After many many months of van building research, before I tackled the buildout with my friend David, I came across Dakota’s blog, Traipsing About. I was stoked with his idea for slide out bike trays. However, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted or needed them when David and I built our van back in 2015. Pamela and I have been living in our van now for 4.5 months and we wouldn’t change the overall layout and feel. While on our journey, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and seeing Dakota and Chelsea’s van in person a few times. During our visits we had the pleasure of exchanging road stories and buildout successes and failures (nothing really failed..just modifications).
In keeping with the summer’s theme of #SprinterVanLife modifications being done by friends and others in the community, I chose to join in and add two sliding bike trays to Ellie! I had thought about it a lot over the last few weeks since Dakota, Pamela and I had coffee and caught up in Moscow, ID. I knew it would be a fairly quick modification, build and installation. One of the things in my favor for making and installing the trays was that our bed is removable and our eastward travel to the Midwest meant that I could reconnect with David (Get the band back together) and borrow his shop tools and scraps of wood to complete the desired trays.
The Build Is On
With a few oppressively hot days in Rapid City, SD we decided to hightail it to Madison vs. meandering through the state. This gave us a few extra days to relax, ride bikes and get the build done. During our travels, I had ordered the trays, 36” sliders with a weight limit of 500lbs. Good thing our Specalized Diverge bikes only weight 17-18lbs respectively :-). I was tempted to go with the 48” tray, same as Dakota, but after much thinking and cost analysis I chose to go with 36”. This decision was also partly based on cost, as these were $70 cheaper per set.
3/4” Birch plywood was used vs. standard plywood. This wood holds up better to moisture and general wear and tear, without being coated, primed etc.
Size: For our needs and the fact that Penny loves her crate, the trays were made with a base of 12” wide. This was the perfect size to ensure the crate would stay put and the each bike had a movable home. More birch was used to build the side rails, making the overall usable space 10.5” in width and 48” in length. Why so narrow? Again these had to be designed to fit the crate in-between and we’re only toting around the one bike each and the tires are pretty narrow so it’s all good. We attached the rails with 1 1/4” screws and some wood clue. Nothing else..pretty straight forward here.
The sliders are extremely heavy duty and efficient. Knowing their weight capacity got me thinking of how to install them. To save on horizontal space I wanted to place the sliders under the tray. Yes this would take up some vertical space, but there is tons available given that we are taking the seat post off the bikes to pack each time. It’s a little cumbersome but overall it’s totally fine (note, if you do this..travel with a few extra seat collar screws..over time they will wear out and you don’t want one stripping out). I guess we could explore getting some dropper seat post…that’s another topic.
With installing the sliders under the tray, we were raising the tray .5” off the ground and with the 3/4” of wood thickness we’re looking at a total of 1.25” before the fork mount was installed. In raising the forks from their previous positions on the floor, we actually opened up more space between the handlebar and backdoor…#Winning.
Here’s a link to the sliders that we used. True, they are not cheap. Keep in mind that they are industrial strength, not the typical ones found at home depot, etc.
Installing the trays was fairly simple, either laying flat or in a traditional side installation with an “L bracket”. Given that I had designed the interior to be modular, I wanted to do the same for the trays. To accomplish this I used threaded inserts with a flush hex in the stock flooring. These allow for a screw to be inserted and removed numerous times. When drilling a pilot hole in the floor be careful NOT to drill to deep as you can easily drill thru the van’s underbody. Trust me…I did it once and had to crawl underneath and seal it with silicon.
We found the best way to install the trays was to attach the tray to the sliders, then attach the entire tray/slider combo to the floor. We first tried to install the sliders to the floor, then attach the tray to the sliders. This seemed good in theory, but in practice it wasn’t ideal. So we learned, the hard way and by hard way, I mean a few extra holes were drilled in the floor on the first tray…
Overall the building of the try and installation of the trays took about 3-4 hours. It seems a bit excessive, but we measured 3-4x to ensure the width was right and then we hit the snag with thinking that installing the sliders first was the way to go. All good lessons which I’m hoping will save someone time and brainpower in the future.
The trays are complete and we’re pretty smitten with them. They slide great, no issues with weight or by having them installed underneath vs. on the side. I’ve been able to utilize the space around the bike wheel for storing shoes, the seat post and other small bike items. The initial though was to make getting to the bikes easier, which it is, and the double win is allowing for some additional storage space since we can easily access the odd spaces at the back. Double win!
I’m pretty happy with the trays. I wasn’t sure if they would be worth it, even when I started to build the trays. Once we put Ellie back together and put the bikes in the trays and did a re-org, I’m pretty stoked. Thanks Dakota for the idea and for the little nudge back in Moscow to do these. #WorthIt
Until next time from somewhere on the road (on two wheels or in four) in the Midwest, UP, Canada or East coast.