Having a bike is a necessity for me for many reasons. One is the ease of just grabbing the bike for a tour of a new area when I settle for a while. Something to quickly go shopping with. Then there is the health aspect. Getting out and riding the bike several times per day is very good for me. Both for the heart and the joints. But I had my last bike stolen while staying at a fancy RV resort likely because I only had a thin steel cable lock tying the bike to a picnic table and I left the seat on overnight. The thief carried a cutting tool and snipped the cable in one go. Why s/he didn’t just take one of the other unlocked nearby bikes is a mystery. Maybe because mine was dual suspension? And had a nice comfy seat?
Well, anyway, that was a year ago and in June ’17, found a bike at a thrift shop in Lake Tahoe. It’s a used 26″ Next PX-6.0, dual suspension. Came with plastic pedals but had the guy change them to metal for me for an extra $8. Only cost $78, it’s in very good condition, and the seat’s even good enough to carry my bulk in comfort. Also found a new 1/2″ steel cable with combo lock on sale at a KMart. I already have a bike style U lock but it’s big and bulky, heavy, hard to use, so I seldom carry it on the bike with me so the heavy cable lock is my everyday lock. And here’s how it looks. Note the design makes it a bit difficult to carry on the standard spacing bike rack.
It’s only discrepancy from what I was looking for all those months without a bike is that it doesn’t have a disk brake. Had one on the front on my last bike and I became a fan. The caliper brakes will do fine though. I’ll have go find some fenders because I don’t mind riding in inclement weather but I like having dry clothes.
Finding that bike meant I needed to do something about carrying it around with me when I travel. When I owned the Bounder RV I never towed a car so I used a bike rack that is inserted into the 2″ receiver on the back of the RV. Now in my Journey, the receiver is used for the Blue Ox tow bar to pull my car so I needed some other way of carrying the bike. Meanwhile, after I left Lake Tahoe, I was carrying it in the back seat of my car whenever I moved the RV, and for a couple months I did that but as you are probably aware, that’s not very satisfactory.
Here was my thought process on deciding what type of bike rack I could live with. I wanted to find a bike rack that I could use in such a way so that the bike would not be in my way most of the time. Something that fits my lifestyle. But also accessable. I wanted to be able to quickly mount or unmount the bike when I arrived or left a RV park, without have to lift it to high. Something that I’d not have to worry about wear marks on my vehicles. With an acceptable lifespan so I wouldn’t be fixing it all the time. Secondarily, I wanted to be able to remove and store it quickly if it was in the way of some project or other, and I wanted to be able to adapt it by adding straps, locks, or repair it easily.
I looked at roof bike racks for the car, but I do not want to hoist a bike up onto the roof when I’m trying to travel. I didn’t want a bike rack on the back of the car attached to the trunk either because most that I’ve seen, that are relatively inexpensive, are also cheaply made, and some reviewers noted that the straps scuffed paint surfaces. Not to mention it being in the way when I need to put groceries in the car’s truck, so I’d have to remove the rack and store it somewhere whenever I stopped at another RV park. I didn’t want the added expense of having a hitch receiver welded to the car’s rear end.
And so all that meant I’d need to find a bike rack I could mount to the back of the RV somehow. Here is one common way to do it. This is available from Amazon for around $30:
Dual 2″ Hitch Bicycle Receiver Adapter Extender Extension 4000lb
The problem with this is that it adds length and weight to the hitch assembly making it difficult to mess with when you need too. I’d need to buy another hitch lock (around $13). The added height would mean I’d have to lift the bike higher. The added length would require I move the 7-Way connector from the back of the RV and mount it onto this adaptor so my electrical cable connecting the RV to the car would still be long enough to avoid straining it while driving. I thought about using this style of extension to hold a bike mount and the bike, but really, didn’t want to do that much work.
If I bought that adaptor, I’d also need to buy something that slips into the receiver and holds the bike, like this:
This is close to what I had before with my Bounder. But it had its problems. Trying to tighten the bike so it wouldn’t bounce around eventually broke one of the welds and the rack and bike both scraped on the ground. Bike was a total loss. Also, I found that a slow leak in a tire loosens the bike and it eventually bounces out and again, scrapes on the ground. Ruining at least the bikes wheel. Plus it’s $130. I didn’t want that style of bike rack again, I wanted to try the type where the bike hangs from the rack. My old one I had noticed at an autoparts store tool bin, new, the store manager wanted to get rid of it and asked me how much it was worth to me, I said $17, he let me have it at that.
There’s this next style, and I liked that it only stored 2 bikes, making it more compact. The bike hangs from the horizontal bars. The reviews about quality are good. Also, you can find them or copies for around $40 on eBay:
But since I would be spending $60 or more anyway, I tried to find something that might work better for me and I stumbled onto this from Amazon:
Now this looked like it would do the job for me. I could clamp it onto the 2″ Blue Ox tow bar, it’s lower profile so once in position I wouldn’t have to lift the bike too high, it’s made for 3 bikes and I could easily cut off excessive tubing if I wanted if that proved to be in the way. I wouldn’t have to remove the tow bar at all to install or uninstall the rack, should that become necessary. Plus it has a quick style removal setup so if I’m on the road and have to quickly get it out of the way of the back of the RV, not a big deal. It folds and collapses into a nice, compact form if I have to put it away for any reason. And finally, it’s only $70 with nothing else to buy. What I didn’t care for was the rubber straps used for holding the bike. Not as reliable as Velcro straps in my expirience. Plus in the back of this RV, there’s a lot of heat generated by the engine that would stream over the rack, aging the components. Something I’ll have to watch carefully. The thick rubber cradles that hold the bike seem to be good enough that I won’t ever need to replace them though.
But overall it seemed to fit the bill, covering all my ‘wants’, so ordered it and just today got to installing. This was my first attempt and I attached those nylon stability straps so they wrap around bumper and grill all the way around the edges of the RV. That did work, but I found a closer connection just behind the lower grill.
And here’s how it’s strapped in now. I like this arrangement better. The black nylon straps aren’t extended so far that I need worry about them stretching and disconnecting, plus the excess strap lengths are good for trying them off.
And here is a pic of it mounted to the tow bar. That black plastic pull handle is necessary to give leverage if you need to remove the rack. Pull ‘up’ on it and the wedge bar in the middle of the rack snaps up with force, releasing the grip on the tow bar, so that handle has a spring inside to absorb some of that force, to help prevent breaking your hand. There is a lot of tension and wearing gloves is necessary. That tightness assures it won’t move much while traveling, over the long run and various qualities of road surfaces I hope. Plus with the nylon straps holding it to a solid part of the grill behind it, the bike should not bounce around too much at all. I don’t expect to have to remove it very often but if I do, I’ll use a wooden lever to disconnect the rack. And here’s how it looks with the bike situated. Note that I have two places I can cradle the bike on the rack so even though the bike doesn’t have a horizontal bar (this bike design is called an easy straddle), there’s still two good places to strap the bike to the rack. And it’s a happy accident that that makes the bike horizontal and the tires a reasonable distance from the ground. Here’s a picture of it loaded, with the 1/2″ steel cable lashing it to the rack. I can make it less desirable to thieves when I’m traveling by pulling off the seat. Just a shot to show the height off the ground and that the bike is out of the way of the tow bar. I’ll have to wait until my next trip to inspect how close the nose of the car gets to the bike during sharp turns…but I tend to avoid those generally. Even if the nose of the car does nudge the bike, it should swing out of the way easily without damage. Still have the room to move the bike closer to the back of the RV if it’s necessary.
I’m hoping engine heat doesn’t age the components, the rubber or straps too rapidly on this rack. Here’s how it’ll look most of the time. Whenever I stop at a RV park, the second I’m all settled, the bike can easily come off, even if the car is still attached. I haven’t the inclination to test it with the car attached just now but whatever might happen later on to be an unintended consequence I’m confident I can adapted.
I don’t have any travel time on this rack yet, but if looks like it will be all that I hoped in this type of RV’ers product. Even if there turns out to be a glitch or two on the road, it appears at this point that the benefits will still outweigh the potential deficiencies. In another month, I’ll have gotten some road time on this rack and I’ll be better able to evaluate it’s traveling stature so check back here for additions in a month or two.
Edit – After first road trip:
The nylon strap into the engine grill had loosened up a bit, I’ll have to take another shot at tightening that up. There wasn’t any soot from the diesel exhaust accumulated on the rack or bike, so I’m happy about that. I did have to check oil and found that I had no trouble checking it even with the bike rack and car both attached. But the bike wasn’t mounted. I found that it’s not difficult to remove it quickly to do the oil check. The rack didn’t interfere with adding oil. It would have been a slight bit easier if I’d undone the straps and rotated those two arms the rack has up and out of the way, but it’s such a minor issue I didn’t bother.
I had to strap and unstrap the rubber Tie-down straps on the bike cradles several times since installation of the bike rack and when I parked for a few days, and it’s pretty obvious they are not going to last, especially in cold weather as the rubber would likely become brittle. Presently, I have to use a flat screwdriver to pry the straps over the nubs that hold the bike in place. I just don’t think they are going to last. So I spent some time trying to find replacements to have on hand when the inevitable happens and a strap breaks or tears.
After some internet searching, I did find this cradle & strap replacement part from Allen Sports. Different manufacturer, but these will fit nicely, and I suspect will be unaffected by weathering for years to come.
So that’s it for now. I’m happy with the Curt Clamp-on bike rack. It’s well made, versatile, and other than the rubber cradle straps, very strong. I have not noticed any tendency for it to loosen up, once I found the perfect clamp on spot on the tow bar, and cinched up the nylon straps. I’ve driven with it attached and the bike mounted for a few hundred miles now and have mounted and dismounted the bike numerous times and find it’s easy to lift and lower the bike quickly. And it’s low enough that I don’t strain myself. I like it a lot better than the old platform bike rack I had before.