In this Thule FreeRide 532 Review we will look in detail at Thule’s ‘entry-level’, roof-mounted bike rack.
The Thule FreeRide 532 is a low-priced bike rack at the lower end of Thule’s roof rack range. But is it worth paying more for the next model up…the Thule ProRide? Is it easy to install on your car roof? How quickly can you get a bike on and off? Does the bike wobble at speed?
We will answer all those questions and more, in detail, in this Thule FreeRide 532 Review.
The review is quite long so skip ahead to the section that interests you or sit back and enjoy your coffee.
This review is about all the aspects of fastening the Thule FreeRide 532 to your EXISTING ROOF BARS and then using it with a variety of wheel types and bike/frame types – including carbon.
Thule was founded in 1942 but its pedigree for bike carriers started in the 1960s. Thule has diversified into a wide range of related products from aero roof bars to jogging buggies, backpacks and towbar bike mounts.
Thule Bike Fitting LOCATION Options
Thule offer options for either: roof bar racks; towbar racks; or boot-based bike racks. Towbar- and boot-based locations require a certain type of car but roof bars are an option for very many, but not all, cars.
On your car roof, one these 3 alternatives will most likely be possible: a bracket specific to your roof shape that clips into the door frame: attachments for a dealer installed roof rail; OR a T-track.
This review assumes that you have already figured out how to get two roof bars on your car roof – and that can be somewhat convoluted if you have an unusual car, good luck!
A further rack type option is a roof mounted bike rack that requires you to remove the front wheel and then your bike’s forks attach to the Thule OutRide 561 rack (link). This will really help eliminate wobble during transport but you have a rather large wheel to carry inside the car.
Fitting on your existing roof bars
I’m assuming you already have a roof bar. But there are different kinds & shapes of roof bars.
By default the Thule FreeRide 532 assumes that you have a roof bar with a standard 20mm T-track, as shown above. (ie a track for T-shaped bolts to fit in to) OR that you have standard square bars. ie UNLIKE the more expensive models THIS model will fit more roof bars without the need for an adapter.
T-Tracks can also be found on several non-Thule brands.
The Thule FreeRide 532, by default, also supports Thule’s own WingBar, SideBar and AeroBar models. If you have one of these all you need to do is buy the Thule FreeRide 532 and you should have all the parts you need. NO ADAPTERS NEEDED.
The Thule FreeRide 532, by default, also supports Thule’s own square bars. If you have one of these all you need to do is buy the Thule FreeRide 532 and you should have all the parts you need. NO ADAPTERS NEEDED.
However, some cars, like BMWs, have a non-standard T-track and, in the case of BMW, require a 24mm T-track adapter (Thule part: 889-1)
Got all that? Then you are good to go…
You will need to buy the rather large box with a top that looks like this.
Open the box up and you will get a bike rack that is mostly pre-assembled but also quite a few additional pieces. The key additional pieces are:
- Lever mechanism for tightening to the bike frame comprising: 2 end grips, one lever, 2 alternate rubber tubes to prevent frame damage, and one bolt
- Rear base plate to attach the rack to the roof bar comprising: base plate, 1x lever and 1x nut. There is also a 1x clamp and 1x bolt (for square bars) and a 1x T-bolt for T-Track roof bars.
- 2 levers to secure the front of the rack to the bar which use either the supplied 2x clamps and 2x bolt (for square bars) and a 2x T-bolts for T-Track roof bars.
- So that’s 3 of all those bits in total
- 2 identical locks and 2 identical keys
In my case I will be attaching to Thule square roof bars and so I discard the 3 bolts shown above and instead use the clamps and bolts for each of the 3 lever mechanisms – I’ve shown the parts for one of those lever mechanisms, below. (I’ll keep the T-Track bolts in case I buy or use a new car).
I’m not going to give step-by-step installation instructions. Thule’s manual for the FreeRide 532 is in an “IKEA-format” ie instructive pictures with a minimal amount of words.
However I am going to comment on some of the installation steps and things to watch out for as it is a little daunting to open the FreeRide 532 and find the bags of various components. Once you’ve installed the FreeRide all of the steps you took will be ‘obvious…in hindsight‘. In the future, fitting and unmounting the BIKE RACK will then only take about 5 minutes per bike rack.
It’s a good idea to partly assemble the mounts on the ground so that you can figure out which way the nuts, bolts, levers, locks and 80mm U Bolt Clamps all fit together.
and like this
If, like me, you are upgrading from an earlier Thule FreeRide FR35 then preparing the clamping mechanism for the bike frame is unchanged. The black ends of the clamping arm each have two holes and you use the one which corresponds to your frame size. If your partner or children have notably different bike sizes to you then you might have to change this regularly…on the previous model I never had to change it in about 10 years.
Prepare the clamping arms’ components like this using the long piece of rubber. Notice at the bottom of the picture is the other arm with the lever already partly attached. The lever screws onto the thread that you have put the piece of rubber over
Instead choose a short piece of rubber if you have a smaller framed bike
Make sure that the end of the bolt is properly seated. You can also add the small black piece of rubber, shown to the right of the following image, but this is cosmetic and is not required for safe operation.
The lever is used every time you mount and unmount a bike. It is used to adjust the Thule’s arms to the correct width for your frame AND to increase the gap that will allow you to take the bike off the rack.
As you can see, below, you will have to insert the locking mechanism into the lever. When the lever is FULLY closed the lock fastens into one of the rectangular holes that you can see in the silver/grey arm.
Now turning to the plate at the other end of the bike rack. You assemble it as shown in the following photo if you are fastening to a square bar (alternatively you will use a T Bolt for a T Track)
You can insert the adhesives strips to protect the silver grey finish on the bike rack at the point where the rear clamp is attached. #Optional
Otherwise you push the lever down to secure the plate to the square bar. One thing to note in the CORRECT image below is that the lever will go down at an angle. This is so that the lock in the lever aligns with a hole in the plate.
Installation of the FreeRide 532 on the Roof Bars
I would imagine that the T-Bar installation is super-straightforward.
Instead I was fastening to square roof bars which was also straightforward.
Getting the clamps from the adapter kit around the square bar for the first time required a bit of fiddling. But once you’ve figured out where everything goes and how it tightens up, it soon becomes ‘obvious’ (with hindsight).
The FreeRide is a relatively light roof-mounted bike rack and can easily be lifted by one person. In the preparation of this Thule FreeRide 532 Review I looked at other Thule roof-mounted bike racks and the high-end Thule UpRide 599 (Review ed here) was the heaviest.
The brackets that fasten my roof bar to the car body sometimes got in the way of where I would like to attach the FreeRide. Re-site the FreeRide further from the edge, ensure it’s straight and tighten up the levers – use the lock if you want to fasten it more securely to the bar. You DO have to close the lever but the lock is not required.
It will be fine to align the FreeRide’s position by eye. It’s good to align it to exactly point forward but don’t worry too much if you are an inch out.
The FreeRide CAN be modified (without any additional new parts) so that the controls can be used on either the left-side or right-side of your car. It’s explained in the manual and takes about 15 minutes to do for the first time.
Here you can see that 3, possibly 4, bike roof racks can fit on an estate car.
I managed to install two ProRides, the UpRide and a FreeRide simultaneously on one car (ie 4 bike racks). A total of 3 is relatively easy but adding the fourth bike rack required the pedals to be removed from the bikes and was quite a squeeze. If you are going to install 3 or 4 bike racks then you will need to alternate the direction in which they face (forward-back-forward-back) and you will need to ensure that the various closing mechanisms on each of the bike racks are relatively easily accessible. Good luck 😉 !
I am not sure if it would be possible to have 3 or 4 FreeRide racks on YOUR car. 3 probably is possible but 4 could be a close fit. The following image shows the FreeRide on the left.
Putting Your Bike on the Thule FreeRide 532
I have a wide variety of bikes from kids’ bikes to carbon fibre racing bikes and a relatively heavy aluminium-framed mountain bike. I tried them all for this Thule FreeRide 532 Review .
The heavier bikes are obviously harder to lift onto the roofrack of whichever brand of rack you buy.
The FreeRide 532 is quick and easy to load your bike onto. The only thing to watch out for is the balancing act at the start. Once you have the frame inside the lever it becomes much easier. Make sure you open up the lever before starting!
Ultimately you want it to end up looking something like this.
To get to that point. First you close and grip the frame close to the chainrings with the lever that attaches to the front of the rack. You will probably have to twist the lever around a few times (even after years of practice!) to get just the right fit but it only take a few 10s of seconds to get right. As shown above.
You then slide the black plastic ‘tray’ (below) so that the centre of that tray aligns approximately with the centre of your wheel (ie the wheelnut). Roughly as shown below, perhaps the tray could go very slightly more to the left.
You then secure the rear wheel with the strap, as shown above. If you like you can then thread the strap though a ring on the underside of the plate.
Then you do the same with the tray and strap on the front wheel. Just like I’ve shown below.
Now you can lock it if you want to. You don’t have to unless you will leave the bike unattended.
If you have correctly locked the arm near to the chainring then it is virtually impossible for the bike to come out by accident. Sure it COULD wobble, but it won’t come out.
Different Bike Types Covered by the Thule FreeRide 532 Review
The principle is the same for all the bike types I tried in the preparation of this Thule FreeRide 532 Review and each of the following were fine to fit onto the FreeRide.
Heavy mountain bike with chunky (ish) tyres
Kids Bike – Surprisingly Heavy
Note the front wheel is not properly seated in the front tray. It will probably be alright!
Road Bike – Carbon Frame, 50mm Rim Wheels
80mm Rim Rear Wheel & Disc Wheels
This 80mm Mavic rear wheel has a carbon rim. I don’t think the rim would be damaged by the rubber strap. Not THAT much pressure is needed to hold the wheel in place.Contrast that with other bike mounts where a LOT of pressure is required to clamp to a carbon frame (#NotGood)
Also note that if your RIM is deeper than 80mm then you will need to start thinking about the length of the strap. 90mm should be OK…maybe 100mm will be OK but not more than that I would guess.
You will also have problems with rear disc wheels. Some discs do have a hole where you could feed the strap through but my guess would be that road vibration during transport WOULD damage those discs that have a foam-like interior. #ExpensiveWheels
My previous travels with a disk wheel meant I just put a trainer wheel or spare wheel on the rear for transporting the bike. Remember than on windy days your disc wheel will be banned in races or have reduced performance in cross winds so always take and use a spare.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Theft, stupidity and plain bad luck will be encountered by all of us at some time or other. This Thule FreeRide 532 Review looks at some of the things you will want to avoid.
- THEFT: With this design your wheels could perhaps be stolen if the thief deflated the tyres and removed the wheel skewers.
- THEFT: A determined and well-prepared thief will have the tools to steal your bike in any case. I would imagine that, with an expensive bike, the thief might not be too concerned about prizing open the frame clamp and damaging the frame as the re-sale value of untraceable and expensive bike parts would more than compensate them for their efforts. The Thule FreeRide 532’s anti-theft mechanisms are sufficient to prevent the casual thief. Use your own bike lock when parked to better deter would-be thieves ie lock the bike to the roof bars with a motorbike lock or similar
- TYRE DEFLATION: This has never happened to me. In theory if this happened during transport then the bike would become considerably more loosely attached. The front wheel would most likely wobble considerably at speed.
- The most likely causes of excessive wobble at speed on a motorway are either that you have not placed the arm clamp sufficiently close to the chainring OR you have not tightened the clamp sufficiently. Having said that, there is a further cause where the clamp can slip UP the frame IF your frame gets thinner in that direction (eg My Cervelo S3 does precisely that). In that scenario you will need to put the arm clamp slightly further away from the chainrings at a thinner part of the frame.
- LOST KEY: Keys are numbered and you can get a replacement.
- DRIVING THROUGH A LOW HANGING SIGN – Hey. You know what to do next time.
- Tightening the clamp. In my opinion this design is *NOT* fit for a carbon frame as quite a bit of pressure can be inserted to hold the frame firmly (unlike the ProRide model).
- Wobble – At speed your front wheel will wobble and the frame might wobble a bit. I doubt you will stop all of the wobbling. The ProRide design is slightly better at reducing wobble and the UpRide design is even better.
- Tip: Ensure that the centre of the wheel approximately aligns with the centre of the adjustable tray that each wheel sits on.
- Tip: don’t leave the rear strap flapping around when not in use. Fasten it up.
Positive Thoughts on this Thule FreeRide 532 Review
The FreeRide is BY FAR the most cost-effective option of all Thule’s roof mounted bike racks. The ProRide offers slightly better mounting but at a price. The UpRide has easier mounting still but, again, at a higher price AND also at a higher weight cost.
- If you are concerned about compressing your expensive carbon frame then you ARE RIGHT to be concerned. The FreeRide 532 design does compress the carbon frame. Nevertheless I have used this with a carbon frame quite a few times. I CANNOT RECOMMEND IT FOR CARBON FRAMES.
- The bike is alright to quickly load onto the FreeRide rack. It’s slightly easier and slightly quicker on other models. Loading the bike only becomes a problem with a heavier bike and even then it’s not the weight of the bike per se but rather once the front wheel twists then you lose the balance of the bike.
- Supports 29″ wheels and the small children’s bike sizes indicated in the images, above.
This is a well-made and well-priced bike rack that improves on the older FR35 model in how the rack fastens on to the roof bars. Loading on the bike is easy enough but easier still with the more expensive models.
It is GREAT value-for-money, it looks GREAT and will last you MANY years.
Thule FreeRide 532 Review Manual
Thule provide a relatively straightforward manual to aid installation and usage.
Link to: Thule FreeRide 532 Manual
Specifications for Thule FreeRide 532 Review
|Load capacity||17 kg|
|Dimensions||149 x 21 x 8.4 cm|
|Fits round frame dimensions||22-70 mm|
|Fits maximum oval frame dimensions||65×80 mm|
|Carbon frame compatible||No|
|Fits roof racks with 20×20 mm T-tracks||Yes|
|Fits roof racks with 24×30 mm T-tracks||Yes Adapter/s required: Thule T-track Adapter 889-3|
|Fits Thule SquareBar||Yes|
|One Key System compatible||Yes|
Accessories for Thule FreeRide 532 Review
These are the adapters you might need depending on your car/bar setup
- Buy a 24mm T-Track adapter (eg BMW) – Thule part: 889-3).
- A twinpack/triplepack is sometimes available that might save you a little money
Price, Discounts and Availability
The Thule FreeRide 532 bike racks are available to buy in many outlets.
Buy yours here
Prices in September 2018 should be: Eu 66, £52, $75.