The Bike Rack Saga

I have held off writing about this because I wanted to see how it all turned out, but now I think we are at the end and great news have a solution so let me go back and walk you through this. It is a story about how a relatively simple thing got complicated because we were moving from place to place and since this happens more often than we would like I wanted to share it with you. Plus it details the solution we found for storing our eBikes.

If you remember back in July we made the decision to buy Lectric Bikes and part of that decision was based on the idea that we would be able to store them folded in the bed of the truck, at the rear, so they were always available when we were driving around, and of course they would also be there when we were towing the 5th wheel. However, once we got them and added baskets and a few other things, they were taller than the bed rails, which meant we couldn’t use our new tonneau cover, and it would also mean lifting the king pin pretty higher to get over them, and then lower it to go into the hitch, which is risky and problematic. So Lee decided that he would put them on a hitch mount bike rack on the back of our RV but after he bought one for $120 (we later sold it for half that) he realized that it was not strong enough and there was no good place to attach it.

Most fifth wheels made today have bumpers for a carrying rack, but ours did not so Lee set his mind to solving that puzzle. Eventually he decided to buy a steel bumper cut to spec ($125) and pay a local welder to come out and weld it on. When we were in Cathedral Gorge, he was able to find a steel supplier in St. George, a two hour drive each away to get the bumper. Another drive to St. George to pick up the carrier rack that cost $500. Finding a welder turned out to be much harder than expected. He talked to numerous people (including park rangers) and finally right before our two weeks at the park ran out he got a guy to come out and do it. He was so relieved to have it done that he didn’t really look closely at the work, but this is what he ended up with for one hours work and $385.

This thin metal bars holding the bumper were simply not sturdy enough

Looks pretty solid right? Well unfortunately after the guy left and Lee put on the bike rack, not so much. You could shake the rack with your hand and there was about 6″ of deflection with no weight on it. The support bars were welded to a crosspiece that held the receiver, instead of the frame, so there was no rigidity to it at all. Add that to the fact that the support bars were mounted in the wrong orientation, so there was no strength in them. And the carrier is 2′, plus the 1′ of the support bars meant all the weight, over 200lbs of it, would be hanging out 2-3′ from a substandard weld. The entire setup was unsettling and definitely not what Lee had in mind. He called the guy back and told him we were going to a neighboring state park and received a commitment that he would visit us at some point to redo it. After 10 days he had cancelled and blown us off, and we were left with a rack that he couldn’t trust to put the bikes on. Lee has explored getting his money back through Venmo but frankly that is a longshot and will probably never happen.

While we were in Echo Canyon Lee tried to get a second welder to come, but again no luck there. Meanwhile he was also working on a solution for how to actually secure the bikes to the carrier. Since he couldn’t initially find anything online (Lectric bikes have wider tires than a standard bike so all of the easily available solutions wouldn’t fit) he contacted a fabricator and after a few phone calls back and forth and some discussion they worked out that he could get them made. On the day he was supposed to pick them up, the guy called to tell him the project was done, so he headed that way, he was already 1 1/2 hours into the two hour drive when the guy called him back to say a mistake had been made, that his job was NOT done. We extended our stay another 4 days to give him time to get the materials and make them, and when they were finally done, he wanted $400 for something that likely took an hour and about $75 in materials. Lee was pretty angry about that, especially considering he had wasted half a day driving there and then we extended our stay top give them time to do the job. After a few texts back and forth Lee just walked away from the deal. That’s not normally something he would do, but the guy was really taking advantage of him.

The entire time this was happening Lee was getting more upset and our remote location coupled with not knowing people in the area turned something relatively simple into a several week long irritation. Our next opportunity to get work done was in Las Vegas and we hoped that in a bigger city our experience might be different. We put the bikes inside the rig when we traveled (a huge pain in the ass) and took them out and locked them up when we got there. Lee started to lose hope after he made call after call and kept getting blown off but finally ran across a guy who had relocated from Ohio. He was an RVr, had done similar jobs in the past, and said he would come out and take a look. The only bad thing was he wasn’t available until Lee was on his trip to Columbus but I understood the problem and what we were looking for and felt confident I could handle it.

Turns out the guy was excellent and just shook his head at what the first welder had done. He described it as “substandard work that no competent welder would have done.” He also said it was clearly inadequate for the application and would a serious danger on the highway. He completely disassembled the other work and proceeded to do an excellent job explaining his method to me prior to doing the work. It took a little over four hours and he only cost $350 and was worth every penny because when the job was done I pushed down with my full weight and it didn’t budge.

I still didn’t feel 100% about the job though until Lee came home and put in the tire holders and then put the bikes on rack. Voila it worked and as happy as I am to have a solution the aggravation was extreme on this one. I have to believe something like this would have been easier if we lived in one place but then again who knows. People run into this kind of stuff everywhere when they try to color outside the lines.

My only advice to you is get all the pieces in place before you start a project like this and make 100% sure your tie down methods are solid. We stopped a couple of times on our first trip out and Lee will have to continually check as we travel. Not only are the bikes $1500 a piece but 160 pounds of bikes hitting the highway at 70mph could cause a lot of damage. Overall it’s the best solution he could come up with but its at times like these I wish we had a toy hauler or Class A 🙂

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5 thoughts on “The Bike Rack Saga

  1. Pingback: Lectric Bike Review – Camper Chronicles

  2. Pingback: November Budget 2022 – Camper Chronicles

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