Thule Easyfold XT 3 Review – One Bike Rack to Rule Them All?
Possibly the most expensive bike rack you can buy – so is it worth the outlay? We put the Thule Easyfold XT 3 to the test….
Why we like the Thule Easyfold: Folds for storage; Ebike capable; Sturdy
Many people who enjoy outdoor life have a ‘product niche’ which they like to keep their eye on for all the latest technological developments. It may be walking boots, it may be torches, it may be stoves. But for me, it’s bike racks. I simply love em!
I like to see the ingenious methods the designers come up with to fix 1-4 heavy bikes securely on to the back of a car while also keeping the rack as small and light as possible for storage. It’s a niche which has seen many innovations in recent years, and now electric bikes have to be catered for too.
Thule – the Company
Thule is a Swedish company that has been in the bicycle carrier business for over 50 years, and they have a well-earned reputation for ‘reassuringly expensive’ equipment which is solid, dependable and follows the great history of innovative Scandinavian design.
One note on the pronunciation of “Thule” – I made a video recently where I was informed by a Swedish native that it shouldn’t be pronounced as it appears in English (i.e. with a “th” sound at the start) – it is actually pronounced “Too-lee”. One to remember, and I consider myself comprehensively schooled there!
Thule Easyfold XT 3
The Thule Easyfold XT 3 is a bicycle carrying system that is designed to minimize storage space in your garage. It employs a “folding wing” design which allows it to be discreetly stored away, but can then be unfolded on to a car or campervan tow bar to carry up to three large (and heavy) bikes. It offers security for both the bikes and the rack itself, with locks at each connection point.
If you are just a couple who will never have need to move three bikes then there is a cheaper Easyfold XT 2 version, but in most circumstances we think it makes sense to consider the XT 3 – it offers more space and so two bikes can be comfortably separated for transport with little fuss.
The main negative point of the Easyfold range is the price – you are paying for quality materials and superb design work, but at the time of writing, the price of the XT 3 model is an eye-watering £650.
So it it worth the financial outlay? We put it to the test…..
Camping Secrets video review
Thule Easyfold XT 3 - the Key Specs
Out of the box, the Thule Easyfold XT 3 is obviously a quality item – it simply oozes great design at all angles. From the twin wheels underneath to the retractable carry strap on top for pulling it along, Thule have thought of everything from the ground up with this bike rack.
So let’s talk facts and figures. The XT 3 measures a mere 31 x 83 x 86 cm when folded and weighs 23.1kg. However, unlike other bike racks (for example the Atera Strada DL3) you do not have to struggle lifting the XT 3 to get it out of the garage to your car – the wheels and strap allow it to be pulled along like a suitcase.
The rack incorporates left and right rear light clusters (brake, indicators, reversing) as well as a 13-pin EU-standard tow bar connector for hooking up to your vehicle. There is room for you to mount a registration plate too, and this is nicely designed to rotate as the rack is unfolded for operation.
Once at the vehicle, another set of handles on top can be used to lift the Easyfold XT 3 onto the tow bar of your car – in our case we were testing with our Mercedes Marco Polo campervan. From here, the set-up is quite straightforward and consists of four main steps:
- Clamping and locking of the Thule to the tow bar
- Connection of 13-pin connector to tow bar electrics
- Unfolding the Thule to allow mounting of bikes
- Clamping and locking of bikes securely to the Thule
Clamping the Thule Easyfold XT 3 to the tow bar
There are two main controls and levers on the bike rack to make this an easy process. A small ‘clamp adjuster’ knob is used to make the collar over the tow bar as tight as possible before a handbrake-style lever is pushed down to lock the bike rack in place. If it is too easy to push down that lever then it should be lifted up and the adjuster tightened up so that there is some resistance when you push down the lever. At this point, there should not be any lateral movement of the bike rack possible.
The ‘handbrake’ has a lock on it which can be secured using one of the two supplied keys.
Now is a good chance to also connect the 13-pin electrical connector to your vehicle’s socket. This is also more straightforward than on other bike racks because there is no obstruction from the Thule whilst it is folded up. Simply plug it in!
Unfolding the Thule Easyfold XT 3
The unfolding system is simple and quick with just one click required to retract the carrying strap back into the body of the bike rack. The “wings” of the XT 3 can then be folded out manually to form a conventional platform-based tow bar bike rack.
The unfolded XT 3 measures 123cm wide by 83cm tall by 86cm deep. The 123cm width is extremely important if you are hoping to transport bikes with extra large (XL) frames and long wheelbases. 100cm doesn’t cut it.
The XT 3 has three grooves along its width into which bikes can be positioned. A set of three horizontal crossbar struts with clamps can then be secured from the bike rack to each bike in turn. If required, the strut for the outer bikes can be disconnected first from the bike rack, threaded through the innermost bike to the outermost bike and then clamped at both ends.
Each strut is clamped to the bike’s crossbar and uses soft, malleable rubber at the point of contact so there is little chance of marking your paintwork. By clever design, the clamping process also removes the ability to disconnect the struts from the bike rack end, and can also be locked with the key at the bike end. It is all very efficient and builds trust that this product will keep you protected.
The wheel straps are just long enough to reach around the 29” wheels on my XL E-bike, but I did find the fixed location point of each strap to be a pain – it was difficult to angle the strap around the thick tyres on the bike and secure it in place. I did it eventually, but I think if the tyres were any thicker it would be a problem.
For road bikes or smaller mountain bikes there is no issue. The curses of being tall!
Tilting Operation - Accessing the Boot of Your Vehicle
We no longer own a car – the campervan is our sole family transport and so the bike rack has to work well with it. When we are camping, we tend to fill the insides up with gear and stick the bikes on the back – we don’t want to have to remove the bikes and rack from the campervan in order to access the gear in the boot.
The Atera Strada DL3 coped with this magnificently, sliding back far enough to allow the campervan boot room to fully open.
The Thule has a similar mechanism which works exceptionally well. A foot switch enables the rack to tilt and rotate out of the way. It is simple to perform, rotates smoothly and securely with no danger of bike damage.
But there is a problem with clearance for campervans. The Thule Easyfold XT 3 does not rotate far enough to allow our tailgate to open. The door of the campervan also fouls the ‘handbrake’ clamp securing the bike rack to the tow bar as it opens. Two issues which immediately removed all usability of this bike rack for our particular circumstances.
For a car or a campervan with less of an opening arc for the tailgate (<~50cm), this would not be a problem and I am sure that most car boots can easily open without a hitch. However, please make sure you check this before buying.
In Use and Overall Impressions
As mentioned, Thule kit is extremely well designed and made. When secured to the tow bar and three bikes fixed in place, there was very little play of the entire ensemble. When driving along and looking in the rearview mirrors, again there was no sign of movement and effectively you could forget that you were transporting bikes – it is that good!
We were extremely impressed with the folding mechanism and small storage space required with the Easyfold XT 3. It can be moved around easily with the wheels and carry strap and is actually a joy to use.
For us, it is unfortunately a non-starter because we require access to the boot of our particular campervan model. The Marco Polo has a particularly long boot lid (tailgate) and swings out a fairly large distance. I am sure that no car will show the same issue and I believe you can buy with confidence for a car. The Thule is an exception bike rack in those circumstances.
If you own any other campervan and (e.g. VW California) with a vertically opening tailgate then I recommend going to Halfords and asking for a demonstration that it works with your particular model. Alternatively, buy it online and return it if there is an issue – the distance selling regulations are your friend!
Conclusions and Verdict
The Thule Easyfold XT3 is at the pinnacle of bike rack design. Every single aspect of its functionality has been thought through to provide the best user-experience. We have been blown away by it and can thoroughly recommend it for almost every potential buyer. Yes it is expensive (~£650 at the time of writing), but it really is the best we have looked at for all-round performance.
If you are planning to use the XT 3 on a car (saloon, hatchback or SUV) I do not envisage a problem with the tailgate and you should buy with confidence. However if it is being paired with a camper van then simply check in person before buying. The worst that can happen is that you will need to remove the bike rack to open your boot – this may not be a concern for you, but it was for us.
For a bike rack which can carry big ebikes AND tilt enough for a campervan then have a read of our review of the Thule Velospace XT 3.
The Thule Easyfold XT 3 is a fantastic bike rack. We loved every aspect of it except for the amount of tilt on offer which did not suit our particular requirements. For this and the fixed wheel strap locating points we dock a single mark. It is at the top of the heap of bike racks and will be giving great service for many years due to the quality on offer.
- Folding design offers easy storage
- Easy to wheel around to vehicle
- Very secure attachment to vehicle
- Can carry e-bikes and XL bikes with no fuss
- Tilting mechanism is fantastic for cars
- Quality materials
- Fixed wheel straps struggle with thick bike tyres
- Does not tilt far enough for campervan boot to clear