Photos: Gerard Lagana

The art shuttling is all about fast loading and unloading. So any method of carrying bikes for shuttling needs to be fast – but it also needs to be secure. By simply padding the tail gate on a ute, you can let your bike's fork and front wheel sit over it and it stays relatively stable, for fast shuttle turnarounds. Newer tail gate pads like the Thule GateMate Pro add a few more bells and whistles, like a taller height to suit modern utes, a nice plush inner to stop scratching your vehicle, flaps for the latch and reverse camera, and straps to keep the bikes in place. All these features make the GateMate Pro more secure than some basic older models.

Fitting the GateMate Pro is simple, with three straps to thread around the tail gate and cinch down really tight. All you really need to do is make sure the firmer, sculpted padding and straps is atop the tail gate, and the flap for your latch and reverse camera is in the right spot. Be aware that if you have a dual cab you're unlikely to fit a modern, long mountain bike in going straight back. But you should be able to fit two or three diagonally.

With seven spots to fit a bike, mounting bikes is easy, especially if you're loading up about four, as there is space, and options to mount them depending on different bike sizes. The firm cradles really support the down tube, and the long straps can be mounted in a few different spots to get the best fit. They're long, so you might need to double them over, or even go over the top tube on some bikes. Once you know what works best, it's a very fast and secure process.

Thule have built in pockets on the tray side of the GateMate Pro, which are an easy spot to stash spares, or items to grab when unloading. It's a perfect spot for knee pads or even a bottle when you're on the way to the trails.

In use, the GateMate Pro never shifted from the position it was fitted on. Thanks to the tall tail gate, bikes sat over really snugly. You'd be crazy to not use a cloth or just give your bike a quick wipe on the fork leg and down tube before putting it on, it should take about 5-7 seconds and saves shuttle rash on your bike. A microfibre cloth for this purpose is easy to stow on the pockets on the inside of the GateMate Pro. I easily had anything from enduro bikes, trail bikes, XC bikes and even a cyclocross bike securely mounted – it really is a very versatile option and one of the fastest and cheapest ways to shuttle a lot of bikes, costing about a quarter of popular vertical bike racks.

Have you seen our guide to bike racks for your car?


But tail gate pads are not perfect. They offer zero security for locking your bike if you use them away from shuttling and need to stop on your way to or from the trails. Find something to lock your bike to, and use it. They don't suit a lot of modern utes and bikes that well, thanks to length issues. If you have a ute with drop down sides they'll be too low, and if it's a flat tray you'll also need to look for something different. All that aside, they work for a space cab ute really well – you just can't shuttle many people in those.

As a tail gate pad, the Thule GateMate Pro is a top level option, and if you're looking for one for your own vehicle it would be hard to go past. Just bear in mind the room you've got available in the tray, as something else from Thule's hitch-mount or tow ball line up might cost more, but be more useful in the long run.

RRP: $299



Secure fit on the vehicle

Bikes are held very securely

Some storage options

Adaptable mounting points


Increasingly limited use as trays shrink!