Many of our guests who arrive at Horton Common come with a couple of bikes or more. Several years back we had the Tour of Britain come past with our hilly location creating some challenging routes. Some of our guests I would describe as ‘serious’ cyclists. While others are just looking for a nice ride while enjoying our amazing views. Whichever is the case, everyone faces the first initial challenge. How do I transport my bikes in/on my caravan/motorhome? Whether you have a caravan or motorhome there are a couple of different bike rack options and other methods to store/transport bikes. However, there are many factors you have to consider to determine which bike rack is going to be the best option for you.
This post is mainly focused on the best bike racks for caravans and motorhomes. However, you may have space inside your caravan/motorhome to store pedal bikes. How practical that is going to be will vary depending on the specific caravan/motorhome. For instance, in my post on the best small caravans the Swift Basecamp with its rear door the manufacturers promote for easy storage of bikes inside the caravan. Likewise, with some motorhomes, they come with a rear garage which you can use to store bikes. Internal storage is obviously one of the most secure options. However, in some instances storing bikes within a caravan/motorhome car create its own issues. Therefore, many people start to look into fitting a bike rack. However, a bike rack can also present a series of issues/challenges.
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Introduction to the Best Bike Racks for Caravans and Motorhomes
Below I’ve broken up the contents of this post into various subtopics. For instance. If you own a caravan you have two options. You can store the bikes in or on the caravan, however, you also have a tow car. Therefore, I’ll also discuss the various options for bike racks on cars while towing a caravan. For a motorhome, you again have the option of storing bikes internally within the living space or a rear garage. Alternatively, you can put a bike rack on the rear of the motorhome. So I will discuss the pros and cons of the different types/designs of bike racks under these subheadings. Through the Table of Contents link above you can jump to the specific section you are interested in.
How Many Bikes and How Heavy are They?
So before I start discussing the different bike racks for tow cars, caravans and motorhomes this topic is very important. You need to carefully consider how many bikes you want to take with you and how heavy they are. Do you just want to take a couple of bikes or enough for the whole family? Before you can really decide which bike racks are going to be the best option you need to know the answer to these questions. There is only so much weight you can legally and safely put into a caravan/motorhome, referred to as the user payload. Furthermore, as I have discussed many times in the past in post such as how to load a caravan, weight distribution is also very important. Therefore, if you want to take say four or more bikes depending on your setup you may need to store the bikes in two places. In other words, just loading four bikes onto one bike rack may not be the best idea.
Electric/battery-assisted pedal bikes typically weigh twice the amount of a standard pedal bike: Image – Amazon.co.uk
You need to weigh each of your bikes before determining where/how you can transport them and on which type of bike rack. Over recent years I have noticed more of our guests turning up with electric-assisted pedal bikes. They are brilliant to make exploring our hilly terrain more enjoyable and less arduous. However, they are typically double the weight of a standard pedal bike. Therefore, with battery pedal bikes you need to appreciate that additional weight. Especially if there are multiple bikes. With a battery-assisted pedal bike, you may want to consider removing the battery packs and storing them somewhere else in the tow car/caravan/motorhome for better weight distribution.
Noseweights and Weight Distribution
With tow cars and caravans you also need to be very careful with adding additional weight onto the back of the car or the back of the caravan. Each make and model of car has a specific towball noseweight limit depending on the chassis and rear suspension. A large 4WD tow car will have noseweight of around 150kg or more. In that instance loading bikes onto the back of the tow car may not create an issue. However, most cars towing caravans today have a noise weight limit of up to 100kg, some much lower. Furthermore, loading bike racks on the back of caravans and motorhomes can present additional issues with weight distribution.
Before you put a bike rack on the rear of your tow car or on the caravans A-frame you need to know your noseweight to see if you have any weight allowance remaining: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Bike Racks For Tow Cars
The title of this subtopic specifically referencing ‘tow cars’ and not just ‘cars’ is very deliberate. The reason being, as you will be towing a caravan at the same time you have more factors to consider when it comes to choosing the best bike rack. For instance, there are some bike racks which fit directly onto a tow ball but they are obviously out of the question. Furthermore, there is the issue of weight, and placing too much weight on the back of the car. First, let’s discuss roof rack mounted bike racks.
Roof Mounted Bike Racks for Tow Cars
The roof rack option for transporting bikes on a tow car while towing a caravan is an option I see many of our guests taking. I also personally do think its one of the best options. However, at the same time, I do appreciate its drawbacks. The benefit of transporting bikes on the roof of your tow car is you are spreading the weight of the bikes over both the front and rear axles of the tow car. You obviously have to be wary of the additional height above the tow car. However, as you are towing a caravan at the same time you already need to be considering the outfits height when going into certain car parks etc.
A typical example of a car roof mounted bike rack: Image – Amazon.co.uk
The downside to storing bikes on the roof of your tow car is obviously getting the bikes up there and back down again. Not only can it take quite a bit of effort but you have to be really careful not to scratch your car. As discussed above, if you have electric-assisted pedal bikes you will want to remove the battery backs before lifting the bikes up on the roof. If you have a very tall car and you’re vertically challenged, this may not be your best option. However, if you want to transport four or more bikes it is one of the best options to store at least a couple of bikes.
Tow Bar Mounted Bike Racks
While you are towing a caravan you cannot obviously secure a bike rack to the towball itself there is another option you may be able to consider. Maypole for many years has been producing flange mounted bike racks for tow cars. There are also a few other companies producing similar flange mounted towbar bike racks. Now, this can potentially be a very good option. However, its not suitable for a lot of modern tow cars. As I discuss in my post on the best towbars, many modern cars now have detachable and retractable towbars. Hence, its typically only older tow cars where this type of flange-mounted tow bar rack can be used.
If you have flange type towball fitted to your tow car the Maypole towbar mounted bike rack may be one of your best options: Image – Amazon.co.uk
If you do have a flange towball fitted to your tow car and you do not want to put the bikes on a roof rack this may be your next best option. Maypole state their towbar mounted cycle rack can hold up to three bikes. However, please note the 40kg maxium load capacity. Therefore, again in reference to my comments above on heavy battery-assisted bicycles, just one of those bikes can weigh close to 40kg. Hence, depending on the type of bikes you own and the number of them you may need to consider multiple/different bike racks.
Strap-On Bike Racks for Tow Cars
The final options you could consider for transporting bikes on your tow car is a rear-mounted strap-on bike rack. Several manufacturers including Fiamma and Maypole offer strap-on mounted bike-racks for up to three bikes. I was a bit surprised to find out Maypole actually give their strap-on bike rack a higher maximum weight limit of 45kg compared to their towbar mounted bike rack.
I generally don’t feel strap-on mounted bike racks are the best option for most people: Image – Amazon.co.uk
After speaking to one of our guests in the past with this type of bike rack (I don’t remember which brand it was) there can be some issues. First off, they stated they never really felt they could get it tight enough to the car to stop at least some movement with bikes. As a result, they also felt the straps etc were leaving abrasive marks on their car’s bodywork. The other thing they didn’t like was they couldn’t really open the back door when the bike rack was fitted and loaded with bikes. The general sentiment I got from them was they thought their strap-on bike rack was ‘ok’, but it presented quite a few compromises. Hence, strap-on bike racks I generally don’t feel are the first/best option you should consider.
Bike Racks for Caravans
If you have the space inside your caravan and you have some suitable bags to store the bikes in as long as you can stop them from moving around and damaging the furniture that’s one option. For highly valuable bikes that may actually be preferable, along with a decent caravan door lock. However, if internal storage is not a viable option for you there are two other possible options. Either storing the bikes on the front A-frame or on the rear of the caravan. Both choices have pros and cons which need to be carefully considered.
Caravan A-Frame Mounted Bike Racks
In 2019 Bailey launched a new range of compact, small, lightweight caravans under the Discovery brand. Utilizing some interesting design concepts to get as much utility and space into a much smaller footprint than most Bailey caravans. The have various optional extras including a novel wrap around air awning that runs all the way from the front corner of the caravan to the opposite rear corner. The reason I wanted to reference the Bailey Discovery range in this post on the best bike racks though is that owners can have an optional A-frame mounted bike rack from Thule.
Fiamma, another popular caravan/motorhome accessory brand (rollout awnings) also produce their own range of caravan A-frame bike racks. Whether an A-frame bike rack will be your best option will depend on a couple of factors. First, as discussed previously can you actually put any more weight on your caravans A-frame without going over the car’s limit? Secondly, do you have a front caravan locker? If you notice in the video above, the Bailey Discovery range has no front locker. Well with many caravans they do, for storage of the gas bottles. However, front lockers are also commonly used for tools. For instance, maybe its where you store your caravan jack and the tools required to change a flat tyre. If that’s the case an A-frame mounted bike rack may not be your best option.
A typical example of a Fiamma caravan A-frame mounted bike rack: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Now, several of the A-frame mounted bike racks available, including the version seen in the image above hinge forward. Therefore, you can still get access to open the front locker. However, there will still be reduced access while the bike rack/bikes are in place. Furthermore, in the image above two bikes are being stored. It is possible to have an optional accessory to add a third bike. I believe that is very likely to make it difficult to hinge the bike rack forward. It may very well be the case that with the third bike stored on the rack its no longer possible to use the forward hinge. A final quick comment I want to make. Many caravans have a plastic cover on the A-frame where this type of bike rack fits, that will need to be removed first.
Caravan Rear Mounted Bike Racks
We do have some guests who own caravans with bike racks mounted on the rear wall. Now, in those instances when they purchased their caravans the rear-mounted bike racks were manufacturer-approved and installed at the dealership. While you can purchase rear mountable bike racks for caravans as seen in the image below, its not something I actually recommend as a DIY install.
I love a bit of DIY. However, I would not recommend you DIY fit a bike rack to the rear of your caravan in most cases: Image – Amazon.co.uk
First off, if you still have a water ingress warranty on your caravan you should never be drilling holes into the bodywork. I once read a forum post where someone was asking if you could use adhesive to just stick the bike rack pads to the back of the caravan. This is a big, massive, no-no. To fit a bike rack securely to the back of a caravan it needs to be mechanically fixed. The problem is as there are so many different construction techniques used to make caravans today, its not obvious if you can securely fix a bike rack and if it will be watertight. However, in some cases, caravans are now coming with rear rails already fitted for the intended purpose of fitting a bike rack.
A typical example of a Thule bike rack for the rear of caravans and motorhomes to carry two bicycles: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Not Recommend by Some Caravan Manufacturers/Organisations
While in some cases you can have a bike rack fitted to the rear wall of your caravan is it not actually recommend by certain organisations such as the Caravan and Motorhome Club. Furthermore, caravan manufacturers such as Bailey also do not support the practice of putting a bike rack on the rear of a caravan. The reason is it can create towing instability issues. I’ve got two posts, one on caravan stabilisers and another how to avoid caravan snaking which discuss this topic more. However, to briefly explain having additional weight further away from the caravan’s axle can create problems. The video below illustrates the issue well.
I will also note that every caravan I’ve seen with a manufacturer-approved rear bike rack was a twin axle caravan. While its not impossible to have stability issues towing a twin axle caravan, its certainly less likely. I discuss this more in my post on single axle vs twin axle caravans. With all the different bike rack options above, I wouldn’t consider a rear-mounted caravan bike rack as the best option for most people.
Motorhome Bike Racks
If you have a rear garage on your motorhome that may be the first and best option to store your bikes. However, if you don’t have a rear garage or it simply cannot fit all of the bikes then you have two options. Some motorhomes do have a towbar or one fitted. That opens up the option not available to cars towing caravans of a tow ball mounted bike rack. However, you could also opt for a rear wall mounted bike rack. Though again, both of these options have their pros and cons.
Motorhome Towbar Mounted Bike Racks
Whether you can have a towbar fitted to your motorhome its going to depend on a lot of different factors. For instance, if your motorhome is a panel van conversion its almost certain you can have a towbar fitted as its based on a commercial vehicle. However, for some coachbuilt motorhomes with lightweight AL-KO chassis, its not always possible to fit a towbar. If a towbar can be fitted to your motorhome a towball clamp-on bike rack is one option.
With a towball mounted bike rack on your motorhome you may be able to transport up to four bikes: Image – Amazon.co.uk
As you can fit up to four bikes with a towball mounted bike rack its obviously a very appealing choice. However, you would also have to factor in the cost to fit a towbar if you didn’t already have one on your motorhome. A benefit of a towbar mounted bike rack for your motorhome would mean no drilling into the rear bodywork. That is indeed a benefit which I’ll discuss more below. However, a tow bar mounted bike rack can be a cause of the ‘motorhome overhang issue’ which I’ll also discuss more below.
Motorhome Rear Mounted Bike Racks
Essentially the same bike racks referenced above which are in some instances fitted to caravans are also fitted to motorhomes. While rear-mounted bike racks are not recommended by some organisations for caravans that’s not the case for motorhomes. As a motorhome is not a trailer unlike a caravan there are not the same concerns with regards to instability while on the road. However, while towing instability is not a concern, the motorhome overhang issue does need to be considered, more on that below. You also need to make sure the bike rack and bikes do not block the number plate/rear lights. Otherwise, you will have to fit an additional lightbar.
If you are touring around Europe on the continent you will need to fit a cover over the bikes which features a red/white marker board: Image – Amazon.co.uk
In terms of DIY fitting a bike rack to the rear of your motorhome, you do have to be careful. First off, if your motorhome is still under its water ingress warranty drilling holes into the bodywork needs to be carried out by an approved dealer. Otherwise, during your motorhome habitation check as part of the terms of the warranty, you may find that you’re no longer covered for water damage.
The Motorhome Overhang Issue and Bike Racks
I’ve previously written a post on how to safely load a motorhome where I discuss the overhang issue in more detail. With any motorhome, you can only legally load the rear axle up to the rated maximum stated on the weight plate. However, with bike racks and particularly with towbar mounted bike racks they can be quite a distance from the rear axle. This leverage applies additional force to the rear axle of the motorhome. Hence, you cannot just weigh the bikes and to find out if you are within the maximum rear axle weight limit, you have to do some maths. I’ve gone through an example in my post on how to load a motorhome linked above. Therefore, if you are considering a bike rack for your motorhome I would very much encourage you to read that post.
Conclusions on The Best Bike Racks for Caravans and Motorhomes
I appreciate the above information is a lot to take in on what a first may seem like a very simple topic of the best bike racks for caravans and motorhomes. Depending on the number of bikes you wish to take and the weight of those bikes some options may need to be discounted altogether. Furthermore, in several cases when you want to transport more than two bikes that combined weight can create some real challenges. Whether its causing problems with the noseweight on the car, load on the caravan or motorhome itself. The motorhome overhang issue is something that I feel very few people understand or know about. Therefore, if you have a motorhome I very much hope you run though the calculations as shown in my post linked above.
Thanks for reading, I hope all of the information above made sense to help you choose a type of bike rack which will best suit your specific tow car, caravan or motorhome. I also hope at some point in the near future you consider visiting us (along with your bikes) here at Horton Common caravan site. We have some amazing views and cycle routes that many of our guests enjoy each year. 🙂