Thule AeroBlade crossbars w/ Sidearm bike mount
The AeroBlades do away with the thrumming noise generated by round and square crossbars at speeds greater than 70-plus mph, but the beefy Sidearm bike mounts negate the fuel economy promise of the a-blades. Buy this set-up if you’ve got a small car or hatchback and frequently drive out of town to start bike rides.
AeroBlades w/ Rapid Crossroad feet
Mated to my vehicle’s roof rails, the Thule AeroBlades, mounted onto Thule’s Rapid Crossroad feet, stood higher off the car’s roof than my Yakima crossbars. At highway speeds, without the Sidearm bike carrier mounted, the AeroBlades produced no noticeable turbulence noise. However, compared to my six-year-old Yakima round crossbars, I didn’t notice any remarkable improvement in mpg—at least none that I could attribute to the Thule’s.
Like an Ikea bookshelf, all the tools you need to install the AeroBlades to the Rapid Crossroad feet come in the box. Many of the plastic parts snap into place which makes things easy, but it still took me 45 minutes to get the roof rack onto my vehicle. At least 30 of those minutes were spent pushing a rubber strip into the top of each cross bar—no fun on a cold day. Once I got the strips in, I still had to trim the excess rubber off the end to be able to snap on the end caps.
The Rapid Crossroad feet slid easily into the underside of the AeroBlades, and an Allen wrench attached to the feets’ caps allowed me to cinch tight the rubber strap that binds the Crossroads to the vehicle’s rails. Each of the caps can be locked to the rails by inserting a key lock, but for the sake of time, I simply shoved the caps on. Even without the locks, the caps stayed snug throughout the test.
Sidearm bike mount
For versatility in a roof rack for bikes, the Sidearm was brilliant. By securing the wheels of a bike with a sliding hook over the front tire and a strap for the rear wheel, this bike carrier removed the issues of fitting a mountain bike with a front disc brake onto a fork-mount carrier or securing a range of frame sizes/shapes to a frame-clamp carrier. In less than two minutes, I was able to lock down a kid’s 20-inch dirt bike, swap it out for an adult road bike with 700cc wheels, and then swap the skinny tire bike for an XL 29er mountain bike. A lock (sold and installed separately) on the sliding bar keeps the bike secure.
The drawbacks to the Sidearm: the mechanism was clunky (read: not aerodynamic), heavy and the top of it sat 13 inches above my vehicle’s roof, which put it disturbingly close to the hitting the ceiling of several parking garages I entered. Best to use the Sidearm on smaller sedans, wagons, and hatchbacks that don’t have as high a profile as SUVs or minivans.
Be aware that the Sidearm depends upon the proper inflation of your bike tires. After driving home from a freeway test with my mountain-bike in the Sidearm, I noticed that my bike was rattling in the mount. Turns out that I’d picked up a thorn on ride earlier that day that caused my front tire to slowly deflate over the course of the drive. Fortunately, there was no harm done to my wheel or bike.
I spent 35 minutes mounting one Sidearm to the Thule AeroBlades with 10 of those minutes sucked up by readjusting the spacing of the crossbars to fit the Sidearm. Attaching the driver’s side Sidearm so that the wheel-locking assembly faces out required a moderate disassembly, moving the mechanism to the other side of its mounting bracket and reassembling the unit.
The Sidearm locks to the crossbars with a locking plastic cover that hides one set of wing nuts. However, I was unable to fit the cover over the wing nuts using the unit’s longer bolts, and I was unable to screw the Sidearm onto the AeroBlades using its shorter bolts. An email to Thule assured me that everything had been tested to fit, and that I was likely doing something wrong. I never did figure it out. Hopefully, your experience differs from mine.
The Sidearm’s lock—a plastic cover that locks into place (lock sold separately)—was representative of a disconcerting reliance on plastic-to-plastic locks throughout the rack system. With long-term exposure to the elements, I’d be nervous about these locks’ reliability. I’d feel better knowing that I was locking metal to metal.
In the grand scheme of things, taking 2 hours to install a roof rack is not that big a deal. To wit: until this test, I’d never removed my vehicle’s Yakima rack since I first installed it six years and 73,000 miles ago. Still, keep in mind that this is not a last-minute operation and don’t be shocked by the labor charges a local shop may charge to install the rack for you.
$190 (Rapid Crossroad feet)
$200 (Sidearm bike mount)
How We Tested It
The Thule AeroBlades were mounted onto the factory rails of a 2006 Honda Odyssey minivan, which was driven for five days to determine high-speed performance on freeways in the Denver metro region. The Sidearm was then mounted, tested to fit a kid’s BMW bike, an adult road bike, and an adult 29er mountain bike. On road performance of the 29er conducted with 40 minutes of highway and freeway driving. The Sidearm remained on the vehicle for another week.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
Gear Institute Rating (Total Score)
- Weight verified?: No