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Thule Rack


I started looking for a way to carry my mountain bike awhile ago. As stated in the RockRash Step-Rail write-up, my main goal for lifting the Cherokee has always been to plan several steps ahead to avoid duplication and unnecessary cost. I decided a rear-mounted tire rack was not a good choice, not only because I plan to put a spare tire back there in the future, but also because I don't like the risk of having a spendy bike at the mercy of the local drivers.

Bike Holders
I decided to get rid of the factory crossbars and use a Thule crossbar and bike holder combo. Yakima racks and crossbars are also very commonly used, but I didn't like the looks of the bike holders available at the time, as they didn't look sturdy enough to hold a heavy bike on a swaying Jeep.

This is the first bike mount I used, the Velo Vise Fork-Mount.

I initially went with the 589 Thule Velo Vise Fork-mount pictured above, but after the first day removing the tire and clamping the forks in place the whole assembly didn't look sturdy. While it may be sturdy enough for lightweight raod bikes, I planned to take the Jeep off-road with the bike on top, and didn't want the bike to pop out after the first sway. I was able to return the rack and upgraded to the 599xt Big Mouth Upright.

Big Mouth Upright.  I like the wide stance of the arms on this rack, as they hold the bike more securely against side-to-side sway.

The Big Mouth is mounted on 50" bars and Tracker II mounts to connect to the factory rack. Looking back at it, there isn't much available space outside the mounts, and the 50" bars are barely big enough to hold a sheet of plywood. If I had it to do over again, I would use the gutter-mount and 58" load bars, cut down about 3-4" to avoid overhang. As seen in the above photo, I did a little redecoration to the trays, cleaning off the Thule logo and hitting the tray with some semi-gloss black before advertising for ilovejeeps.com.

Winter Sports
I have a second Big Mouth that can be added on the passenger side, but for winter sports I hit up Thule again to find a carrier for my Burton snowboard. The 724 4-pair Ski Carrier can hold 2 snowboards, sandwiched with the bases together, or it can hold four pairs of skis. Like the bike racks, the 724 is lockable so I don't lose the boards. Since they stick up from the load bars, I keep the board carriers off during the summer to reduce drag. Face it, I'm driving a vehicle with the aerodynamics of a mailbox, and shouldn't have to deploy the speedbrakes unless the brakes fail.

Hi-Lift
I finally got around to opening up my 4xRac shrinkwrap to try to figure out a home for it. For awhile I considered putting it on the front bumper, but it still seemed to stick out a little too far. I finally decided to go with the 4xRac on top, but how? It took several minutes of wandering (wondering?) through the aisles at ACE Hardware with a hefty chhunk of black steel in my hand before I finally siezed upon the idea. I had been toying with the notion of cutting two flat plates of 1/4" and drilling holes so I could sandwich the Thule loadbar in between. That would have required some good dexterity to install and remove though, since I would also have to juggle four sets of nuts, bolts and washers in place as well for each of the 4xRacs. Instead, I found four u-bolts that fit the bill perfectly. With only a little minor grinding on the 4xRac mounting slots I was able to put the u-bolts around the Thule loadbars and through the 4xRac.

The u-bolts had a flat washer plate that was intended to go between the nuts and the item to be clamped, but I put the washer plate unde the loadbar to make a more or less square clamped area.

Pics to follow

Cargo Box
If I remove one of the bike carriers there is room for a large Sears "X-Cargo" box that almost doubles my cargo capacity when the kids are in the back seat. With them out, I can fold the seat down instead and use the interior storage box and platform.

e-mail Jim
created: August 6, 2003
Updated 11 May 2005