Introduction: Truck Bed Bike Rack

This bike rack is made from steel fence posts, plumbing fittings, various threaded hardware, and two hockey pucks for good measure. As always, everything is right off the shelves of the local big box hardware store. No special order parts here. Also no truck beds were harmed (drilled / cut or welded) in the making of this rack.

The beauty of a pick-up truck bed is you can haul a lot of stuff by just throwing it in the back. The downside is that it looks like you just threw a bunch of junk in the back. I wanted a bike rack that did a better job of organizing the family bikes.

There are professional bike racks for the bed of a pickup. Usually they are a cross bed bar and hold the bikes by clamping the front forks. Of course the front wheel needs to be removed to do this.

The objectives with this design was to secure the bikes without having to remove the front wheels. I didn't want to have to deal with storing loose wheels and besides, a few of the family bikes do not have quick release hubs.

Note: If you notice in the photos in this step, the bike on the driver's side of the vehicle still has the hitch mount used in the "Tow a Boat with a Bike" Instructable.

Disclaimer: This rack works for a Dodge Ram pick-up with the 6.5' bed and works with the older plastic cleat tie down and the newer metal loop tie-down (2003 - 2008 maybe even earlier). Other trucks may have different hard points.

Step 1: Set-up

The set-up consists of 3 cross bed beams:

The Rear Beam holds the bike upright with Hoop Straps that restrain the rear tire.

The Front Beam and Upper Beam work to stabilize the front tire.

The Front Beam and Upper Beam are tied together with two threaded rod Side Struts

Step 2: Rear Beam

The Rear Beam is made from two different size square box section construction steel. Purchased in 4' sections the larger 1 1/2 " box section is cut into (2) 2' lengths.

The smaller 1 1/4" box section is the center portion of the beam and is uncut

The two larger box section pieces are telescoped over each end of the smaller box section piece.

The now 3 piece assembly is extended to the width of the truck bed and the Eye Bolts of Step 5 are put through aligned holes in the three sections to hold the beam's length in this case 5' 4 1/2".

Step 3: Rear Beam End Attachments

The outboard ends of the Rear Beam are notched as shown. This allows them to slip over the cargo tie-down loop in the truck bed.

A clevis pin is slid through the end holes in the beam and tie-down loop and secured with a hair pin cotter

Step 4: Hoop Straps

The Hoop Straps to hold the rear tire are made from 1 1/4" strip stock zinc plated steel.

1. Drill 7/16" diameter holes in the ends of the strip stock. These holes are for the Eye Bolts .

2. Bend the strips into hoops by laying the strips cross-wise over the top of a bike tire and pushing the ends down.
The inflated tire, used as the fulcrum for the bend, provided even pressure and made a nice rounded bend. The larger radius bend fits the tire better than a sharp small diameter bend would.

Bend the straps such that the finished width between the ends of strap is slightly wider (3-4" per side) than the installed width on the Rear Beam.

During installation of the hoop & eye bolts, into the Rear Beam, the hoop ends will have to be squeezed together slightly to fit their final position. This in effect, spring loads the hoop arms (in the picture you can see the arms are not perfectly straight they have a slight bow, due to the compression during installation.)

This spring effect helps keep tension on the hoop when they are tightened down on the rear bike wheel.

Step 5: Hoop Tie-downs

5/16" Eye Bolts and threaded Knobs are used to tighten the Hoop Straps against the rear wheel.

The eye of the bolt will have to be opened up slightly in order to feed the bolt through the hole in the Hoop Strap.

The eye bolts should be long enough (4" to 4 1/2") so that there is room left on the bolt shaft to pull the hoop down against the tire when the knob is tightened.
In other words (as shown in the pictures) the eye portion of the eye bolt is not bottomed out against the beam - it leaves room for adjusting effective Hoop Strap length)

Step 6: Front Beam 1st End

The Front Beam is made from a 1 5/8" diameter cyclone fence post.

1. Cut the fence post to match the width of the truck bed.

2. Compress one end of the post (in a vice) until it fits snugly over the trucks tie-down loop.

Compressing the end of the post will orient the beam so that when the Tire Guides in step 8 are bolted on, they will always be positioned properly.

Step 7: Front Beam 2nd End

1. Cut a slot in the 2nd end of the Front Beam. This allows the beam to slip over the truck tie-down loop.

Step 8: Front Tire Guides

Tire Guides are used on both the Front Beam and the Upper beam to control the front tire of the bike.

The Tire Guides are cyclone fence gate hinge hardware. One is required for each side of the tire.

1. Slide the fence gate hardware on the Front Beam fence post.

2. Position them on either side of the tire and tighten.
The gap between each guide will vary depending on the specific width of each bike's tire.

The second and third picture shows the same tire guides on the upper beam holding the back of the front wheel.

Step 9: Upper Beam Construction

The Upper Beam is made from the same fence post material as the Front Beam

Cut the fence post length to match the width of the truck bed minus the Expansion Hardware (in this case 4' 8"). This may be an iterative process. Start with the post a little long and as the Expansion Hardware is added to the ends, shorten the post.

The concept is that the threads on the plumbing fitting will be used to adjust the length of the beam to act as an expansion rod between the sides of the truck bed.

Step 10: Expansion Hardware

The Expansion Hardware consists of several sizes of galvanized pluming.

At the center of the Expansion Hardware is two reducer fittings:
A 1" to 3/4" reducer fitting -Main Reducer
A 1" to 1/2" reducer fitting - Minor Reducer

Both fittings are free to be rotated by hand to expand the beam to press against the side walls of the truck bed. The shoulder of the Main Reducer presses against the edge of the fence post to carry the load from the fitting to the beam.

As both reducer fittings are unthreaded the overall length of the beam increases.
(The expansion occurs between the 1/2" pipe and the Minor Reducer, and between the Main and Minor reducers)

The 3/4" fittings to the right of the Main Reducer is telescoped inside of the fence post and rotates with the Main reducer. Its purpose is to keep the Expansion Hardware aligned with the Beam.

Step 11: Hockey Pucks?

Yes, Hockey pucks...Nature's rubber bumper fruit. You can pick up a few of these in the frozen section of your local sporting goods produce store.

You will need two pucks for this recipe.
(Select ripe ones. They should be round, flat and the most common varieties are shiny black in color.)

Seriously, high density rubber hockey pucks are great in applications were you need to carry a structural load but need to provide a friendlier surface to prevent damage. They match perfectly the diameter of a 1/2" pipe flange but can be cut to size for other isolating needs.
In this case they are protecting the paint on my truck.

1. Use a saw to cut a notch in the puck. The notch matches the profile of the lip of the bed and holds the upper beam in place up and down.

2. Stainless steel wood screws, driven into pilot holes in the puck, hold it to the 1/2" galvanized pipe flange.
Make sure the screws are short enough and positioned so they do not stick out into the notched area. Remember the goal is to not scratch the paint!

Step 12: Struts

The two Struts running from the Front Beam to the Upper Beam are there as an added security measure.

The struts tether the Upper Beam to the Lower Beam; keeping it in position.

Remember the Upper Beam relies on expansion pressure to hold itself in place on the upper edge of the bed of the truck. Over rough roads the truck bed will flex; the beam is not spring loaded.

Without the struts, I have this vision of the Upper Beam working itself loose and cart wheeling down the freeway (Shudder!) .
The struts are probably a bit of over kill, but thier presence calms my paranoia.

The struts are made from 1/2" diameter threaded rod, threaded fence gate hinge "L" posts, threaded couplings for adjustment and locking nuts.

The rod used for the struts are certainly over-sized for the application but, I used them because they matched the thread size of the the gate hinge posts....that mated to the gate hinge hardware (also used as the Tire Guides)....and they obviously are designed to fit on the fence post that I wanted to use as a beam.

Step 13: In Action

Sometimes its just not about the overall cost, nor the complexity of the system, nor the amount of time sunk in it... Its about the "Can it be done?" nagging question that motivates us to keep trying different things until it works.

Sure, there are other bike racks that are simpler; like hitch mounted racks however, my trailer doesn't have a place for a bike, the bikes have to be in the bed... and if they are in the bed, they shouldn't be thrown they need a rack....and if they need a rack...and it doesn't exist....

It CAN be done.