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review

Thule EasyFold XT 3

9
£850.00

VERDICT:

9
10
Excellent three-bike car rack but seriously expensive
Very secure and well engineered
Easy to use
Heavy
Expensive
Weight: 
22,850g
Contact: 
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Thule's Easyfold XT 3 is a beefy towball-mounted rack that will easily lug around three of your bike collection. It's very well engineered and easy to use, albeit a bit heavy, but you'll want to shop around like a mofo before you buy one; the price at full RRP is a bit bonkers.

To carry bikes with the Thule EasyFold XT you fit it to your towball, fold out the wheel supports and stand the bike in them. You then lift one of the bike arms and fit its clamp around your frame, tightening it down until it clicks and stops tightening. Do up the ratchet straps around the wheels and you're away. It's a doddle to use.

> Buy now: Thule EasyFold XT 3 for £595 from ebay

With three points of contact, bikes are held firmly and securely, and it's easy to see what's going on with them by just glancing in your rear-view mirror.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 18 – loaded.JPG

The EasyFold XT 3's big feature compared to Thule's other high-end racks like the VeloCompact and VeloSpace is that it folds for storage. The wheel supports fold up like butterfly wings so that the whole lot ends up as a roughly cuboid lump 87cm tall, 31cm wide and 84cm long. It's still not exactly tiny, but that makes it much easier to stash in a corner of the garage until you need it. (The VeloSpace also folds, but doesn't end up as compact as the Easyfold.)

Your bikes are held at the bottom by ratchet straps round the wheels and at the top by clamps attached to arms that in turn mount on the rack's frame. Dubbed Acutight, the clamps click when they've reached sufficient torque to hold the bike so you can't overtighten them and risk damaging thin-walled frame tubes.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 20 – Acutight clamp.JPG

For carbon fibre frames Thule offers the imaginatively named Carbon Frame Protector, a £22 rubber widget that wraps round the tube for further protection.

The straps are long enough to go round a 3in tyre. For anything fatter, you'll need Thule's XXL Fatbike Wheel Straps, which will reach around 4in and 5in cargo bike tyres.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 14 – wheel strap.JPG

The bike arms are easily removed for repositioning. If you've put a bike on the wheel supports nearest the car, and then realise you need to put the next arm through its frame, you just take an arm off and thread it through; no need to unload bike #1.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 15 – bike arm fitment.JPG

If you need to get into the back of the car when the bikes are loaded, the EasyFold XT 3 tilts out of the way so you can open your hatch or boot. This slightly confused the dogs at first, but they soon learned how to jump into the car at an angle.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 24 – bikes tilted.JPG

Mounting

The EasyFold XT 3 grabs your towball with a lever-operated clamp that you adjust with a small dial on the side. Thule's instructions imply that you should adjust it so it needs 47kg of force to close the handle (yes, I know kilogram is a measure of mass not force, I'm just quoting from the manual). You should therefore be able to tweak it so you just have to lean on it using your body weight to close it, but my partner Caroline couldn't manage to exert enough oomph; there's a definite knack to it.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 39 – main clamp adjuster.JPG

The Easyfold XT 3 comes with a 13-pin socket to hook up to your car's electrical systems; you'll need an adapter if your towball hitch has a 7-pin connector.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 09 – towball clamp closed.JPG

If you have to deal with e-bikes or other weighty machines, Thule offers a £60 loading ramp for the EasyFold XT 3 so you can wheel them aboard rather than having to hoick them into place. That sounds expensive, but it folds up so it can be stashed in a compartment inside the rack and is therefore there when you need it.

The EasyFold XT 3 weighs the best part of 23kg (just over 50lb in old money), so it's not something you ever want to carry very far. To help move it around, Thule has fitted a pair of wheels and a handle so you can just drag it from its hidey-hole in your garage to your car.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 40 – you need wheels.JPG
Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 05 – towing handle.JPG

Despite its heft, I found the EasyFold XT 3 easy to fit and remove.

Why use a towball rack?

I'm a big fan of towball racks. If you can't actually fit your bike inside your car, they're the best way of transporting it because they have less effect on fuel consumption than a roof rack, don't touch the car so can't damage the paintwork, and are the easiest rack type when it comes to loading and unloading bikes.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 19 – loaded.JPG

The downside is that any rack on the back of your car makes your bikes vulnerable to theft and to damage from a shunt or careless reversing. The EasyFold XT 3 is sufficiently beefy that I suspect it'd provide at least partial protection for your bikes if you get hit from behind, at low speed at least.

Thule deals with the theft problem by making the frame grabbers and the rack itself lockable. These aren't super-high-security locks, they're intended to discourage casual theft in service station car parks. If I'm leaving a bike-laden car for more than a minute or two I loop a D-lock or two through the frames.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 38 – lock in main handle.JPG

I found that when the rack was mounted on my towball, its wheels got in the way of plugging in the electrics. I dealt with this by bending the mounting plate, but using a drop plate to lower it might have been a more elegant solution.

As with all towball racks, you'll need to check the load rating of your towball to know just how heavy a set of bikes you can carry. Thule specifies a maximum of 30kg for any single bike, and a maximum total of 60kg. However, if your towball is only rated at 60kg, for example, then the weight of the rack itself only leaves you 37kg for bikes.

> 10 of the best bike racks for cars – transport your bike safely and securely

If you don't need to carry three bikes, Thule offers the Easyfold XT 2 at a nominal £760 and street prices typically under £600 – it's currently £598.49 from Halfords, for example.

HOW MUCH?!?!?!

This is an expensive rack. At RRP it's the most expensive bike rack we know of, and most of £300 more expensive than the Yakima JustClick 3, an excellent rack with a similar set of features. The situation's not helped by the fact that the EasyFold XT 3 has gone up from £675 to £850 in the last few years (£135 of that since early 2021), while the Yakima is still £550, just as it was when we tested it in 2017 (though its name has changed).

I asked Chris Brattle, Thule brand manager at importer Madison Cycles, why the EasyFold had gone up so much in the last couple of years.

In an email, Chris told us: "The TLDR version is 'everything's gone up' but there are reasons why Thule are particularly affected.

"Thule mostly manufacture in-house in Europe and use a lot of aluminium and plastic in their construction.

"They manufacture largely to order which keeps the operation efficient but also means that when raw materials spike in price the effects are felt almost immediately. When you manufacture in the Far East you agree a price and pay it well in advance of the goods arriving in the market so it takes longer for price rises to bite.

"To give you an idea of what's happened between the Jan 2020 and July 2022 price lists:

"In 2020 generic aluminium was $1,703 a ton, it's now $2,050 a ton, that's a 17% increase. The high quality alloys Thule use have gone up by over 25%.

"In March 2020 High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic went as low as $800 a ton, now it's at $1,250 an increase of over 50% and still rising.

"Oil was trading at $40 a barrel for most of 2020, it's now trading at $86-90 a barrel.

"The electricity bills for Thule's factories in Germany and Poland have almost quadrupled since 2020.

"Then you add in transport; whilst Thule racks don't have to ship from the Far East they are still large, bulky items that take up a lot of space on a lorry and getting them from the main Thule [distribution centre] in Germany to the UK is currently costing us over twice what it used to in 2020. It was actually a fair bit higher for a while but has come down recently.

"Then, lastly, there's the cherry on top that is Brexit and the extra import paperwork required since Jan 2022 so that we can get the exception from duty for EU made products, all this takes time to process and that costs yet more money.

"We've seen similar price rises from bike and component brands but model years tend to slightly obscure price rises compared to Thule who keep products in their range for years or until they require supersession, other rack brands however have definitely experienced similar price pressures to us though, for instance a Saris Bones 2-bike rack that was £119.99 in 2020 now has an SRP of £164.99, an increase of over 30%."

It's hard to argue with that. Decathlon cited similar factors recently when the price difference between the same bikes in France and the UK was pointed out. The British bike market has suffered a perfect storm of inflationary factors in the last couple of years and it's probably going to get even worse in the next few months as retailers raise prices so they can pay their power bills.

I don't like making judgements about whether something is worth the money; I think you're almost certainly smart enough to figure that out for yourself. But a rack this expensive demands comment on the price. Is it worth it?

I think so, but only just. First up, don't pay RRP – shop around and you can find this rack for under £600 plus shipping, which is rather less painful (and unlikely to last long as new stock filters into the supply chain). The extra £100 over the JustClick 3 gets you Thule's very nice AcuTight clamps to grab your bikes. You don't get Yakima's self-adjusting mechanism to clamp the towball, but you're only going to need to adjust the EasyFold's clamp the first time you use it, unless you switch it between cars.

Conclusions

This is an excellent bike carrier that's well up to the usual Thule standards of design and manufacture. If you transport your bikes by car a lot, then it's a good investment: sturdy, secure and easy to use – if you're beefy enough. Its weight and the force needed to attach it to a towball make it less suitable for smaller and less strong people.

Thule Easyfold XT 3 – 17 – loaded.JPG

However, at this price you're going to have to be really sure that it's what you need; for most people something cheaper will probably do the job just as well.

Who should buy the Thule Easyfold XT 3?

This is the towball-mounting car rack for you if you need to stash a rack in a corner of the garage or shed and you can make frequent use of all its features. Keyword: frequent. You'd be mad to spend this much on a rack you only use twice a year, however easy it is to use or well made. And that's without even starting on whether it's really sensible to be driving all over the place to ride your bike.

Verdict

Excellent three-bike car rack but seriously expensive

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Thule EasyFold XT 3

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

It's for carrying bikes on your car, as long as you have a towball.

Thule says:

The fully foldable, compact, and easy-to-use towbar-mounted bike rack for all types of bikes.

Thule EasyFold XT 3 towbar bike rack is a fully foldable, compact, and easy-to-use towbar-mounted bike rack for a wide range of bikes and ebikes. Loading heavy bikes is effortless, and with the optional loading ramp it's even easier. This durable bike rack also gives you full-access to the trunk even when bikes are loaded. Fold the bike rack to a compact size and stow it in your trunk, perfect for an impromptu bike adventure.

FEATURES

Fully foldable for convenient mounting, handling and storage

High load capacity enabling transport of e-bikes and heavy mountain bikes

Easy mounting of bikes through detachable bike arms with lockable Thule AcuTight torque limiter knobs that click when optimal torque is reached

Large distance between wheel holders enabling transport of sturdy bikes with large wheel bases

Adjustable pump buckles with extra-long wheel straps for easy fastening of wheels (up to 4.7" wheels) enabling transport of fat bikes

Easy trunk access even with bikes mounted, thanks to smart foot pedal tilt

Easy mounting and adjustment of the bike rack before closing the tightening handle, thanks to the towbar coupling's initial stability

Ergonomic transport of the bike rack thanks to the integrated transport wheels and carrying handle

Pre-assembled, no tools required

Lock your bikes to the bike rack and your bike rack to the towbar (locks included)

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Thule lists these details:

Max number of bikes: 3

Load capacity: 60 kg

Max bike weight: 30 kg

Dimensions: 123 x 83 x 86 cm

Folded dimensions: 31 x 83 x 86 cm

Weight: 23.1 kg

Fits frame dimensions: 22-80 mm

Max tire width: 3" (With Thule XXL Fatbike Wheel Straps 4.7")

Max wheel size (diameter): 29"

Max wheelbase: 1300 mm

Detachable frame holders: Yes

Distance between bikes: 22/19 cm

Carbon frame compatible: Adapter/s required: Thule Carbon Frame Protector

Wheel mounting on adjustable holders: Pump buckles

Tilt function (with bikes): Yes

Fits cars with exterior spare tyre: No

Rear lights: Yes

Power connector: 13-pin

One Key System compatible: Yes

Lockable bike-to-rack: Yes

Lockable rack-to-vehicle: Yes

Colour: Black/Aluminium

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

It's very solidly constructed, which is pretty much what we've come to expect from Thule.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

It's easy to fit to a towball and then to load and attach bikes, which are held securely. Tilt function gives a decent amount of room to get into the back of your car.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
5/10

Light it isn't, which can be an issue for less-beefy users.

Rate the product for value:
 
3/10

At RRP, it's undeniably expensive.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well. Bikes are securely held and easy to load and unload.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Ease of use, security.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The price.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

See the main body of the review for lots of discussion of this, but it's simply the most expensive car rack you can buy.

Did you enjoy using the product? Insofar as one can enjoy using a car rack, yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

The score reflects the quality and performance of this excellent rack and disregards the price.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 55  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 100kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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