So you’re converting a campervan and are thinking about mounting a bike rack? There are so many great reasons to bring bikes with you on the road. Your campervan is your whole home on wheels, you don’t need to drive it short distances to run errands when you’re set up in a beautiful park up. Bikes are a convenient mode of local transport. You can leave your van parked somewhere safe and commute to the sights by bike. There are lots of different factors to take into consideration before jumping in and buying a bike rack. This post aims to help set you on the right track when deciding which bike rack is best for you.
Having used our bike rack for over a year we have discovered a few unexpected downfalls to it. We cover which bike rack we chose as well as why we chose it in this post. For a 2023 update, we have listed all the flaws of the bike rack and once again compared it to its competitior. You can skip to this 2023 update by clicking here.
Bike Rack options
All of the following bike rack options below would suit a Citroen Relay / Fiat Ducato / Peugeot Boxer / Dodge Ram Promaster. This is the style of the van we have (L3H2) so all of our research was to find the perfect bike rack for our needs. All of these bike racks would work on almost any type of van, just be sure to check that there is a rack available for your specific model of van.
Tow-bar Mounted Rack
The tow-bar mounted bike rack is available in many makes and models and can hold up to 4 bikes. Many designs fit onto your existing tow-bar ball. A great benefit of this style is that the rack is positioned low to the ground so it is very easy to mount your bikes with little effort. There is also a locking mechanism which means your bikes are safe at all times. This style of rack is also reasonably priced compared to other styles. The main downfall of this style of bike rack is that you are not able to open the rear doors of your camper with the bikes mounted. this can be quite frustrating if you used the back area for storage. Bikes will need to be removed before the door can be opened. This could be a safety concern if you need to escape through the rear doors when you are in your camper. You will need to purchase a registration plate for this style of bike rack as the bikes will block the vision of your original plate.
Tow-bar Swing-Away Rack
The swing-away tow-bar bike rack is an excellent bike rack option. It gives you the low, easy to mount bike trays and also access to the rear doors of your camper. Again these bike racks have a great capacity, holding up to 4 bikes. Although the access to the rear door is no longer blocked, a locking mechanism holds the bike rack in the ‘swung in’ position. This does not mitigate the safety concern of not being able to escape through the rear doors of your camper. This may not be a deal-breaker though. The bike rack is also lockable to keep your bikes safe at all times. The main issue with this style of bike rack is that it is pretty expensive and difficult to source! There is an option to buy a swing-out tow-bar and mount a bike rack onto it. You will need to purchase a registration plate for this style of bike rack as the bikes will block the vision of your original plate.
Rear Door Mounted Rack
The rear door mounted bike rack is a great choice. There are a few different models to choose from in this style. The best thing about this style of rack is that it does not block access to the rear doors in any way. Like the other racks, you can lock your bikes onto the rack to keep them safe. Although there are many benefits to this style, there are also some disadvantages. This style of bike rack can only hold two bikes, this is to avoid overloading the hinges on the door of your camper. Mounting the bikes may also be a bit more tricky as you have to lift the bikes higher to mount them. The height of the bikes can be adjusted but generally, they are pretty high to avoid blocking the vision of your registration plate and give access to the rear door handle.
Internal Slide Out Bike Storage
Indoor storage of your bikes is the best option if you are carrying particularly expensive high-end bikes. This way, from the outside, nobody will know you are carrying them. This will also prevent them from getting damaged by the rain or small stones hitting the bikes whilst driving. The downfall to this style of bike rack is that it takes up precious storage space indoors. When living in a van, every inch of storage space is a bonus. Another disadvantage of this style of rack is that you will have to build it yourself. There is not a specific slide out bike rack on the market that will suit van conversions. Many blogs such as faroutride have great posts detailing exactly how to create this style of bike rack. You will need heavy-duty, locking drawer slides to create this bike rack.
Best Choice of Bike Rack for our campervan
For our needs, we found that a rear door mounted bike rack was the best option for us. We knew we wanted to carry 2 bikes with us. We also knew that being able to open our back doors was essential. What we love so much about the rear door racks is that they do not block access in or out of the back door in any way. Through our research, we found that there were two very similar options to look into – the Thule Elite Van XT and the Fiamma Carry-Bike 200 DJ.
When choosing a rear door mounted bike rack it is imperative that the bike rack has been designed specifically for your model of van. Both of the above bike racks were suitable for our Citroen Relay Campervan. These racks are also suitable for Fiat Ducato / Peugeot Boxer / Ram ProMaster, 2007 – present. Other models of the bike racks are available for different models of vans for example – Mercedes Sprinter & VW Crafter.
Remember bikes can be heavy. Before you think about mounting them on your van make sure you know that your van can handle the weight. The added weight and drag will also reduce your fuel efficiency.
Thule or Fiamma?
Both Fiamma and Thule absolutely dominate the bike rack industry. Both brands have a great reputation for producing high-quality products. We found it pretty difficult choosing between the Thule Elite Van XT and the Fiamma Carry-Bike 200 DJ as they are so similar.
The table below shows the specifications of both bike racks and how they differ from each other.
|Thule Elite Van XT
|Fiamma Carry-Bike 200
|Open rear door whilst loaded
|Lock bikes for security
|Maximum load weight
|Drilling required for mounting
What’s the difference?
As you can see the Thule Elite Van XT and the Fiamma Carry-Bike 200 DJ are identical in almost every way. The first difference is the weight of the rack. The difference in weight is so minor that it can be ignored. The next difference is the cost. The Fiamma bike rack is slightly cheaper than the Thule bike rack. The prices in the table above are for the silver versions of these bike racks. The black version of each rack is a little more expensive.
The main difference between the two bike racks is the way they are mounted to your campervan. The Fiamma Carry-Bike 200 DJ requires you to drill holes into the metalwork of your rear door to mount. The Thule Elite Van XT however does not require holes to be drilled into the door of your van. The bike rack is clamped and glued into position. Two supporting strips are bonded to the door of the van with adhesive; when the rack is not in use the rest of the rack can be removed leaving only the two strips.
Our Choice of Bike Rack
We found that the Thule Elite Van XT was the best bike rack for our campervan through all of our research. The main reason we chose the Thule rack was that no drilling was required to mount the rack and also the rack is removable. The rack was a little bit more expensive than we had hoped to pay but in the end, it worked perfectly for our needs. It looks sleek and holds our bikes firmly onto the back of our campervan.
If you want to learn more about how to install the Thule Elite van XT bike rack check out the post below.
As stated earlier, we purchased the Thule Elite Van XT bike rack. The first 6 months of use were incredibly problem free and we remained very happy with our bike rack choice. After around a year of using the bike rack, it was one problem after the next. As soon as we fixed one problem, another, completely different problem arose. Below is a list of all the probelem we have encountere with our Thule Elite Van XT bike rack.
- Plastic end cap of bike tray fell off
- Nuts fastening the rack to our door loosened whilst driving, leaving the rack (with our bikes mounted) shaking on the back of our van.
- One of the locking arms holding the bike in postion got jammed so our bike was stuck on the rack. We had to force the arm off the rack and buy a replacement one.
Having experienced these problems, we would no longer recommend this bike rack to anyone. The bike rack nuts loosening in transit was particularly concerning. This could have been very dangerous to other drivers on the road if the rack had completely dismounted. We emailed Thule about our complaints with the bike rack but the responses we recieved were dissapoining. We were passed from department to department with noody wanting to accept responsibility.
Although we have not personally tried the Fiamma Carry-Bike 200 DJ, we would suggest picking this over the Thule Elite Van XT bike rack if you are looking for a rear door mounted rack. Having read other peoples reviews of that bike rack, there is no mention of it becoming loose in transit. Ultimately – this makes it a better bike rack option.
Having a bike rack on your campervan is such a luxury. Once you install one it is impossible to imagine not having a bike rack. We recommend really thinking about what you need from your bike rack before you rush in and buy one. They can be pretty expensive and we don’t want you to waste your money on something that is not perfect.
We hope this guide helps you narrow down which style of bike rack will suit your campervan best. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!