They are perhaps not quite as essential as they are with a motorhome, as once you are on site you have a car at your disposal. But bicycles are always a nice thing to take along with you on tour (so you’ll no doubt need a caravan bike rack). Caravanning is, after all, partly supposed to be about getting back to nature, and cycling is a great way to do that.
With both a car and a caravan at your disposal, you have an increased number of possibilities about where to put the bike – although all have their pros and cons. Here we pick out the best caravan bike racks.
You can, of course, put a bike rack on the roof of your towcar, as long as it has the necesssary infrastructure up top. As you are already towing a caravan, putting them up here will make little difference to your fuel efficiency, or to clearance in car parks. But bikes on the roofs of cars can sometimes be tricky or even hazardous to take down, and you have the usual issue of what to do with the rack once you are back home, as bike racks left in situ up here can be harder to remove, get rusty, and possibly damage your car.
A bike rack strapped to the back of the car could be an answer, but you need to be careful that the bikes do not interfere with the jockey wheel handle or any of the other part of the towing apparatus. The boot will also be even harder to access with the bikes in this situation.
You would have thought with a caravan on the back, bike racks that rely on a towball on the car would be out of the question. In fact, some manufacturers do make such bike racks that do still allow you to tow a caravan. But you have to use a bolt-on towbar.
The caravan A-frame might seem an obvious place to have a bike rack too, and there are plenty of manufacturers who offer such an option. They are, however, possibly less useful for British caravanners because you need a large A-frame that is free of any GRP mouldings. Fine if you have an Adria caravan, for example, but perhaps not so easy with more conventional British models. You also have to make sure that putting the bikes here does not put the noseweight of the caravan up to such an extent that you exceed the towball limit of the car. And, once again, you need to make sure that any bike put on such a rack does not interfere with the towing apparatus or make it harder for you to make sharp turns when towing.
You can, of course, put the bikes inside the caravan, most likely down the centre of the aisle over the axle – assuming you have a layout that allows this. To avoid the bikes damaging the interior, you will still need some means of restraining them.
Finally, you can put your bikes on a rack on the back of the caravan. Many manufacturers offer this option, which is why most caravans these days come with ready-installed fixing points for a bike rack. If yours doesn’t have such points, putting a bike rack up here is probably going to be a no-no. With today’s largely timber-free caravan construction, you can’t just whack a bike rack on.
Even if you can fit a bike rack here, you still have to bear in mind the adverse impact this might have on towing. Because of the extra weight this places right at the back of the outfit, it can cause you to sway en route more than you are used to. Obviously you also need to remember that you have the bikes on the back when you come to reverse!
Fitting on the towcar roof
This one-bike rack fits on either side of the car, and automatically positions the bike in place once you have loaded it. Padded claws prevent damage to the bike itself, and should prevent the bike from falling.
RRP £117.50 Web www.thule.com
Fitting on the towcar back door
Witter M-WAY High Rear Mounted 3-Bike Carrier
If you have enough clearance, this bike carrier could be an easy option as it is easily fitted and obviously will remain with the car – so you could take the bikes somewhere else while the caravan is on site.
Price £59.99 Web www.witter-towbars.co.uk
This bike rack is designed for most (but not all) towcars and fits over the rear door both via easy to adjust struts and with cables for extra security. Cradles secure the bike to the rack and absorb road bumps, while no-sway cages are designed to prevent bike to vehicle (and caravan) contact. The bikes can be locked to the rack, and the rack can be locked to the car, but when not in use the whole rack can be folded away neatly. The narrow cradle arms means you can accommodate different sizes of bikes on here too. Just make sure there is enough room underneath for the caravan to be hitched up and to move easily. And bear in mind that access to the boot while en route will be even trickier with this on.
Price: RaceWay 2 (for 2 bikes) £315; RaceWay 3 (for 3 bikes) £350 Web www.thule.com
Saris Bones Black
The Arc shape on this is designed to go over most cars’ rear spoilers, to absorb road bumps, and to separate the bikes as much as possible so that they don’t interfere with one another. It comes with rubberised feet to protect your car and straps to protect the bikes. The same caution about making sure you have room for the caravan applies.
Price: £126 (2-bike rack); £144 (3-bike rack) Web www.halfords.com
Fitting on the towball
Witter Flange Towbar Mounted Bike Rack
You have to have a bolted on flange towbar to use it, but, if you do, the Witter bike rack could be a bit of a godsend, because it fits onto the towbar (so considerably reduces the risk of damage to the car) and yet still allows you to tow a caravan at the same time. It can be taken on and off in seconds once you have fitted a base plate, and the weight of the bike or bikes is completely supported by the towbar, so you shouldn’t have to worry so much about affecting your caravan’s noseweight. And of course, once your caravan is on site this bike rack becomes like any other car-mounted bike rack – so you could take the bikes away somewhere while leaving the caravan behind on site. Some four different models are available, depending on how many bikes you want to carry (up to a maximum of four), whether you have a spare wheel carrier on the back of your towbar, and, if you do, how big it is.
Price from £79.98 www.witter-towbars.co.uk
Fitting on the A-frame
Fiamma Carry-Bike Caravan A-Frame Active
The latest addition to Fiamma’s Caravan Active range of A-frame towbars has a new hooking and unhooking system that can be operated from one side only. With a maximum carrying capacity of 60kg, it has also been redesigned for greater stability. An alternative model specially designed for heavier e-bikes is also available.
Price: £407 (E-bike model £434) Web www.fiamma.it
Thule Caravan Superb XT Black Short
A bike rack that can fit nomal or short A-frames and is capable of holding two e-bikes weighing up to 60kg (so you would really have to check your noseweight limit). It has adjustable holders so that you could fit different sizes of bikes, and detachable support arms which click when you have tightened them to the desired level. The rack, which can be locked to the A-frame, can also tilt to give you easier access to the front gas bottle locker on the caravan, or if you need better access to the car boot.
RRP £361.71 Web www.thule.com
Fitting on the back of the caravan
Fiamma Carry-Bike Caravan Universal
Designed to fit on the back of a wide range of caravans, the Caravan Universal fixes to the caravan’s frame and the lower and upper brackets can be fitted using self-tapping screws. Its length can be adjusted from 1m to 1.80m.
Price £261 Web www.fiamma.it
With a load capacity of 60kg, this two-bike rack can easily accommodate e-bikes. The rails are easy to adjust even with the bike on, and adjustable holders mean you can fit any size of bike. Adjustable arms add extra support and click to let you know when they have been fully tightened. Extensions for three or four bikes are also available, as is a short version.
RRP £312.77 Web www.thule.com
Thule Lift V16
If you really want to splash out, this bike rack can be lowered and raised using either a crank (in the manual version) or electronically (in the 12V version). It fits two bikes, including e-bikes, with a load capacity of 50kg (so check your caravan’s payload), and as a cost option you can get an extension to fit a third. The bikes can be secured with adjustable arms that click when tightened fully, and the bikes themselves are locked into position. Adjustable handles also mean you should be able to fit any size of bike.
RRP £724.56 Web. www.thule.com
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A bike rack strapped to the back of the car could be an answer, but you need to be careful that the bikes do not interfere with the jockey wheel handle or any of the other part of the towing apparatus