Straight from when we pulled the Thule Sprint carrier out of it’s miniscule box and wrote our first-look piece, we knew this rack was special. Generally, the growing variance in axle standards has made us less fond of open-dropout fork mount carriers, but the Sprint indicated that there's life left in this front wheel-off method.
Compared with newer ‘whole-bike’ type roof racks, fork mount carriers offer the benefit of lower height and improved fuel economy, and potentially have less impact on car handling.
While it's only been released recently, the Sprint was first announced over two years ago. During this time, we’ve seen the industry scramble for a new axle standard to match the uptake in disc brakes.
Roof racks are often a long-term purchase – something that will last across cars – with Thule’s five-year warranty offering an indicator of this longevity. Given this, we can’t help feel that the Sprint would have been an even finer prospect back when it was first showcased, when road bike dropouts were properly a standard.
The Sprint can be adapted for thru-axles if needed, but it's not ideal
Aftermarket adaptors are available that will allow a thru-axle equipped bike to be mounted on open-dropout racks; using one, however, would undermine what you’re paying for in the Sprint.
For us, that defining feature is its AcuTight bike retention method. It’s without doubt the quickest and easiest fork-mount carrier we’ve used – simply place the dropout in the skewer section, twist the knob until it clicks, strap the rear wheel in and go.
Simply twist the dial until it clicks – it's satisfyingly simple
That process can be compared to how a common torque wrench will click once the optimal setting has been reached. With the advent of lightweight, and sometimes hollow, carbon dropouts, this can be a crucial factor – knowing you haven’t under or over-tightened this sensitive component offers great peace of mind regarding the risk of a cracked fork (or a dropped bike!).
As well as its retention method, the Sprint benefits from a minimal frontal profile, with a noticeable cone to the front of it. While we weren’t able to test for improvements in fuel efficiency compared with other rack designs, there seems little doubt it will save you some (however minimal), especially if you do plenty of driving without bikes on the roof.
The Speed-Link system is simple and effective
The Sprint is sold fully assembled and weighs just 4.85kg. Fitting is simple via a universal Speed-Link system that's tool free and compatible with all major crossbar types. We had no issues fitting the Sprint to our Whispbar aero racks, something few other racks can achieve without adaptors.
It didn’t take long for us to mount the Sprint on our aero crossbars – also without the need for tools. The flexible rubber mounting system is tightened via little twist knobs that remain fixed to the rack.
It's worth mentioning that the band-type mounting isn’t as solid as some other designs on the market. While we never felt the bikes moving when driving, Thule also offers the Sprint in a more solid 'T-Track' (Sprint 569) option – and this would be our recommendation for a totally sway free solution, if your crossbars are compatible.
An adjustable wheel tray makes boot access simple for even the smallest of hatchback cars
Out back, the strap features a soft rubber padding to prevent scratching of delicate race wheels and is long enough to slip over all but the deepest of aero hoops. A telescopic wheel tray simply slides in and out depending on the length of bike, making for greater clearance with hatch-type boots on smaller cars.
A slight change from how Thule used to sell its racks, the lock cores are now included with the rack. Those looking to match their locks across other Thule products can do so at a small fee by contacting their local Thule dealer who will arrange new lock cores and keys.
With lock cores now included at no extra cost, you’re able to lock the rack to the crossbars and the fork of the bike. The concealed nature of the AcuTight knob means this is going to be one very hard rack to steal from, although there's little to stop your rear wheel from going missing in a hurry.
The Thule Sprint carrier, then, could well be the last hurrah of the purpose-built rack for open-dropout bicycles – this is surely the as good as it gets for this type of carrier. Unfortunately, the price tag offers further proof of this.