I'd like recommendations or things to consider before purchasing one. I plan to use it for skis in the winter and two bikes at other times.
Specifically, I'd like feedback comparing the two types: just the rack part of the U-haul looking covered thing.
Also, is it required to take off the front bike wheel when using a bike rack? why?
The web site will tell you exactly what you need depending on your vehicle type.
Yakima systems are not cheap, but the company has thought of everything from security to ergonomics. For example, custom wind farings insure a silent ride, and interchangeable lock cores mean that you will only need one key for all your different racks: bike, ski, snowboard, kayak, canoe, cargo, etc. The variety of racks offered is mind-boggling. I use ski racks and bike racks. I have a powderhound for skis and a couple of steelheads for the bikes. Yakima makes a bike rack that does not require you to remove the front wheel. However, I would not recommend that option. Racks that require you to take the front wheel off are much, much more stable-especially on twisting mountain roads.
Even though we have an Xterra which has its own integrated racking system we found that by adding the Thule system we got access to the most components and the easiest set up. We use the Big-mouth bike mounts so that we may carry either mountain or road bikes (yeah we 'do' roads when the woods are too wet). We use Hulleys and Makos for the kayaks. We have a 6 slot ski rack for local (3 hrs or less) ski trips and a big roof box (gobs of gear) when we take longer trips with friends.
We kinda, seasonally, dress and undress the truck rack-wise according to the sport. Just this last weekend we swapped out the kayak gear for the ski rack and 1st skiing Sunday at Seven Springs.
Great snow! Lousy drive home!