Thule's Epos 2-bike platform towbar bike rack can carry long-wheelbase bikes and/or e-bikes as well as any other bike you fancy putting on it with ease. It’s incredibly well made, very simple to fit, and allows secure bike attachment without clamping lightweight carbon frames. Large tyres are no problem and everything adjusts with ease. It tilts and folds up into a small suitcase-shaped ‘box’ in fluid movements that a Transformer would be impressed with. But all of this performance comes with a very high price tag, too.
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Thule Epos 2-bike platform towbar bike rack - Technical details
Thule has a habit of making some of the best towbar rear racks for cars and vans and the Epos rack is no exception to that rule. The Epos is made from aluminium with plastic moulded fitting and fixtures. In fact, there is almost no metal visible on the Epos, everything is clad in the black stuff. The rack arrives in a promisingly light cardboard box and once removed sits neatly flat on the ground like an oversize suitcase with a slimline profile measuring 69 x 27 x 73 cm.
There is a handle at the top to lift the rack into place and the electric hook-up socket is neatly parked in a receptor designed for the purpose. All other parts are hidden inside the ‘case’. Once dropped onto the tow ball head there is a torque adjustment wheel to make sure that the handbrake-style lever has enough clamping force to hold the rack still. There is also a lock to secure the rack to the ball - a good idea considering the MSRP of the rack alone.
The Epos Rack opens smoothly like a book, without any effort. The two black plastic bike trays covering the aluminium arms and internal workings of the clamlike design are wide and well separated to handle sizes of tyres up to 3” (fat bikes would require £13 XXL straps). The individual bike trays are set 25cm apart from each other to reduce bike and bar clashes when carrying more than one bike. The wheel bays for each bike are wide enough to accept bikes with wheelbases of up to 1,350mm and with a carrying weight limit of 30kg per bike, the Epos is ideally suited to e-bikes (if required a ramp is available as an accessory to help get the bike in place).
If the clamlike design didn't impress then the method by which the two arms can be extended and adjusted to fit any bike and at any angle should. The arms are telescopic with locking heads for the straps to keep your bike safe. These can be used on frames or rear wheels of bikes especially useful for carbon fibre bikes with ‘difficult’ frame designs limiting attachment areas. The strap itself has a compression section on the inside to prevent the crushing of your pride and joy or cables. The strap is tightened via a ratchet system similar to snowboard bindings in operation and is locked via the same key as the towbar locks for simplicity and to reduce the wedge of keys you need to carry. Finally, the rack is of course tiltable to allow access to the car or van's rear door.
Thule Epos 2-bike platform towbar bike rack - Performance
In one word: fantastic. But so it should be for this kind of money. This is indeed the pinnacle of bike rack design from Thule with slick easy-to-use attachments and mounting hardware. Everything* works exactly as it should and gives the owner of the car, rack, and bike complete confidence that everything will be present and correct when they arrive at their destination
Fitting the rack to the towbar is one of the easiest I have encountered. The locking clamp’s innards are steel to provide the necessary strength in this vital area and it can easily be done by a single person. Fitting it to two different vehicles meant a small amount of adjustment was needed from the torque clamp dial which is easy to do on the spot.
The rack doesn’t auto-level perfectly despite Thule's claim of self-stabilization. It could be that the brand meant it helps get the rack almost horizontal and you need to do the rest. I’ve got older Thule racks that do a better job of this, but then their trays are fixed so are easier to hold and adjust in this respect. The Epos might need a few extra attempts to get the tray as horizontal as possible but it's not difficult, just fussy as you cannot lift up either side of the tray for help they are not fixed but fold up. Still, it's pretty simple to do and with familiarity, I've got better at it.
The electrics (a 13-pin socket to hook up) fit simply without difficulty and the wiring loom is the right length and doesn’t hang down. The lighting bar is very modern and sleek in appearance although the funky angled lights look like they've been hit, they haven't, (yet) it’s just the shape that Thule has chosen for the light clusters, I’m sure I would get used to it.
Undoing the rack from its vertical upright position (you must not drive with it in the upright position) all the parts are permanently attached and ready to be extended to hold your bike. Simply remove the straps from their buckles - all designed to be out of the way and not flap about when you drive without a bike on the back. Raise the upright arm and adjust for the height of your frame, seat post, or rear wheel.
I have chosen to use the rear wheel on a few of my carbon bikes as I prefer not to clamp the top tube on these bikes but that is up to you. The clamp is fitted with anti-crush air padding so shouldn’t be an issue anyway. On my large gravel bike (58cm ETT) the arm is not long enough to reach my top tube but is perfect for the wheel or seat tube mount options.
Once the bike is held by this first mount the wheels can be clamped tight via their straps. All buckles are ratchet and you can over-tighten if you are not sensible here.
I experienced this when I overtightened the main arm ratchet strap. This meant that the lock body in the arm head wouldn’t depress and I couldn't turn the key. Backing off the tension which is undoubtedly good for your wheel/frame anyway meant the lock worked as designed so go easy on the ratchets.
Repeat the process either the same way or reverse depending on your bike size and design. I’ve not managed a major clash of bars and saddles that a dropper post cannot solve or a bit of back and forth of a bike using the wheel straps to adjust position cannot solve. The increased distance between the two bike trays means that there is no longer any fear of forks and rear mech rubbing each other even with beefy suspension forks.
One design advantage I have used every time I’ve parked up without the bikes is folding the rack up and leaving it in its closed vertical position. This raises the rack’s profile higher and into the rear window eyeline of reversing cars hopefully. So far I've had no issues with careless drivers hitting it.
If you need to get back into the boot of the vehicle (multiple times if you're like me) then it's easy with the Epos 2 simply press the footplate and with one hand on a bike frame to control the drop, the whole rack swings back away from the tailgate leaving easy access to the boot.
If I am at all concerned about the chance of it being hit in a tight spot I simply remove it and put it in the boot of the car. True I have an estate car but its closed size is not huge so I’m sure it would fit in other car boots too. The folded size measures 69 x 27 x 73 cm.
The only area I have about the rack is that there are no carbon rim protectors on the wheel mounts. I have had to make those myself as I don’t want to scratch the top layer off with the ratchet strap and the key has surprisingly sharp edges and is not the most comfortable to hold and turn in either the towbar lock, or the bike locks on their individual arm heads. It would be nice if some of that black plastic could have been added to the key.
Thule Epos 2-bike towbar bike rack - Verdict
And lastly, the elephant in the room: the price. At £1,000, this is huge money for a two-bike rack. The rack is really good but, I’ve tested a few brands of racks from around £300 to £700 and none of them look like they will go ten years of regular use. The Epos does. Maybe it only lasts five years of regular use - the same as its extended warranty - either way, it's one massively less stressful way of carrying your bikes. The 3-bike version only costs £100 more and if you’re not sure how many bikes you need to carry that would be a better deal as you cannot add an extra bike with this system.
Thule also offers the Thule EasyFold XT 3 for £760 which folds up like the Epos rack although not as compactly but does offer wheels to help roll it and uses the older style clamp arms to hold your bikes.
At the other end of the market and made in the UK, Pendle offer £380 W2 two bike rack that requires a lot more time to fit. It doesn't tilt but can be fully adjusted for wheelbase and tyres up to 3" and has a 70kg capacity, 10kg more than the Epos.
Buzzracks make a couple of options that would also be worth a look although we haven't reviewed either yet. The £467 E-Scorpion XL2 for the largest and heaviest of e-mountain bikes or the £337 E-Hornet for less extreme weight and wheelbase. Both undercut the Thule Epos 2.
Thule offers some interesting and useful extras for the Epos like an Abus lock mounted to the rack and bikes for extra security, a £60 folding ramp and this one, I’m going to check out - a £50 repair attachment to hold your bike so you can work on it on the rack.
The Epos 2 opens, closes, and tilts smoothly without issue and anything not being used has its own storage keeper to reduce flapping behind the car. It can clamp your bike via multiple methods and protect your carbon frame at the same time. It’s easy to mount on the car or to store in your garage or shed with it’s suitcase-like design. The Epos 2 really represents the gold standard for portable tiltable towbar racks, and whilst it is a considerable investment for transporting your pride and joy, it will prove money well spent over the lifespan that Thule racks are known for.