#Upgrades…slide on.

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.

(Links for other phases of our build on the “van build details” tab or here: Metal Baby (original build)   +  How Penny Love Keeps Her Cool  +  Pre-trip Modifications 

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.

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Ellie pre-trays..and standard bike mounts.

The Trays:

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.

Sliders:

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.

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Ellie pre-trays..and standard bike mounts.

Install:

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.

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Ellie pre-trays..and standard bike mounts.

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…

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Ellie pre-trays..and standard bike mounts.

Duration:

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.

Final Product:

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!

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Ellie pre-trays..and standard bike mounts.

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All smiles after the addition of these two trays…and a wife who’s happy with them too.

Conclusion:

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.

Cheers

10 thoughts on “#Upgrades…slide on.

  1. leo robichaud

    Pretty handy Jon nice work…you need to keep Pamela happy.

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  2. Looking good, Jon! Glad you got these installed – they’re so handy.

    Just for context, I used the 48″ sliders so that I could mount two bikes per tray with one facing forward and one to the rear The weight limit wasn’t a concern so much as having access to the rear fork mount, especially with a center storage drawer like we have.

    I considered the flat-mounted application for the sliders, but opted to stick with vertical since we have quite a bit of weight on ours. Ours already flex at the outer limit of the extension, though we have two (heavier) bikes on each of them. All about personal needs, and I’d say you nailed yours!

    Welcome to the wonderful world of slider drawers for bikes. Once you are here, there’s no going back.

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  3. […] didn’t see much that we wanted nor needed to change. Three months into the trip I choose to make sliding bike trays. The reason was for the ease of access and additional storage it created. Thanks to our friend […]

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  4. Looks so good man!!
    Can the sliders lock once pushed all the way back?
    I just got some with latch at the front to build a similar setup.

    Sam

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    • Thanks for the note and kind feedback. The trays do NOT lock. Given the weight of the tray and the design of the sliders, they don’t move once in place. Plus the bike’s handlebars are close to the door, so it doesn’t allow for lost of movement once the rear doors are closed. Hope this helps. Any more questions let us know. Happy to help.

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  5. Jon, that is a really cool design for the bike trays. I like the idea of not having to crawl into the bed of the truck to get to the bikes. i’m going to build a similar set up for our pick-up. How did you mount the floor in you van to keep it from sliding?Thanks for posting the build details

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    • Tom,

      Thanks for the note and glad you liked our build. The trays are also a great way to increase storage as we are able to get more stuff inbetween the bike wheels etc. As for the floor it is held in place with bolts from the factory as it came in the van. I have a friend who put a floor in his pick up and he and I used self tapping metal screws. Just make sure to calk under the belly of the vehicle incase the screw punches through. Good luck and let me know if there are other questions I can help answer.

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      • Jon, the link on to the sliders you use is no longer available. Can you give me the manufactures name. Have you developed any problems with the flat mounting or the slides?

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  6. Jon, I am having a difficult time understanding where you mounted your tray slides one photo shows the slides turned wide side of slide running horizontal, thin side vertical. Then in another photo you appear to have built frame around the tray mounted the slides wide side vertical. From what I am understanding from KV hardware horizontal mounting reduces capacity 80% from 500lb to 100lb. Can you provide the make & model info of the slides you used. I don’t think I would put more than that in the tray but that is quite a load reduction.

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    • Tom,

      Thanks for the comment and questions. Sorry for the delay in the reply. Here is a link Active Link

      As for the way I installed the slides, I placed them under the tray. They have not lost any strength and the reality is that the intent was never to add 500lbs, so having them on their back vs. side works perfectly well for storing bikes, and riding gear. Let me know if you have additional questions and good luck with your build.

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