Have you ever daydreamed about a camper van holiday with your bikes?
Fancy hiring a holiday van and heading for the hills with your bikes aboard?
In this article we speak to Katie Thilthorpe who runs Bike Van Co together with her husband Adam. They offer cycling camper van and bike van hire to cyclists wanting to hit the road in a van that offers somewhere to stay, somewhere to securely keep your bikes and quite a bit besides.
Katie shares her tips for planning camper van holidays with bikes (both mountain bike and road) plus things to think about before hitting the book button on bike van hire!
Part 1: Where to go on a bike van/camper van holiday in the UK and Europe
Why go on a camper van holiday with your bikes?
Camper van holidays offer something that it’s hard to get any other way: the chance to spend your days outdoors in nature, with space, fresh air, beautiful locations and peaceful campsites – yet with the creature comforts of your van, allowing you to change your view every time you choose!
The difference with a Bike Van though is that you can bring (and store) all your favourite toys! Bikes, paddleboards, you name it… we have the best vans for carrying bikes inside as they are especially designed for people whose sport is their passion and priority.
Camper vans (but especially a properly equipped camper van with bike garage like ours!) let you do the sport you love in places that are hard to reach but which are so worth the effort.
What kind of trips can you do in a bike van?
We’ve had cyclists hire our vans for all sorts of purposes including bike transport van, support vehicle for a charity bike ride to race weekends, col hunting in the Alps, family cycling holidays to Italy and France, training camps in the mountains and open water swimming weekends.
One of the great things about our vans is that we can accommodate different axle sizes, from road, gravel, trail MTB, Enduro and DH bikes as well as triathlon/time trial bikes. This makes our vans really flexible, especially as they can fit four adult MTBs or five road bikes inside the van.
In terms of group size, our vans can drive five people and accommodate two people in the pop up roof. We can also supply a side awning that could sleep another three people if required. There’s more info on the features of our bike vans below.
3. What are the best camper van holiday destinations for cyclists?
In terms of where to go with your camper van, that’s down to your own sense of adventure..
There are tons of great locations for riding in the UK; perhaps you’ve always wanted to tick off some of the classic climbs in the Lake District, make new tyre tracks around the gravel routes of Poole Harbour or visit the bike parks in Wales. Whatever your plan is, our vans can help bring those dreams to become a reality.
Having all of your kit with you opens up the opportunity to go further afield than your local loops, it can be quite the logistical challenge to get you and your kit to somewhere new ready to push new boundaries on your bike, but a Bike Van can be your ultimate support vehicle.
Favourite UK campervan holiday destinations
For road cyclists, there are various guides and route planners here on Epic Road Rides and part of the fun is planning the trip to incorporate as many rides as possible, coordinating locations and venues.
If you prefer life on wider tyres, favourite MTB campervan holidays in the UK include
- Forest of Dean – Pedalabikeaway, where you’ll find trails to suit all abilities from green to black.
- Gawton Gravity Hub, Cornwall – combine it with a trip to the beach!
- Flyup 417, Gloucestershire – downhill tracks, pump track and dirt jumps galore
- South Wales – Bike Park Wales, Mountain View Bike park, Cwmcarn, Dirt Farm Wales, Afan.
- North Wales – Dyfi and Revolution Bike Park as well as Antur Stiniog and Cod y Brenin.
- Scotland – Innerleithen and Glentress – good enough for the Enduro World Series and Fort William and home to the longest blue trail in the UK!
Favourite European campervan holiday destinations
If you want to go further afield, camper van holidays in France are often a first choice – and some places our customers have been for week trips (and longer) include
- French Alps – Portes du Soleil, all the Cols in the Pyrenees and the Alps as well as the Dolomites
- Mont Ventoux
- Riding the Classics routes such as Paris/Roubaix
- Italian Alps and Dolomites
- Combining cycling tours with the Great Lakes in Italy
- Finale Ligura in Italy (MTB/beach destination)
- Attending racing and events such as the World Championships (note the UCI MTB World Championships in Scotland in 2023)
- As a support vehicle for a charity event
- Triathlon training camps where a mobile changing room is always a good idea
- Cyclocross events and races – as our jet wash and changing room facilities make our vans perfect for muddy, winter races
It’s also worth noting that we find many clients use our Bike Van with a mixture of campsites and AirBnB depending on location and time of year.
4. What’s the best trip you’ve ever done in a bike van?
Travelling around the Portes du Soleil this summer was amazing. It culminated in us going to the MTB World Championships in Les Gets.
The beauty of having a cycling van in a place like the Alps is that every trip is an opportunity for adventure, you can come across new trails and climbs off the beaten track, or get involved with the madness of Dutch Corner at Alpe D’ Huez. Around the next corner could be an amazing col or a waterfall with tempting plunge pool…
You can easily drive to a new destination or if you find somewhere you love, then just stay put. Vans provide you with that flexibility and make it easy to just get up and go!
5. Do people rent vans for cycling events as well as holidays?
We recently had a triathlete hire the van to attend a triathlon event and a training trip to the Alps.
Another group hired one of the vans and used it as a support vehicle for a charity bike ride from Guildford to Paris and a group of friends used a van as a support vehicle to do the NC500 in Scotland on road bikes.
‘Excellent van. Great people to work with. Could not have been more helpful. The van proved to be everything we could have asked for!’ Mr M – Hired the Ford as a support vehicle for a charity bike ride to Paris (July 2022)
On the off-road side, a cross country rider used one of our vans for one of the rounds of the British XC series events in Cornwall and we had an enduro e-MTB rider use the van to attend the southern Enduro Championships weekend in Minehead.
6. What makes hiring a bike van the best choice for cycling holidays/events?
Here are a few comparisons:
Bike specific van v standard camper van
Our bike vans are for cyclists, so we have spent many, many hours working with our design team to make sure they are kitted out with cyclists’ needs in mind.
For us as well, cycling is a lifestyle not just a hobby and our bike vans reflect that.
For example, the bikes are stored in the bike specific area in the boot, which allows you to store them out of sight and locked away in the rear of the van, whilst still enabling you to use the front of the van and pop up for sleeping and eating.
To maximise the garage space, we don’t have built in stoves/sinks/toilets as we find that most people when camping tend to prefer to use the onsite facilities and either BBQ or eat out. This means the vans are wonderfully compact (they’re just normal long base wheel vans) and there’s more space for all your kit!
There’s more info on the features of our bike vans below.
Hire vs buy a bike van
Hiring a bike van makes perfect sense if you’re looking for transport to a one-off event or holiday.
That said, lots of our customers are those considering something more than a one off – they think they want to buy a van but they want to “try before they buy”. Hiring a van with us gives them that opportunity to see what features work for them before they buy.
Or sometimes people just want to take a more efficient approach. Vans are expensive to buy and they take up a lot of room at home, so hiring a camper van makes it a more affordable and space efficient way of being able to enjoy one for the odd weekend/week a year that you may need one.
Part 2: Questions to ask before hiring a bike van in the UK
1. How are the vans fitted out?
Here’s a quick run down of the things to consider before hiring a camper van with bike storage!
How many people fit?
Remember to consider it’s not just when driving, but also when sleeping.
Our vans: can sleep a maximum of five when driving, two in the pop up when sleeping (the side awning can accommodate additional people though)
How many bikes fit?
Consider how they will be stowed. Bike racks on the back or something more secure? How accessible are they?
Our vans: four MTBs or five road bikes all locked inside the garage in the rear of the van. There are wheel holders located at the back of the garage which hold the front wheels, allowing you to drop the front axle easily into the Rockymount fixings located on a track at the front of the garage. These mounts are adjustable so they can accommodate different size bikes and axles, from childrens’ bikes to large downhill bikes! You can position them in such a way that the bikes don’t touch each other, which avoids the frames getting scratched.
How much luggage fits? Where?!
Consider what other luggage you’ll be wanting to bring with you, in addition to your bikes.
Our vans: in the bike garage, luggage can be stowed either under the down tube in the space where the front wheel would normally be, or on top of bikes. There are also storage boxes to the rear of the garage above the wheel holders that can accommodate cycling helmets and shoes and pegs either side of the garage to hang jackets and changing robes. There is also plenty of space in the passenger cab for any additional luggage. We are always innovating and adding new features based on customer feedback.
How many animals fit? Where?!
If you’ve got them, where will they go?
Our vans: The Ford is our ‘dog friendly’ van and we keep the VW bike camper van pet free. We usually put a fabric ‘crate’ instead of the middle rear seat to keep your pet safe. This would accommodate one dog comfortably and safely.
Can you fit your kit and bikes inside when sleeping?
Consider how everything will fit once you’re sleeping inside.
Our vans: you can sleep two in the pop up roof with all the bikes and kit in the garage. We can also supply a Vango driveaway side awning that can accommodate additional people and kit. So for example if you are a family of 4 driving to a campsite for a week, then 2 could sleep in the pop up roof and 3 in the side awning.
How will you clean and store your bikes?
It’s the practical things that have a big impact on your holiday…
Our vans are focused on offering a compact experience that deals with the number one problem cyclists usually have: secure storage and bike cleaning.
For example, our Ford Transit Custom Trail is a Long WheelBase van, standard height version that perfectly incorporates a wet/changing room in the rear with racking for up to four mountain bikes and five road bikes. There are also fold out benches, which are useful when getting changed in the back of the van if it’s raining and there are plenty of hooks and cubby holes for kit.
For electric bikes, we have four sockets available in the rear of the Ford, two in the VW, so your bikes can be charged between destinations.
The 70 litre underslung water tank and pressure hose can clean four muddy bikes with ease. We supply complimentary Mucoff cleaning products and brush with each of the vans, so you can put your bikes away clean and ready for the next ride!
What other mod cons?
Our vans are fitted with Alpine speakers and subwoofer for when the ignition is turned off, so you can bluetooth your phone to them and play your tunes while you are parked up.
The stereo also connects to Apple Carplay enabling you to link to your apps, music and maps for use as sat nav.
There are downlights in both the garage and the passenger area of the cab that run off the leisure battery, so when camping you have lighting at night that won’t leave you with a flat battery in the morning! There is also a useful reading light in the pop up roof.
If there are only four people travelling (and no dog) there is the option of removing the middle passenger seat in the cab and replacing this with a 70 litre cool box which again runs off the leisure battery. Very useful for long journeys or camping trips!
Each van is fitted with e-bike charging points in the garage. There are two in the VW and four in the Ford. These again run off the leisure battery and mean that your bikes can be charged either overnight or as you are driving to your next location.
There are also several USB sockets in both the front and rear passenger cab, for charging devices on the move.
2. How secure are the bikes when inside the van?
Security is a real concern, especially as far as your pride and joy is concerned!
It’s worth considering exactly how secure your bikes will be when they’re in/on the van.
This was one of our main considerations when working on our van conversion for bikes. Our vans have
- No windows to the boot (AKA bike garage).
- For extra security, bike mounts can be locked with individual keys.
- We can supply additional bike locks if requested.
- The boot can be locked when you are in the van.
- The vans have subtle branding on the outside.
- Both vans are fitted with alarms and tracking devices.
But we always say that the best van security is to reverse park against a wall!
3. What do I do about mud?!
Most camper van holiday hire companies won’t be hiring out their vans expecting their customers to be larking about in the mud on two wheels!
We’re quite different because we’ve designed our bike vans specifically for people who ride bikes – and we know how muddy it can get on the XC trails of South Wales! Even when on the road, you and your bike can get pretty dirty.
With that in mind, we’ve fitted our vans out with some very cool cleaning facilities.
Our vans have 70 litre underslung water tanks. This means that you can wash the bikes off before putting them back in the van. The tank is driven by a pressurised washer hose. The bike garage/wet room can be hosed down after use if required and has a plug in the corner for draining.
The fold down seats in the bike garage area mean that riders can get changed out of wet/muddy kit before getting into the cab. This means all the smells and mud are locked away from the cab and sleeping area!
We also supply complimentary Muc-Off products and brushes for bike cleaning.
4. Can you take your camper vans abroad?
If you’re hiring a camper van in the UK, don’t assume you can drive it into Europe. This is definitely something to check.
However both of our vans are insured for Europe so we’re happy for our customers to drive our vans in the UK or Europe. Of course you need to make sure you have all the other necessary paperwork (and insurance) to get over the border (and back again!).
5. What is the minimum hire period?
Many camper van holiday companies have a minimum hire period – and often these are as long as one or two weeks in peak season.
Our minimum hire period is three days off peak and 7 days peak during peak times (school holidays).
6. Do you need any special expertise to hire a bike van?
Definitely consider the size of the van you’re looking to hire. Large motor homes can be a real pain to manoeuvre around narrow country lanes – or the supermarket car park!
Our vans are only slightly longer than a large estate car (though they are a bit taller of course) and they have parking sensors to help you too.
Part 3: How to find out more about Bike Van?
If you’re interested in hiring a van, we’d love to hear from you!
The best way to get in touch is to either email me (Katie) or Adam at email@example.com, go to our website bikevan.co or call 07485 586371.
We are based in Tetbury, Gloucestershire and can offer either handover of the vans at Kemble railway station or an off road location to leave your vehicle if you drive to the pick up location. Alternatively, for an additional fee we can deliver the vehicle to you (prices vary for this service depending on distance from Tetbury).
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Bike Van Co are a dedicated bike van hire company based in the Cotswolds, UK.
They offer custom van conversions with bike storage and bike washing facilities, which sleep two to five people and have just a three day minimum hire period (off-peak).
If you’re looking for bike van hire for a camper van holiday or transport to a cycling event, get in touch!