Freeloader Racks Morph into Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Racks

Thule Pack 'n Pedal Tour Rack

Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tour Rack

I blogged back in October 2012 that the New Zealand company, Freeloader had sold is Freeloader rack design to Thule, a brand known for their roof racks. At the time, there was talk of but no real evidence of what was to come in the Thule Pack ’n Pedal range. Well now Thule have come out with the range: the Tour and Sport Racks, touring, commuter and tote panniers and handlebar accessories.

Freeloader Racks now Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tour and Sport Racks

Thule Pack 'n Pedal Sport Rack

Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Sport Rack

It does seem that there has not been any significant change in the design of the Freeloader racks now that they are part of the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal range which is probably a good thing going by the rest of the range. Thule are offering two models of the Thule Pack ’n Pedal Racks: The Tour and the Sport.

The Tour comes in at a reported 990 g, load capacity of 25 kg on the top or 18 kg on each side. The Sport has the same capacity but weighs in at 760 g. The Sport model is more suited to top loads where the Tour includes rails for mounting panniers. Both designs can be mounted front or rear and do not need braze-ons.

Thule Pack n Pedal Side Frames

Thule Pack n Pedal Side Frames

One other option for the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tour rack is it can be fitted with Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Side Frames for use with panniers.

Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Adventure Touring Pannier

Thule Pack n Pedal Adventure Touring Pannier

Thule Pack n Pedal Adventure Touring Pannier

Thule have also released a series of panniers designed for commuters and for tourers. My interest is in the touring pannier, which is the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Adventure Touring Pannier. Further information on the commuter panniers can be found at Thule’s website.

To be honest I am a serious fan of Ortlieb panniers and would need a lot of convincing to change over to something like the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Adventure Touring panniers.

I am such a fan of Ortlieb panniers that I use two sets of Ortlieb Bike-Packer Plus panniers on the rear of Surly Long Haul Trucker and on my Extrawheel Voyager trailer and a set of Ortlieb Sport-Packer Plus panniers on the front of the Surly Long Haul Trucker and my Giant XTC 2.

Getting back to the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Adventure Touring panniers. They come in a large size (rear pannier) and a small size (front pannier). The key features of the panniers according to Thule are:

  • Mounted using Thule’s patent pending vanishing hardware attachment system which includes a magnetic connection;
  • Rear light connection points;
  • Weatherproof and breathable main material. Note there is no claim that they are waterproof. A key weakness in my view for a touring pannier;
  • Roll top design;
  • Compression buckles to allow adjustment depending on load;
  • Handle and shoulder straps for carrying. The mounting hardware on the pannier also “vanishes” so maybe more comfortable to carry;
  • Reflective material for night-time visibility;
  • Sold as single panniers.
Weights and Sizes of the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Adventure Touring Panniers
Large Pannier26 L1184 g40 x 30 x 18 cmNon-PVC
Small Pannier18 L1026 g30 x 30 x 14 cmNon-PVC

Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Handlebar Products

Thule have also released three products in their handlebar part of the range.

Thule Pack ’n Pedal Handlebar Attachment
Thule Pack n Pedal Handlebar Attachment

Thule Pack n Pedal Handlebar Attachment

Mounting of the handlebar product is via their rather interesting handlebar attachment which allows for mounting of two “bags”: one forward and one facing the rear.

Thule Pack ’n Pedal Handlebar Bag
Thule Pack n Pedal Handlebar Bag

Thule Pack n Pedal Handlebar Bag

From my perspective as a touring cyclist the main product in this part of the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal range is the handlebar bag.

The bag is not waterproof but it does come with a rain cover. Its has a 6.5 L capacity and weighs in at 660 g.

Thule Pack ’n Pedal Range Mounted

Thule Pack ’n Pedal Range Mounted

Due to the lack of detailed photos it is hard to get a feel for the bag but this photo from gives a bit of an idea as to how it looks on the bike. Personally it does not work for me: not keen on the way it sticks out so far.

Thule Pack ’n Pedal Bike Wallet
Thule Pack n Pedal Bike Wallet

Thule Pack n Pedal Bike Wallet

Along with the handlebar bag Thule Pack ’n Pedal range also includes what Thule are calling a “Bike Wallet.” Thule describe the Bike Wallet as an organiser for smartphones, keys or other small items. I am not convinced of the value of the Bike Wallet. If I am touring these items can easily go in the handlebar bag. Maybe commuting this might be handy.

Thule Pack ’n Pedal iPad/Map Sleeve
Thule Pack n Pedal iPad:Map Sleeve

Thule Pack n Pedal iPad:Map Sleeve

Okay, Thule suggest that the Thule Pack ’n Pedal™ iPad/Map Sleeve is great for touring. I am not sure what sort of touring Thule has in mind but whilst I do carry my iPad on tours I don’t think I would like it upfront waiting to be damaged or stolen. So for me this accessory just does not cut it.

Honestly for me as a touring cyclist I am really not convinced with all of these handlebar accessories or for that matter the Thule Pack ’n Pedal Adventure panniers. The only part of the range that has my interest is the Freeloader racks, the racks designed by the team in New Zealand and not by Thule. I really hope that they don’t “re-design” them and stuff them up.

So there you go, the new Thule Pack ’n Pedal range. I suspect Ortlieb does not have too much to worry about.

9 Responses to Freeloader Racks Morph into Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Racks

  1. Jason Grima April 9, 2013 at 10:23 AM #

    I have the Freeloader rack (branded as such) which I bought maybe 9 months ago, just before they sold the design to Thule. Mine has the side panels for panniers and I run it with 2x 42ltr Tioga 100% waterproof packs (which I have had for much longer). The combination of the Freeloader and the Tioga packs is fantastic, easy to shift between bikes and very solid on the tail.

    I’m currently trying to source a second rack (in the original Freeloader design:Tour, not sport) but they’re unavailable everywhere I’ve tried, and Thule aren’t selling them until July. Bah!

  2. Andrew Priest April 16, 2013 at 10:36 AM #

    Thanks Jason for your comments. It is great to actually here from a Freeloader user as reports seem to be a light on them. Are you using the rack on a aluminium or carbon frame?

    • Jason Grima April 16, 2013 at 10:49 AM #

      I move my rack a couple of times a week between my Trek 8.5 DS (Alloy frame with metalic-matt power-coat finish) and my Trek Marlin 29er (Alloy frame with hi-gloss finish). The changeover takes < 10min and the rack fits comfortably on both frames, despite the different geometries, and it kind’s to the frames and paint-work.

      While the rubber feet on the rack are very kind to the frame and paint work, it's critical to make sure that they are free from dust and grit, because even a single grain of sand will score your paintwork with the vibrations, over time.

      The rack is solid for some rough trail duties, but I've not (yet) done any climbing or descents with it.

  3. Erik Straarup July 21, 2014 at 11:02 PM #

    Hi Andrew

    Will the orlieb pannies fit on this rack?

    • Aushiker July 22, 2014 at 9:09 AM #

      I haven’t actually tried them but I see no reason not, at least on the Touring model which has railings for panniers. Ortlieb panniers for example with the QL2 mounting system will fit railings in the range 8 mm to 16 mm in diameter. Looking at the Thule Touring rack this shouldn’t be a problem.

      If you take a look at this photo you can see Ortlieb panniers on the original incarnation of the rack

      • Erik Straarup July 22, 2014 at 12:36 PM #

        Thanks Andrew

        I have now also found some other pics showing orliebs being used on these racks, so no problem there 🙂

        The racks gets very good reviews too, so I’m probely going to use them on my next off-road adventure.

        The side frames tend to not holding up though, according to 1 rewiew

        • Aushiker July 23, 2014 at 2:02 PM #

          If you do use them, please do update us here on how they work out. I might consider one for my Giant XTC 2.

  4. Erik Straarup July 24, 2014 at 10:19 AM #

    My next long trip is a year from now, so you have to be patient 🙂

    I have ordered one yesterday so I can test it before the trip, and will let you know my thoughts about it later!

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