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  1. #1
    ppc
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    Thule 511-1 / 590 v2: ****e product warning

    So I finally got the Thule bike carrier I ordered. I'm very disappointed. Dig this: the bar and the locking head are held by only one screw. The locking head, which holds most of the bike's weight, and more importantly maintains it vertical, it held onto the roof by 1 (yes, *one*) measly 5mm screw! For the rear, it's even worse: it's a metal-and-plastic plate with a single plastic locking handle. The carrier is so narrow the bike rocks from side to side alarmingly, with nasty creaking noises, at the slightest vehicle movement. And worst of all, the locking head actually tends to open up by itself, and the only thing that prevents it from doing so is the fragile-looking key lock thingy. Check out these pics:


    (Say hello to the only screw preventing the bike from flying off the car)


    (There you can see how narrow the thing is, barely twice the width of a tire. How do they expect the bike to not rock sideways like a chihuahua on crack cocaine???)


    (That's my bent on the car. Admitedly, it's a big top-heavy bike, but still, I believe the bike carrier would be inadequate for any but the lightest bike).

    In short, avoid this bike carrier like the plague. It's definitely a rip-off.

  2. #2
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    It looks like you are not using standard Thule load bars. With the standard load bars (black, rectangular cross-section, no slot on top), the carrier is secured to the standard load bars by a big U-bolt with two separate nuts in the front and by two large nuts and bolts in the rear connected by metal plates. So both front and rear are secured by metal completely encircling the load bar. I've been using these carriers on standard load bars for years and they are rock-solid.

  3. #3
    ppc
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmw010
    It looks like you are not using standard Thule load bars. With the standard load bars (black, rectangular cross-section, no slot on top), the carrier is secured to the standard load bars by a big U-bolt with two separate nuts in the front and by two large nuts and bolts in the rear connected by metal plates. So both front and rear are secured by metal completely encircling the load bar. I've been using these carriers on standard load bars for years and they are rock-solid.
    The Thule carrier comes with 2 options: one is the U-bolt for square section load bars, and the other is a screw with a square head that slides into the load bar's railing. So presumably, both mounting options are supposed to be just as solid. Which they are, since the U-bolt looks just as flimsy as the single screw, just more reassuring because of the two nuts. Trouble is, if one nut goes, the other isn't secured anymore, so in the end it's just as dangerous as the single screw.

    I suspect you didn't carry heavy bikes with your carrier. My bike on that thing is a disaster waiting to happen.

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    I don't know, the U-bolt seems strong enough to me, considering I trust my own weight on 4mm and 5mm stem bolts. I snugged down the nuts with some grease on the threads and they haven't loosened yet. I do check them every so often, just in case. How much does your bike weigh? The heaviest one I have is under 30 pounds.

    In any case, it seems like the mounting system for the square section load bars is clearly stronger than the one you are using. Spreading the load across two bolts at each attachment point has to be stronger. I didn't know there was another option -- it is not shown in the instructions for the carrier:

    http://www.thuleracks.com/thule/inst...371,%20590.pdf

    I have to ask -- is your rack made by Thule?

  5. #5
    ppc
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmw010
    I don't know, the U-bolt seems strong enough to me, considering I trust my own weight on 4mm and 5mm stem bolts.
    You don't load the stem bolts directly, it's your stem that takes all the load. The bolts just close the stem over the steering column. On the Thule bar, that one bolt takes the shearing force directly.


    I snugged down the nuts with some grease on the threads and they haven't loosened yet. I do check them every so often, just in case. How much does your bike weigh? The heaviest one I have is under 30 pounds.
    Over 35 lbs, with most of the weight above the wheels (recumbent).


    In any case, it seems like the mounting system for the square section load bars is clearly stronger than the one you are using. Spreading the load across two bolts at each attachment point has to be stronger.
    Well, I think I can install the U-bolt as well as the other bolt, so it'd be twice as secure. Still not too reasuring to me though. What I may end up doing is tie down the bike to both sides of the front load bar, so it can't rock sideway. That way I think the bike would be secure enough, but it's not really an elegant solution, especially considering I paid over 100 euros for the damn Thule carrier. The Yakima bar I had in the US was much better designed.


    I didn't know there was another option -- it is not shown in the instructions for the carrier: http://www.thuleracks.com/thule/inst...371,%20590.pdf I have to ask -- is your rack made by Thule?
    Oh yes, very much so. The euro model (the 511-1) apparently has more mounting hardware than the US model (590 v2). Check out the 511-1 fitting instructions: http://82.145.131.168/webbase/PabloD...rName=Document. On page 2, there are mounting option 3a (the U-bolt) and 3b (the single bolt).

  6. #6
    blithering idiot jhota's Avatar
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    if there was room, i'd mount it with both the u-bolt and the centre bolt. belt and suspenders.

    as for the clamp opening by itself, mine is a ***** to open when adjusted according to Thule's instructions. are you sure you've got the clamp tension tight enough.

    in my experience, a little bit of side-to-side sway isn't unusual. just make sure the rack is tight to the car, rails tight to the rack, tray tight to the rails and bike tight to the tray. 35 lbs doesn't seem that heavy, really.

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    Is there any way to drill out the mounting hole and substitute a larger diameter bolt? A 6 mm bolt is 1.4X as strong as a 5 mm and an 8 mm is 2.5X as strong.

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    You have a T-slot crossbar with a 5mm T-head screw securing the bike rail to the crossbar.

    What's the issue? Do you think that you will overstress the bolt and have it break apart? Unless the bolt is defective, any force large enough to break it will have torn you bike up first.

    Are you afraid that the nut will loosen and detach itself from the screw? If you examine front clip, there is a plastic cover that snaps down over the nut. The nut is extra long. If the nut were to loosen, there is no way it could back off far enough to separate from the screw unless the cover is removed. However, it looks like there are two independant fasteners holding the cover in place preventing this from happening.

    So, assuming the bolt is not terribly defective, the only way the front is coming off the crossbar is for YOU to:

    a. Overtighten the nut on the T-bolt until is separates.

    b. Undertighten the nut on the T-Bolt AND fail to engage BOTH the locking fasteners on the front cover.

    Looks pretty secure to me.

  9. #9
    ctp
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    All I can say is, I love my Yakima more than ever now...and I've loved every Yakima product I've owned which has been dozens of racks over the past 20 some-odd years.

  10. #10
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider
    Is there any way to drill out the mounting hole and substitute a larger diameter bolt? A 6 mm bolt is 1.4X as strong as a 5 mm and an 8 mm is 2.5X as strong.
    This would be folly. Even if you could find a 6mm T-head bolt that would fit the slot, you have no way of knowing if the bigger bolt is the same grade as the original. You might actually be substituting a weaker bolt. Nonetheless, the original bolt is not going to break unless it has a significant defect.

    Unless the engineers at Thule left the design of the rack to the night janitor, they will have used a proper strength bolt in this application allowing for a significant margin of safety. Remember that if the rack fails, it and the bike might end up going through someone's windshield. Aside from the human suffering that would cause, there would be a significant liability cost, product redesign and recall cost, and devestating loss of reputation.

    Not that design errors cannot occur. Automakers are a clear example of how this! But the design flaws are rarely self evident. If they were, they would have been found in the design and testing process employed by any reputable manufacturer.

  11. #11
    ppc
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    What's the issue? Do you think that you will overstress the bolt and have it break apart? Unless the bolt is defective, any force large enough to break it will have torn you bike up first.
    Wrong. The fork is very well secured to the Thule bar, thanks in large part to the lawyer-lips on the dropouts. There is no way in hell the fork will part with the Thule head as long as it's closed, and the bike's fork, headset and frame are obviously a lot stronger than the Thule bar.

    When the bike rocks sideways, it acts as a lever creating torque at the Thule head. How much torque? well, I saw the bike rocking on the car as I was driving and testing it on a bad road, and it was an alarming amount of rocking. I tried to reproduce the amount of rocking with the car stopped, by pulling on the side of the bike, to get an idea of the forces involved: I probably pulled a good 15Kg on the seat to get it inclined as much as I saw it "live" while I was driving. That means a torque of 150Nm. Given that the Thule head is about 15cm wide, with the retaining bolt at the center, that means the 150Nm torque is exerted on a 7.5cm lever, meaning the measly 5mm bolt, as well as the 3mm-thick aluminium lip of the load bar's railing are being pulled up with a force of 200Kg each time the bike rocks to a side, dozens of times per minute. I do NOT call this safe. And let's just suppose Thule didn't cut corners (which is what I think, but let's assume), the Ford aluminium load bar I have won't like this sort of treatment for very long.


    Looks pretty secure to me.
    A little math and common sense tells me it's pretty shoddily designed to me. I had expected the Thule head to be at least twice as wide, with a U-bolt on each side, to spread the load and stiffen the whole assembly to prevent rocking in the first place. But the way it's designed, it's really quite appalling. It might be reasonably safe with an ultra-light carbon bike, but not with a big steel tourer, that's for sure.

    Anyway, I think the key to using this bar despite its shortcomings is to prevent the bike from rocking sideways, by tightening it down to the side of the car with with nylon straps. I have self-tightening straps, and I'll make a clever mount for the bars to use them, but I don't like having to come up with solutions to the problems of a product I purchased over 100 euros.

  12. #12
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppc
    When the bike rocks sideways, it acts as a lever creating torque at the Thule head. How much torque? well, I saw the bike rocking on the car as I was driving and testing it on a bad road, and it was an alarming amount of rocking.
    It must have been quite a sight to see you driving down a "bad road" while looking up to measure the defelection of the seat. What did you use to make this mesurement? It is very difficult to eyeball the amplitude of an oscillation in the best of conditions. To do so while driving a car and looking straight up with no measurement reference would be almost certainly inaccurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by ppc
    I tried to reproduce the amount of rocking with the car stopped, by pulling on the side of the bike, to get an idea of the forces involved: I probably pulled a good 15Kg on the seat to get it inclined as much as I saw it "live" while I was driving.
    Did you use something to measure the force you applied to the seat? How do you know that you deflected the seat the same amount that you estimate you saw while looking up at the bike from below while driving down a "bad road"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ppc
    And let's just suppose Thule didn't cut corners (which is what I think, but let's assume), the Ford aluminium load bar I have won't like this sort of treatment for very long.
    Have you done a stress analysis to come to this conclusion?

    Rather than rig up some sort of remedy, I suggest you contact Thule and express you concerns to them. You might ask them if this mount has been fully tested and is recommended for use on "bad roads". you might also ask if they tested the mount with your Ford aluminum load bar.

    Clearly, if you do not have confidence in the stress analysis and testing that Thule has done, you should not use this product. In such case, I strongly suggest that you return it to the dealer and exchange it for a product that meets your approval. If, as you claim, the product is not sturdy enough for your application, then to use it, even with your modifications, is to knowingly put other motorists in dire jeapordy since you don't know that your stabilizing strap will solve the supposed deficiencies. a faiure of the front holding clip could easily lead to a fatality, which I'm confident that you would want to avoid.

    BTW, I got curious and looked up the installation instructions for this mount. You claimed that the locking cover opens easily. Did you properly adjust the fork mount so that there is resistance felt as the cover is closed half way? Your bike will certainly rock excessively and the cover will not be tight if you do not adjust the clamp force on the fork correctly.
    Last edited by supcom; 01-06-06 at 09:30 PM.

  13. #13
    ppc
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    It must have been quite a sight to see you driving down a "bad road" while looking up to measure the defelection of the seat. What did you use to make this mesurement? It is very difficult to eyeball the amplitude of an oscillation in the best of conditions. To do so while driving a car and looking straight up with no measurement reference would be almost certainly inaccurate.
    My bike is a recumbent. I can see the front boom and cranks quite well through the windshield if I lean forward a bit.

    Of course I didn't measure accurately the amplitude, but it wasn't trivial.


    Did you use something to measure the force you applied to the seat? How do you know that you deflected the seat the same amount that you estimate you saw while looking up at the bike from below while driving down a "bad road"?
    I didn't measure anything. This was all by reckoning. As I said, I was trying to get an idea of the forces involved, not trying to rig a scientific experiment. When I try to get an idea, I tend to be conservative in my reckoning, so if the bolt/rail take a force of 150Kg, 250Kg, 350Kg instead of 200, it's still not safe.


    Have you done a stress analysis to come to this conclusion?
    I work with steel professionally. I know what it takes to shear off a piece of metal, even a resilient one. That Thule bolt is overstressed with my bike on the carrier, and at any rate, it is a bad design with any bike because it constitutes a single point of failure: it might be fine with a lighter bike, but if the bolt has a flaw of any kind, the bike flies off the car. That's a design fault to me.


    If, as you claim, the product is not sturdy enough for your application, then to use it, even with your modifications, is to knowingly put other motorists in dire jeapordy since you don't know that your stabilizing strap will solve the supposed deficiencies.
    Well, I have a bit of an idea though, I'm not completely daft Presumably the bike rack works safely with lighter bikes. If I prevent my heavy bike from rocking, it'll bring it back within safe limits. But if the bolt does shear off, the bike will fall on the roof of the car but won't go fly off because of the straps (these are 2-ton truck load straps).


    BTW, I got curious and looked up the installation instructions for this mount. You claimed that the locking cover opens easily. Did you properly adjust the fork mount so that there is resistance felt as the cover is closed half way? Your bike will certainly rock excessively and the cover will not be tight if you do not adjust the clamp force on the fork correctly.
    Actually, it's the other way round I think: the cover tried to open because the movement of the bike deformed the base underneath. It was fine with the car at a standstill, but when I came back from my test drive, the lip was open 5mm and the only thing that prevented it from opening further was the lock barrel.

    I don't want to bring this bike rack back to the store. First of all, they'll give me no end of grief over why I bring it back while it has no problem, and also, no LBS or car shop carries any other brand but Thule around here, which means that I'd have to special-order a Yakima rack, which will take weeks.

  14. #14
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ppc
    I don't want to bring this bike rack back to the store. First of all, they'll give me no end of grief over why I bring it back while it has no problem, and also, no LBS or car shop carries any other brand but Thule around here, which means that I'd have to special-order a Yakima rack, which will take weeks.
    You've spent considerable time in testing and making a detailed argument as to why you consider the product unsafe. Why would the retailer give you grief? Surely you could demonstrate your concerns to him.

    If I believed that I had an unsafe product, I certainly would not kludge it up. I'd order something else instead.

    BTW, have you considered replacing your load bars so you can use the U-bolt instead of the T-bolt? Also, you keep mentioning a concern with the bolt shearing off. I think in this case you should be looking up the tensile strength, not shear. Shear is a force normal to the axis of the bolt. The stress you stated to be concerned with is the tension imparted on the bolt due to the moment arm between the edge of the clip and the bolt. This force acts along the axis of the bolt. I'mm sure this does not change your evaluation, but it is more technically correct, I believe.

  15. #15
    ppc
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    You've spent considerable time in testing and making a detailed argument as to why you consider the product unsafe. Why would the retailer give you grief? Surely you could demonstrate your concerns to him.
    The guy is an old geezer whom I had special order the Thule rack. He won't take it back unless it's obviously defective, I already tried. He said it was my problem that my bike isn't "normal", that it's not a defect of the Thule rack, and that I should have known before ordering. Actually, I think it's unsafe for heavy "normal" bikes (like big mountain bikes), but he pulled the same line you did, i.e. if Thule put it on the market, then it's safe for big bikes too.

    Actually, on one side, I tend to agree with you and him on that one: it would stand to logic that Thule extensively tested their products before putting them out, but believe me, what I saw when I test-drove the car with the bike on it, and my own common sense, tells me something's terribly wrong and underdesigned in this thing, and I can't shake off this feeling. It's looks and feels flimsy all round. I think they meant the rack to be used with light bikes only, and even then, a little googling tells me other people are worrying about their bikes shaking all over the place with this rack too.


    If I believed that I had an unsafe product, I certainly would not kludge it up. I'd order something else instead.
    Unfortunately, there isn't much else to order around here. Thule's the only option in all the stores I visited. You know what though? if the Thule bar really is more solid and better designed than it looks, then my strapping the bike to prevent it from shaking won't hurt anything and will give me piece of mind, as I know the rack won't be overloaded laterally, and if it breaks, the bike will be retained onto the car by the straps. I doubt that I worry for nothing though, you should have seen (and heard) the bike shake, it was scary.


    BTW, have you considered replacing your load bars so you can use the U-bolt instead of the T-bolt?
    Actually, I can use the T-bolt too, it's just that since it doesn't inspire me anymore confidence than the single bolt, I figured I might as well enjoy the easy sliding on and off the load bars that I get with the single bolt (as opposed to having to unscrew the T-bolt completely). But I will actually use both the single bolt and the T-bolt next time I use the Thule rack, for added safety.


    This force acts along the axis of the bolt. I'mm sure this does not change your evaluation, but it is more technically correct, I believe.
    You are correct of course. But I beg forgiveness, as English isn't my mother tongue

  16. #16
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    My friend has one that looks like that for her Volvo. She is not fond of it - it will not take forks that have narrow dropouts. It sounds as if it has a couple of issues.

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