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since 4/10/2009
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a pair of Thule Sidearm carriers I bought years ago for my car. I don't really use them much, because I use the roof rack more for my canoe and tend to put bikes inside my Honda Fit since there's so much space.

My wife's Jeep doesn't fit bikes inside so easily, and so I've been considering getting a hitch rack, and then getting a hitch for my Fit so I could use the hitch rack more.

Is there such a beast as would provide a frame to put my Sidearm carriers on for hitch rack use? It would need two beams coming out with appropriate spacing and I'd have to do something about securing the carriers to those beams, of course, but those are not insurmountable issues, IMO.

If nothing like this is available, any idea what it would cost a welding shop to make and powder coat, with a folding pivot (maybe even starting with a part from some other rack company for that pivot)? I lack welding skills so I'd need someone else to make it, especially since I think I'd prefer it to be made from aluminum for weight on the Honda.
 

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Retired User
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Natehawk, I honestly do not think that you could find a metal fabricator that could fabricate a one-off pivoting frame, in powder coated aluminum for less than you could buy a new factory hitch rack such as a 1UP. Just the powder coating alone would blow the budget. If you did clear or black anodized it'd be cheaper, but still, I would suspect you are looking at $750+. Even if you were to find a shop to weld it up for you in steel and then paint it in rustoleum, I bet you're looking at $200.
 

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skobiken
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133 Posts
I went through a similar search recently and concluded that no such beast exists at the moment.

I often carry boats and bikes at the same time, so roof rack space is at a premium. I wanted a hitch platform to mount my fork mount trays to that would have the lowest profile possible with bikes loaded and still allow access to the trunk in my civic.

After talking to a riding buddy about the idea for a while he agreed to do the welding.

The result:






He liked the idea so much he made one for himself with a few modifications. His sounds like exactly what you want.



He used the tilt mechanism from a Thule Helium to allow hatch access.






I tried to mount a Thule Sidearm on my rack just to see if it would fit, but the bar spread is about three inches too wide.

Cost for the metal for mine was right at $30. I painted with a rattle can since I don't plan to move the trays that often. Weight including the two trays and two wheel mounts is 29lbs. That is steel.
 

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since 4/10/2009
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32,438 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
steel would do if aluminum would kill the budget. my father has the skills to weld steel but doesn't have his own gear (he may even have the skills to do aluminum by now). we'll have to talk about it. I'm not sure if the place he works now would let him use their welding gear for personal purposes, even if he brought his own metal and rods.

the pics of the custom job look really close to what I want. only difference I'd want would be some tabs at the ends of the crossbars so the strays can't be slid off. I would want to force the issue for theft prevention - if someone's going to try to swipe my stuff, they're going to have to sit there and completely remove all 12 bolts to get the trays off.
 

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suspension wrench
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194 Posts
Converting roof trays to hitch mount

Seems I'm not the only one to have done this. I had an old Hollywood rack that was made from all steel and lasted for 11 years or so. When it was damaged by another car, I went shopping for a new hitch rack and discovered that nothing on the market was built as sturdy as my old one. I wanted a rack that could withstand high speed, unimproved gravel roads without wobble or worry of failure.

I was also tired of the limited use of my tailgate when there was no bike on it. And since I only carry one bike 99% of the time, I got to thinking that a super sturdy single bike rack was what I wanted as it would be out of the way when not in use. Of course, no such thing exists.
I liked the Thule Sidearm mount the best, so I created a rack that would hold a Sidearm roof tray without modifying it. As I was making the rack, I realized that it was a universal design and I could put any brand roof tray on this thing and a fork mount tray would work too.
So here it is: The StrongMount.


I wanted it to be simple and bulletproof. Made from 1/8" wall tubing, it's so strong that I jacked the back tires of the truck off the ground from one side of it. This first prototype was designed specifically for the Thule Sidearm tray so I made the bars unequal length for a cleaner look with the tray installed. The first production batch will have equal length load bars in an effort to make it more universal and also allow mounting the tray in either direction.


I wanted the rack to be as close to the truck as possible to keep it under the tailgate when not holding the bike, and also to maximize my angle of departure. This thing can stay on all the time without ever being in the way.



This first version puts my 711mm bars just 3" from the back window of my camper shell which is perfectly vertical. As most SUVs, cars, and fiberglass shells have a window that slopes forward, this mount will work on just about anything.


I've had some interest among my riding friends, so I'm having a small first run of these made by a local manufacturer. I'm considering a version with longer load bars that would fit two bikes and maybe a tilt mechanism, but really want to keep it simple (and did I say strong?) The most complicated part is the pin tensioning system that eliminates wobble. Not sure how many of these I'll make or what the price will be, but if anyone is interested you can PM me here or shoot an email to mrisch454 at hotmail...
 

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I see I'm not the only one who has had this idea, nice work guys! I'm also currently working on a design to convert my 3 Thule Sidearm trays to a hitch mount rack. I am putting it on my Audi allroad (wagon) so I want it to fold down and it also must have some rise to it unlike the truck rack above. I hope to get it built in the next few weeks as I am getting tired of putting bikes up on the roof all of the time. If it is inexpensive enough, I might be able to get more made as well.
 

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More Torque
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You could try to track down a used Hollywood Pro Rider. I've seen them go for around $100 used. Note that the bars are larger than Yakima round bars, so you would need to go with more of a universal mount.

When I inquired with Yakima about installing a Frontloader on my Pro Rider, they said definitely do not mount the Frontloader perpendicular to the vehicle in any configuration. The Sidearm does look really similar to the mount on Tule's rear racks, though, and it sounds like others are using it in that config with good results.

Good luck with your project.

-D
 

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since 4/10/2009
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
good to see quite a few others have gone this way. the sidearm is quite similar to the T2, with a few notable differences. the arm is the same, which looks pretty important to the whole mechanism.

The T2 looks like it uses an aluminum box section for lateral stiffness that seems important for the side-on profile the bikes have on a hitch rack. then of course, the rear wheel tray wraps around more. Not sure how much impact this has on stability. A cursory glance makes it look like I could put the arm on something more stable (less likely to twist), but I'd have to explore that more seriously.

I'll have to look at this a little more closely once I'm in a better spot to have something made. I'd want it to be as strong and secure as possible.

I would have to take a number of designs into consideration. For one, our two vehicles are totally different. I'd need 1 1/4" receiver compatibility for sure. a 2" hitch on a Fit would be ridiculous. I'd need it to raise somewhat because the Fit is kinda low. I'd need to be able to be compatible with a spare tire. whether that means just using a hitch extension or something on the Jeep, I'm not entirely sure yet, but the Jeep opens to the left, while the Honda opens to the top and the rack would need to accommodate both.

mike r, I see you have something between the tray of the sidearm and your custom rack. it looks compressed. what is it, and why did you put it there?
 

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suspension wrench
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194 Posts
mike r, I see you have something between the tray of the sidearm and your custom rack. it looks compressed. what is it, and why did you put it there?

Nate, those are the stock Thule mounts. They have that shape in order to fit oval factory roof rack bars.
 

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since 4/10/2009
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32,438 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Nate, those are the stock Thule mounts. They have that shape in order to fit oval factory roof rack bars.
hm...mine do not have that shape. I got mine in 05 or so, so maybe that's a newer design feature? the clamp on the rear end of mine is not big enough to fit a factory aero bar.
 
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