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Bike rack buying guide for campervans and campers
Bike rack buying guide for campervans and campers

Bike rack buying guide for campervans and campers

What types of bike racks are there for campervans and campers and what should you look out for when buying one?

Author: Theo Gerstl Header image: Crosscamp

You've decided to take your bikes and sports equipment with you on your next trip, but your campervan or camper is packed to the roof – not a problem if you've installed a suitable rear rack. Read more to find out which carrier systems are available and what to look out for when buying one.

Many campers who go on holiday in a converted box van or a campervan enjoy being active in the outdoors, as amateur athletes, mountain bikers or touring cyclists. But apart from a few exceptions with a long wheelbase and fold-up bed or versatile furnishings and fittings, most floor plans prevent quick and easy access to two-wheelers of any type – be it bicycles, e-bikes or even scooters.

Factors to consider when choosing a campervan bike rack

As a simple transport solution, rear/load carriers come in a wide range of shapes and load-bearing capacities – and not just for bikes. Many of these sturdy constructions are also designed to accommodate storage boxes and special brackets for leisure equipment. The weight of what you intend to transport on the rear rack has a great impact on which type of rack mount you ultimately buy. The following three types are recommended for campervans: bicycle carriers that are screwed to the hinges of the rear doors or attached to the rear doors in some other way; carrier systems that are attached to the tow bar or models in the shape of sturdy frame extensions.

Rear door racks have a load capacity of up to 80 kg and are only suitable for bicycles or e-bikes. Tow bar mounted racks are usually designed to hold up to 150 kg on average, but they can also take a scooter. Racks mounted on the vehicle frame extension can take the highest load capacity – up to 200 kg. A light mid-range motorcycle can then be transported on their platforms, provided that neither the rear axle load nor the maximum permissible load is exceeded.

In addition to all these options, you need to pay attention to the rear doors of your campervan or box van. If you plan on mounting a bicycle rack that has been designed for a car or motorhome, you will usually not be able to open either the rear doors or the rear window. And since the rear doors give most campervan owners the best access to storage space and gas bottles, this kind of bike rack is more frustrating than beneficial. For this reason, camping accessory shops and campervan manufacturers offer rear bike racks specially adapted for box vans. They are only mounted on one rear door so that the doors can be opened even when loaded with bicycles. The Sunlight bike carrier for campervans does not even require screws or drilling in order to be mounted. Instead, the rails are glued to the rear door and the bike rack then clamped onto it. Moreover, the transport rails for the bicycles can be set to three different heights.

Versatile systems enable a flexible load

In general, all carrier systems developed for campervans are designed in such a way that the rear wing doors can still be opened. They can either be swivelled to the side or back, tilted or lowered, depending on the model. If you only want to transport bicycles, all you need is a bicycle rack, as described above. However, systems with a base carrier or a loading platform are more versatile. Individual brackets for all types of two-wheelers or transport boxes can be mounted onto them, as required. Camper accessory shops stock carriers that can be clamped directly onto small campervans and fastened with tension straps. In this case, you will have to use pure muscle power to lift and hold the weight of your bicycles when you fold this kind of rack up as standard gas shock absorbers are usually not able to cope with the additional weight.

Bicycle racks for campervans: tailgate or tow bar?

Some tailgate bike racks also have advantages for campervans: the Crosscamp tailgate bike rack, for example, allows the tailgate to be opened when the rear rack is mounted and even loaded with bicycles. Therefore, the tailgate can also be used as spontaneous sun protection or as a canopy in light rain. The bike rack is simply attached to the tailgate and does not have to be screwed or glued, which means it can be quickly removed for everyday use. A slight disadvantage: the transport rails for the bicycles are mounted quite high on tailgate bike racks, so your arms will need to be strong enough to be able to lift the bikes onto them. Moreover, when buying a bike rack for the tailgate, you always have to make sure that the rack is compatible with your vehicle. However, the advantage here is that tailgate bicycle carriers usually weigh less than tow bar mounted racks. This can also be beneficial when it comes to the permissible rear axle load.

A key advantage of a tow bar mounted rack is the low loading height. The bicycle or e-bike no longer has to be lifted up and down, which can otherwise be quite cumbersome. Another advantage is that this kind of bike rack is suitable for most tow bars, therefore you can easily use it on your second car or lend it to friends. However, anyone who opts for a rigid tow bar mounted rack has to accept that the carrier will block the tailgate. But sophisticated solutions are available. Take for instance the Crosscamp tow bar bike rack whose roller system enables it to be easily folded down to open the tailgate. Our tip for anyone who doesn't want to overexert themselves while loading the bike rack: fold it back down again to lower the loading height.

Pay attention to quality

If you want to enjoy your rear rack system for a long time, make sure that the material is of good quality: most racks are made of aluminium. Where steel parts are used, e.g. on frame extensions, they need to be protected against corrosion (for instance, by hot-dip galvanising). And regardless of whether you are a technically-minded buyer or not, make sure that the carrier system can be mounted and removed again with just a few tools and little effort. Look out for packages with the appropriate lashing eyes, safety straps and fixings.

Moreover, you also need to observe important road traffic regulations when loading the rear rack. This will differ from country to country, but in Germany, for example, the distance from the outer edge of the transported goods to the centre of the rear light may not be more than 40 cm and the width may not exceed the 2.50 m limit. And before setting off on your journey, remove parts that can easily become loose or detached, e.g. the air pump on a bike, and stow in the vehicle.

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