How to Carry Bikes While Towing a Travel Trailer

How to Carry Bikes While Towing a Travel Trailer

If you've ever thought "there has to be a way to carry my bikes and tow my camper at the same time," you're correct! Why choose between hauling your camper and bringing your bikes to the trail when you can do both at the same time? Indeed, the best thing about carrying bikes while towing a trailer is that you just have so. many. options. Want to carry your bikes on your tow vehicle? No problem. Want to haul them along with your trailer? You can do that, too. So—what exactly are your options, and which one is right for you? We'll go over how to carry your bikes while towing a trailer and help you choose the best method for your situation. Let's get started!
Hitch-mounted bike rack on trailer
Hitch receiver on travel trailer

Hitch-Mount Bike Racks (Trailer Side)

Great for you if:
  • You want the versatility of carrying your bikes on your trailer or tow vehicle
  • You have a hitch receiver on your camper (or are okay with purchasing one)
  • You want to carry multiple bikes (up to 4)
  • You have heavier bikes (like electric bikes)
Not for you if:
  • You don't have or don't want to purchase an RV hitch receiver
When looking for a hitch bike rack to mount on a trailer, make sure the bike rack is approved by the manufacturer for RV/trailer use. This is to ensure that the rack can stand up to the force exerted on it at the back of the trailer. (Read more about what makes an RV bike rack up to the task here.)Hitch-mounted racks are available to carry up to 4 bikes at the back of the camper and typically offer hefty weight capacities. The biggest benefit to using a hitch mount bike rack is that it can then also be used on the tow vehicle when the trailer isn't attached. After setting up the trailer at the campsite, a hitch bike rack can be transferred to the tow vehicle, and the bikes can be driven to the trailhead.Need an RV trailer hitch receiver?There are a couple of options when it comes to choosing a trailer hitch receiver for a camper. The hitch receiver can either be mounted to the trailer bumper or installed on the trailer frame. The durability of the trailer bumper and the width of the frame are factors that will determine which hitch type is best suited for your camper. If the bumper is not designed to carry additional weight or it is not reinforced, a frame-mount hitch receiver is the way to go. A bumper-mounted receiver typically requires a continuous welded steel bumper, most often measuring 4x4".
Bumper-mounted bike rack on travel trailer
Up-close view of bumper-mounted bike rack on travel trailer

Bumper-Mounted Bike Racks (Trailer Side)

Great for you if:
  • You don't want to install a hitch receiver
  • Your trailer's bumper is 4x4" of continuous welded steel
Not for you if:
  • Your bumper is spot-welded or made of aluminum
If you don't want to install a hitch receiver on your trailer, a bumper mounted bike rack is a great option. These racks use U-bolts or mounting plates to clamp around the travel trailer's bumper. It's important to make sure your trailer's bumper can handle a bike rack. Typically, this means your bumper should be continuous welded steel that measures 4"x4". (Aluminum or spot-welded bumpers aren't usually strong enough to handle the weight of the rack and bikes.)
Bikes on ladder-mounted RV bike rack
Closeup of ladder-mounted RV bike rack

Ladder-Mounted Bike Racks (Trailer Side)

Great for you if:
  • You have a rear-facing ladder on your camper
  • You have lightweight bikes or children's bikes
  • You only need to carry 1 or 2 bikes this way
Not for you if:
  • You don't have a camper ladder
  • You want to carry more than 2 bikes, or your bikes are heavy and exceed the rack's weight capacity
If your camper has a rear-facing ladder, a ladder bike rack is another option for carrying bikes. The bikes are carried vertically and supported by the frame member between the seat post and the pedals. Ladder-mounted bike racks are great for carrying 1 or 2 lightweight bikes or children's bikes, since this rack style typically doesn't offer high weight capacities.
Bikes on tongue-mount rv bike rack
Bikes on tongue-mounted travel trailer bike rack
Hitch-style tongue-mounted bike rack on trailer

Tongue-Mounted Bike Racks (Trailer Side)

Great for you if:
  • Have sufficient space between your tow vehicle and trailer
  • Have lightweight bikes
  • Only need to carry 1 or 2 bikes this way
Not for you if:
  • Have heavy bikes that exceed your rack's weight capacity or add too much tongue weight
Tongue-mounted bike racks might include the bike carrier, or they might simply provide a receiver for a hitch-mounted bike rack. If you have to purchase a bike rack separately, I recommend sticking with a lightweight 2-bike rack so you don't overload your receiver. (Also be aware how much tongue weight you're adding to your setup, and make sure to stay within safe limits.)
Front-mounted hitch bike rack on truck
Front-mount hitch on RAM truck

Front-Mounted Hitch Bike Rack (Vehicle Side)

Great for you if:
  • You have a front-mounted hitch or don't mind purchasing one
  • You'd like to use your rear hitch to carry your bikes when you're not towing
  • You prefer to keep an eye on your bikes while driving
Not for you if:
  • You don't have a front-mounted hitch or don't want to purchase one
  • Your bikes block your headlights or otherwise present a hazard when you drive
If the tow vehicle has a front-mount hitch, a standard hitch bike rack can be used to carry bikes on the front of your tow vehicle. One benefit of a front-mounted hitch rack is that you can keep an eye on your bikes from the driver's seat. Hitch bike racks are also versatile, so you can easily switch to carrying your bikes from your rear hitch when you're not towing your camper. If you go the front-mount route, just make sure your bikes don't block your vehicle's headlights at night, and make sure they don't limit the airflow to the radiator. Need a front-mount trailer hitch?Enter your tow vehicle's year, make and model here or click "shop front-mount hitches" below to find a custom hitch for your vehicle.
Roof-mounted bike rack on SUV
Bike mounted on roof rack

Roof Bike Rack (Vehicle Side)

Great for you if:
  • You have a roof rack or want to invest in one
  • You have lighter bikes that you can lift easily
  • You can reach the roof of your tow vehicle
Not for you if:
  • You can't reach your roof
  • Your bikes are too heavy for you to lift onto your roof
  • Your bike and rack weight surpass your roof's capacity
If you can reach your tow vehicle's roof, there's quite a lot of space up there for hauling bikes. And much like hitch racks, a roof rack lets you carry your bikes even when you're not towing your trailer. The availability of fork mount, frame mount, and wheel mount racks allows you to carry almost any type of bike. However, there are a few major downsides to roof-mounted bike racks. The main one is that your vehicle height might pose a challenge. Running boards, step stools, or steps like the Moki step can be a huge help. But if your bikes are heavy, even this might not be enough. (Personally, as the owner of a 55-lb e-bike, lifting my bike onto the roof of a truck is going to be my last resort.) You also want to make sure not to surpass your roof's weight capacity. The second downside (which might not be a big deal to you) is that most roof bike racks require a roof rack to mount on (though there are some that mount on naked roofs). However, you might already have a roof rack, and even if you don't, they are great for carrying all manner of equipment like kayaks, canoes, roof boxes, baskets, and more. So you might want to think about investing in one anyway. Need a roof rack?Enter your tow vehicle's year, make and model here or click "shop roof racks" below to find a custom rack for your vehicle.
Towing rack on ball mount
Bike rack on tow vehicle with built-in ball mount

Ball Mount / Towing Rack (Vehicle Side)

Great for you if:
  • You want to bring 3 or 4 bikes along
  • You have sufficient space between your vehicle and trailer
  • The built-in ball mount on the rack (if included) is able to support your trailer
Not for you if:
  • Adding this rack and bikes would cause you to surpass your tongue weight capacity
You know your hitch and ball mount are tough (after all, they tow your entire camper), so it makes sense to use them to carry your bikes too. You can either use a bike rack with a built-in ball mount, or you can mount one of these racks around your ball mount shank, provided you stay within your tongue weight limitations. These racks usually offer a 3- or 4-bike capacity, so they're a great option if you want to bring the whole family's bikes along. Just note that turning clearance might become limited if you start stacking bikes behind your vehicle. Also, if you choose a rack option with a bult-in ball mount, it's likely your ball mount capacity will be considerably less than if you were to use a standard ball mount. Always make sure you're within your weight limit when towing!
Bike on truck bed bike rack
Bike on tailgate pad
3 Bikes on tailgate pad

Truck Bed Bike Rack (Vehicle Side)

Great for you if:
  • You have a truck
  • You want to bring multiple bikes (up to 8)
  • You can lift your bikes into your truck bed
Not for you if:
  • You don't have a truck
  • You need your truck bed for carrying other gear
If you've got a truck, you've got a way to carry bikes. But you don't want to just throw your bikes in the bed and call it a day (this is a surefire way to scratch your bike, your truck bed, or both). There are a variety of truck-bed bike rack options available, including bolt-on, clamp-on, and strap-in models as well as tailgate pads. These options fit a variety of bike styles. A big benefit of tailgate pads in particular is that you're not limited to just a couple of bikes—in fact, you can carry up to 8 bikes this way. (Just make sure you can lift all of them into the truck bed!)
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsUpdated on: 10/25/21

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