If you’ve got a ute and regularly transport bikes from one trailhead to the next, the Thule GateMate Pro will keep your bike secure and ute scratch free.
There are plenty of different ways to store a pushie on or in your vehicle. Throw it up on the roof rack and lash it down or hang it off the back and, if you’ve got a ute, well, there are racks to put in the bed to stop your bike from banging about too.
And bikes are expensive so, being able to secure them in the back of your vehicle and keep both your bike and vehicle damage free is a great thing. But some bike racks can be big and bulky and get in the way…Enter the Thule GateMate Pro which is designed to hold seven bikes (depending on the room available and the bikes you’re transporting), protect both bike and tailgate from damage and still offer some storage space in the tray for bags and gear.
Priced from $299, the GateMate Pro is, in my opinion, intended as a storage system while you’re heading from home to a trailhead or local bike track, rather than as a way of storing your bikes, say, when you’re heading away on holidays…but there’s always an exception to the rule, right.
Say there are only two of you heading off with your bikes, well, the GateMate Pro would be a perfect system for storing just two bikes, leaving plenty of space for all your gear.
The great thing about these tailgate pads is they allow you to keep your bike nice and low and, er, stop the tailgate from being scratched or your bike being damaged when driving along and you don’t have to remove a wheel. Bonus.
The GateMate Pro we tested (Small) measures 132cm wide and on our test vehicle, a Jeep Gladiator, as you can see in the pictures was a pretty tight fit (the Large measures 150x41x7cm). The parts that hang down against the tailgate boast a 39cm drop (some others on the market are longer than that and wouldn’t fit the Gladiator as neatly as this one) and the padded width at the top, where the bike sits, measures 7cm. The whole kit weighs just 3kg.
Constructed from tough vinyl on the outside, soft felt on the inside (the part that sits against the paintwork, and solid, well padded cradles that are more substantial than other, cheaper tailgate protectors I’ve seen. Those cradles feature a long velcro strap to secure the top and down tube. The wheel, obviously, sits on an angle flat against the tailgate.
These tailgate protectors are about the easiest thing in the world to install but they can be fiddly. So, with the GateMate Pro out of its plastic packaging, you remove the elastic loops holding the straps neat and tidy (put them in your pocket for now) and then, with the GateMat Pro over the tailgate you feed the straps underneath the bottom of the tailgate and into the tub.
The Gladiator’s tailgate is well sealed at the bottom and there’s very little room to thread the straps underneath the bottom of the tailgate. But, after a bit of swearing (imagine watching someone trying to thread a needle) I managed to get the straps threaded.
Once you’ve got the straps through into the bed, you simply feed them into the buckles and cinch them down.
Once the straps are cinched down you’re right to heave your bike into the back. Stand the bike up with the back wheel (more than likely) in one of the grooves of the bed and turn the front wheel flush against the tailgate, resting the bottom tube in one of the cradles. One thing that stands the GateMate Pro apart from other tailgate pads I’ve seen, is the strength of these cradles, they’re well padded, sure, but they’re also quite solid, meaning your bike is less likely to move around and there’s no risk of anything being damaged when you’re driving along.
Take a look at the pictures and you can see that the seven centimetre wide cradle section will accommodate all sorts of bikes no matter the shape or angle of your bike’s downtube. And you can’t say that about some other tailgate pads.
Once the bike is in the back, you grab the locking strap and loop it over the top tube and then velcro it onto itself. Yep, I hear you, surely that won’t hold the bike in place while you’re driving and that’s exactly what I thought. So, I went for a drive on the road and down a dirt track and the bike never moved.
The GateMate Pro allows for even bikes to be secured but you’d never get seven bikes into the back of the Gladiator. I fitted two bikes and I reckon you’d be able to get up to five fitted comfortably providing the bikes aren’t too big or bulky.
With more and more utes offering a reversing camera, there’s a large flap that can either be left closed (velcro) or open (velcroed in place) which gives access to the tailgate handle but is also intended to give the reversing camera a line of sight. Unfortunately, as you can see on the Gladiator, the opening isn’t large enough and the camera is obscured. But, as these pads are intended as more of an A to B type arrangement, rather than being left permanently in place, it’s no biggie.
So, that’s about all there is to talk about…the only other thing I’d mention is around security. If you’re not planning on stopping or leaving your vehicle (and bikes) unattended then there’s nothing to worry about. But, as the bike is only velcroed down it could easily be stolen when your back is turned. So, maybe consider some sort of cable lock if you’re going to be leaving your bikes in the back for any length of time.
There you have it, the Thule GateMate Pro. It’ll set you back $299 but it’s well built and the cradles are a real highlight with their quality, strength and padding. So, while the GateMate Pro might cost more than similar products, it’s padded cradles make it superior to some other cheaper options on the market.
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