Slide-Out Bike Rack: Van Build How-To

Slide-Out-Bike-Rack-Heading

Slide-Out Bike Rack: Van Build How-To

We often say that our Ford Transit DIY camper van conversion is built around the mountain bikes, so a proper bike rack storage is expected! Since the very beginning, we had a few requirements: the mountain bikes must be stored inside the van (for thief and climate protection); the bike rack must be quick and easy to load / unload (for sanity); the storage solution must leave enough space for the bed above (for comfort); and as bonus catch dirt/dust/crap and easy to clean… Can we achieve all of that?

We looked around and found that Traipsing About’s slide-out bike rack design was exactly what we were looking for! Here is our adaptation of this mountain bike storage to our own Ford Transit adventure mobile.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant, we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Sharing our website with others and buying products through our links is the best way to say thanks if we were of any help for your conversion! Thanks for supporting us and for keeping this website alive 🙂

Alternatively, use these links to search for any product (or visit our Say Thanks! page):

Portrait

Time Spent

0 HOURS

Total Cost

$ 0 USD

Material

ItemDescriptionQuantityLink
Fork MountRockyMounts (Fits 12x100mm, 15x100mm, Boost 15x110mm, and 20x110mm thru-axles). 2 Amazon
Drawer Slides (Option A)48″ full extension, 500LBS capacity, locks when fully in/out.1Amazon
Drawer Slides (Option B if “A” is out of stock)48″ full extension, 450LBS capacity, locks when fully in/out.1Amazon
Plywood SheetBaltic Birch (5’x5′), 15mm (~5/8″) thick.1Info
Corner Braces2″ x 2″ (50mm x 50mm). (10 pack).1Amazon
Corner Braces(20mm x 20mm).1Amazon
Wood Screws#4 x 1in (100 pack).1Amazon
Wood Screws#8 x 1¼in (100 pack).1Amazon
Wood GlueTitebond III Waterproof.1Amazon
Watco Danish Oil1 pint.1Amazon
Polyurethane CoatingMinwax. Clear Finish, quart, Satin1Amazon

(then click "continue" to add all items to your Amazon cart)

Tools

ItemDescriptionQuantityLink
Circular SawDEWALT Cordless Lithium-ion 20V, 7¼ with brake.1 Amazon
Circular Saw BladeDEWALT Precision Finish Blade 60 tooth.1Amazon
Drill DriverDEWALT Cordless Lithium-ion 20V.1Amazon
Screwdriver Bit SetDEWALT, 45-piece.1Amazon
Drill Bit SetDEWALT, 14-piece.1Amazon
Orbital SanderDEWALT, Cordless Lithium-ion 20V, 5″.1Amazon
Sandpaper (Orbit)DEWALT, 220 grit, 5-pack.1Amazon
Sandpaper (Sheet)220 grit, 25-pack.1Amazon

(then click "continue" to add all items to your Amazon cart)

Dimensions

The drawer inner dimensions are 19" x 60":

60" is pretty much the minimum length for two bikes, but it's probably possible to reduce the width depending on how you plan on fitting your wheels...

Van Interior Height Dimensions:

You can adjust the height to your own bikes (measure them!). Maybe just keep a few inches buffer in case you change bike(s) or if you invite a tall friend to join you in your adventures...

Good To Know

Make sure to get extension slides that lock when fully retracted / extended!

So the drawer stays in place when driving or when parked on incline.

The RockyMounts allows to load / unload the bikes without having to slide the axle from the side and they have a key lock.

See them on Amazon: amzn.to/35JJV8X

Let's Build The Slide-Out Bike Rack!

The slide-out bike rack was one of our first project and we didn't think of taking photos of the whole build process. That's why most photos below shows the finished product.

Step 1: Build the Drawer

Cut 4 pieces out of the 5'x5' baltic birch plywood sheet and assemble together:
Camper-Van-Slide-Out-Bike-Rack-Build

-1-

  • Dimensions: 19" x 60"
  • Thickness: 15mm (5/8")

-2 & 3-

  • Dimensions: 3" x 60"
  • Thickness: 15mm (5/8")

-4-

  • Dimensions: 3" x 20"
  • Thickness: 15mm (5/8")

Why Straight Cuts Are Essential

  • SOLIDITY: Glue / adhesive won't work if there are small gaps here and there (that might translate to squeaks in the long run).
  • SQUARE EDGE: The stuff you build can't be more square than your cuts!
  • LOOK: Wavy cuts are an eye catcher.
  • BUILD REGRETS: It's possible to build without fancy tools, we did it with our van, but honestly it was a mistake. There's MUCH more work than we expected; there are literally hundreds and hundreds of cut to make... using the right tools would have save us time and frustration (a LOT). If we had to start over, we would get second hand tools and re-sell them afterward:
KREG Circular Saw Track Guide

It allows to make precise long straight cuts (50", or 100" with the expansion pack) in plywood, fast and easily. It's portable and can be used with most circular saw. And it's not expensive, so we wish we knew that when we built our van!

Miter Saw

It allows to make accurate crosscuts (square or angled), fast and easily. There are HUNDREDS of cuts to make when building a van, so we wish we invested in one during our build...

Why Good Wood Joints Are Essential:

  • SOLIDITY: Think EXTREME VIBRATION. You van is like an earthquake simulator. It feels good to assemble parts together, it feels even better when parts stays together years later...
  • SQUEAKS: Wood rubbing against wood produces squeaks (e.g. in joints), and it gets worst with time. Pro tip: turn up the radio volume, or build strong joints to prevent it...

There are dozens of wood joint types; some are stronger, some look better. But we’re no woodworkers so we want joints that are easy to make (without specialized tools), yet are solid and look good. For the Slide-Out Bike Rack project, we used Titebond III waterproof wood glue and small #4 screws (every 6in of so). The screws provide some strength to the joint, but more importantly they apply a uniform pressure along the joint for the glue to cure properly (if done properly, glue is VERY strong and will prevent squeaks).

Measure twice, cut once...
ford-transit-camper-van-conversion-slide-out-bike-rack-2
Measure and measure and measure...
ford-transit-camper-van-conversion-slide-out-bike-rack-5
We added corner braces as well, for more strength...

Step 2: Build the Structure

Cut 2 pieces out of the 5'x5' baltic birch plywood sheet (or what's left of it...).

Don't assemble anything just yet.

-5 & 6-

  • Dimensions: 4" x 48"
  • Thickness: 15mm (5/8")

Step 3: Prepare the wood for finish and protective coating

Sand the drawer and the structure using 220 grit sandpaper. Take this opportunity to smooth out the sharp edges!

Oil (finish coating) highlights scratches, so sanding enhanced the appearance of the wood. Smoothing out the sharp edges will prevent cuts when operating the slide-out bike rack...

Step 4: Apply Finish and Protective Coating To The Wood

We applied 2 layers of Watco Danish Oil:

Bare wood deteriorates with time (dry, swell, get dirty). The finish enhances the appearance of the wood (color), prevent drying, swelling and protects against stains.

We also applied 2 layers of Polyurethane coating.

This is an extra precaution because the tray will sometimes be exposed to water, mud and dirt. As opposed to Danish Oil, Polyurethane does not penetrate wood. It dries on top of the surface and becomes a clear, hard finish that provides an abrasion-resistant seal for the wood.

Step 5: Install the extension slides to the drawer

Mountain-Bike-Rack-Van-Storage-(6)
Mountain-Bike-Rack-Van-Storage-(1)

Step 6: Install the extension slides to the structure

6.1- Put the drawer on the van's floor. Insert a 3/8" plywood between the van's floor and the drawer to create a gap.

The gap is to ensure a smooth operation of the drawer without rubbing against the van's floor.

6.2- Put the structure on the van's floor.

Mate it with the drawer, where it belongs.

6.3- With a pen, mark the location of the extension slides onto the structure.
6.4- Using the marks from the previous step, screw the extensions slides into the structure.

You can do this outside the van, as it will be much easier to work that way (that's why we marked the location of the slides in the previous step).

6.5- Here, we are making a small cutout to the structure so it clears the nose stair:

Step 7: Install the slide-out bike rack to the van's floor

7.1- Along the exterior of the structure, we used 2"x2" corner braces every ~12" or so:
Like it or not, the slide-out bike rack looks like the perfect seat when it's fully extended... You won't do it, but a friend surely will at some point! So don't cheap out on the corner braces; it has to be able to withstand the weight of a person on it (the bikes are not the worst case)!
7.2- Along the interior of the structure, we used 20mm x 20mm corner braces.

The 2" x 2" corner braces wouldn't fit here, because it would interfere with the extension slides.

Step 8: Install the fork mounts

We used #12 x 1" round-head screws (with lock washers):

Step 9: Load Your Bikes

Don't forget to smile, you built that by yourself. Adventures await. Life's good!
Sketchy Clock
Aw snap, we forgot to take a picture... wait for it soon!
The wheels are attached using a Velcro strap. Make sure to protect your frame with foam (or clothes, whatever works) as required.
Sketchy Clock
Aw snap, we forgot to take a picture... wait for it soon!

Step 10: Go ride your &/?*"$ bike!!

On Second Thought...

  • We should have applied a protective coating as soon as the tray was built. We procrastinated and now the tray is stained with chain oil and stuff; it's only aesthetic though, no big deal…
  • We initially installed the bikes in opposite directions, but turned out the handlebars where taking closet space (faroutride.com/garage). We relocated the bikes so that they're both facing rear; it doesn't really take more room this way...
  • We initially had fork mounts that requires to slide the axle to secure the bike; we just upgraded for the RockyMounts and we wish we found those from the start!
  • After two years on the road (faroutride.com/two-years-vanlife), we're SO GLAD we went for the slide-out system! It makes loading and unloading the bike so easy 🙂

STAY IN TOUCH!

Join 20,000+ followers via Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Patreon or e-mail:

about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

41 thoughts on “Slide-Out Bike Rack: Van Build How-To”

  1. Hi,

    This is the solution I have been looking for for some time. Excellent Idea.
    Just to clarify, is the 48″ the closed length of the slides or the length fully extended?

    Cheers

    Paul

  2. après avoir tout lu je ne comprends pas le 48 et le 60 pouces. Peut être qu’une photo éliminerait tout le texte

  3. Hi- I am starting a slide-out-bike-rack for tow mountain bikes. Why did you change the orientation of the mountain bikes? One forward-one backward to both forwards?

    • The reason we changed it to make more room for our closet; the handlebar facing the front of the van was taking too much space so we couldn’t fit as much clothes. Both orientation seems to work well from our experience!

      Good luck!

  4. Great article. One thing I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. The 48″ and 60″. I realize the FIXED part is 48″ and the MOVING part is 60″ so that means?… eh… hmmmm… the sliding part extends back behind the fixed part when its “closed”? So on your floor, when its fully pushed in, it goes further back into you van than the track? Your pictures don’t ever show a fully closed version without gear or I could possibly understand better.

    I have a larger space in my van so using this logic I could install a 70″ drawer on a 48″ fixed piece (like you did) and that would be ok, it would just limit the extension to no more than 4 feet? Correct? So using this logic, the extension slides don’t limit the size of the slide at all. just how far it goes out? Thanks for any clarification. I read through the comments and I just need a little more mental reinforcement before I attempt this. Thank you again for taking the time to create such an article.

    • Billy,

      Your logic is correct. A 48″ extension will slides-out 4″ out. So you could have a 70″ drawer attached to a 48″ fixed piece; that drawer would slide 48″ out.

      Hope that helps!! Good luck.

  5. To reduce screws coming loose from vibrations in the van, I’m planning on using t-nuts where possible and lock washers. I also plan on using loctite thread locker. I also plan on using these fasteners for the fork mounts. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll probably be building my bike slide out in a few weeks.
    Cheers and happy building.

  6. For anyone following this build. DO NOT “install the extension slides, we first installed the slides on the tray.” You need to install the slides on the structure first then you can screw it into the tray. You will be missing 3 screws in the front of the structure if you do tray first.

  7. Hi, I’m in the process of building something similar to your tray. You state that the length of the tray is 60 inches. Looking at your pictures it seems like the slides (48 inches) go all the way along the length of the tray. So how does it this add up to 60 inches. ? I must be missing something.

      • Thanks. I now see the tray extends past the fixed structure.
        Was it difficult to screw the 20mm braces to the floor? It doesn’t look like there is much room to get the drill in there.
        And what size screws did you use to secure slides to side of tray?

  8. Did you secure the fixed part to the floor with PlusNuts?

    Guessing you secured this through the 3/8 plywood too, right?

    I have a Sprinter so not really sure if the Transit comes with a wood floor in addition to the metal. I could have missed that in the write-up somewhere but didn’t stand out to me.

    Thank you for your write-up.

  9. Hey guys Driving Nanook here, so we built pretty much the exact same pull out system as you, it works so great for two mountain bikes. We’ve been on the road for about a month and notice the screws holding the slides to the tray have come loose. I think they are #8×1/2 pan heads. Have you noticed anything with yours. I’m thinking I might have to use bolts instead of screws. Just wondering what you guys have found. Thanks.

    Ryan.

    • Not these ones, but we had some screws here in there in the van coming loose. Vibration doing it’s work! We re-screwed them with a bit more torque this time and it seems to do the trick.

      Happy travels!

  10. I’m working on my slide out right now and I’m realizing that when attaching the slides to the structure since the drawer is longer than 48 inches long I can’t access 3 of the screw holes to mount the slides to the structure. Did you add more holes in the slides to get more attachment at the rear to compensate? Or just skip them all together. Thanks!

    • Oh boy, it’s been a while… what if you install the slide to the fixed structure first, then to the moving-drawer in second? I think that’s what we did, then in the end we installed that assembly onto the floor.

      • I think it is still blocking where the two structure and tray overlap. But I will double check! Another alternative would be to mount the drawer slides so that they are flush with the back end of the drawer… further to reach the unlocking mechanism but doable. I’ll figure it out! Thanks again for all your info and response. Hope the recovery is going well! I will post a pic of mine when it is done.

  11. Hey Antoine: you mention “To install the extension slides, we first installed the slides on the tray. Then, we put the structure on the floor (not screwed yet) and the tray on a 3/8″ plywood sheet: the plywood sheet will create a gap between the tray and the van’s floor to ensure there is no rubbing while the bike rack slide in or out. The structure-side of the slides where then screwed and finally the structure was screwed to the van floor.”

    Would you not screw down the side pieces to the floor, and then attach the tray with your 3/8″ plywood underneath to create the gap, attach the tray to the side pieces, and then pull our your 3/8″ plywood spacer? I’m no expert on drawer sliders, and I’m not an engineer 🙂 I was a little confused about what the structure was. Cheers

    • If I recall correctly, it won’t work in the sequence you are proposing because you won’t be able to screw some fasteners. The “structure” is the fixed-part of the slide-out system; the one that is screwed to the floor.

      I think once you actually get to the installation you will figure it out 🙂 Let me know!

      antoine

  12. Thanks for the writeup! What size mountainbike wheels are you running and do you both have dropper posts? We were hoping to have even less than 38″ vertical clearance under the bed if possible! Appreciate any tips 🙂

    • Hi Colin,
      We have 27.5″ bikes with dropper post. You could remove the front wheel of your bike and measure the distance from the ground to your seat; that will give you the true vertical clearance you need. It’s a good idea to leave a buffer in case you change your bike or if you want to go ride with a friend with a different bike!

      Cheers!

  13. From your photos it looks like you used the Accuride slides. If so, where did you guys purchase them? Those particular slides are tough to source.

  14. Hey, Im starting to engineer our pull outs on our Transit high roof. I think we will do 2 side by side pull outs that will the whole width between the wheel wells. The question is, 48″ or 60″ slides, (our bikes are 63″ without front wheels)? Cost is pretty similar, but as Im sure you know they only lock all the way in or all the way out. After living with it for a while which would you go for? Thanks!!

    • I find 48″ to be the perfect length, unless you plan on making a very long pull out… Also consider that 60″ will create much more up force on your floor when the slide is fully opened (make sure a friend don’t sit on it!!). I’m not saying it’s not feasible, just make sure your anchors are strong enough. Cheers!

  15. This is the exact set up I plan to do, what is your plan for the front wheels? Ive seen people strap them to the rear doors, strap them to the under side of the bed, and many other options. I haven’t figured it out yet, my wife and I ride our fat bikes a lot, so they take up more space. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
    Tyler

  16. I like the sliding bike rack. Thank you. Thinking of a similar set-up. How much headroom do you have left from the top of the platform bed to the roof?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.