The most glorious summer and fall the Northwest has seen for decades are distant memories. Around here, November means rain, and plenty of it. Typically the wettest month of the year, it is. Even the dogs, nearly always up for a stroll outside, are hunkered down on their chosen living room furniture items.
Every so often, I am standing on the soggy back lawn holding a golf umbrella over an unhappy Tyler, and he is giving me stink-eye while taking care of business. Wally is perpetually alarmed at the wet stuff interrupting his usual hourly patrols of the perimeter.
Work has been busy and poor Toto is lonely, huddled next to the house, visibly shivering despite the little electric heater keeping him semi-warm inside. We have reservations to go out camping for Thanksgiving, but if the rain doesn’t let up a little we might prefer to stay home. We’ll see. Wait — I just checked the forecast, and the day before we’re supposed to go, it’s going to be sunny. But cold. And temperatures are beginning to whisper that “winterize!” suggestion.
We’ll have some decisions to make.
But if the weather does relent, we’ll have extra fun out at nearby Belfair State Park, because we have acquired (early) holiday gifts. I gave one to Sooz; she gave one to me. Each has two wheels, a handlebar, some gears and an array of Comfort Features.
The marketing copy associated with the bikes we chose goes along these lines: “Sure, you haven’t ridden a bike in years, and the only Tour de France in your future is one you’ll watch on some cable channel. You’re going nowhere in a hurry, and we’ve designed the bike for you.”
But we do want to ride around some of those campground and park trails. And there are, allegedly, a number of good “rails-to-trails” trails (read “no-steep-grades” trails) in our part of the world. So we found some bikes that should be suitable. Happy Solstice to us, a month early.
Toto is equipped with a hitch receiver welded to his rear bumper, as part of an option called Bike Rack-Ready. I spent an appalling amount of time researching bike racks, including multiple reads of every bike rack thread on the Escape Forum. Here is what I learned:
- Bike racks cost too much. Shocker.
- Most hitch-mounted racks are designed to grab a bike by its frame and hold it there. The process of holding it there while you bounce around the countryside rubs paint off the bike. Wince.
- Some racks hold the bike by its wheels only. These don’t scrape the paint. They also cost about what we paid for each bike, and they weigh 50 pounds. All of these numbers are too large; we need to conserve dollars for campsite fees, and weight for the sake of Tinman’s transmission.
- Toto is not just bike rack-ready; he is flat-tire ready, which is to say there’s a spare tire mounted above his rear bumper. This means the proper name for Toto’s cycling-friendly option should be called “ready for some bike racks if their design accommodates a nearby spare tire the size of a small town.”
- Though they don’t work too hard at disclosing it, most bike racks aren’t engineered to be used on RVs and trailers. One finds this out by checking the owner’s manuals, most of which say something like “do not use on RVs.” This is because RVs (especially trailers) bounce around more than cars and trucks. Bike racks have to be designed to securely hold on to their charges while experiencing a continuous minor rolling earthquake.
Ha! I found one that works for us: the Let’sGoAERO V2 bike rack. It only weighs 15 pounds or so, holds the bikes by their wheels, and I got it from Amazon for about 20% of what some people on the Escape forum — those with fewer limitations, no doubt — have paid for theirs.
Will we be sorry? Did I go too cheap? We’ll let you know.
Of course I found a way to make this more complicated than it had to be. The thing is, the V2 bike rack holds one bike forward of the rack — that is, between the rack and the trailer — and the other bike goes on the back. And, as we have discussed, the space between the bike rack and the back of the trailer is partially obstructed by the spare tire.
This means that, in order for the V2 to work, I have to extend the the hitch receiver on Toto’s rear bumper by a few inches. That’s tricky, because when one uses a hitch extension it reduces the load capacity of the hitch. Toto’s bike rack-ready hitch is rated at 150 pounds, and using an extension (like this one) reduces that rating to 100 pounds (and some would say, to be safe, to cut that extended capacity to 75 pounds).
Our bikes weigh 55 pounds. The rack weighs 15 pounds. So we have 5 pounds of wiggle room. Should work out okay.
We put the rack on TinMan’s hitch to pick up the bikes from the bike store. It worked fine! Easy to assemble, easy to mount the bikes, and the bikes survived the trip home without a hitch, as it were. And the bike store owner, a very helpful and friendly fellow named Kurt, was impressed with the rack, too. Or maybe he was just being nice.
We can’t wait to show you pictures of the bikes and the rack, resting securely at Toto’s stern. But we’re going to wait, because, as I may mentioned, we can’t go outside without inhaling a gallon of water and navigating small lakes spread around the property. We’ll watch for sun-breaks, as we call them around here, and grab our cameras, as soon as mother nature allows.Sharing is caring!
Following is daring.