Many VW campervan owners and hirers want to make the most of the outdoors environment when they head off for a campervan holiday – and one of the most popular pursuits is cycling. In fact, many of the people who use our Scottish motorhome hire and campervan hire services are avid cyclists looking to explore parts of Scotland they couldn’t reach on their bikes alone.
While you could carry your bikes inside the van, the best option is to buy a bike carrier for the back of the van. But there are dozens of bike carriers on the market, and the choice can be bewildering. Every carrier has a different set of features and the price range is incredible.
This article will help you to sort through all the brands and their bike carrier ranges, for both the rear door or a tow bar, to decide which is the best one for you.
Guide to choosing the right bike carrier for a campervan
Things to think about:
- Rear mounting or towbar mounting: A towbar is a good idea if you want to keep the rack off your door and paintwork. Many rear-mounted carriers claim they will not damage paintwork but it is unlikely that you will be left with a pristine van after years of attaching the carrier. However, rear-mounted carriers are usually cheaper and can be easier to fit.
- How many bikes do you need to carry?: There are carriers for one to five bikes, and some even carry the weight of electric bikes.
- What is your budget? From £40 to more than £400, it seems to be that you generally get what you pay for although there are some cases in which this is not true.
- Open doors? Will you need to open the back doors/tailgate while the bikes are attached? Remember that a tailgate on a campervan needs a lot of clearance so the bikes will have to be moved away from the back of the van if you are to easily open the door. There are some ingenious solutions for this.
- More to think about! Do you need extra features, such as bike locks and extra space for wider handlebars or heavier electric bikes?
- Personal strengths: Are you strong enough to install the rack and add the bikes?
- Off the car: Size of the rack when storing it.
Great rear-door bike carriers for campervans
Fiamma bike racks
Fiamma sell a range of bike racks that can be fitted to the rear door of a van. The racks are made to suit different campervans, including VW, for different van models and for double back doors. See Fiamma Carry Bike. Another option is the three bike version, the Fiamma Carry Bike Backpack.
Plus points: Easy to fit and fairly lightweight. Bikes can be fitted without too much hassle and feel secure. The rack also folds up for storage.
Not so good: The rack may eventually leave rubs and marks on your van paintwork. If you feel uneasy about hanging bikes on a rack from your back doors, this is not for you or make sure you are very careful when fitting the rack.
Pendle three-bike strap on rack
For around only £65, this Strap On carrier has been rated an MB UK “Best Buy” product. It is a well made item that does exactly what it says it will. This rack will fit a number of more modern VW campervans including the T5.
The bike carrier attaches to your vehicle using six straps, each with a rubber coated hook. They hook over the top, sides and bottom of the boot/rear door. The max load is 15kg per bike.
Plus points: Really good price and ease of use.
Not so good: You can’t open the back doors with the rack on the back so access might be an issue. The rack is high up when mounted on the van so it might not be s easy to lift up the bikes.
Reimo Aluminium rear bike carrier
For VW T4 models from 1996 onwards (without bumper struts) this easy mount rear bike carrier is made of lightweight but strong aluminium. It can take a maximum of three bikes and is rated by VW campervan convertors Nomad Campervans as a good buy.
It’s priced at £204.75 from Nomad
Plus points: Easy to use and will fit VW campervans from 1996 onwards.
Not so good: It’s quite a lot to pay for a back load carrier although it is well made and has lots of protectors for the paint work.
Atera LINEA three-bike bike carrier
Claimed to be the cream of the cream of rear-mounted bike carriers you will certainly need to dig deep for this one. Priced at around £345 it’s costly but it offers a wealth of features. Atera is also acclaimed as a superb bike carrier maker.
Made of stainless steel and aluminium, the Atera carrier features a quick and easy system for fixing to the campervan, a special tensioner/lock for extra security, superb fit that works well with the campervan and can fit all kinds of bikes and in different size and style combinations.
Plus points: A sophisticated and well thought out design that is easy to fit and will take a wide range of bikes.
Not so good: This is a pricey carrier.
Towbar bike carriers for campervans
Many campervan owners prefer to have a bike carrier fitted to a towbar. It keeps the carrier away from the van’s paintwork and in many cases these carriers are more robust, secure and easier to load with bikes. If you do not have an existing towbar you will need to pay to have one fitted.
MAXXRAXX 2 bike Premier rack
This is a hang-on style of carrier so the bikes hang on the rack but they are easy to put on the carrier and have an integral security cable and padlocks to keep the bikes safe while on the carrier. The rack can be tilted to allow some degree of door opening while the bikes are on the rack.
The MaxxRaxx 2 is priced at around £130. Buy from Roofbox.co.uk
Plus points: Ease of use, flexibility across vehicles and cost.
No so good: There is no under-wheel support and it might not always be possible to open back doors of a campervan even when the rack is tilted away.
Buzz Rack Buzz Cruiser for three bikes
The Buzz Cruiser is a robust rack that is well made and simple to fit to a towbar ball. The rack also boasts wheel holders that are durable and come with easily adjusted straps to hold even the widest of wheels. The bike holders also have locks and this rack folds up neatly for storage.
Again The Roof Box Company sell this rack for a very competitive price of £194.95. See Buzz Rack Buzz Cruiser
Plus points: Well made and robust, easy-ish to tilt, simple to fit to tow bar.
Not so good: There is very little to criticise, except we do prefer the slide away feature in the Atera Strada rack below.
Thule EuroRide 941 2 bike tow bar carrier
Thule is a well-known and highly regarded bike carrier brand and there are dozens of choices in their rear-mount and tow-bar versions. This is a two-bike version but there are many others for carrying more bikes.
We like this EuroRide, which includes some clever features such as a tilt function, so you can get into the back of your van, a quick mounting handle, a compact fold-away design, textile straps instead of hard plastic straps to help to protect bikes fitted with painted or anodised wheel rims.
Plus points: Quick mounting to tow bar, Thule long-lasting brand, tilt function, compact for storage.
Not so good: This carrier comes with standard UK seven-pin lights, which means there’s no fog lights or reversing light
Another Thule carrier that is recommended, although on the much pricier side, is the Thule 932 Easyfold. It costs whopping £449.95 but is has some great and robust features and folds away very neatly indeed.
Atera Strada DL 2 to 3 bike carrier
Highly rated as a bike carrier, the Atera offers a lot for the money. In particular, the bike carrier has a platform that slides away from the tow ball to allow good access to the tailgate, taking the weight of the bikes.
It also has an innovative self-adjusting tow-ball fixing system that holds the carrier horizontal as soon as it’s placed on the tow ball. The triangular frame shape allows you to come right in close to the tow ball, so you don’t have to lean across the bike carrier to access the boot space. It’s a great back ache saver!
The quality of this product is also excellent, with a very light but strong frame, durable plastic fixings with easy-to-use rachets for holding the bike in place, GB rear and fog lights.
Leading bike carrier retailer The Roof Box Company have this carrier in their five best Hall of Fame products. Buy the Atera Strada at the Roof Box Company for £314.85.
Plus points: Easy to fix and use. Won’t wreck your back when fitting it. An innovative slide back platforms allows for good access to the back of your van.
Not so good: You will need a garage or outhouse to store the folded down carrier when not in use. If space is a problem you can buy a hanger for this carrier but that’s another cost.
We hope we’ve helped a few readers find the perfect bike carrier for their needs. Please get in touch if you have any questions about bike carriers for any of Open Road Scotland’s campervans. Tell us about your experiences with bike carriers for VW campervans.