Küat Piston Pro vs. Thule Epos 2 Review

Küat Piston Pro vs. Thule Epos 2 Review


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I still remember the first bike I bought for myself as an adult. It was a simple thing, a hardtail mountain bike that I rode everywhere—on dirt for fun and on streets when I was too broke to put gas in my car. One tool for a half dozen different jobs. Now I have a wall of bikes in my garage, all designed for unique use cases—one for the skate park, one for roads, one for trails that go downhill, one for trails that go uphill, one for gravel roads, and one for when I’m too tired to pedal (an e-bike). As I’ve accumulated more bikes, I’ve learned two things: Biking is more fun when your ride matches the terrain; and finding a rack that can accommodate all styles of bike, from a 20-inch BMX to downhill rig with plus-sized tires, can be a nightmare.

Fortunately, the bike carry conundrum just got easier. This year, Küat released the Piston Pro and Thule introduced the Epos, both two-bike hitch racks designed with versatility in mind. With each touting the ability to accommodate two wheels of all shapes and sizes—from kids bikes to e-bikes—I decided to try both in a head-to-head-to-head battle.

I spent three months interchanging the new Thule Epos and Küat Piston Pro on the back of my truck to determine which is the best solution for carrying all of the types of bikes I own. The verdict? Each of these racks is as functional and versatile as promised, but neither is perfect. Here’s my take on the new Küat Piston Pro and the Thule Epos after three months of field-testing.

Küat Piston Pro ($1,098)

Kuat Piston Pro bike rack
(Photo: Courtesy Küat)

Specs

Weight: 63 pounds
Total Weight Capacity: 134 pounds
Max Wheelbase: 53”
Max Tire Width: 5”

Pros

  • OneTap hydro-pneumatic arms are easy to use
  • User-friendly tray with one-hand operation
  • Tray folds up tight against vehicle
  • You can add trays to carry more than two bikes
  • No frame contact
  • Comes with a cable lock

Cons

  • Rack doesn’t fold down far enough to open a truck tailgate
  • Doesn’t accommodate bikes with fenders
  • Requires a special wrench to install/uninstall the rack from hitch

Buy Now

Similar to Küat’s popular Piston Pro X, the Piston Pro comes in a simpler package and a more affordable price tag (it’s $300 cheaper than the Piston Pro X). Instead of Küat’s signature Genuine Kashima coating found on the Piston Pro X (that’s the flashy gold highlights that help Küat stand apart from the crowd), the two-bike Piston Pro gets a matte black finish and loses the brake lights found on the Pro X model.

But it retains some of the best features of the Pro X, most notably the OneTap tire arms that are powered by hydraulic pistons that engage with a simple hand tap. Those fancy arms clamp down on the top of the tires to secure bikes to the rack, so there’s no contact with the frame (which riders with expensive bikes appreciate). The Piston Pro carries two bikes with a 67-pound max per tray, and can accommodate 5-inch fat bikes tires. You can also purchase additional trays to carry up to four bikes. A semi-integrated 12 millimeter cable lock comes with the rack, which is a money-saving touch.

What I Like About the Küat Piston Pro

The OneTap feature is slick: just push the lever on the base of the rack and the arms raise, ready to receive the tires. It’s a system designed to be operated with just one hand, which makes the whole process of securing your bike easier—you can keep one mitt on the bike, while the other does the dirty work. This feature makes the Piston Pro one of the most user-friendly tray racks I’ve ever used.

Kuat Piston Pro bike rack carrying a mountain bike mounted to the back of a white pickup truck.
The OneTap hydraulic tire arms on the Küat Piston Pro make this bike rack one of the most user-friendly racks I’ve ever tried. (Photo: Graham Averil)

The arms clamp down for a snug fit—I never noticed any wiggling—that leaves plenty of room for each bike. The wheel clamps within the arms can be adjusted quickly to accommodate different tire sizes, so I had no trouble carrying my BMX bike and my plus-sized mountain bike on the rack.

I also appreciated how little room the rack occupies behind my truck. The trays fold up tight against my tailgate when the rack is not in use, which means I can parallel park without worrying too much about the rack adding length to my truck.

What I Don’t Like

The Piston Pro folds down away from the vehicle to allow access to the trunk of your car, even with bikes attached; but it doesn’t fold down far enough to allow me to fully open the tailgate of my truck. Instead, the tailgate rests on the edge of the bike rack, which makes me nervous. If you don’t have a truck, this is not something you have to worry about.

Mountain bike and BMX bike loaded on Kuat Piston Pro rack on back of pickup truck
The Piston Pro can accommodate various styles of bikes, but it’s not designed to carry bikes with fenders (like e-bikes). (Photo: Graham Averill)

The biggest issue with the Piston Pro, though, is that because bikes are secured via tire arms, it does not accommodate bikes with fenders (like many e-bikes). You can buy straps designed to accommodate fenders, but if you’re transporting e-bikes often, I’d look for a different rack.

Final (minor) ding: The rack is easy to install and remove from the vehicle, but the installation does require a specific-sized wrench. While this tool comes with the rack, you’ll have to keep it handy if you want to take the Piston Pro on and off your vehicle.

Thule Epos 2 ($995)

Thule Epos 2 bike rack
(Photo: Courtesy Thule)

Specs

Weight: 38 pounds
Total Weight Capacity: 140 pounds
Max Wheelbase: 53”
Max Tire Width: 3.25” (5” with additional wheel straps)

Pros

  • Telescoping arms make it a truly universal rack that can accommodate any bike
  • Folds tight and takes up little space when storing
  • Wheels and handle make it easy to move to and from vehicle
  • Tool-free installation
  • Clips keep straps out of way when not in use
  • You can purchase a separate light kit for added safety

Cons

  • Loading bikes can be cumbersome until you get the hang of it
  • Rack doesn’t fold up against vehicle
  • Cable lock costs extra

Buy Now

The new Epos represents Thule’s focus on versatility in their rack designs, and is loaded with features that allow it to accommodate every single bike in my garage. Thoughtful details make the Epos easy to use: small clips keep the tension straps from flapping around when they’re not in use, and telescoping arms adjust and pivot to grab your bike frame at a variety of contact points.

Closeup of bikes secured to Thule Epos 2 bike rack
The Thule Epos 2 secures bikes via the telescoping arms that attach to the bike frame and straps that cinch around the bottoms of the wheels. (Photo: Graham Averill)

The adjustable arm and two straps that hook to the bottom of the wheels secure bikes to the rack. It’s a three-step process—secure the arm, then both tires—which makes it a little more cumbersome than the Küat Piston Pro, but it provides a secure connection with no wiggling thanks to the three contact points. The ratcheting wheel buckles can handle big tires—up to 3.2 inches—and you can get separate straps if you have 5-inch fat tires. Each tray can hold a 66-pound bike and support the vast majority of e-bikes.

The Epos is easy to attach and detach to the vehicle (no tools required) and actually has wheels so you can roll it in and out of the garage. One of the best features of the Epos is that the trays fold up and into the center of the rack, creating a small package that’s easy to carry and store. You can buy a light kit ($250) which adds tail lights and a license plate holder to the rack. Unlike the Küat Piston Pro, the Epos doesn’t come with a cable lock, so you’ll have to purchase that separately ($89).

What I Like about the Thule Epos

The telescoping arms are genius and make the Epos truly universal. I have many different styles and sizes of bikes—from a 20-inch BMX to a full suspension downhill to an e-bike with fenders—and this rack can handle every single one of them because the telescoping arm can be situated to grab any size or style of frame. The Epos is, without a doubt, the most versatile two-bike hitch rack I’ve ever tested.

Thule Epos bike rack carrying two bikes mounted to the back of a white pickup truck.
The Thule Epos features telescoping arms that secure bikes via their frames, so it can accommodate a wide variety of bikes. (Photo: Graham Averill)

I also appreciate the fact that the Epos folds into a small package when it’s not in use. My garage is full of gear, and this rack takes up a fraction of the space of other two-bike racks.

What I Don’t Like

Because the telescoping arm folds up from the bottom of the rack, you have to pay attention to the placement of your pedals, otherwise they could get in the way of the arms. It took me a while to figure out that I should raise the arms first, then place the bikes on the trays, so there’s no chance of pedal interference. It’s a simple fix, but it took a few tries to figure this out.

My biggest issue with the Epos is that the rack doesn’t fold up against the back of the vehicle when it’s not in use. The trays fold into the center of the rack, making it a compact unit, and the whole thing can fold away from my vehicle to make room for the tailgate (or trunk hatch if you have a car), but it doesn’t fold up against the back of the vehicle like most hitch racks. That means it takes up more space off the rear of the vehicle, making it that much harder to park. This could be a deal breaker if you live in an urban environment with limited parking.

Küat Piston Pro vs. Thule Epos: The Verdict

The biggest strength of the Küat Piston Pro is its user-friendly design and slim profile on the back of a vehicle, which makes it easier to drive in crowded streets. The major benefit of the Epos is that it folds down far enough to allow me to fully open the tailgate of my truck. For this reason, the Thule Epos wins in my book. That said, after months of testing, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either bike rack. If you’re carrying e-bikes with fenders, or drive a truck, go with the Thule Epos. If you own a car or SUV, or live in an urban environment where you have to parallel park often, the Küat Piston Pro might be the better choice.

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