Introduction: How to Build a Slide-out Bike Rack in a Camper Van Conversion

About: Hello! We're Isabelle and Antoine, a couple dreaming of being on the move and ride more. We bought a Ford Transit van, converted it to a campervan and we are selling our house to make our dream a reality. We a…

When converting our van in a camper van, we decided we wanted the mountain bikes to be stored inside the van for thief and climate protection. We also knew that loading and unloading the bikes would be a repetitive task and simplifying it would be much appreciated! We looked around and found that Traipsing About’s design was exactly what we were looking for! Here is our adaptation of the slide-out bike rack to our camper van.

We listed all the steps in this Instructable, but head over here for all the material list (with links), tools and more:

We hope this helps, don't hesitate to ask questions if you feel like it!


Step 1: Material Needed for This Project

  • Baltic Birch plywood sheet, 5’x5′, ½” thick
  • Drawer Slides, 48″ full extension, 500LBS capacity; with lock in / lock out feature recommended
  • Fork Mount:
    • 15/20mm axis: Delta bike hitch
    • 9mm (QR) axis: Sunlite bike hitch
  • Corner Braces, 2in x 2in
  • Corner Braces, 20mm x 20mm
  • Wood Screws, #4 x 1in length
  • Wood Screws, #8 x 1¼in length
  • Titebond III Waterproof Wood Glue
  • Watco Danish Oil
  • Polyurethane Coating

Step 2: The Tray

The dimensions of the tray are 60″ long x 19″ wide* x 3″ height (built from ½” baltic birch plywood). This provides enough space for the two mountain bikes with the front wheels on the side. (Depending on the fork, the front wheels axis is removed either from the left side or right side of the bike; make sure there is enough clearance to remove the quick release).

This is one of the easiest woodworking project on the van… just cut plywood sheet to size, then glue & screw; the glue provides the bond between the plywood sheets, the screws hold everything together while the glue is curing.
We used #4 screws (1″ length) and Titebond III Waterproof Wood Glue.

* The width of the tray (19″) could probably reduced to 17″ if the bikes are facing opposite direction, but it turns out the tray can also be very convenient to put the bike gear as well (shoes, shirt, gloves, etc)! We eventually decided to change how the bikes were mounted on the rack (facing same direction) and they are now taking more place (width speaking), so we were lucky the rack was initially too wide!

Step 3: The Structure

The dimensions of the structure is 48″ long x 4″ height (built from ½” baltic birch plywood). The slide-out bike rack is attached to the van’s floor plywood (underneath the vinyl floor) with #8 wood screws. We used 2″ x 2″ corner braces every 12-13 inches to transferred the load from the tray to the van. The mountain bikes are not that heavy, but a guest sitting on the extended rack is a lot of load… we had to keep that in mind.

We also added smaller 20mm x 20mm corner braces inside for additional holding power.

Step 4: The Extension Slides

We wanted the drawer to extend 48″ and from our experience, we can tell this was a good idea. It makes loading/unloading the bikes so much easier! It also bring a “Wow!” factor at the trail head and is a good conversation starter :)

When shopping for extension slides, make sure to select ones that have a locking feature; the locking device will keep the drawer in fully out or fully in position. The van is never leveled…

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.

Step 5: The Bike Hitch

We installed Delta bike hitch for 15/20mm axis. They come with bushings and spacers to work with 15mm or 20mm fork axis. To lock the bike in place, just use the fork axis. Simple and effective! There is no side-play and the bikes are secured. Neat!

When locating the bike hitch, make sure there is enough clearance with the sides of the tray to remove the fork axis… if there isn’t, the hitch could be shimmed to raise it above the sides of the tray.

Step 6: The Protective Coating

The tray will rapidly get stained with oil, dirt, etc. So do it now! We used polyurethane coating and are satisfied with it.

Step 7: Maintenance

We did not close the most rearward side of the tray. This way, it’s easy to sweep the dust/dirt/crap out. It prevented us from installing a handle, but the locking devices integrated in the slides provide the perfect grab to pull the tray out.

Step 8: There's More!

We're documenting thoroughly our van conversion. We tried to capture every details and share our experience, tips, lessons learned, etc.

This is our Build Journal:

Or if you're very new to this, you might want to look here:

Thanks for reading!