Thule Velospace XT 3 Review – Big Bike Rack for Big Bikes

Thule Velospace XT 3 with bike

There’s a dearth of bike racks which can carry big bikes AND tilt far enough to open a campervan boot – the Thule Velospace XT 3 is one of them…..

Why we like the Thule Velospace: Fits large Ebikes; Tilts enough for Campervans; Solid Build.

We recently reviewed the excellent Thule Easyfold XT3 and were blown away by its overall design – it’s almost a work of art in the way it can fold up! Unfortunately, the Easyfold is not an ideal choice for campervan owners because it does not tilt far away enough from the vehicle to allow a boot with a big sweep to open whilst keeping the bikes attached.

To be honest, there are very few wide (>125cm) bike racks which can both carry 2-3 heavy bikes (think XL ebikes) and tilt far enough to open the boot of your campervan with them in place.

Enter the Thule Velospace XT 3. Hold my beer!

This behemoth can carry individual bikes (non-powered or electric) of up to 30kg each, with a maximum combined weight of 60kg. This is impressive and means you can easily carry two 25kg ebikes and a child’s bike on holiday with you. In addition it can tilt a very long way to allow the car or campervan boot to open – the bikes are almost horizontal!

Check out our video review below and also our written thoughts on this high end bike rack – we think it really cuts the mustard if you can afford it and have room to store it. 

Camping Secrets Video Review

Thule Velospace XT 3 - the Key Specs

Out of the box, you are immediately struck by the size of the Thule Velospace XT 3.

It measures a substantial 135 x 74 x 25 cm when “folded”, and 135 x 60 x 79 cm when unfolded for operation. It weighs less than the Easyfold though at 18.7kg, but is awkward to lift due to the sheer physical size.

If you’re not particularly strong then definitely bear in mind that it may take two of you to carry it to the vehicle for fitting on to the tow bar.

Is the Velospace XT3 a folding bike rack then?

Thule Velospace XT 3 reviewWell yes and no. It comes shipped in the box as two separate parts:

  • a main base unit comprising the lights, electrics, towball clamp and silver bike rails with ratchet straps.
  • a black folding frame rail which requires bolting to the base unit prior to use and allows the bike crossbars to be individually clamped to it securely.

Attaching the frame rail to the base unit is actually a fairly fiddly job and took us about 30 minutes to accomplish – this is because there’s not much to thread the bolts through and attach a nut on the end – not the most pleasant task when you’re itching to try out the bike rack immediately!

Once you’ve attached the frame rail, it can either be folded horizontal for storage or rotated up by 90° into a vertical position and then clamped tight. In this position, up to 3 bikes can be individually clamped to the rail via three lockable clamping struts. One strut is clamped from the frame rail to each individual bike crossbar. It’s the same system as used on most of Thule’s range and works well.

The rack incorporates a pretty standard lighting strip – 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.

Your vehicle registration plate is attached to the bike rack using two small plastic clips which need to be twisted off a black plastic strip behind the mounting point. This reminded me of those old Airfix models we all used to make as kids.

Our test vehicle for the Velospace XT 3 was our trusty Mercedes Marco Polo campervan, and we started by lifting the rack onto the towball so that it was just perched there waiting to be clamped and locked in place.

Clamping the Thule Velospace XT 3 to the tow bar

Thule Velospace XT 3 hitch lockAs mentioned, the Velospace needs to be securely clamped to the vehicle towbar so that it does not move at all when you’re driving. 

Clamping is achieved by pushing down a handbrake-style lever from a vertical to horizontal position. This causes an internal collar to grip the towball tightly, and lock the bike rack in place. If you feel that the lever is too easy to push down then an additional collar adjuster can be tightened up so that there is some resistance when you push down the lever. 

With the ‘handbrake lever’ horizontal, the Velospace should now be secure on the towball. It can be locked and secured in place at this time using one of the two supplied keys.

Now is a good chance to also connect the 13-pin electrical connector to your vehicle’s towball electric socket.

Loading on the Bikes

The Velospace XT 3 has three silver rails along the main base into which bikes can be placed. Each bike is then individually clamped from the frame rail to each bike in turn using a clamping strut.

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.

Thule Velospace XT 3 with bike

The photo above shows a Trek Rail Electric Mountain Bike in size XL fitted on to the Velospace XT 3. This is about the biggest ebike available to buy in the UK at the moment and fits on with ease.

Wheel straps

Thule Velospace XT 3 railsEach bike wheel is secured to the Velospace using individual ratchet straps which can be made tight enough to remove all movement and play of each bike.

The wheel straps are just long enough to reach around the 29” wheels on the Trek Rail. 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.

Luckily, it’s possible to buy longer straps for the Velospace which makes this much less of a problem. Ours are on order!

Tilting Operation - Accessing the Boot of Your Vehicle

Thule Velospace xt3 gif

The Velospace can tilt at two angles, and we’re pleased to report that in the extreme tilt position a campervan boot tailgate will comfortably get past, even with all 3 bikes attached. This is fantastic and makes the Velospace almost in a field of one on the UK market!

If you own a VW California, Transporter or Mercedes Marco Polo and you need to camp with three large or XL bikes then there is really no other bike rack option which can be considered. The Atera Strada DL3 is a great bike rack and will slide far enough back, but cannot accommodate XL ebikes with 29” wheels as it is only ~100cm wide. The Thule Velospace is 135cm wide.

In Use and Overall Impressions

Thule kit is always solid and well designed. The Velospace XT 3 is no exception.

When it’s clamped on to the tow bar and three bikes are attached, we found very little play in the setup., even when trying to forcefully waggle the rack. Driving along was the same and the bikes were always fixed in position. When you’re carrying £10k worth of bikes you need to be able to rely on your bike rack, and the Thule Velospace gave us the confidence we were looking for.

The downsides are: a) the size of the rack for storage and b) the £550 pricetag – both of these prices are worth paying in our opinion because you are buying a piece of equipment which properly accomplishes the task it has been designed for, and there are literally no other options on the market which can do it as efficiently. You really cannot ask for much more than that

Conclusions and Verdict

The Thule Velospace XT 3 is an excellent bike rack if you have large, heavy bikes to transport and you need access to the boot of a campervan whilst parked up.

If you are using a car for transport and don’t need such a big clearance in the tilted position then we would recommend the Thule Easyfold over the Velospace because it is much more compact to store and easier to move between the garage and your vehicle.

Is it worth £550? We think so – it will hold its value very well on the second hand market and is made of excellent materials – it’s not going to break any time soon, that’s for sure.

Yes it’s big and yes it’s unwieldy but it fulfills the design brief, and that’s all that matters. Thank God it exists is all we can say!

9.5Expert Score

The Thule Velospace XT 3 is big and heavy but does what no other UK bike rack can really do - namely carry three XL bikes and be able to tilt far enough back for a campervan boot to open. For that capability it's worth the purchase price and more!

Pros
  • Very secure attachment to vehicle
  • Can carry e-bikes and XL bikes with no fuss
  • Tilting mechanism is fantastic for cars AND campervans!
  • Solid build with quality materials
Cons
  • Quite pricey
  • Annoying to be charged extra for longer wheel straps
  • It's a big old thing!

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