HOWTO:  Install a Bike Rack Carrier

COST:  $300.00
TIME:  1 Hour


     I have heard that the rear bumpers on our Retro trailers are not strong enough to hold bikes, etc.  It seems from a little online sleuthing that most RV trailers are the same, and those that do carry bikes on their rear bumpers eventually have problems with the bumper twisting, cracking, and the welds opening up, etc.  Scary!!!  So I installed a bike rack onto the roof of my truck and carried the bikes up there.  Or, sometimes in the back of the truck if we didn't have a lot of gear.  Both of these approaches are a lot of work and effort to load and unload the bikes and so we would often scrap plans to bring the bikes along on our trips for this reason.  I needed to find an easy on / easy off solution to make loading and unloading two bikes quick and effortless.  BOTTOM LINE -- The rear bumper of the RV trailer was the only solution.

     So I decided to figure out how to do it.  One solution was to goto a shop and have a proper bumper welded onto the back.  But a thicker 4"x4" tube would be too thick to store the sewer hose anymore.  And the shops wanted over $300 just for the tube and the welding work, add the hitch and bike carrier and it's over $500.

     Then I found this $80 kit you can install yourself in about 30 minutes.  Basically they are bolt-on metal braces to hold the bumper to the frame.  Supposedly they allow you to carry 400lbs on a stock RV bumper.  People who have installed them claim that they work well and the total price for the bike rack, hitch, and bumper support kit all came to just under $300 total for everything, so I decided to try it.

  • Mount-n-Lock SafetyStruts (SSN-Standard) Better Bilt Solutions, LLC -- $80.00
  • Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack -- $135.00
  • CURT 19100 Camper Hitch RV Bumper Hitch for 4-Inch x 4-Inch RV Bumper, 2-Inch Receiver, 3,500 lbs. -- $65.00
  • QTY=6 3"x5/16 Bolts and nylock nuts  -- $11.00

  • Socket wrench and sockets
  • Flat wrench 1/2 inch
  • Drill (not cordless)
  • Blue painters tape and an ink pen
  • Tape measure
  • Two 3"-4" C-clamps

STEP 1:  Remove Spare Tire
      Remove the spare tire and spare tire mount from the rear bumper.  The bumper support kit will be a metal plate screwed into the junction of the bumper and frame on each side, right about exactly where the spare tire is mounted.

STEP 2:  Install hitch
     Install the add-a-hitch kit.  I purchased one with a 2" receiver but you can go smaller then that since you'll never be putting more then about 400 lbs back there anyway.  The size of receiver hitch will depend on the size supported by your bike carrier.  The one I purchased supported two sizes, so I chose the bigger one, which is 2".

   You'll install the kit by measuring the length of your bumper and identifying the exact middle.  Mark this using some painters tape and an ink pen.  Next, slide the add-a-hitch kit onto your bumper and center it, then tighten it down.

[RearBumper-001]  [RearBumper-002] 

STEP 3:  Install Bumper Supports
     The bumper supports are just two metal plates that you'll bolt into the frame, and they extend under the bumper to provide support.  Just clamp each support brace to the side of the frame where it is welded to the rear bumper.  The kit includes the drill bits you'll need.  Use those drill bits to drill through the three designated holes in the bumper brace metal plate and on into the frame.

[RearBumper-004]  [RearBumper-006] 
NOTE:  Here is where I deviated slightly from the bumper support kit instructions.  They provide self-tapping screws to use in the holes that you drill in each of the two support plates.  I decided to instead drill my holes all the way through the frame so the holes went through the support brace designated holes and into the frame and then out the other side.  I went to Ace Hardware and purchased some 3" bolts and nuts and installed those instead of the self-tapping screws.  I believe that will be a stronger more trouble-free solution.  But probably the self-tapping method works just fine, probably?

[RearBumper-009]  [RearBumper-010] 

STEP 4:  Install the Spare Tire
   You can now reinstall the spare tire mount and spare tire to the rear bumper.  You'll notice that it can't go back on exactly where it used to be at since the bumper brace is there now.  So install it just to the center-side of the bumper, where the frame meets the rear bumper.  It's only moved more to the center of the bumper by about 3" and it still is nowhere close to interfering with your rear access door (if your trailer even has one of these doors).  

STEP 5:  Install Bike Carrier
     The bike carrier I purchased arrived in about 100 pieces.  OK, not really... but there were a lot of pieces to put together.  But the price of the carrier was more reasonable then other brands and it seems very sturdy.  And it has a useful feature of the center mast pole being able to fold down flat to allow access to my rear storage door without having to ever remove the bike carrier from the hitch (of course you do need to remove the bikes from the carrier).  So, if your RV trailer has a rear storage access door like my 177se then I recommend this design of bike carrier.

   Also, you'll see the bike carrier already on the rear bumper in pictures from my earlier steps.  I actually installed it earlier, right after installing the add-a-hitch.  But you really can't set it up and get it adjusted to your bikes until after the rear tire is back on.  So that is why this step is last.


That's it.  You are all done.  Ready to go enjoy your bikes on your next trip.
Quote 0
Great job and awesome detailed description of how to do it. Thanks!
Quote 0
Fantastic. Great detail info. Thanks
Quote 0
Great info. And a good model for sharing How-To detail. Quick. Simple. Clear. 👍👍
~ Linda & Bill
Quote 0
I was going to go with this hitch kit I found on Amazon for about $35.  Anybody think that will be too much torque on the bumper?  

Towever 83801 RV Bumper Hitch Receiver 2” Adapter for 4“ - 4.5“ Travel Trailer Rear Bumper

Quote 0
That receiver does nothing to avoid problems with torque. This isn't mine, I think it was posted around here:
Quote 0
Great post, I was looking into spare tire bike racks but this looks much better.
Quote 0
Here's a link to the bumper support the OP listed with the stuff he used.  Great idea and sure seems to be the ticket!

Quote 0
Thank you Mike S.  That picture was worth a thousand words.  And thanks to Dwight for the detailed instructions and pics.
Quote 0
I never even thought about the torque loading of the bike rack. Guess I will have to find or make some bumper support brackets.
Quote 0
KLandry wrote:
I never even thought about the torque loading of the bike rack. Guess I will have to find or make some bumper support brackets.

Hi KLandry.  Look up higher in the thread and we identify a prebuilt support bracket kit for your rear trailer bumper.  Honestly you couldn't fabricate anything yourself for less hassle and cost than this kit.  We've been taking and using the bikes every time now since we put them on the rear bumper, so easy to load/unload them.  We even are biking around little downtown areas in towns we roll through on our journeys.  Before this we had them on the roof of the truck, what a pain that was to access them regularly.
Quote 0
Ralph L Staub
I went this route... Stromburg Carlson Bike Bunk. It puts a receiver hitch over the tanks to mount your favorite bike rack. Bolts on to the frame with no drilling or welding. A little tough to get the bikes on and off way up there, but if you’re towing with a pickup, the tailgate is a big help. $164.78 at Walmart online.
Quote 0
Sue Sue
Ralph this is what we’ve got too.....
works like a dream!
Quote 0
Dwight, EXCELLENT post. Your pictures and detail are easy to follow. I have the bikes, just waiting for Cheryl's knee surgery so we can start ridding again. The bikes on the back will also help with my "over" tongue weight. 
Please buy Made in USA
Quote 0