Thule EasyFold XT 2 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Ramp design allows for easy loading of heavy bikes, compact storage size, easy to move and store
Cons: Expensive, questionable durability, tedious loading process, bikes with long wheelbases don't play well
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Our Analysis and Test Results
There is no doubt the electric bikes are rapidly growing in popularity. Thule takes a crack at addressing the challenges of transporting these heavyweight e-bikes with the EasyFold XT 2. With a heavy weight capacity and a folding ramp, users can roll their bikes into place on the platform rather than struggling to lift them. This rack also has an interesting folding design and it collapses down into a nice little package for storage or when not in use. Unfortunately, we found many other aspects of this rack to feel clunky and cumbersome, and the bike attachment system didn't inspire loads of confidence. While it is a viable option for users who may struggle to load their heavy e-bikes, we feel there are better, and less expensive, options for everyone else.
Ease of Everyday Use
The EasyFold XT 2 is a mixed bag in terms of its ease of use. Some elements, like the ramp and tilt mechanism, are quite user-friendly, while other features are a little more difficult to work with. While it does make loading and unloading heavy bikes easier, the attachment system takes some getting used to, and it doesn't feel as secure as we'd like.
Removing and attaching the Easy Fold XT 2 on the vehicle is easier than with most hitch-mount racks. The 45 lb weight, small folded size, and integrated wheels make it easy to move from its storage location to the vehicle. The hitch-pin is also tool-free, so securing the hitch to the receiver is easier than most. With the rack on the vehicle, start by unfolding the rack so the platform is flat. If your bikes are lightweight, simply lift them up and into place on the rack, starting with the inside tray. There are two clamp arms that will clamp down on the bike frames, the shorter one is for the inside bike and the longer one holds the outside bike. These clamps can be rotated or moved into different positions to accommodate different frame designs. Open the rubberized jaws of the frame clamp by loosening the knob, line it up with your frame, and tighten it down. There is a mechanism that clicks when you have achieved the correct tension. This is a nice touch as you can't squeeze your bike frame to the point of breaking. The wheel straps are fixed in position and are used to loop around the rim and ratchet it down with the goal of pulling tension at a 45-degree angle towards the middle of the rack. Load the second bike on the outer tray and repeat the steps to secure it using the longer clamp arm. Often, the outer clamp arm will require some adjustment and fiddling to work around the frame of the other bike.
If your bikes are heavy, you may want to utilize the ramp feature. The ramp is stored beneath the main platform and is accessed by pressing the tilt lever in the middle of the rack and tilting the platform out and away from the vehicle. The folding ramp is stored in its smallest, folded size, and it needs to be unfolded for use. A small tab on one end of the ramp fits into the horizontal notch at the end of the rack. Once in place, simply roll the bike up in to place on the tray and attach the bikes as described above. Once you are finished with the ramp, you'll need to fold it back up and tilt the rack with the bikes on it out so you can put it back in its storage location.
This process is a bit more complicated than other platform racks, and using the ramp system adds several steps and some time to the process. Despite that, the ramp could be indispensable for people who might otherwise struggle to load their heavy e-bikes. We also have some concerns about the security of the frame clamps. Due to the fact that they have an open mouth and don't wrap entirely around the frame, we feel they could unintentionally release the bike frame on bumpy roads or if they are attached carelessly or not in the ideal spot. In fact, we read several user reviews where bikes were damaged when the frame clamps released in transit. Additionally, there is no way to secure a bike on this rack without making frame contact, this could cause damage to fancy carbon frames or paint jobs unless you purchase the Thule Carbon Frame Protector for $19.95. Another factor to consider is if you are loading different bikes frequently the clamp arms will need to be repositioned to work with different frame designs, which adds some time to the process.
On a positive note, the tilt mechanism is smooth and has a nice range of motion to allow for access to the trunk. Activate the tilt with your foot and slowly lower the rack down and out of the way. This can be a bit of a handful if you have two e-bikes loaded onto the rack as you are supporting a hefty amount of weight when lowering the rack. The locking system is easy to use and functional.
Ease of Removal and Storage
The EasyFold XT 2 is lightweight and foldable, making one of the easiest platform hitch racks to remove and store. Not only does it fold up into a nice little package with dimensions of 31 x 12 x 26 inches, but it only weighs 45 lbs. Handles at the top of the rack make it easy to pick up, and two small wheels on the bottom of the rack allow you to roll it to or from your storage location. Sadly, one of the wheels on the bottom of our rack broke almost immediately, rendering that feature useless.
Thanks to a tool-free hitch pin, installing and removing the rack from the receiver is quick and easy. To remove this rack, simply unlock the main tightening knob, and loosen it by turning it counter-clockwise. Pull the easy-pin hook out of your receiver and pull the rack off. The hitch pin lock is also integrated into the knob on the hitch pin, making securing the rack to your vehicle a quick and easy process.
The EasyFold XT 2 is a reasonably versatile bike rack. With a 65 lbs per bike weight limit and a ramp feature for easy loading, this rack is suitable for heavy e-bikes and particularly for people have difficulty loading them on more traditional racks. The compact nature of this rack in its folded size also makes it a viable option for those who are short on storage space. This makes it a compelling option for apartment dwellers or those who take their rack on and off frequently. It also works with 1.25-inch and 2-inch hitch receivers. It comes with an adaptor installed for use with 2-inch hitches. If you remove the adaptor sleeve with an allen wrench, it then works with 1.25-inch hitches.
Interestingly, we couldn't find specifics on recommended maximum or minimum wheelbase lengths on the Thule website or in the user manual. Based on our experience, it should work with most bikes from kids to adults, although some modern mountain bikes with exceptionally long wheelbases may not fit. The width of the tire trays works well with a range of tires, from road bike skinnies to around 3-inch wide mountain bike treads. Thule also sells a XXL Strap Kit that is claimed to work for bikes with longer wheelbases and with fat tires up to 4.7-inches. While these straps may wrap around fat tires, they don't fit in the narrower wheel tray, nor is the ramp wide enough to work perfectly with tires that wide. Additionally, the frame clamps are guaranteed to make frame contact with the bikes, so those with fancy carbon frames may want to look elsewhere, or purchase the Carbon Frame Protector adapters.
Ease of Assembly
This rack requires virtually no assembly. Given the compact nature of the rack in its folded size, it ships fully assembled. Simply identify whether you have a 1.25-inch or 2-inch receiver on your vehicle. If you have a 1.25-inch receiver you will need to use an allen wrench to remove the adapter from the rack. Slide the rack onto the receiver, connect the easy-pin hitch hook, and tighten down the knob. It doesn't get much easier than that.
The EasyFold XT 2 comes with Thule's One Key System with locks on the knobs of hitch pin and the frame clamps. This system allows you to lock the rack to the vehicle and each of the bikes individually using the same key for all the locks. While we appreciate security features like these, the locking mechanisms aren't tremendously robust and would likely only serve as a deterrent for the opportunistic thief. We'd suggest adding a heavy-duty aftermarket cable lock to add another level of security when using this rack.
While we didn't experience any catastrophic failures or major damage to our rack during testing, we are somewhat concerned about the longevity of all of the moving parts and the heavy use of plastic in the construction of the Easy Fold XT 2. For the most part, our rack still functions properly and shows little signs of premature wear, although one of the small transport wheels on the bottom of our rack broke almost immediately. This part could have sustained damage during shipping, but we didn't notice anything until it broke. For our purposes, this isn't an integral element of the rack's design, but it's disconcerting nonetheless.
There is a lot of plastic used in the EasyFold XT 2's design. The hinges on the ramp, the frame clamps, and the ratcheting wheels straps all seem susceptible to damage if used carelessly. While we didn't damage ours during testing, we feel they are potential failure points that are worthy of mention.
The EasyFold XT is one of the most expensive bike racks we've tested, and despite the fact that it has some user-friendly features, we feel it is a below-average value. Yes, this rack is functional, lightweight, storable, and has a ramp that makes loading heavy e-bikes easier. That said, it can be awkward to deal with, the bike attachment system doesn't seem very secure, and the wealth of moving parts and plastic in the design doesn't feel very robust. We feel this rack will be the best value to the infrequent rack user who has a difficult time loading heavy e-bikes on regular racks, or those seeking a hitch-mount rack that doesn't take up a lot of storage space.
The Thule EasyFold XT is an e-bike friendly rack that can be a viable option for riders with difficulty lifting their bicycles onto traditional tray-style hitch racks. Features like the loading ramp and the rack's small folded size are quite user-friendly and will benefit some users. While functional, the complexity of this rack's design makes it somewhat cumbersome to use, and the bike attachment system doesn't feel the most secure. Additionally, we have some durability concerns, and the high price tag makes this rack even less compelling.
— Pat Donahue
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