bing tracking image

RV Bike Rack Cover

What is an RV-Approved Bike Rack? (And Do You REALLY Need One?)

All cyclists have their opinion when it comes to bike racks—which style is preferable, which brand is best, and whether or not you really need an RV-rated rack for the back of your motorhome, travel trailer, or fifth wheel. Ask any RV/cycling community about RV-rated bike racks, and invariably someone will point out that the rack on the back of their RV isn't RV rated, and they've never had a problem.So what's the controversy all about? Who approves bike racks for RV use, and do you really need an RV-rated bike rack for your motorhome or camper? What happens if you choose to use a rack that's not actually approved? We give our two cents on the matter below.

What Makes a Bike Rack Rated for Trailer Use?

There's no global RV cycling empire out there, handing out stamps of approval to those bike racks they deem worthy. In fact, it pretty much comes down to the manufacturers' say-so. The main differences between RV-approved racks and non-RV-approved racks are:
RV with Bike Rack
1. They're built toughRemember being a kid and vying for the sweet seat at the back of the school bus, where you could really feel the bus's movement over the road? It's the same principle, only now it's your $1k+ bike and rack setup taking all that abuse.This means that RV-approved bike racks must be able to withstand all that extra strain. Bike racks often experience a "dogtail effect" on the back of RVs, in which the racks experience side-to-side movement as well as up-and-down movement. Not all bike racks are built to hold up under all that movement.To add to that, towable campers like travel trailers and fifth wheels lack the sophisticated suspension of passenger vehicles. They're meant to be towed, not driven, so they're not designed to have that same smooth ride. Motorhomes do have better suspension since they're designed to be driven, but bumps and movement will still be magnified at the back where the rack rides. With all RVs, there's a greater distance between the hitch and rear axle, which results in more movement and strain on anything carried by that hitch.
RV with Bike Rack
2. They're tested by the manufacturerThe manufacturers are the ones that test their bike racks on different vehicles and determine if they're sturdy enough to hold up. If a manufacturer says a bike rack is not rated for RV use, it's because they either didn't test it on an RV, or they did test it but it didn't meet their testing standards.
RV with Bike Rack
3. They're warrantied for RV useHonestly, this is the biggest deciding factor for a lot of people, and it all comes down to being safe rather than sorry.I can pretty much guarantee you'll see a non-RV-approved bike rack hanging out behind an RV at some point. Some campers carry their bikes like this for years without a problem.Would we etrailer folk recommend it? No, if for no other reason than that the manufacturer won't honor your warranty if something goes wrong, and bike racks cost a pretty penny. We've heard plenty of stories from people who used non-RV bike racks on RVs and ended up with a ruined rack, broken bike, and plenty of regrets.
RV with Bike Rack

What are the Best RV Bike Racks?

Fortunately, there are plenty of bike racks designed to work with RVs, so it shouldn't be too hard to find one that works for you.If you're not sure what kind of rack style you need, check out our guides to choosing a bike rack for different camper types:
Or skip right to the cream of the crop with our list of the top RV-approved bike racks of the year.
Of course, which bike rack you put on the back of your RV is your choice. There's no denying there are some great non-RV bike racks out there, and you may indeed be fine to use them. However, to save yourself trouble (and potential cash), we certainly recommend going the RV-approved route.Still have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can!
Amber S.
About the AuthorAs a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training classes for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article.At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on: 9/10/20

Hal B.

8/24/2023

TRK-E20 from Hollywood is only rack I’ve found that holds both a trike and standard bike. Site says not suitable for RV. But what if we installed hitch on front of RV? Seems that should work. Thoughts?

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

8/24/2023

@HalB The main problem with using a hitch mounted bike rack is the overhang, which is the distance between the center of the hub and the front and rear bumpers. The longer the overhang, the more bouncing that'll happen. That bouncing is what kills bike racks that aren't designed specifically for an RV. Hollywood racks hasn't tested the rack to be used in your particular situation, so they don't recommend using the rack that way.

Susan C.

7/29/2023

There is no way I would use a rack that isn’t RV rated. i want to make sure I never take chance with someone else’s life, that’s too much of a burden to bear. I could never live with myself if something happened that was from me taking the cheap route.. To me that is reason enough.

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

8/3/2023

@SusanC That's great advice, we agree!

James K.

7/28/2023

If you have a travel trailer and you intend to carry bikes while traveling, you ABSOLUTELY need a bike rack that is rated for this. Do need cut corners here. I've bought the cheap ones at Academy and Dicks Sporting Goods that were supposedly rated for 4 bikes. No. They are not for RV's. The bars and welds will most certainly bend and break due to the road motion and sway at the back of the RV. Get a THULE RV-Rated bike rack if you intend to carry bikes on a travel trailer. That's what I did, (TH9057) and I couldn't be happier. I just wish I had known this before I spent the money on two lesser quality racks that are now in the county dump. Spend the money. You get what you pay for. Buy a THULE. You will not be disappointed.

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

8/3/2023

@JamesK That's sound advice, thanks for jumping in! The Thule # TH9057 Range is a great option!

Splitshaft

7/28/2023

And there is more to a bike rack than its design or strength. There is the vehicle it is mounted on. Even if mounted exactly as the manufacturer designed. Will the vehicle support the rack with the bikes weight? Bumpers can break and fall off due constant twisting and leverage caused by the weight of the bikes and the distance they extend from the rear of the vehicle. Racks for frame mounted receiver hitches are often more secure than bumper mounted racks. And bike racks having anti-rattle or using an anti-rattle device will help reduce the forces the bikes, rack, and vehicle components are subject to by helping to reduce the bouncing and twisting forces.

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

7/28/2023

@Splitshaft That's all true, thanks for mentioning it!

Dave D.

7/28/2023

Just another money grab. Regular bike racks do not mention what type of vehicle it may or may not be used on. Many bike racks used on the back of a pickup truck are subjected to much more abuse than the rear of an RV.

James K.

7/28/2023

@DaveD Disagree. The RV-rated racks are built better with heavier gauge steel designed to sustain the sway and bouncing road motion that goes on at the far back of a traveler trailer. Maybe on a motor home or a pickup truck, this would not be an issue, but it absolutely is on the back of a travel trailer. I bought two lesser quality racks and literally lost bikes on the interstate because they just weren't built for an RV and the bars holding the bikes literally bent and dumped the bikes on the road. A $400-500 RV-Rated bike rack is worth every penny. Been there. Done that.
Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

8/3/2023

@DaveD I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you there. Trailers and RV's have a less sophisticated suspension and some have a longer rear overhang than what you'd see on a passenger vehicle which leads to more bounce. This bouncing can pretty quickly destroy a bike rack that's not engineered for that purpose. This is why we recommend that only racks designed for RVs or trailers be used in that situation.
Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

8/3/2023

@JamesK Thanks for the input. You're absolutely correct!


Departments

Towing

Sports and Recreation

Trailer Parts

Vehicle

What our customers are saying:

"Thanks for my order super fast shipping quality excellent. will order again. thanks again. A+A+A+ to deal with."

Lonnie
Sanford, NC

Popular Vehicles