the 3-bike Thule Helium Bike Rack is easy to put on and take off, even for two not very technical people. Seriously, I think a person with just one arm could put this thing on, on his own. The huge nut that holds it on is permanently in place, so you don’t have to waste time searching for it (and cursing and swearing) when you want to rush out and take advantage of the sun. Also, you can lock the rack onto the hitch, so you can leave it on overnight and not worry about it.
Next, the 3-bike Thule Helium Bike Rack is perfect for two bikes – it’s easy to put them on , and there’re these neat sway bars that prevent the bikes from swaying all over the place. The whole rig is guaranteed up to 100 pounds of bikes, and the bikes feel 100% secure.
Also, the 3-bike Thule Helium Bike Rack features this cool built-in lock for the bikes. It’s just a cable lock, but it’s enough to make you feel safe if you just need to stop somewhere and run into a store.
Using the 3-bike Thule Helium Bike Rack with three bikes
We bought the 3-bike rack because sometimes we take one or other of my kids along for a bike ride. But the first time we tried to load up three bikes, it was quite a challenge. We tried it various different ways, and finally got it to work. Still, I have to say it wasn’t ideal. In fact, it was such a tight fit that we photographed it so we could remember how we got it to work, so we wouldn’t have to struggle so much the next time we did it.
Since we bought the 3-bike Thule Helium Bike Rack, we have been on a lot of rides we could not possibly have done without the rack. It has done exactly what we wanted – extended the range of possible rides we can go on. In particular, we can get my youngest daughter to places where it is safe for her to ride, such as the West Dyke Trail in Richmond.
The bottom line is that the 3-bike Thule Helium Bike Rack is perfect for two bikes, and acceptable for three bikes. Also, we discovered another use for the rack. If you read my post on basic bike maintenance, you’ll know that we recently learned how to clean and grease the bike chain and derailleurs. However, we were putting off actually doing it, because neither of us much enjoys being on our knees – and our backs hurt if we bend over a lot (hey, we’re not 20 any more). I was therefore delighted to realize that when the bikes are on the rack, they are at the perfect height for working on the chain – without bending or kneeling! So our 3-bike Thule Helium 970XT/971XT Bike Rack now doubles as a bike repair stand. Given that stands cost hundreds of dollars, this is pretty cool.
All in all, even though the hitch and rack together were NOT CHEAP, we are really happy we bought it. I would recommend it to any average cyclists who want to extend the range of their bike rides.
Update: After we bought a new, much smaller car, we discovered that our big old 3-bike Thule Helium Bike Rack can be attached to a tiny Fiat 500 just by getting a new hitch receiver.
Bottom Line on the Thule Helium Bike Rack
An excellent, robust product that will keep your bikes safe over the roughest of roads. Yes, it costs $370 from Amazon, but it’s worth every cent. I give it an Average Joe Cyclist Gold Bike Star!
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