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  • Writer's pictureDiver Relph

The best bike storage and transport options for your Adventure Van

Updated: Jul 27, 2022


If you are like us, you frequently use your van on adventures away from home and bringing your bikes is a must! We are focused on more than mountain biking and often have a road bike or two in tow as well. In this guide we will explore the many different storage options and different factors for creating your ultimate adventure van bike storage. As with everything in the van world, options are countless and we are here to help you find what is best for you!


The first question you need to ask yourself when setting up your vans bike transport system is whether you want them kept internally or externally. There are benefits to both but the primary drivers either prioritize ease of access and interior space or putting the bikes security and protection first with an interior storage setup commonly referred to as a gear garage.


For the purpose of this guide the storage systems are broken into 2 main categories, inside or outside the van. We will then break down into more detailed setups in each category.

Internal Bike Storage (Gear Garage)

External Bike Storage

What we like

-Best security from theft

-Protected from elements

-Fastest loading and unloading

-Saves internal space

What we don't

-Takes up internal Space

-Can block rear door access

Gear Garages (Inside)

Gear garages come in many shapes and sizes allowing you to customize them to your hearts content. We are covering the 3 primary garage layouts for vans. Gear garages mount bikes using through axle mounts that can be attached directly to the floor, using a bracket with L-track or to a drawer system. If you are not height limited by your bed you can keep both wheels on though this is a less common setup.


Gear garage planning

Before landing on a design layout there are some items you should consider in the planning phase as well;

  • Account for your handlebars. This is critical for drawer systems where you will be pulling your bike in and out. You must ensure the cabinets have space to clear the handlebars by being slightly lower or recessed.

  • Tying down your back tire and securely mounting the bike itself for travel on bumpy roads. If your bike isn’t fully restrained it can migrate around. The worst case scenario for this would be rubbing against something and damaging it or your bike.

  • You can overlap your bikes front to back creating a tighter fit but just make sure you are strapping them so pedals etc. can’t move and rub the other bike.

  • Through axle clearance. Depending on the fork mount you need, make sure you can easily thread your thru axle in and out.

What do you do with the spare wheel?

Most bikes stored inside the van have the front wheel removed, so don’t forget to figure out a way to store that front wheel. This could mean using a tire bag that you hang, or strapping the tire to your bike.





Lengthwise Gear Garage
Bike Capacity:1-4
Bike Mounting Method: Fork Axle Mounts

What we like: Out of the elements and can store other seasonal gear.

What we don’t: Takes up valuable internal space and requires a raised bed.

By directly mounting Fork Axle mounts to the floor or using L-track you can store up to 4 bikes in a vans gear garage. Getting that many bikes in and out takes a bit of extra time and fiddling but for many keeping your bikes out of the elements is worth the trade off.






Heavy Duty Bike Drawer Gear Garage
Bike Capacity:1-6

Bike Mounting Method: Fork Axle Mounts

What we like: Ability to mount bikes in the opposite direction saving space, easily access all bikes without removing others first. Easy access items at the back of the gear garage.

What we don’t: Takes internal space and requires a raised bed.

Bike drawers are typically wooden or aluminum. You attach your bikes in a tray the same way as you would mount to the floor or the Radio Wave tray is setup for direct mounting without drilling. Using a tray is the cadillac of gear garage setups and if designed correctly has minimal effect on the storage height of the bikes. Being able to pull out the drawer cuts down on the bike jenga and gives you easy access to gear in the back of your garage.


Perpendicular Gear Garage
Bike Capacity:1-2

Bike Mounting Method: Fork Axle Mounts

What we like: Out of the elements and uses the least amount of internal space.

What we don’t: You cannot access the rear bike without removing the front bike.

This storage setup is great for those who do not want a large gear garage and will never carry more than 2 bikes. In the design phase you need to account for the handle bar width or plan to turn the handle bars which will require additional support to stop the bike from falling over. As the bikes will cover the full width of the van there may be space constraints for water tanks and other storage as well as access issues to electrical systems which are normally located towards the rear of the van.


Vertical Gear Garage
Bike Capacity:1-2

Bike Mounting Method: Fork Axle Mounts

What we like: Does not require raised bed, provides a multi purpose space

What we don’t: Different bed system layout

Another gear garage layout we have recently stumbled upon hangs the bikes vertically in a standup garage. This design requires the van to be built out specifically for this layout and you can even build out the garage to be a wetroom/shower!




External Bike Storage (Outside)


Storing bikes outside the van is the most accessible transport method. It allows you to keep both wheels on for faster loading and unloading. As your bikes are outside the van you are saving valuable internal space too. The ease of access makes this a popular option for people who are shuttling regularly or do not want dedicated space inside the van. External bike carrying setups include removable hitch mounted racks, aftermarket door mounted carrying options and on a vans roof rack.


For outside storage don’t forget to lock your bikes and the rack itself as they are both hot commodities these days. Even with locks do not leave your bikes unattended.


Hitch Mounted Bike Racks

Bike Capacity:1-6
Bike Mounting Method: Tire Clamps or Hanging

What we like: Easy Installation and removal of the rack for intermittent use. Quick bike access.

What we don’t: Difficult (sometimes impossible) to open rear doors. Not compatible with rear tire and storage boxes. Clearance issues with some models.

Hitch racks allow simple plug and play setup for your adventure van. Installation and removal takes mere minutes with vans already equipped with a hitch receiver and can be used interchangeably on other vehicles. There are many different hitch carriers for bikes with 2 primary design styles we recommend; tray style where the bike rests on a tray and the bike is held down by the wheels with no frame contact. Hanging style where the bike either hangs from the front tire or the handle bars. With the prevalence of carbon bikes we don’t recommend systems that attach via the bike frame. In both cases you should confirm the weight rating on your carrier and make sure you can see your lights and license with the rack loaded.

  • Tray racks are lower to the ground and for some people are easier to load. With a tray rack you need to ensure that your rack sits far enough away from your van that the handle bars do not hit your van door or window.

  • Hanging racks are shuttle beasts, they load and unload the fastest and you can find configurations that hold up to 6 bikes for party laps with friends. However, some hanging racks suspend the bikes by the frame, and with high end bikes we wouldn’t recommend these designs due to the risk of wear on the frame. Additionally some have compatibility issues with different suspension designs.


Rear Door Mounted Bike Racks

Bike Capacity:1-2
Bike Mounting Method: Tire Clamps or Handle Bar Hanging

What we like: Easy to open rear doors for accessing rear of van. Integrate to rear door ladders and storage systems.

What we don’t: Hard to reach bikes on tray systems due to mounting height. Expensive

Van Mounted; For mounting racks directly to the van you will need either a rear mounted ladder or cargo carrier. Some products on the market are already designed to integrate a bike rack like Owls B2 Bike carrier that integrates 1ups tray rack. Other cargo racks are multi-purpose and allow you to retrofit them with other racks like this inspired vans build integrating a Lolo hanging rack on a cargo carrier.

  • Van Mounted; For mounting racks directly to the van you will need either a rear mounted ladder or cargo carrier. Some products on the market are already designed to integrate a bike rack like Owls B2 Bike carrier that integrates 1ups tray rack. Other cargo racks are multi-purpose and allow you to retrofit them with other racks like this inspired vans build integrating a Lolo hanging rack on a cargo carrier.


Roof Mounted Bike Racks

Bike Capacity:6+

Bike Mounting Method: Tire Clamps, Axle Mounts

What we like: A huge amount of bikes can be transported. Out of the way.

What we don’t: Loading and unloading will be a two person job and have the highest risk of damaging the bike or your van. Hard to access.

Storing bikes on the top of a van is suited for those who will be staying in single locations for longer periods of time and won’t be frequently loading and unloading their bikes. If you are staying in a campsite for a week and can keep your bike on the ground to cruise around town this is great. When you are regularly moving to different locations and want access to your bike daily unloading and loading will become frustrating. Alternatively if you have a very large stable of bikes or are supporting large group rides the inconvenience of the roof storage will be unavoidable. When you are planning for roof storage ensure your roof rack or roof bars are compatible with your planned bike racks. Don’t forget to ensure your bikes aren’t blocking any solar panels or roof vent covers either. Your ladder selection should also account for loading bikes as well.


Summary

As you can see there are many different ways to store your bikes. It is one of the things that make vans so great, you are in charge. For us our ideal setup would be a gear garage with a slide out tray for travel paired with some simple external mounts for when we just want to get out quick with our bikes or are shuttling. Whatever you choose just having your bikes with you will prove to be a good time!

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