The 4 Most Popular Ways to Bring Your Bikes Camping

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Kids on bikes by an Airstream trailer
Mammoth Campground – Photo by: Currently Wandering

I have a confession to make—I don’t like cycling nearly as much as my husband, Mike does. Mike is one of those die-hard cyclists that pedals like a United States Post Office worker, in rain, heat, snow, and everything in between. So when we first hit the road to travel full-time back in 2016, bringing two of his bikes along for the journey was non-negotiable.

The question was, how could we safely transport them?

After weeks of research, years of trial and error, and plenty of cursing along the way, we’ve concluded that when it comes right down to it, there are only a handful of ways to travel with bike(s), and each has its pros and cons.

Let’s dive in.

RV with a bike rack
Küat Bike Rack – Jonathan & Michael’s Favorite Camping Gear

1. The A to Z of Bike Racks

The most common way to transport bikes is on a bike rack. Depending on your setup, a bike rack can be mounted on a roof, to a back hitch, to a front hitch, and on a roof ladder. Each option is designed to securely hold your bike in place so that it stays put while you drive, park, and camp.

Bike racks are popular because they keep the bike out of the way and yet accessible. Other “pros” include:

  • The ability to lock your bike onto the rack (and the rack onto your rig) for security.
  • Many rack configurations make it easy and quick to take your bike on and off.
  • Some racks can carry up to four bikes.
  • Many racks can move from vehicle to vehicle, as needed.

Before you decide to go the rack route, there are a few “cons” to consider as well.

  • Though you can lock your bike to your rack and vehicle, your bike will always be visible, and a clever thief will figure out a way to break through the lock(s). This is an important consideration if you carry expensive bikes.
  • A bike attached to the exterior of a vehicle will experience significant exposure to the elements, which will damage the bike over time. A cover can help mitigate this, though few covers are designed to withstand driving at highway speeds.

Think a bike rack is the right solution for you? Here are a few of our favorites:

man in the bed of truck working on a bike
Storing the bikes in the back of a truck with a shell keeps them out of the elements and out of sight.

2. Transport Bikes in a Truck Bed

Though Mike and I use a bike rack when we’re traveling for short distances, we quickly realized that it wasn’t the right setup for us when living on the road. The possibility of theft from the bikes being in easy view, coupled with the damage to the bikes from outside transport, had us looking quickly for better (for us) options.

We travel with a truck and trailer, so we decided to put a shell over our truck bed and store the bikes inside. We installed a Thule Bed Rider, which allows us to carry two bikes in the bed. For extra security, we cut Reflectix and put it in our shell’s windows so that you can’t see what’s inside. While no option is theft-proof, we subscribe to the “out of sight, out of mind” theory of security—if people can’t see the bikes, they are less likely to try to snag them. Keeping the bikes inside also eliminates any wear and tear during transport.

Pros:

  • Bikes are protected from the elements and stored out of sight.
  • The rack is easy to remove so that the truck bed can be used for other purposes.

Cons:

  • Bikes can be a pain to get in and out of the truck—it’s not as easy as an exterior rack. This is especially true if you have a trailer attached to your truck.
  • Can’t store many other items in the bed with the bikes inside.

While this isn’t an option available to everyone, it’s worth considering if you have the setup.

3. Store Bikes Inside Your Camper

If you have space, one of the best ways to store bikes is inside your camper. For many, this isn’t possible, but these days, RV manufacturers are catching on that people like to travel with all their toys and are designing accordingly.

So-called “toy hauler” RVs are a type of camper that includes a “gear garage” in the rear of the trailer. Often, this garage is accessed via a large ramp-door that releases from the back of the trailer to the ground. Toy haulers are more popular with the ATV and motorbike crowd, but some cyclists are starting to jump on the bandwagon.

With a gear garage, not only is storing and accessing bikes a breeze, but the area is usually large enough to work on the bikes themselves. This is particularly attractive for those who travel to races or like to take meticulous care of their gear.

Pros:

  • Bikes are protected from the elements and stored out of sight.
  • A ramp-door allows for easy loading and unloading of bikes.
  • Gear garages are often large enough to do maintenance on the bikes while inside.

Cons:

  • Toy haulers are a specific type of trailer camper that may or may not meet your other camping needs. They typically require a tow vehicle (though there are a few models of toy hauler motorhomes on the market), and are large in size.

Even if you don’t have a toy hauler, there are often options for storing your bike inside, especially when you’re driving. For a long time, before we put Mike’s bikes inside our truck bed, we’d bring his bikes into the camper, secure them for long drives, and then take them out and attach them to a bike rack when we reached our destination.

4. Haul a Bike Trailer

While not as common as other methods, serious cyclists will sometimes choose to haul an enclosed trailer for their bikes behind their RV, Class C, or truck camper. Is this the right option for you? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Bikes are protected from the elements and stored out of sight.
  • Most enclosed trailers are big enough to store more items inside, like other sports gear or camping supplies.

Cons:

  • Hauling a trailer makes your setup longer and often less nimble.

As far as safety goes, enclosed trailers can be secured via a hitch lock or locking wheel chocks when not attached to your vehicle. One downside is that, even if your trailer is attached to your vehicle, you may not hear a stealthy thief breaking into it while you’re sleeping (unlike a rack attached directly to your rig, which you’ll likely hear if someone tampers with it).

In conclusion, there is no one best way to bring your bikes on your next camping trip. The right solution for you is the one that fits your type of travel, the setup of your vehicle and camper, and your priorities.

Did you find the perfect bike transport setup for your camping adventures? Tell us about it in the comments!