One mountain bike is usually a cinch to transport on any Thule rack. But as soon as you start travelling with more than one bike, that’s when your challenges can begin. They’re not major challenges, but they can be a little frustrating if you’re new to transporting bicycles. Based on experience, here’s how to load more than one mountain bike more easily.

Three full-supension 29ers on a Thule three-bike carrier.

Generally, most Thule racks can comfortably transport the maximum number of bikes they’re designed for – if the bikes are road bikes, gravel bikes or hardtail mountain bikes. Once you start transporting full-suspension mountain bikes or eBikes, which are wider, longer, heavier, have more chunky wheels and frames and less frame space, then you need to know the following:

Reardoor-mount racks

Most of these are designed so that your bike hangs from the toptube. This leaves the bikes to sway so it’s essential to secure the bikes either to the rack or to each other with the appropriate straps to eliminate or reduce any sway. The new Thule Outway reardoor-mounted carriers come with an integrated anti-sway system that prevents bike-to-bike and bike-to-vehicle contact.

It’s also best to alternate the direction you attach each bike. If the first bike is facing right, load the second bike to face left. And if there’s a third bike, alternate it to face right. This prevents handlebars from touching. For full-suspension mountain bikes, you may need a Bike Frame Adapter to ensure a more secure fit. Because of their weight, it’s not recommended to carry eBikes on a hanging-style rack.

Experienced rider tip: If you’re struggling to fit the bikes on, try changing the order of the bikes. Often this solves your problem as not all bike frames are the same. Generally, try and start with the bike that has the largest, least complicated frame and then work from there in descending frame sizes. Start loading well before the time you need to leave. Rushing the loading process leads to high levels of stress, especially before breakfast!

Towbar mount racks 

Most of these are platform racks where the bike stands on its wheels and is secured to the rack by an arm with a clasp and wheel straps. If you’re carrying two bikes on a three bike rack, leave the centre section open to give plenty of space between the two bikes and face the bikes in opposite directions. If you’re carrying three bikes on a three-bike rack, be sure to take your time and position the bikes in a way that leaves you with sufficient space between each bike so that they aren’t touching each other. Usually best to alternate the directions the bikes face.

This can involve removing the removeable arms and re-attaching them at appropriate points. If you have dropper seatposts, drop the seats so that they don’t hinder the handlebars of the other bike/s. If you don’t have dropper seatposts then consider loosening the handlebars of the bikes and turning them at an angle to prevent bike-to-bike contact – just for the journey. You may have to remove a seatpost or two if you’re still in a fix – just for the journey. If you want to improve the loading process further, consider purchasing a third-to-fourth bike arm. This allows you to secure the last bike to the bike next to it, which is already secured to the rack.

An additional bike-to-bike arm can help improve the secure loading of multiple full-sus mountain bikes.

The latest Thule bike racks, such as the Thule Easyfold XT and VeloSpace XT  have been designed to carry larger bikes such as Trail bikes and eBikes. They have more space between the wheel holders and come with longer wheel straps. If you have a previous version, then it’s worth purchasing a set of longer wheel straps for the centre wheel mounts. This allows you to secure three bikes in a way that they don’t touch each other. eBikes can be heavy to lift for some and Thule has a loading ramp that is designed for your Thule platform carrier to make this easier.

Experienced rider tip: When you have got the bikes onto the rack and are happy that they’re secure and aren’t touching each other, take a few photos or a video with your smartphone so that when you have to load them for the return trip, you can quickly get a reference to how you loaded them successfully before and copy that.

Truck Bed

If you have a bakkie (single cab or double cab) and you have mountain bikes, you can use the Thule Gate Mate or Thule Gate Mate Pro. It’s essentially a heavy-duty foam-padded vinyl pad that fits over your tailgate. You hang the bike’s front wheel over the tailgate with the Gate Mate protecting the bikes and the vehicle. Strap anchors hold the bikes firmly in place.

To see the full range of Thule bike carriers, head over here.

Paid partnership with Sport and Cargo