You find yourself so enamoured by mountain biking. The thrill of the shred, the down right beautiful landscapes, fresh air blowing through your helmet, adrenaline rushing through your veins each time you think of going for a ride. It’s everything you have ever dreamed of and more- but the reality is, you live so far away from your dream.
Work makes you live in the city. Work that pays for your mountain biking trips makes you live so far from where you wanted to be. Sure, you could set a time for your passion on the weekends, but the commute would be such a hassle, and accommodation bills are way too expensive for a bike trip. Not to mention the time and energy required to commute to the trails or bike park and back home again .
But as to everything, there is a compromise that makes you do what you love while also slaying it at work- the happy medium. How is that? Get an RV. You get to live on your own terms, take short unforgettable vacations with your bike and get back to work the next day, it’s a win-win!
So, what is the best RV for Mountain Biking? Vans, trailers and fifth wheels, and Class C motorhomes are all great choices for mountain biking.
It all depends on your itinerary and if you’re after full-time RVing or just taking out your RV on short weekend getaways, your budget, and your livable level of comfort and basically your everyday needs. In this article, we get down on the nitty-gritty on which RV would better suit you to fuel your passion.
RVs Suitable for Mountain Biking
Camper vans are a great choice for mountain bikers as they have good vehicle handling. I mean, mountain bike trails would be situated in narrow rough road entrances in boondocks before you get to the actual bike course, so it makes sense to have an RV that could get into those tight nooks.
Also, although they are a little more expensive upfront when purchasing your first van, chances are, they could last you a lifetime even when frequently used on off road paths. So if you’re looking to live in an RV full time with mountain trails in mind, vans are your best friend.
Campervans are now made extra spacious that sometimes it surprises you how large a van could be especially if you’ve pared down to a minimalistic lifestyle already. I mean, life can only be so simple.
I get it that as avid mountain bikers, you could have thousands of dollars invested on your bike babies, so, although they could be stored on bike racks outside the van, they could also be stored inside the van also using bike racks. This would give you at least enough security to let you sleep at night without having to worry about waking up to an empty bike rack on your bumper and your baby nowhere to be found.
Storing Bikes in a Van
I’ve mentioned the cool thing of storing your bike inside the van, continuous with the living space, so you could physically watch over it and sleep soundly knowing that your bike is safe and sound.
But the reality is, sometimes, we get a little dirty when shreds get too muddy (the fun parts!) and hauling your dirty bike inside with you after a long day would really be a bummer since you only have a limited living space and it would be nice to have it sparking clean every time.
So, if security is not an issue, if you live so far off from possible theft threats, you could store bikes using bike racks mounted at the back of the van or even at the front bumper. Designs could also include bike racks at the roof but the vertical dimension of the RV would be so overboard by then, you might not fit in tunnels or pathways with little height clearance. But at least when you’re parked, it would be more secure as you could hear it when thieves would try to get your bike on your roof- a silver lining.
Another great idea for bike storage is a separate bike garage, usually at a basement compartment below your sleeping loft at the back of your van that isn’t continuous with the living area and opens from the outside.
This is the best of both worlds as it stores the bike in a separate area so you won’t get bothered by dirt and what-nots, and it stows it away in a secure compartment that you won’t need to worry about bikes being stolen.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van
The Mercedes- Benz Sprinter van is such a rockstar in this category and it has its loyal van life followers. This German-made camper van has a swivel-seats-package that you could request upon your purchase of your van. Turning them onto the windshield side, it creates a comfortable driving experience and turning them back to the ‘living room’ area instantly creates more seating and probably even a workstation for those of you doing work on the road. Their ergonomic seats make driving and working literally not a pain in the butt.
It is famous for comfortable van driving and a high quality feel as it does offer a 4×4 model which is exactly what you need when boondocking. It has a good list of standard and optional safety features especially when you’re considering living in the RV full-time.
It has lots and lots of space that could be customizable to your needs. The thing is, those additional options, even the swivel seats, would of course cost you more, but it is for the best when you are considering living this lifestyle for most of your years.
This begs the question, how much does the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van cost? The 2019 gasoline-powered cargo van starts at $34,000 while the diesel-powered cargo van would set you back around $39,790. Of course, if you plan on taking it up the mountains, you should get the diesel-powered 4×4 cargo van which will be more suited to irregular terrain with a lot of inclines. Those road conditions would give you a hell of a gasoline bill if you choose the gasoline-powered model. The 4×4 cargo van is priced at around $47,590.
Ford Transit Van
Although not as cult-like as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Ford Transit van also has a good reputation in the van life world on its own. This van offers a 4×4 feature perfect for off road instances.
Their site offers a “build your own van” feature that lets you choose from either a passenger van or a cargo van then have the options of getting a regular sized van, a long van, or an extended length cargo van. Neat, right?
But of course, the options would cost, too. The regular sized basic cargo van costs upwards of $34,510 while the extended length cargo van is priced around $41,255.
What really gets me excited about this line is that Ford is coming up with an all electric version of the Transit Van to be released in 2021. I mean, this is big especially for the van life community because you could live with solar panels and batteries that recharge when you drive, how cool is that? This would mean less living expenses in the future. All we have to do now is to figure out how this would work. Would the power be enough for everyday living? It would be a game changer if it would work well.
Volkswagen Crafter Van
Image Source: expocafeperu.com
For our non stateside friends, another great option for that off-the-grid van life would be the Volkswagen Crafter van. This van is very spacious as it offers a high ceiling and is perfect for that sleeping loft- basement garage van design combo.
It drives smoothly and surprisingly, it handles better with load at the back. Yay, science! It is priced at around €31,755 and is unfortunately not yet available in the US or Canada.
Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels
Image Source: “The Motorhome & US RV Show at Stratford Racecourse June 2007” by The Motorhome Show is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
You love the idea of getting into an RV and waking up to trails as your happy place. But van life isn’t for you. It feels a little cramped, somewhat too mobile and transient for your liking. You would want to be on the road at times but on some months of the year, you also want to settle down and just enjoy the area that you are at.
Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels would be the go-to choice for people in these situations. Again, this is the happy medium offering you the best of both mobile and fixed living.
Travel trailers and fifth wheels are mobile rooms that can be hitched to your vehicle that tows it. They serve the same purpose of attaching more living room or storage to a vehicle- usually either an SUV or a truck but I hear some hatchbacks could handle towing a small trailer.
Although they are similar, there are distinct differences that set them apart. The most marked difference is that a fifth wheel basically makes use of a ‘jaw hitch’ to attach to the bed of a truck while a travel trailer is equipped with a ‘ball and coupler hitch’ to connect to the tow vehicle.
Because of this junction, the fifth wheel is considered to be easier to work with while driving and maybe even a safer option to tow. Even with that said, both the trailer and the fifth wheel are a bit tricky to handle when going off-road.
Because of these junctions, there are a lot of options for storing your MTB when you have a vehicle-trailer set up.
Storing Bikes in Trailers and Fifth Wheels
Image Source: nomadicallyyours
Going from the front of the vehicle to the back of the trailer, there are a lot of nooks and crannies where a bike rack could be set up on.
The first option is at the front of the tow vehicle or the vehicle that tows the trailer. This may be a truck, an SUV, or even a hatchback. The placement of the bike rack at the front of the vehicle is usually at the front bumper. This design creates a storage area for the bikes that is out of the way and also very accessible. That said, security is an issue when getting into sketchy places as it displays your bike right smack in the front of the vehicle.
Another option is at the top of the tow vehicle. This is okay when driving a hatchback or a relatively smaller tow vehicle. Although storing the bikes here would be very convenient as they are out of your way when you don’t need them, it is rather tough to access because of its placement. But at least it doesn’t add weight to the trailer.
A possible lower placement of mountain bikes could be at the top of the truck bed. Crossmounts and a rail system could be used to mount the bike on top of the truck bed. That being said, expenses could go up since you have to buy crossmounts and a rail system and fasten it onto the truck bed.
The thing is, when you use the truck bed for the bikes, you lose some valuable storage space that could have been used for everyday living items. This could be a bother since every inch counts in RV living, we only have a limited amount of space.
Even if you do decide to sacrifice storage space for bike placement, it will be a little inaccessible as you still have to climb up onto the truck bed to get your bikes down. With that said, placing your bikes on the truck bed is a little impractical and not at all cost effective.
This same situation could also be said when using the SUV cargo if you plan to use an SUV as a towing vehicle. It becomes inaccessible when the trailer is hitched on to the SUV and it uses up storage.
As we have exhausted the idea of putting the bikes onto the towing vehicle, another possible placement is on the trailer if our first few ideas are not possible. Like in the towing vehicle, we could also place the bikes in front of the trailer using a bike rack on the tongue known as a ‘tongue mount’. The back of the trailer could also be used as bike storage using a bike rack on the bumper.
If you are quite hesitant about having your bike babies outside and having the risk of them being stolen, fear not! Of course you could store your bikes inside the trailer which is a low cost option considering you only have to get a bike rack and be done with it.
The only problem is, with trailers, there usually isn’t a compartment that separates the garage and the living space. So if you’re using the trailer as your living space, storing your bikes inside the trailer would use up a lot of valuable space and might not be so pleasant after an exhausting day at the bike park with your bike all dirtied up.
Storing your bike inside the trailer would be a more secure option and would make sure that your bike is not exposed to other outside elements like inclement weather unlike if they were mounted outside the home.
I’ve done a little research about fifth wheels and trailers and I’ve come up with a list of interesting ones:
The R-pod by Forest River is a lightweight trailer that has all the basic stuff. Their Ultra Lite Travel Trailer has a hitch weight of only 252 lbs considering providing a living space of 18 feet. It is after all, a ‘pod’.
This west coast wonder costs upwards of $18,000 and is perfect for weekend MTBers who would like a simple trailer hitched to a truck set-up. That said, the simplicity of this design might not be for those who would want to live in an RV full-time since there is only a limited amount of space.
I’ve spent hours and hours researching this topic and I still haven’t figured out what the “R” stands for. It could be a word play meaning “Our” pod or “R” meaning ‘’recreational’ pod, who knows?
A toy hauler is exactly that- it hauls toys. It hauls toys for the big boys… and girls. Toy haulers were made to house toys like mountain bikes, kayaks, dirt bikes, and even ATVs.
Of the top toy haulers, the Tesla RV by Evergreen is a top contender owing to its 12 foot garage, which is a very sizable storage area for mountain bikes! The back ramp also has this unique feature of transforming into a large porch or patio area with the rails collapsable.
Top features often require top dollar. It retails around $150,000 to $180,000 depending on which battery would be outfitted.
This particular fifth wheel toy hauler has massive living space especially when the toys are pulled out. But with the massive space comes compromised mobility. Of course you won’t expect to get that much living space and be able to go on off-road trips to the bike park or a mountain trail. It just doesn’t happen.
This might leave you with the option of parking your fifth wheel in a trailer park or a grocery parking lot and taking your truck or only your bike with you to the trails. A big drawback considering its price tag, but if this might be an option, comfort would be king especially if you are a full-timer.
Forest River RV also has a lineup for toy haulers.
Wouldn’t it be cool to sleep in a carriage similar to where astronauts were quarantined after a trip to the moon? Yeah? Because that could be your thoughts while sleeping in your Airstream trailer. Airstream is the maker of quarantine trailers for NASA astronauts post moon trips.
Looking at their site, their usual design of an aluminum exterior has me thinking of it as quite an iconic esthetic.
Although it could be customised and fixed up to your liking, original Airstream trailers usually have no garage so usually, the bikes are mounted on bike racks inside or outside the trailer.
Their smallest trailer unit is called the Basecamp which is a mere 16 feet in length and costs around $38,000. That space would mean a smaller living space which is okay for short bike trips but would be a bit cramped for full time RV living.
An Airstream option for a full timer is their Airstream Classic Travel Trailer, the flagship travel trailer offers a range of 30-33 feet of living space which is twice the size of the Basecamp. The Classic Travel Trailer starts at $157,400.
Airstream, although famous for their trailers, also has a lineup for touring coaches featuring a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van chassis.
Class C Motorhomes
I’ve always been intrigued with Class C motorhomes as they’re sort of a hybrid of the comfort offered by a Class A motorhome and the mobility of a Class B or B+, the campervans. Knowing that, I tried to go on Youtube and see if Class C motorhomes are in fact a good match for mountain bikers.
And I guess they are since Andrew Taylor, a Youtuber who’s also a mountain biker, has a Coachmen Prism, which is a Class C motorhome, on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. I was just a little hesitant about pairing a mountain biker and any RV bigger than a campervan because of their bulkiness when driving through trails, but I guess it works for him. Class C motorhomes are, after all, just a little larger than campervans.
Storing Bikes in Class Cs
Image Source: nomadicallyyours
You have a couple of bike storage options for Class C motorhomes as they do have a lot of nooks and crannies to where a bike rack could stay.
The first one is having a bike rack on the hitch extender. Placing your bike here would allow you good access for when you need your bike. Unfortunately, it adds weight to the tongue which is always not a favorable thing.
Another option is to place a bike rack on the tongue riser above the propane tank or the battery. That way, the bikes could be stowed out of the way. The problem with this placement is that it’s quite hard to access which could always be a bother.
You could always store the bikes inside the RV on a bike rack continuous with the living space or if your RV design would allow for a basement garage accessed through the rear door.
The Coachmen Prism, also from Forest River, features more space, around 25 feet in the exterior, just a foot or two more than a campervan. Because it is a large vehicle, driving this definitely has a learning curve. Well, all RVs are challenging to drive on their own, but it just takes time to get used to it and before you know it, you’re out and about.
A Coachmen Prism motorhome would cost upwards of $60,000 excluding customization.
Although class C are much bigger then camper vans, they are preferable over the even larger class A’s. Campervans are usually built for full time RV living as it could handle wear better than a bulky Class A. Class A’s were built for comfort on the road during relatively short trips as they wear easily.
Class C’s on the other hand, are a hybrid of the Class A motorhome, which promises comfort as long as they are maintained, and Class B’s or campervans, which are made for wear and tear of everyday usage. So that would make Class C’s good for both short bike trips or full time RV living mountain bikers. I guess we found the happy medium here again.
Wonder Rear Twin Bed (Wonder RTB)
This new Class C motorhome form Leisure Travel Vans is a Ford Transit chassis based wonder. It’s the first of its kind in North America featuring an exterior pass-through garage storage that can carry two bicycles. It is 25ft long, so it doesn’t differ too much in dimension with the Coachmen Prism.
Although the brand markets mainly vans, the Wonder RTB is in fact, actually a Class C motorhome. After hours of googling this subject of whether or not vans carry a built-in separate garage exclusively for bicycles, this is the only one I found that is available in the states.
It is unique and wonderful but it comes at a hefty price tag that starts from $125,000.
Class A motorhomes: A love-hate relationship for mountain bikers
I was already hesitant to recommend a Class C motorhome or even a fifth wheel to MTBers because of their bulk and size, what more a Class A motorhome, I thought.
Yes, indeed, they are very comfortable and they do have enough space to accommodate bikes- below the sleeping loft,at a basement garage, or maybe even a designated separate garage when customized for that function- among other things it could store, it is very roomy after all.
But it does come with a couple of drawbacks.
Because it is a very large vehicle, you can’t ride them up close to the trails, so an option is to park in an RV park or a parking lot with overnight options, leaving your precious RV and other valuables behind while you go on trails.
Although you still have to commute from where you parked the RV to the actual bike park or trail, this is an okay option for those with a “toad”, or a towed vehicle.
Getting an RV if you are an avid mountain biker makes so much sense, that it feels like a natural course to take. Choosing the perfect RV for you would be the only hiccup, but it does get easier to decide once you’ve sat down and reflected on what lifestyle you really have and what lifestyle you would want to live. Knowing yourself better is key.
After that, it’s easy-peazy.
If you prefer a short stay in one place for the bike parks and trails and then go back to the hustle and bustle of the city or go to another location for a few months, trailers and fifth wheels are a great choice for you.
If you prefer to wake up to trails in your backyard one day and bike parks the next, campervans are best for you. These are most mobile of the options as they are smaller in size.
Class C motorhomes are a versatile choice as they can be both for long term use as well as for short bike trips.
Class A motorhomes offer the best comfort and widest living space but are less mobile because of their massiveness.
Seeing that all these price quotes on the internet are a little steep, there are options to buy second hand vans and RVs. A little research here and there would help you a lot in getting your first RV.
Also, always keep in mind that customization and alterations also will cost you. And always look at the bigger picture. For example, a Class A motorhome might be cheaper upfront but will eat up your budget for maintenance. A campervan is a lot more expensive upfront but will last you almost a lifetime. A gasoline-powered van is also cheaper than a diesel-powered one when bought, but will be more expensive when you take your RV out on the trails and inclines.