Project # 3: Bicycle Rack

May 27, 2017:  Update on the Rack

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dear Friend,

When the boys were young, they approached me one day after “playing” in the front yard for a while. “Mom? Can we use the hose?”

At that point, the intuitive mother-instinct kicked in, “What for?” I was suspicious since it was not warm enough for a squirt gun fight, though it was a sunny spring afternoon.

“We are making a mud hole to ride through.”

“WH-E-E-E-E-R-R-R-R-E?” My eyes grew wide. We lived in a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the Twin Cities. I was hoping for an obscure backyard spot at best.

“Oh, in the ditch right in front by the mail box,” they proudly reported. “It’s already about 3 feet deep. All we need is some water now and it’ll be finished!” They smiled and pointed in the direction tiredly, but pleased with themselves.

Needless to say I had to burst their bubbles and inform them we lived on sand. Sand drained and did not make mud. I still shake my head and laugh to myself about their little boy antics.

Though several years have past, the boys still enjoy finding those mud puddles and seeing how high they can make a muddy rooster tail of water, splashing through with their bicycles. Knowing this, traveling with the family bicycles was a must. I envisioned them exploring the camps we visit, riding laps on the little roads around our sites.

Our fifth wheel came with a sturdy bicycle rack off the bumper. While it was stable to withstand the bouncing, the design had a few serious issues. The first issue was the metal tire slots were not smoothed out. We found two of the tires flat after a matter of hours, where we had to replace even the inner tubes. We quickly filed the insides of the slots down to prevent further damage. Also, accessing the bikes was a long process. The kids gave up riding them unless they knew we would be in one place for a week. It just was not worth the effort to unload and load them up again. Lastly, only one metal bar rose vertically from the base to balance the bikes with. All of the bicycles leaned in one direction, scraping the paint off of all of them. Seeing how marred my youngest son’s new bike was and the other issues, we knew something had to be done.

Looking on the internet, we found a bike rack that was a better design. However, they clearly stated it was not made for the back of fifth wheels. We figured the statement was due to the intense bouncing the trailer rear must experience. So my husband, Joel, came up with a solution. He utilized the existing bike rack as a brace and mounted the new bike rack on top of it. This way, it was supported in multiple areas and should be able to withstand the stressors placed upon it now.

In addition to solving the current issues in traveling with bicycles, this system now gives us greater versatility. If we wanted to take the bicycles to a trail for a day trip, we can now detach the new rack from the trailer, place it into the hitch of just the truck, and off we go.

I look forward to seeing how this design plays out as we test our new system soon. I am only nervous about what would happen if a vehicle rear ends us again. (Thank you, Chicago toll plaza.) Last time that original bike rack was a beast and took the beating well. This time, the bikes will be struck first. We have reflectors, lights, and flags to help prevent that. Hopefully, it won’t happen again.

I am proud of the solutions my creative and resourceful husband comes up with. This was yet another project that is changing the trailer into a very functional home for us. Thank you, Joel, for your hard work.

Until we meet again,

Update: After traveling for over 20 hours, the bike rack is holding up well. The only concern was the ratcheting bars loosening up slightly due to all of the bouncing. So far, so good!

Update:  Two months later, the idea did not work well.  While the rack itself held up, the individual ratcheting bar that holds a bike down sheared in half.  Right outside new Orleans in heavy traffic, a trucker honked to get our attention.  I read his lips to say “fall”.  We glanced down at our rear camera to find out the last bicycle was laying almost horizontal, hanging off the back end.  Only the tie-downs kept the bike from falling off completely.  Ask me some time about the rest of that story, but long story short, we are back to the drawing board for a new rack design.



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