I ended up choosing the Yakima for a few reasons, but one of them was that their rack was already an approved Ford Accessory, so I was certain it would work great on this truck! As for the side bars, you do not have to run them, and there are many who are not running them. Personally though, the side bars give me a few benefits, first one being that it boxes in the whole rack system and makes it even more stable and ridged. The towers themselves were fine, but when I was installing, they did have just a slight bit of play in them just on their own, with the side bars, they are completely ridged to the bed with zero movement. Additionally, I knew I would haul kayaks/SUPs on there and wanted to mount the paddles down lower to the sides of the rack, plus I could use the side mounts for other accessories too as needed. And lastly, I liked the complete boxes look of the rack this way as opposed to just the towers.Why did you add the side bars? I thought I had seen some just using the front and back racks with the cross bars. I’m thinking of the same set up if Thule doesn’t get their quality control issues fixed on their rack.