Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (2022)

Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (1)

As a life-long bike guy, I actually can't remember my last car that didn't have a roof rack...and the most recent two--Cool Hand Juke here and the Mazda 3 that preceded it--were selected in part due to their aesthetic compatibility with such apparatus. My Mazda had secret threads embedded in the roof that allowed for a clean install that relied on bolts rather than the drip-line clamps that most racks mount with. I loved the clean look and the peace-of-mind that came with it, but was not surprised to learn that the Juke had no such native capability--the feature is very much the exception rather than the rule.

Undaunted, I made the decision that I would hand my car over for someone to drill into the roof and install permanent fix points rather than suffer the indignity of a rack that clips on. I learned of two choices--the first was to have four permanent footpads installed...this arrangement required the minimum amount of drilling and had the smallest, ahem, footprint, but it also limited you somewhat in adjusting your rack if you changed your gear carriers up top. If you decided it would be better to move your rear load bar back an inch or two you were out of luck.

Knowing that I periodically change things up--and that I plan on having this car a good long time--I opted for a second option which was the installation of Thule Top Tracks...a pair of long (in this case the 42-inch Thule TP-42s) length-wise tracks that allow fore/aft adjustment of the base rack footpads along the entire length of the tracks, giving me maximum flexibility for configuration, not only now, but down the road if my needs change. While I'm up to install most anything myself, I was a little hesitant to drill the necessary holes in the roof of my brand new Juke..worried about drilling too deep...hitting electrical wires...not getting things straight...generally fcuking things up in an irreparable manner...that sort of thing. The rack shop near my house (Rack N Road: Yakima & Thule Racks for Car and Bike | Trailer Hitches Sale/Rentals – Rack N Road) offered the service with a guarantee against leaks for $60 above the tracks' $160 price, which I'm gonna go ahead and say was worth every penny. As you can see from the results the tracks properly installed look quite natural on the Juke, and sans base rack go almost unnoticed:

Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (2)
Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (3)

Next was figuring out what base rack configuration to go with...Thule's newest and nicest load bars are wide aerodynamic crossbars called AeroBlades--recommended for the Juke are Thule's 47-inch wide ARB-47s ($150) and they dictated I go with the Thule 460R Rapid Podium Footpack kit ($190) which required the Thule 3101 Fit Kit ($75) to mate with the Top Tracks installed on the Juke. Conveniently, the AeroBlades have a tapered, wing shape profile to be more aerodynamic and quiet than the traditional square Thule bars--they don't require the use (or expense) of a fairing to quiet things down. Did I mention they look bitchin'?

You'll note that we haven't even gotten to the bike carriers yet and I'm in for $635. This will seem high to some, but bikes are a big priority to me and I have some spendy ones--putting this kind of money into a rack I can rely on is completely justified in my book. And it was in that spirit that I tossed in another $400 ($200 each) for Thule's 594XT Sidearm bike carriers. While Thule makes some really nice low-profile fork-mount carriers, I prefer the bulkier/more complex Sidearm because it's an upright rig that allows for carrying bikes without removing the front wheel. This is particularly handy for my mountain bike of choice these days--a Santa Cruz Nomad with a thru-axel fork (I've used these carriers on the Mazda for several years now with great convenience and success).

You may note that in my first photo, Cool Hand Juke has blacked-out rims and badges...this bit of aesthetic is something I wanted to carry over to the rack as well, and took the opportunity to paint both the wheel trays and crossbars flat black before I got to assembling the rack. I stopped at the auto parts store and got a can of VHT Rollbar Paint (they didn't have 'roof rack paint' and this seemed a close second) and it performed beautifully. Four thin coats 10 minutes apart and it looks like the gear came from the factory this way.

On to the install...you'll note that my bike mounts 'backwards' with the rear wheel of the bike facing the front of the car. After numerous measurements and "dry fits" with and without the tailgate up...with and without the Sidearm extended and a number of angles, I elected to go with this configuration for a couple reasons. First the bike carrier trays didn't overhang the front windshield--not a functional issue, but one the front-facing mount required. Second, the rack looked aesthetically better more centered over the cab. At least I think it does. In any case, you can make it work either way if you desire.

Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (4)
Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (5)

Now for some more custom work...The easy way to mount bike carriers to Thule racks is by using the included clamps that thread through parts of the carrier with carriage bolts and secure to the base rack using upper and lower clamp pieces. I originally fitted the carriers this way but was disappointed with how clunky it looked. The clamps are made to work with all of Thule's crossbars--square ones, the oval aero bars and the new AeroBlades as well. Unfortunately, they don't mate with the latter all that well--knowing Thule, I'm sure they test out well functionally, but they just looked janky.

One of the cool things about the AeroBars is that they have a t-slot running their length and Thule sells square headed M6 bolts that allow you to utilize them for mounting. Thule's series of X-Adapt mount kits are made up with components to take advantage of this slot. I couldn't find a kit specifically for mounting the 594XT Sidearm, so I just ordered a pair of M6 square head bolts ($1 each) for each of the bike carriers (four bolts total) for the front wheel side of the rack, and I ordered a pair of M6 sliding nuts ($1 each) and M6 X 12mm allen bolts ($.50 each) for the rear of the carrier tray. I also ordered six M6 washers ($.50 each)--one for each of the nuts in the install.

On the baseplate where the clamps would have mounted, there is an extra set of square holes in the middle of the plate fore-to-aft. Unfortunately, one is obstructed by the tray itself, so I drilled a hole through the tray and secured the front of the rack to the AeroBar with the 3 Wing Knobs that are included with the Sidearm (left photo, below). This took a bit of trial and error...measuring and re-measuring to get the square head bolts aligned properly and the rubber wind strip that fills the unused T-slot all set. Similarly in the back, I drilled a slot into the tray so I could use the allen bolts to secure the tray to the rear crossbar, threading them into the sliding square nuts which are also aligned and surrounded by the aero stripping (right photo, below).

Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (6)
Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (7)

I WILL WARN YOU NOW--THIS IS NOT AN INSTALL THAT'S RECOMMENDED BY THULE...REPLICATE AT YOUR OWN RISK...that said, I did speak with a former rack engineer who deemed it sound, saying that the simple rack installs manufacturers recommend are the most idiot-proof and require the least amount of work to get on and get you rolling (I'd rather take the time and have it dialed). He said he had done several similar installs with no problems. He also recommended checking the tightness of bolts after every bike transport for a couple of months and periodically after that.

My final addition was that of a six-pack of like-keyed Thule Lock Cores ($70)--one for each bike carrier and one for each of the four rack feet. These little locks are deterrents for short periods of innattendance, but should be supplemented by a reliable cable and U-lock (I like the new Blackburn Bike & Bicycle U Lock | U Bike Lock - Blackburn Design ones which require theres to cut both shackles to defeat), or better yet taking your bike inside.

So far I've used the rack three times with no issues. Let me know what you think or if you have any questions!

Don

Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (8)
Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (9)
Custom Thule Roof Rack - Bike Rack Install (10)

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