Interbike 2012: Thule goes full-on aero with new roof rack trays, hitch racks, and cargo boxes

Sleeker, quieter, and more stylish

This article originally published on BikeRadar

Following up on the debut of its Aeroblade aero-profile roof rack system last year, Thule is now going full-on aero through much of the rest of the line, including two new fork-mount trays, sleek cargo boxes, and even a new lightweight aluminum hitch rack. While aerodynamics in bicycles may be all about going faster, here the main benefits are reduced wind noise and increased fuel efficiency.

Two trays, no waiting

Thule launched two new fork mounts at Interbike – the higher-end Sprint (US$250) and the more moderately priced Circuit (US$169) – that are intended to match up better visually with the Aeroblade's sleek, extruded aluminum crossbars. Both are built with novel bullet-like heads, burly hollow-extruded aluminum trays, and versatile tool-free mounting systems that work with nearly any crossbar shape.

While the Circuit utilizes a more conventional locking skewer design and sliding ratching rear wheel strap, the Sprint features a more advanced setup to secure both ends. Up front is an 'AutoTorque' knob that automatically clamps the fork tips at the correct torque to prevent damage – and also ensure a secure fitment. Meanwhile, the back wheel is secured in a long cradle attached to an extendable aluminum extrusion.

Both trays will be available this coming spring.

New Helium Aero lightens up

If hitch racks are more your style – and especially if you don't like leaving them on your vehicle all the time – Thule's new Helium Aero should be appealing with its aluminum construction and slimmed-down, 8.9kg (19.6lb) claimed weight (for reference, Thule's T2 is more than double that). Moreover, Thule has built the main upright with a nominally aerodynamic cross-section that presumably decreases wind drag (at least when there aren't any bikes mounted).

That sort of portability would be useless if the Helium Aero were a hassle to install and remove but it seems Thule has that figured out as well with the rack's clever AutoAttach base, which both tightens the rack in the receiver and locks it in place, all with no tools required.

Up to three bikes are secured in Thule's RDT (Road Dampening Technology) cradles, built with dual-density padding and thick rubber straps to both protect the bike's finish and keep them from swaying while in transit. Additional features include arms that fold down when not in use, a tilting base so that SUV and hatchback owners can access the rear of the vehicle even with bikes loaded, and an integrated cable lock hidden inside the upright.

The Helium Aero is set to hit stores around February with a suggested price of US$339 for a two-bike version and US$379 for three-bike capacity.

Sleeker, quieter, and more stylish cargo boxes

Thule has even redesigned its cargo box range to reduce aerodynamic drag – a key feature since rooftop boxes present a lot of frontal area to the wind.

Both the new Sonic and Hyper boxes are built with newly pointed noses and lower-profile forms that decrease wind noise as well as fabric-lined interiors to keep contents from sliding around too much. Internal reinforcements also lend extra structure to the dual-sided, clamshell-type lids for easier opening, new AcuTight sliding clamps automatically adjust to the proper torque, and the Hyper even includes a built-in LED interior light so you can spot contents in the dark.

The new Force box continues on with the older rounded nose but still gets some aerodynamic enhancements in the form of a textured surface called AeroSkin. According to Thule, the bumpy surface – similar to Zipp's wheel dimples but with the bumps facing outward – decreases drag by helping air 'stick' to the box, thus producing smoother flow.

Expect to pay at the cash register for the sleeker forms, though – the largest Sonic commands a whopping US$629 while the Hyper XL will cost US$949.

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