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  1. #1
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    Thule Platform Raceway 9003 Experience

    I've ditched my roof rack set-up as I'm tired of the ridiculously crappy mileage it causes and also the wind noise generated from it. I was thinking of installing a receiver hitch on my car and getting a tray mounted rack of some sort or was considering the Thule Raceway with the platform for strapping the wheels to. I haven't seen any in person yet and wanted some feedback or reviews on what users who have them think. It looks like a pretty solid system. I'm not sure to go with that set-up or do the receiver hitch and hitch mount rack. The hitch mount option is quite a bit more expensive and trying to decide if it's worth the extra cost. Any feedback would be much appreciated as I need to get one soon! Thanks

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    what kind of car are you driving?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by cracksandracks.com
    what kind of car are you driving?
    I am driving a 4 door grand am. I'm surprised there aren't more people out there with experience with the thule raceway platform rack. I know there has to be at least a few people using it......

  4. #4
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    It is a new product this year. I have yet to see any at the local Thule dealer, but did see one at a bike show. No idea if they are even market available yet.

  5. #5
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    9003 platform rack-- Thule

    I just bought one. Initial thoughts/observations:

    Very sturdy rack and sturdy mounting system. The cable strap with the ratchet knobs are very cool. The cables lock to prevent rack theft. It fit my car like a glove (2012 focus). The fit adjust knob is very easy to use. All parts that contact the car are rubber coated.

    When pushing/nudging (simulating road bumps, spirited turns etc.) the rack fully loaded, it is stable and does not move on the car. The entire car moves with the rack. Only slight rack flex, but nothing to be concerned with (**see below as my rack was not complete so a complete rack will be even sturdier).

    I tired mounting the following combos: two 29ers (one hardtail and one full sus--54 lbs. total), and then one road bike with each 29er. Very nice fit, no bike touch. The upper arms and lower platforms have a good amount of adjust-ability to make this all work.

    Upper lock arms as I said before allow for plenty of adjustment. The are also very sturdy and each arm clamp locks for theft prevention. They are rubber lined so as not to damage the bike frame.

    The bad: slightly heavy and bulky, but there is prob no great way to make a sturdy platform rack light (carbon fiber!!!??).

    **The unfortunate: My rack was missing the hard mounted lower arms. The rack still works sans arms, but puts undue stress on the pivot adjustment mech. I had to return this rack per Thule's direction. I bought at REI and they are clear out of new ones for at least 2-4 weeks. Bummer.

    The good. Thule has been ultra responsive, apologetic and very helpful in dealing with this.

    I have a new rack on order form REI. now I just have to wait.

    The rack seems to be very well thought out/engineered in my opinion.

    I'll post again when I actually use the new one.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by thickfog
    I just bought one. Initial thoughts/observations:

    Very sturdy rack and sturdy mounting system. The cable strap with the ratchet knobs are very cool. The cables lock to prevent rack theft. It fit my car like a glove (2012 focus). The fit adjust knob is very easy to use. All parts that contact the car are rubber coated.

    When pushing/nudging (simulating road bumps, spirited turns etc.) the rack fully loaded, it is stable and does not move on the car. The entire car moves with the rack. Only slight rack flex, but nothing to be concerned with (**see below as my rack was not complete so a complete rack will be even sturdier).

    I tired mounting the following combos: two 29ers (one hardtail and one full sus--54 lbs. total), and then one road bike with each 29er. Very nice fit, no bike touch. The upper arms and lower platforms have a good amount of adjust-ability to make this all work.

    Upper lock arms as I said before allow for plenty of adjustment. The are also very sturdy and each arm clamp locks for theft prevention. They are rubber lined so as not to damage the bike frame.

    The bad: slightly heavy and bulky, but there is prob no great way to make a sturdy platform rack light (carbon fiber!!!??).

    **The unfortunate: My rack was missing the hard mounted lower arms. The rack still works sans arms, but puts undue stress on the pivot adjustment mech. I had to return this rack per Thule's direction. I bought at REI and they are clear out of new ones for at least 2-4 weeks. Bummer.

    The good. Thule has been ultra responsive, apologetic and very helpful in dealing with this.

    I have a new rack on order form REI. now I just have to wait.

    The rack seems to be very well thought out/engineered in my opinion.

    I'll post again when I actually use the new one.

    Thanks for the insight and quick review. It looked to be a pretty solid system but I haven't even seen one in person yet. I got rid of my roof rack setup with the idea of putting a receiver hitch on my car and tray mount rack. Now that this rack system is out, I was thinking it would be a good way to go and much cheaper than the receiver hitch and tray mount option. Definitely let me/us know after you use it a time or two and give us your thoughts on it. Thanks!

  7. #7
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    Attached Image: Intense Tazer and Princess Bike on a Thule 9003 Platform - This is how I roll.

    I got horrendous mileage with my roof mounted Thule (from 25-26 MPG to a consistent <23 MPG). The final straw was when I drove the car into my garage with the bike on top. The bike was fine. The $600+ Thule roof rack was toast and I proved to myself that I am an idiot.

    I bough the Thule 9003 trunk mounted platform and I've been using it 2-3 times a week for the past month. Despite some issues, I do recommend it.

    THE GOOD:

    This trunk mounted platform rack is very stable. It holds the bikes very well. As seen in the attachment, it can hold a wide variety of bikes - big and small.

    It's quick and easy to get bikes on and off.

    It's very easy to unhook the carrier from the car.

    THE BAD:

    Fit and finish is pretty bad, their QC department must have been sleeping when mine was shipped out the door. I think I have one of the first production models so hopefully they ironed things out. My Thule roof rack had excellent fit and finish, my Thule 9003 platform carrier - not so much. There are 3 locks - one for each arm that holds the top tubes and one to lock straps to prevent theft of the carrier from the car. One out of three locks was virtually impossible to turn. I had to use vise grips on the key to turn the lock. It eventually loosened up a bit, but it's still hard to turn.

    There are 4 knobs to turn to ratchet down the straps. One of the 4 was incredibly hard to turn.

    The "jaw" that holds onto the top tube is showing a lot of wear and tear for 1 month of use where it contacts the rolling knob (you turn the knob to close the jaw). I wish they put a big washer there, but they didn't.

    There is a locking button that keeps the lower arms locked in the correct position. Mine sheared off within the first day. The rack still works well without that lockout though.

    THE OK BUT COULD BE BETTER:

    I wish they used the ratcheting wheel straps from the Thule Sidearm. Instead, it's just a rubber strap with holes, which is a lot clumsier to use. It's a little loose in one hole and very tight with the next hole.

    It's pretty heavy.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Thule Platform Raceway 9003 Experience-thule-9003.jpg  


  8. #8
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    Thanks for the review linger! Despite the cons it sounds like a pretty stable system and a great alternative to buying a receiver hitch and rack together as that is spendy.

    How sturdy is the wheel tray? Does it bounce much or stay put for the most part?

  9. #9
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    lonbalz,
    Yeah, despite the cons, I still like it and use it all the time. Considering the alternatives, it's a good value.
    The wheel tray is pretty sturdy. It telescopes out to match the wheelbase of your bike and there is a camlock lever that locks in the length. I'm watching my bike as I drive and it's pretty stable - hardly any bouncing around.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by linger

    THE BAD:

    Fit and finish is pretty bad, their QC department must have been sleeping when mine was shipped out the door. I think I have one of the first production models so hopefully they ironed things out. My Thule roof rack had excellent fit and finish, my Thule 9003 platform carrier - not so much. There are 3 locks - one for each arm that holds the top tubes and one to lock straps to prevent theft of the carrier from the car. One out of three locks was virtually impossible to turn. I had to use vise grips on the key to turn the lock. It eventually loosened up a bit, but it's still hard to turn.

    There are 4 knobs to turn to ratchet down the straps. One of the 4 was incredibly hard to turn.

    The "jaw" that holds onto the top tube is showing a lot of wear and tear for 1 month of use where it contacts the rolling knob (you turn the knob to close the jaw). I wish they put a big washer there, but they didn't.

    There is a locking button that keeps the lower arms locked in the correct position. Mine sheared off within the first day. The rack still works well without that lockout though.

    THE OK BUT COULD BE BETTER:

    I wish they used the ratcheting wheel straps from the Thule Sidearm. Instead, it's just a rubber strap with holes, which is a lot clumsier to use. It's a little loose in one hole and very tight with the next hole.

    It's pretty heavy.
    Maybe its just the angle of that pic, and I don't mean any offense, but not being able to see either your brake lights /taillights/license plate, would be a HUGE CON. Around here, the local police would cite you for that.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by 440TRK
    Maybe its just the angle of that pic, and I don't mean any offense, but not being able to see either your brake lights /taillights/license plate, would be a HUGE CON. Around here, the local police would cite you for that.
    no different than a hitch rack, or really a standard hatch rack. Thw wheels coverlap the lights, but they shine around/through. Imperfect, but is what it is.

  12. #12
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    I agree with linger on this all the way. My first rack that had to be returned due to missing lower arms had horrible fit and finish with the same lock problems, ratchet wheel issues and lock levers that were impossible to lock and unlock.

    I just got the new rack earlier this week and it is VERY much improved. Everything works smoothly.

    Once you have your fit dial set, this rack is on the car in less than a minute. Fast, super secure and no dangling straps.

    There is hardly any bike movement drivng in the city, freeway and on rough dirt roads. Cables stayed tight for entire 40 mile + ride. I love a rack you don't have to re-tighten or mess with.

    Huge bonus: I fit my Pugsley with 4 inch tires no problem and it was very secure. The rubber straps were over-stretched, so I plan to use larger ones or velcro straps in the future for the pugs.

    I think the early units may have suffered from quality issues, but the new ones seem great.

    Would definitely buy again and recommend.

  13. #13
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    Thanks thickfrog. I was debating on ordering one and this pretty much seals the deal for me. Sounds like a pretty good rack system from Thule and great alternative to trunk mount or receiver hitch mount rack systems. Post any other feedback after furthuer use to let us know how they are holding up.

  14. #14
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    Update: 90 mile + trip with my Pugsley on the rack this weekend. Mostly highway around 80-90 mph.

    The bike slightly rocks when you surpass 70 mph (crosswinds were approx 15 mph), but barely. And nothing at all to worry about. Everything is still rock solid. The rack itself absolutely does not budge. This is great compared to other strap on (dirty mind....) bike racks that can move and trap dirt under the foam/rubber contact arms. Plus the Raceway uses a sticky rubber cushion with ridges, so dirt trappage is much less likely than say a solid foam piece.

    After this entire trip, the cable straps did not need any tightening at all.

  15. #15
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    I am considering one of these for a hitchless Subaru Outback. 2 questions. First, where are you attaching the lower cables? To the base of your trunk or to the bumper? I hope not the bumper, cuz that would make accessing my trunk very difficult when the rack is on. Second, do the bike trays fold up towards the car easily when not in use?

    Thanks.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by tamjam
    I am considering one of these for a hitchless Subaru Outback. 2 questions. First, where are you attaching the lower cables? To the base of your trunk or to the bumper? I hope not the bumper, cuz that would make accessing my trunk very difficult when the rack is on. Second, do the bike trays fold up towards the car easily when not in use?

    Thanks.
    Cable goes to base of hatch door same as one would on a trunk. Bottom tray folds very easily. The whole thing can fold up against my hatch window too.

  17. #17
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    Hey Everyone, I'm new to the forums, and found this post while doing some research on the Raceway Platform.

    I recently bought one at REI (20% off during their annual sale), and as thickfog and linger commented, the fit and finish frankly aren't that great. Since there have been comments about poor QC, I'm wondering if it's just my particular unit, or the Raceway Platform in general.

    For example:
    • When going over speedbumps in parking lots, there's a lot of vertical travel in the rack, particularly if I'm going a bit fast. In other words, I can see my bikes bouncing a good 4-5 inches.
    • The locking mechanism that holds the rack to the trunk seems useless. I was able to free the un-lockable side and then jimmy the lockable side right off.
    • My unit seems heavier than the others. Ex. REI says it's 30 pounds, and a reviewer on the Thule website said 27 pounds. Mine is 35 pounds.
    • When turning, the bike doesn't seem to be rock steady from left to right (relative to the car). I can see the arms swaying at least an inch


    Are my expectations too high with regard to the amount of movement my bikes are doing, or do I have a defective unit?

    TIA

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bwong View Post
    • When going over speedbumps in parking lots, there's a lot of vertical travel in the rack, particularly if I'm going a bit fast. In other words, I can see my bikes bouncing a good 4-5 inches.
    • The locking mechanism that holds the rack to the trunk seems useless. I was able to free the un-lockable side and then jimmy the lockable side right off.
    • My unit seems heavier than the others. Ex. REI says it's 30 pounds, and a reviewer on the Thule website said 27 pounds. Mine is 35 pounds.
    • When turning, the bike doesn't seem to be rock steady from left to right (relative to the car). I can see the arms swaying at least an inch


    TIA
    Hi bwong

    You rack should be securely fastened to your car, it should not see any vertical movement at all. The bikes do move a little vertically. I notice it was I have two bikes installed. It looks to be the platform part flexing up/down and it's more noticeable with more weight.

    The bikes should be VERY steady left to right. The platform wheel wells telescope to fit the bikes wheelbase.

    What are your straps hooked onto?

    I never measured the weight nor have I used the locking mechanism much.

  19. #19
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    Hi Linger, thanks for your quick response. I should have included a few additional details in my first post:
    1. I've got the rack attached to a 4door Honda Accord.
    2. All of my testing thus far has been with 2 mountain bikes, which I'm not completely sure, but assume weigh between 40-50 pounds total.

    The rack itself doesn't appear to be shifting on my trunk. That appears quite stable. What does appear to be moving up and down is the platform itself. I noticed that even with the gray locking mechanism (bottom of page 4 here) engaged, there is a fairly significant amount of vertical travel on the platform.

    I've got the wheel trays extended to accommodate my wheel base. Per the fit guide, I followed tips 101, 102, and 128, so the bottom clips are hooked onto the bottom edge of my trunk, and the top clips are on the top edge of the trunk.

    I'll have to do some more testing, particularly with my roadbike in the rack. Since you noticed a bigger difference with more weight, perhaps my lighter roadbike won't exhibit the same behavior.

    Just off hand, do you think taking it back to REI and getting a different unit might help?

  20. #20
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    Wow. Surprised at the amount of movement you are getting. Mine is rock solid still.

    New issue however: mine was out in the rain for a weekend mounted to the car. Unmounting later revealed mucho amounts of water in the cable mechanisms. It just poured out when I moved the rack on its side. Few days later and one side of the cable mechanism is frozen. Little wd40 to free it and a good working of the mechanisms and it seems ok. But this is unacceptable to me. This isn't even salt water. Winter should be fun.

    Also, the rubber coating on one of the cam locks is peeling off.

    Three years from now this might end up being a discontinued rack that was good in theory, but suffered from manufacturing defects and being overly complicated with too many bugs.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by bwong View Post
    Just off hand, do you think taking it back to REI and getting a different unit might help?
    bwong,
    I currently have it attached to a Acura TL (which is a Honda Accord with some lipstick) as well as a Toyo Corolla. It's pretty secure. I see some vertical bike movement with 2 MTB bikes attached and zero left/right movement. It sounds like you have it attached correctly.

    Per your descption, I don't know if exchanging for a different unil will be any better.
    BTW - the gray locking mechanism for the platform - mine was jammed within the first couple days and it sheared off the first week.

    Finally, just like thickfog - some of the rubber coatings on the platform cams is starting to come off. I'm tempted to take photos of all the problem areas and send them to Thule.

  22. #22
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    Thoughts after some use.

    I broke down and got the Thule raceway platform a few weeks back. So far overall the rack has preformed pretty well. I haven't had the chance to use it with two bikes yet. UPS trashed my rack during shipping and I can only carry one bike right now. Hopefully they hurry with the insurance claim and either fix or replace it! With my heavy bike (38 lbs.) it seems stable both horizontally and vertically while transporting the bike. The bike moves less than what I even anticipated which is good..... I'm on the freeway quite a bit and speeds are usually between 70 and 80 mph and while it does have some movement at the higher speeds, I don't worry about. Even the Thule sidearms on top of the car have some descent movement as well. Had those for 4 years. The one thing I did notice is that the rack does hold a fair amount of water in the cable housing after a rain. I learned this when I opened the trunk and almost had a shower for the second time that day. This does concern me as it can quickly rust. I may try to drill some small drain holes to remedy this.

    Time will tell if this rack is worth the $$$$ but the half a dozen times I've already used it it seems pretty solid for a trunk mount platform rack.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Thule Platform Raceway 9003 Experience-bikerack1-large-.jpg  

    Thule Platform Raceway 9003 Experience-bikerack2-large-.jpg  


  23. #23
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    Hi Lonbalz, thanks for the input. Sorry to hear you've got a busted unit. That's a bummer

    In terms of the vertical stability, have you tested that while going over speedbumps? That's when I see the most movement. When driving down the road, there's almost no vertical movement at all.

    Also, did you have any issues with the locking mechanism on the arm like linger did?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by bwong View Post
    Hi Lonbalz, thanks for the input. Sorry to hear you've got a busted unit. That's a bummer

    In terms of the vertical stability, have you tested that while going over speedbumps? That's when I see the most movement. When driving down the road, there's almost no vertical movement at all.

    Also, did you have any issues with the locking mechanism on the arm like linger did?

    That's the beauty of UPS. The box looked like it fell off the truck going down the interstate. I have gone over speed bumps and hit rain gutters coming out of and going into parking lots and everything seems to be pretty vertically stable. Of course, I slow down for that stuff but I haven't noticed any excessive movement while hitting that stuff.

  25. #25
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    I don't think I can recommend the 9003 Thule Platform Raceway bike rack anymore.
    I just inspected both cars that it was been installed on (Acura TL and Toyo Corolla). In both cases, the weight of the rack has left dents where it rests on the bumper.
    The bumpers are plastic and any weight left on it for some time causes deformation. For those Thule Engineers - Please look up "plastic creep"

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