Caravan bike racks: a complete guide
Exploring the beautiful surroundings while on a caravan trip is undeniably one of the greatest joys of the adventure. While you have options like using your car or taking a stroll, many caravanners prefer exploring on their bicycles
When it comes to bringing your bikes along, there are several safe methods for transporting them. In this guide, we'll delve into the different types of caravan bike racks available.
Words by Louise Cottrill
Types of bike racks
There are a few different type of bike racks including;
- Towball-mounted racks
- Rear-mounted rack with/without window
If all this sounds a bit techy, let’s break it down.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Blackstock)
For many, a rack on the A-frame of the caravan’s chassis is the ideal solution. However, the caravan does need a relatively long frame to accommodate a reasonable number of bikes – generally four is the maximum.
Locating the bikes here will keep the weight within the rear axle of the tow vehicle and the caravan’s axles and many racks tilt to allow access to the front locker for pitching up.
Using an A-frame can also mean that clearance between the car and caravan is compromised – not necessarily an issue when travelling on major roads, but it can limit the turning circle of the outfit, particularly when reversing.
As you may imagine, this bike rack is located in between the towing car and caravan. Unlike the A-frame, the towball-mounted rack is much closer to your car. If you use a tailgate or towbar-mounted rack, one thing you’ll have to consider is your number plate and rear lights, which will still need to be visible by law.
No matter which towball-mounted rack you use, you’ll probably need a cycle carrier lighting board that will plug into the 12N road light socket on your combined socket.
Rear-mounted rack with or without window
(Photo courtesy of Jim Blackstock)
If you're considering installing a bike rack on the rear of your caravan, especially where there are windows, it's essential to choose a low-profile option. This means that you won’t need to unload the bikes when you want to open the window, so they stay securely in the rack when you are not using them.
If you choose this option, bear in mind there will be extra weight on the back of your caravan which may cause instability.
There is a growing trend for e-bikes, and when it comes to transporting them, the downside is that they are up to 50% heavier than a standard bike, so the frame needs to be a special one to support this extra weight.
Consider the overall weight of the caravan, once you have mounted the e-bike rack….it could be way over your towing weight limit and compromise the towing stability of your caravan. As the weight of these types of brackets are heavier, it stands to reason they can be one of the most expensive bike racks.
3 & 4-bike racks
Once you have chosen the type of caravan bike rack to suit, you then need to consider how many bikes it will carry – two, three or four. Prices will increase depending on the option you choose. Once again, though, consider weights.
Choosing the right bike rack for you
When it comes down to it, it is all about weight and not impairing the vision of your lights and number plate. With all this in mind, the latter is easily fixed, but the former is something to note before you even start looking. Noseweight, payload and balance are very important factors in towing safely.
Our advice is to do your maths depending on the car and caravan you have, then see what you have to play with and whether the additional weight can be accommodated. The type of frame is personal choice, but will need to be one that fits in with your caravan.
How many bikes can I take?
It is usual to have 2/3 bikes on a frame but four is the maximum.
Where is the best place to put a bike rack?
It varies depending on the caravan you have, the current noseweight and the weight that would be added with the frame and bikes themselves.
Can I just put the bikes inside the caravan when towing?
You can; however, the issue here again is weight but in a different way. Mounting bikes on the front of the chassis will inevitably affect the noseweight of the caravan, and, for example if you have three adult bikes totalling perhaps 50kg (or a couple of electric bikes) this could mean that, when loaded, the contents of the caravan will probably need relocating to make sure the noseweight doesn’t become too high.
This could mean gas bottles, the spare wheel or the leisure battery could all need relocating while carrying bikes inside. One other downside to taking this approach is that once the bikes are used and dirty, you won’t want them inside the caravan.
Are there any special rules when travelling abroad?
When travelling in most EU countries, it's crucial to take a few steps to ensure safety and compliance. First, make sure your number plate, lights, and indicators are clearly visible and not obstructed by any cargo, including your cycle rack. Additionally, ensure that your cycle rack is in excellent condition, securely attached, and suitable for its intended purpose.
For those planning to drive through Spain and Italy, there's an extra requirement to be aware of. If you're carrying an overhanging load, such as a cycle or motorcycle rack, it's essential to display a red and white marker board. This helps enhance safety and ensures you adhere to local regulations in these countries. Always check country requirements before you travel as quite often they are very strict.
What is the average cost of a bike rack?
Most caravan bike racks are priced between £200 and £400, but they can be more expensive, especially when it is a bike rack for electric bikes as they need to be sturdier. Therefore, you should shop around to find the right one for you and your caravan.
Taking bikes with you is part of the adventure and if you choose not to mount the bikes onto the caravan, you could always use a roof-mounted rack on your car, or even store them inside your caravan, though there are definite pros and cons for both of those options. Our advice is just to be safe and make sure weights and stability are key factors in making your choices, and invest in bike covers to keep them clean whilst travelling.
As we sign off, we encourage you to think about adding bikes to your caravan insurance as avid bikers can have high-value cycles and it’s best to make sure they’re covered.
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