Even if you are attacked by aliens from outer-space while on your way to thrash the singletrack in Loma, the Thule Sidearm Universal Bike Mount will hold your bike securely to your roof. When the aliens try to use their super-high-powered wind-gun on I-70, they will be no match for the Sidearm.
Strengths: Easy bike loading, solid mount to Yakima round bars, best set up for Cannondale Lefty.
Weaknesses: Really needs two wheel straps and locks for bomb-proof security.
Having a Lefty fork was getting to be a pain in the ass when it came to loading and unloading my bike. I had a full Yakima set up with a fork adapter for the Lefty, but I was getting tired of having to bolt/unbolt the wheel and brake caliper every time I rode. I checked out Yakima's offerings for a non-removal rack system and frankly, they were all crap in comparison to the Thule. Since the Thule Sidearm is pretty much a rebranded Sportrack Bob Ratchet, I figured I was good to go, and I was.
Installation was easy and the instructions were clear, IF YOU READ THEM! If you just look at the pictures, you're screwed. I did end up mounting the Sidearm backwards, as the rack protrudes too far forward past the front of the base rack and fairing for my liking. The added benefit of this is the rack can go on the driver side of the car, as it comes set up for the passenger side if you mount it in the forward position.
Once mounted, I test fit my bike and I could see where people were having issues. If you don't get the wheel in the peak of the ratchet arm, the bike will wobble and become loose. I also ordered a second wheel strap to hold the front wheel in the tray, which also gives me an extra few clicks on the ratchet arm to hold the bike in solidly.
As far as security goes, if you're not buying the locks for your racks and using a small cable lock through your bike frame, you're a dumbass. Additionally, if you want to keep someone from simply using the wingnuts to unscrew your rack and take it, simply use the longest screws that come with the Sidearm and add some nylon locknuts with washers to the underside of those and you will deter 99% of thieves. Unless they have the proper wrench in their back pocket, thieves aren't going to take the time to wrench on the vehicle. A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to using roof racks.
I didn't give it the highest marks because it isn't perfect and I had to spend a bit more for locks, the extra strap and a trip to Home Depot. Once I was done however, I immediately started looking for another Sidearm to accompany it.
Date Reviewed: July 12, 2012
Strengths: Easy load/unload
Weaknesses: 1) Takes up large portion of rack
2) Pushes on front brakes
3) Arm can be shaken loose even when locked
4) Can be stolen with relative ease
I just bought and installed this rack today and am returning it tomorrow. After dealing witht he terrible instructions and install, I put my road bike up on the rack to see how it fit. When tightening the arm around the front tire, I noticed that if I wanted to make the arm adequately snug, I had to pull it so tight that there was a lot of contact with the front brakes of my bike. I thought I could let this go and just check my brakes before each ride so long as the rack was secure. However, even after spending the extra money on Thule's overpriced locks, I was able to squeeze the arm release button just enough to wiggle it loose. I don't plan on leaving the bike on the roof overnight so I'm not worried about it being stolen, but it sure doesn't bode well for its stability when travelling on the highway. Lastly, the only thing that keeps anyone from stealing the entire rack is a weak piece of plastic that require a lock (again, the extra cost) to stay in place, but could still easily be broken to provide access to the wingnuts. It's a decent design for short trips to the trails, but for $180- $200, it is a complete ripoff.
Strengths: Moderately easy to load and unload, although arm takes some force to move.
Weaknesses: The arm has released twice. On the first release, the rear strap secured the bike. On the second release, the bike fell off the car and was destroyed. The arm latching mechanism can release under the right combination of wind and vibration. When using a road bike, the front wheel could not be secured. It would hop from the tray. A bungee had to be used.
If you value your bike, buy a different rack.
a Weekend Warrior
from San Antonio, Texas, US
Date Reviewed: March 16, 2012
Strengths: Holds bike very securely, easy to load and unload, just make sure you can lift your bike above your head...,
Weaknesses: kind of an eyesore when not in use, some of the lag bolts and sidearm bracket bolts rusted inside of a week of owning them, and yes it offers little to no security
It holds the bike very securely on the top of my wrx going 80 down the highway or driving on curvy roads with bumps and gravel. It does contact the fork some but does no damage to the bike. If it didn't there is no way it would be so secure. If your bike is falling out of this rack you are not using it properly.
a Weekend Warrior
from Los Angeles
Date Reviewed: February 7, 2012
Strengths: Very easy placement/removal of bike
No need to remove front wheel
Weaknesses: Horrible instructions
Doesn't mount perfectly to Thule Aeroblade bars
Lack of security
Overall I'd would definitely go with the 594xt but add a few extra things as safety.
First, get a second wheel rachet for the front. This is crucial! Before this, I had the front wheel lifting into the air and wobbling at around 60-70mph even though I had throughly secured it down. The second ratchet in the front solved this. Second, the security lock stinks, someone can easily steal the bike. I solved this buy using my Kryptonite bike lock and attaching it to the front wheel and the back support for the front wheel.
Instructions stink, and the fit with the Aerobars isn't perfect.
a Cross Country Rider
from Bay Area
Date Reviewed: June 19, 2011
Strengths: None that I can honestly say.
I did my due diligence before purchasing this rack system, and thought I had made a well-informed purchase. I couldn't have been more wrong.
The arms are incredibly stiff to operate and require regular lubing, otherwise rotating them is quite a chore, especially when standing below the pivot.
Mounted they aren't the most attractive works of art, but I figured I got to hold my bikes, not look good. On the maiden voyage one of the locking covers for the feet blew off on the freeway. It was secured properly and apparently the tab that held it in place snapped off. Also, the Sidearm spontaneously backed out, leaving the bike bobbing from side to side.
It's first real trip was a ride to Oregon. I had a 29er HT and a Cannondale Left mounted to the roof of my car. Driving on I-5 created much more drag than I was expecting, but that's not the racks fault. After a quick gas stop I noticed the front wheels of both bikes had hopped out of the trays and were resting dangerously on the edge of the trays nearly popping out completely. I centered the wheels back in and made sure to check that everything was installed properly. The Sidearms were fastened tightly and locked down. I pushed up on the wheel and it rolled back easily, almost rolling past and out of the wheel catcher. One not-so-hard push and the wheel would roll completely out. I realized that the wind had pushed the bikes up and out of the tray, which meant I had to strap the front wheel to the tray in addition to the rear, otherwise it will lift completely out and flop around on the hood of my car.
I quickly realized that it would take no more than 10 seconds to release a bike from the Sidearm...while locked, with a simple push.
Do not purchase this rack system. I can't stress enough how poorly thought out this design is and can't believe Thule even considers these crappy locking cores a viable anti-theft option.
I've since purchase a 1Up Quick Rack and consider this an expensive life lesson.
a Cross Country Rider
from Seattle, WA, USA
Date Reviewed: October 19, 2010
Strengths: Very stable mount, easy to operate.
Weaknesses: Doesn't straddle Thule footpacks, and there isn't enough free space on my crossbars to mount in front of/behind the footpacks. Bought it to replace a Big Mouth mounted in that position, so it's a non-starter for me (since I have another Big Mouth + a ski rack already on those bars).
Also, the "security" is a joke and the rack is pretty obtrusive when not in use.
It's a great mount for stability, that anyone can easily steal a bike from (and possibly take the whole mount, too), and that won't fit on your roof unless you have plenty of space on those crossbars.
a Cross Country Rider
from Denver, CO, USA
Date Reviewed: May 13, 2010
Strengths: Rock solid. Easy loading. Best bike rack that accommodates the bike with both wheels.
Weaknesses: It's not cheaper...but you pay for the quality.
Get this rack if you don't want to take wheels off any more. I took other review's advise and put a wheel strap on the front wheel as well as the rear. No problems. The dual straps allows me to ratchet the sidearm down another notch for extra security. Never had it rise up at speed. I have the bikes facing backwards on the car as well. Not sure if that really make any difference.
Similar Products Used: Thule peloton and other fork mounts
Bike Setup: Specialized Enduro SL, Scott Addict R2
a Cross Country Rider
from Ellicott City, MD
Date Reviewed: May 7, 2010
No adapter required for attachment to Thule aero bars.
Once I figured out how to install, installation was very secure.
Very quick and easy to load and unload.
Weaknesses: Not for road bikes (IMO, see below).
Installation instructions are unclear.
Kinda ugly when collapsed.
The sidearm works very well for a bike with disc brakes, holds a bike very securely. I did not have the problem that others have stated - one needs to ensure that the bike is properly mounted, per the instructions. It held both my 29er and roadie securely, and it is a snap to load and unload. Worked with a fairing, too.
My issue is with the design. The arm that holds the front wheel sits right at the fork, per Thule instructions. This means that it sits on top of the front brakes (rim brakes), potentially pushing or twisting the brake pads out of alignment. Realigning is not a hardship, but it is something I'd rather not worry about before each ride.
The instructions were terrible - very confusing.
My advice: great if you're hauling mountain bikes and bikes with disc brakes only. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
Strengths: Hassle free, easy on, easy off. Built well. Easy to mount carrier on rack.
Weaknesses: Doesn't collapse very well when not in use. It has a larger profile then other bike racks in the same category.
This is a great bike rack. No need to take my front wheel off anymore. Pop it on my rack, set the ratchet, strap the rear wheel and I'm off. I have 20mm and 15mm thru axle front wheel. I had to keep switching off the Fork Up adapter on my Echelon. Now it's a breeze to mount my bike. I haven't experienced the front wheel lifting at freeway speeds but I might just purchase a strap for it so I have a piece of mind. The only bad thing about this rack is that it doesn't collapse well when not in use. It's a little ugly for sure but I can live with it for now.
a Weekend Warrior
from Bay Area, CA, USA
Date Reviewed: August 10, 2009
Strengths: Easy on, easy off - no front wheel removal. Optional locking system provides peace of mind - rack locks to top of car; and arms lock bikes in place. Keeps honest people honest, anyways - probably could be easily defeated by someone determined to get your bikes off.
Weaknesses: On recent freeway trip, driving 70-80 mph, front of bikes tended to lift, raising front wheel perilously close to top edge of trays, creating some stress (we could see them through the sunroof). Ended up using a bungee cord to tightly secure front wheel of one bike to the tray. Probably best for transporting bikes to more local trails, rather than taking them on cross-country trips involving lots of freeway travel.
Thule side arm roof rack is great if you want easy on, easy off bike transport to your local favorite trails. And since it's built on the Thule rack system, if you're into kayaking, skiing, etc. there are lots of other things you can carry on your roof rack besides bikes.
Weaknesses: Pricey, and like all roof racks, it can be hard to load, especially if your by yourself. Wind drag
I've had these racks for a few years on the top of our honda odyssey, and frequently carry 4 heavy downhill bikes. they are extremely sturdy, and have withstood fast, windy mountain roads and bumps. Not only that, but we were recently in a head on crash on the highway, which deployed our airbags and totaled the van, but I was extremely pleased that all 4 of the racks and all of the bikes were perfectly intact and still secure on the roof. I could not have been happier with the construction and sturdiness of the racks. If your going to get a roof rack, I wouldn't recommend anything else.
a Weekend Warrior
from Albany, NY
Date Reviewed: March 29, 2009
Strengths: Stability... Way better than my old bigmouth. I have added a front ratchet and it made all the difference. I have also found that mounting the bike with the rear wheel forward makes it way more stable. I have had no security issues with the thule lock cores attached. I have driven for hours on the highway in high crosswinds and have had no issues. The key is to make sure there is absolutely no play in your rack to start with. I highly recommend the front ratchet.
Weaknesses: Heavy and difficult to get on and off your rack. Much harder than a velovise or big mouth. Also it is not that attractive on the car when the bike is not on. It is odd looking and sticks up way too much which makes for a lot of road noise.
It has been a good rack for me. It give me piece of mind on the road. It can haul a 42 pound Kona Stab with out issues.
a Cross Country Rider
from Piscataway, NJ
Date Reviewed: January 7, 2009
Strengths: Quick on and off. Don't need to remove front wheel. Fits bike of any size. Typical Thule quality.
Weaknesses: Proper engagement of arm on the front wheel is not always positive. At first I thought the arm was secure on the front wheel until I start driving as saw the front wheel wobbling through the moonroof. I had to reposition the arm on the front wheel again. Now I know the proper placement of the arm on the wheel but it took a few tries to get it right.
Great roof bike rack. Quick on and off the bike. The bike is very stable on the rack once you get the hang of it.
Thanks for looking. After 10 years of riding around with a flimsy allen trunk mount, I have decided to put a Thule tray on my roof. I already have a removable factory rack with cross bars that are oval (like a jumbo egg). I am looking for a tray to clamp on to this system and have gravitated towards ... Read More »
I've read a lot of conflicting information regarding side arm roof racks and carbon frames.
Some people are of the opinion that you should never use a side arm on a carbon frame since it is not built for the lateral forces that would effect it from being attached.
Others say the carbon frame ... Read More »
I finally got my 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 out of storage for the spring/summer and installed my new Thule rack and bike carrier setup this afternoon. Everything was purchased from cracksandracks.com and I would recommend them to ANYONE. Super helpful, the best prices online, super quick and free next day s ... Read More »
It's time for a new bike rack and I want one that I can just load the bike on without taking the wheels off. I like the sidearm and highroller because they hold the wheel secure and not the frame. I like the design and ease of use that the side arm has but it looks ridiculous folded up, while the hi ... Read More »