DIY Vanlife Bike Rack

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DIY Swinging Hitch Storage + Bike Rack

Before we hit the road to be full time vanlifers, we had a big problem to solve. We wanted external storage, a bike rack, and still be able to open the back doors to our van. We searched the internet for ages and could not find a product on the market that met all of our needs. In typical product designer fashion, Eric set out on crafting our own solution. We were able to build a custom swinging bike mount with a storage box that fit all of our needs. Here’s how we created our solution.

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Related post: Our Van Build

Custom Swinging Storage Box and Bike Mount for Vanlife
Swinging Hitch Mount with Bike Rack and External Storage

Swinging Hitch Mount

The first problem to solve was being able to open the back doors. There were plenty of storage solutions and bike racks that utilized the hitch mount, however they all blocked the back door. Eric found this swinging hitch mount from Stow Away that served as a platform to build what we needed. It holds 250 lbs of weight and swings out 180 degrees allowing us to open our back doors.

Outdoor Cooking setup for Vanlife
Swinging Hitch Mount with Back Doors Open

External Storage Box

The next problem to solve was storage. Eric found this box from Buyers that typically is used in a truck bed. It is 18x18x30 and provides tons of storage for items that we want to store outside the van like fluids and recovery gear. Eric bolted this box directly to the swinging hitch mount.

Related post: Order of Operations in a Van Build

Bike Mount

The next problem was the hardest problem to solve, how to store our bikes. This problem required busting out the welder. Eric used 1 inch steel tubes to craft a custom hoop for our bikes to sit on. The bikes are secured with 2 Quick Fists as well as Velcro.

Painting custom welded hoop for bike rack
Eric painting the custom welded bike hoop


The last problem was how to make sure our bikes weren’t stolen. There are several options on the market for this like chains and cable, however we were worried that bolt cutters would easily cut through these options and someone would be off with our bikes. Through all of our research, we found that U-locks are the most secure. They are quite expensive however, and they would not fit around both of our bikes on the bike rack we created. Eric created his own U-lock using 1/2 inch stainless rod and 3/16 x1 inch stainless barstock. We have a weather resistant Boron steel Brinks lock. Our hope is that our bikes aren’t going anywhere!

Campervan boondocking
Bike rack in action

We have driven over 2,000 miles with our swinging hitch solution and so far it has been rock solid. We do ratchet strap the top of the bike rack to our roof rack for added stability but other than that we have not had to make any modifications. Of note, we do have to take our bikes off the rack in order to fully open both doors. We are able to open the driver side back door completely and the passenger side back door partially with the bikes on. Most of the time, just being able to open the driver side rear door is enough for us to be able to use our flip up table to cook outside. We hope this post has helped outline how we created our custom solution. If you can’t find something on the market to fit your needs, always remember, you can create something yourself! Be sure to subscribe below so you never miss a post. Now get out there and Create Your Own Roadshow!

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