My Latest Bike Hauler StorySince my oldest daughter recently added to our family with our first grandchild, a beautiful girl, I am pretty limited on how much I can use her wagon to haul my bikes around--something about needing the wagon for the baby's car seat for doctors visits, lunch with her fiance, shopping and other errands. Go figure.
I determined it was time to make my Wrangler a bike hauler and decided to go with a spare tire mounted style of rack. Besides, this would work out for the best since I tow my Jeep on motorhome trips and I could now keep my bikes on the outside rather than loading them into the bedroom, scratching the furniture and walls. Of the three more popular major brands of rack manufacturers, Yakima and Hollywood have a system that slips over and straps around the spare while Thule has a system that actually bolts the rack to the rig. The Yakima and Hollywood run about $130-$140 MSRP and the Thule runs about $170 MSRP.
An online search of these three was done and at first, I was determined to go with the Yakima pretty much based on it being the lowest cost. After all, these three perform the same function and I have used Yakima products in the past with satisfactory results.
I was steered a different direction, however, when I visited a local rack supplier, talked with their staff and saw how the different systems fit my vehicle. They told me they sell all three but have had unhappy customers return the slip-and-strap models as they allow too much movement once loaded and are not as secure as the bolt-on and locking Thule. Obviously, they recommended the Thule, stating that for a little more money, there would fewer-to-no headaches for me down the road. I agreed with this logic and forked out the extra bucks for the Thule Spare Me.
Installing and using the Spare MeThe Spare Me requires no assembly out of the box and has a small package of necessary/extra hardware. While the Spare Me is not as simple as the competitors to install, it is still fairly easy, taking about 20 minutes to accomplish. The most time consuming part of the install is removing the car's spare, slipping the universal mounting plate over the spare mounting studs and bolting the spare back in place.
Once this step is done, it is only a matter of another minute or two before you are ready to load your bikes and go. Install the rubber cushions from the hardware package over the tubing where it mates up to the tire surface, slip the square sleeve on back of the main assembly over the mounting plate arm and thread the single lockable attaching bolt into the threaded hole on the arm. Finally, loosen the bike mounting arms nuts, swing them up into position so that bikes can hang from them, tighten the nuts back up and the whole thing is ready to go.
If your rig has an offset spare, there are additional mounting holes in the main rack assembly that allow you to adjust it for the offset. This step will require an extra 5 minutes or so and this step should be performed before you hang the main assembly on the mounting arm. This is a nice and necessary feature as it keeps your bikes centered with the width of your vehicle.
The VerdictAs I mentioned, I own and use other Yakima products. I have been quite happy with their function and quality. However, the sales staff did mention that Yakima is aware of the less-than-secure issues with their Spare Joe and will have a new design early 2010. If you don't have time to wait, you should consider the Thule. After hauling a bike for a couple trips now, I am quite glad I stepped up with a little extra cash for the Spare Me. With the bikes attached properly, it moves very, very little during transport. If I want to remove the rack, I unlock and unthread the main bolt, slip the main assembly off the mounting arm and put the main assembly in storage, leaving the mounting plate/arm attached behind the spare. It's done in a few seconds and returning the Wrangler to hauler status is as simple and quick.
Thule products come with a lifetime warranty for the original purchaser so save your receipt and register the product if you are so inclined.
Recommendation: Yes, I would recommend this 2-bike rack for anyone needing a spare mounted system.
Thule Spare Me Official Web Page