Unchanged for years, Thule's ProRide 591 roof rack has stood tall as the market leader for those wanting to transport their bike on a car roof with the wheels on. Taking things a step further, the new ProRide 598 looks set to become the next benchmark.
At first look, the ProRide 598 is extremely similar to the continuing 591 (and 598 Criterium for those in the US). The single frame-grasping arm with its low-positioned tightening knob remains, as do the two ratcheting wheel straps. That's all still on top of a one-piece alloy beam.
Like the 591, the 598's wheel-on design means it doesn’t discriminate against cycling disciplines, and isn't affected by wheel diameter, axle standards or disc-brake placement.
Taking it a step further, the wheel trays now simply slide out (no tools needed) and can be replaced with Thule's ProRide Fatbike Adaptor (5981) to fit from 3in to 5in width rubber. It's a first for Thule's roof racks, and alternatives are few and far between.
As long as the large frame-holding jaws can get onto a tube then you’re all set. We tested a range of round, square and random oversized tube shapes, all without issue.
A new jaw design offers frame-friendly clamping
Carrying lightweight aluminium and carbon bikes needed careful attention on the 591, something the 598 solves in two ways. First, the frame jaws feature a grid-like rubber structure designed to conform to tube shapes and compress around random bulges (such as brake hoses and gear cables).
Second, the knob that controls the jaws now features a torque limiter. Working a little like a preset torque wrench, it’s a feature we first saw in Thule's Sprint 528 rack, and really takes the guesswork out securing the bike. That said, a nervous voice in our heads thought it was still clamping too tightly on the thinnest of carbon frames, and so we often hit the road before the retention click-out occurred in these cases. To be fair, ideally such a thin frame probably shouldn't be clamped at all, and so it's hardly the rack's issue.
The Carbon Frame Protector is for those transporting bikes with super light and thin frames
Seems Thule has similar concerns to us, and it now offers a 'Carbon Frame Protector' (#984). This small aftermarket accessory simply straps over the clamping point of the frame and disperses the forces along a 10cm area. At £20 / AU$40 ($TBC) it's an item we strongly recommend purchasing if your bike features a lightweight frame, though we can't help but feel a rack of this price should just include this important accessory.
Easing the process of putting on the bike is a raised lip on lower jaw to help ‘hook in’ the bike. It seemingly gives a snugger hold to the bike once tight.
Wheel straps now run diagonal, forcing an improved hold
Also new, the diagonal wheel fixing straps help to self-align the wheels into place and create a more stable hold at speed. Each strap is given a little rubber cover to protect rim scratching – just don't follow our mistake in leaving the strap undone when not in use, as you'll soon lose these.
Once on the move, the 4.17kg rack goes unnoticed. It’s sleek enough that it doesn’t add to noise without a bike mounted, and rigid enough to go unnoticed with a bike aboard.
Easy tightening, and even easier release
When it comes time to get pedalling, bike removal is a simple one-person matter. Click free the wheel straps and then hit the ‘quick-release’ lever to set free the spring-loaded jaws. At this point, the bike should be waiting for you to tilt it toward you, and you can even do a controlled tip if your car is a little tall.
Like most Thule racks, the ProRide 598 is built to last and is backed by a five-year warranty. Where rustproof alloy isn’t used, it's reinforced plastics – which have proven UV-resistant and extremely strong.
Installation of the pre-assembled rack is a simple affair. Deciding between left or right mounting no longer feels like building Ikea furniture, and we managed the switch within a minute without tools or instructions.
The 598 is designed to mount straight into slotted crossbars – it's a clean look
Our sample made use of the 'T-track' standard (20x20mm), which slides into the slots of modern crossbars. It's something that we installed on our ProRack brand roof rails within minutes, and it gave a perfectly secure and rigid hold to the car.
For those without slotted crossbars or with non-standard versions, adaptors are readily available and there are very few rails the 598 won’t fit.
Lock cores are included to secure both the rack to the crossbars, and for the bike attached by preventing the opening of the frame jaws. Of course, the wheels of the bike are still open to theft, but it should stop opportunistic thieves.
And in case you drive a dark coloured car, the ProRide 598 is available in an anodized black option too.
So what’s not to like? Well, such a durable construction and a long list of technical features don’t come cheaply. Expect to pay AU$295 / £90 (US prices were TBC at time of publication) for this new model.
Note: The Thule Criterium 598 sold in the USA is a similar version of the ProRide 591. The ProRide 598 is a different rack.