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The Bike Rack Fiasco

Sunday we ran errands, so it wasn’t a fascinating day. Still we did get to the Witte Museum (free, because we used our ASTC Travel Passport again). Emma seemed to like the Texas animal exhibits best.

We also researched the bike rack problem. Here’s the short version: Yakima no longer recommends ANY bike rack on the Nissan Armada. That’s a change in their policy, since we bought our rack. Presumably the problem is the flexible factory crossbars that allow bikes to wobble too much.

Thule offers a very weird solution that is essentially a set of their crossbars mounted to the factory crossbars. This provides a rigid base and probably solves the problem, but it looks like a Rube Goldberg invention and raises the height of the rack a couple of inches, which would make mounting a bike even harder than it already is.

On their website, Nissan recommends a Yakima rack that is discontinued. No help there. I doubt it would have worked better anyway.

A few readers suggsted putting on a front receiver hitch. Unfortunately, nobody makes a front receiver hitch kit for the Armada so far as I can tell. Trunk racks don’t work for us because they force us to remove the bikes everytime we need access to the back, which is often.

Another reader suggested dumping the bikes and rack and getting a pair of folding bikes. But folding bikes are expensive, and we’d take a huge hit on the bikes we already have (which we just bought last September). Plus, the folding bikes would end up in the trailer or the truck, which is what we are trying to avoid. Interior space is at a premium.

That leaves us with putting a receiver hitch on the rear of the Airstream, for a receiver-type bike rack. It can be done in some cases. In the 1970s Airstream sold a bike rack option for their trailers, which I have seen on rare occasions. It was bolted to the sides of the bumper compartment and carried two bikes. However, the 1970s plague of “rear end sag” on some longer rear-bath models put an end to that. People got paranoid about overloading the rear, and legitimately so in some cases, where the trailer was heavy and the frame was light. Those 70s frames couldn’t take the shock load (“moment arm”) of the extra weight when it bounced over a bump.

But not all Airstreams are made the same. In our case, we are lucky that the Safari 30 is built on a Classic frame, meaning that it is very strong. We believe that we can put a receiver hitch on it and be safe as long as we keep the overall added weight to <100 lbs, including the hitch itself. But clearly more research is indicated. I'll continue looking in to this to see if we can get away with it. If so, I think this would be the best long-term solution. Sign of the week: Stealthcactus.jpg
“Seen” at the Pima Air Museum, Tucson, AZ

5 Responses to “The Bike Rack Fiasco”

  1. Michael Young Says:

    I’ve been thinking about the problem of transporting bikes, too. Our TV, a Dodge Durango, is also quite high which for my mere 5’8″ height is too problematic. How about putting the bike or bikes inside? A simple rack frame shaped like an ‘H’ could be added, perhaps with quick release straps to tie it down to some suitable eyes. I know that this might be prove inconvenient moving the bikes inside and out each time you stop, but at least they would be safe and secure inside, and you could distribute the weight where it would be best. Just a thought, not a real solution yet.

  2. Jay and Cherie Guerin Says:

    We carry our tandem bikes in the back of our pickup, that has a topper, these days. But we used to mount two Thule singles and and a Rocky Mount Tandem rack directly to the Factory cross members on our old SUV. With some 80 lbs. of bikes there was some flex, but never a probem. So look at other brands besides Yakima and stay with roof top racks. I’d never recommend a rack astern of the Airstream for the same reason the galley isn’t back there…. too much up and down motion which will shake the rack and damage the bikes. And we’ve heard some horror stories from fellow Airstream/trailer pulling cyclists
    Jay and Cherie Guerin, Antique Pedalers

  3. Rob Baker Says:

    Rich and Eleanor,

    We had a 2″ receiver on the back of our 85 34′ Limited. I used a bike rack back there made by Reese, a 2 bike bike rack. It worked good, had no issues with the frame / sag, except for once. The one time we were carrying my full suspension bike, the bike slipped forward, down over the rack itself and was caught on the rack, low, dragging on the ground. Ground my derailleur off, and I had no idea until a motorist came up and signaled that it was being dragged. I’d go for the front receiver. That is what we are going to do. That way, when you switch trailers, you’ll still have the TV and setup.


  4. 3ms75argosy Says:

    Rich – I remember seeing a type of rack that swung down from the roof so that you didn’t have to reach up high to put the bike on. I’d look at Bicycling Magazine in the library – the back usually has some rack ads. OR how about one of those ladders that collapses and can make a scafolding – that would be an easy way to reach up high to the roof!

  5. charles spiher Says:

    It seems that comments are much more numerous if you describe a road problem like your bike rack difficulty.

    Now if you can describe how grumpy Eleanor might become once a month, Emma once a week, and you, once a day, then all of the non-bike riding aluminum psychiatrists can chime in with solutions.

    Lafayette, In. in March ? Welcome to the Indiana Iditarod….where will you mount your sleds ??

    Dr. C.