Welcome to our new series, Driver’s Shred, where we help Luno community members turn everyday cars, vans, and trucks into bad-ass adventure mobiles. Each Driver’s Shred article will focus on tips, tricks, and gear recommendations that enable you to camp comfortably while crushing a specific sport or activity. Simply put, our mission is to help you camp, shred, and repeat. So grab your pens and pencils, because class is in session—and this time around, our focus is on mountain biking.
In our first installment of Driver’s Shred, we talked about turning your rig into a backcountry basecamp for ski and splitboard endeavors this spring—if you’re still chasing snow after a record-breaking winter, check it out here. But with warm weather and hero dirt in the forecast, we’ve got mountain biking on the brain. In this guide, we’ll be focusing on practical hacks and gear recommendations that’ll help you turn your car, truck, or van into the ultimate mountain bike base camp. Whether you’re looking to embark on a weekend MTB overnight or a month-long singletrack odyssey, this guide will get you tuned up for car camping and ready to rip some trails.
How to Camp In Your Vehicle On A Mountain Bike Trip: Tips, Tricks, and Gear Recommendations
1. Pre-Trip Prep
- Vehicle Prep: Before you embark on any car camping adventure, it’s a smart idea to make sure your vehicle is ready to road trip. Check in with your local mechanic and don’t skimp on preventative maintenance.
- Bike Prep: In the same vein, make sure your mountain bike is ready to rock’n’roll before you head out. Run through a maintenance checklist at home or take your bike to your local bike shop for a tune-up. Remember, little things like cleaning your bike or lubing your chain can help your bike ride better and last longer.
- Rider Prep: Now that your bike is ready to ride, you should be, too. Use upcoming travel as motivation to get in bike shape. Hit the gym, clock pre-work rides, stretch, etc. Do what you can leading up to your adventure so you can make the most of your time on the road.
Pro Tip: Another key aspect of rider prep? Pre-trip planning. Research your destination, check the weather, look for free camping, and scour Trailforks or MTB Project for trail beta. Most importantly, scout out mission-critical pit stops like pre-ride coffee shops and post-ride BBQ joints and breweries.
2. Bike Storage and Safekeeping: How To Reduce Chances of Bike Theft and Lock Your Bike to the Car
Nothing ruins a bike trip like a stolen steed. Unfortunately, no matter how you lock up your bike, there’s a risk of theft on the road. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of theft-related heartbreak.
Vanlifing with Bikes: Build a Raised-Platform Bed So Bikes Can Fit Beneath It
The single best thing you can do to minimize the chances of a stolen bike? Hide it from view. Vanlifers can do just that by building a raised platform bed with room for a bike or two underneath.
Added Bonus: Storing your bike inside your van isn’t just a solid idea for security’s sake. Keeping your components dry, clean, and out of the elements will improve both ride quality and bike longevity.
Truck Campers: Why Truck Bed Bike Storage Is A Smart Play
If you’re truck camping, truck bed bike storage can be a smart move, especially if you have a tall camper shell. It’s possible to use a truck bed bike rack–this one from Thule is super affordable–then drape a blanket or tarp over your bike to hide it from view. It’s not as foolproof as a van setup, but it’s much less conspicuous than a roof or hitch rack.
SUVers and Hatchback Owners: How To Lock Your Bike to Your Vehicle
While it is possible to store bikes inside your vehicle if you drive an SUV or hatchback, many folks will turn to roof or hitch racks. We like hitch racks–they offer better aerodynamics for longer road trips, lower clearance for low-hanging trees and parking garages, and you don’t have to scrub bug carcasses from your beloved bike after a muggy stretch of highway.
Küat makes fantastic hitch racks with smooth, sleek, easy-to-use componentry and built-in cable locks. While the cables are thin and won’t withstand the efforts of boltcutter-brandishing bike bandits, they may stymie opportunistic thieves. For further protection, we recommend using U-Locks and/or burly chains to lash the frame and wheels to fixed points on the rack or hitch.
3. Use a Luno Air Mattress Instead of a Permanent Bed Build-Out
If you’re a mountain biker who is truck camping or car camping, we suggest using a Luno Air Mattress as opposed to a permanent platform-style bed. If you have a permanently built-out bed, you likely will not be able to fit bikes in your truck bed or SUV. If you have a Luno Air Mattress, you’ll be able to store bikes safely in your truck or car during the day, then swap them for an air mattress at night.
4. Park Like A Pro
Unfortunately, no bike locks are foolproof. One of the best ways you can reduce your risk of bike theft is by parking like a pro. Here are a few tips in that department:
- Park in well-lit lots.
- Thieves are camera-shy. If you can park near CCTV cameras, that’s another solid deterrent.
- If you’re stopping for lunch, park where you can keep an eye on your ride. Practiced bike thieves are mind-bogglingly quick–think Nicholas Cage in Gone In Sixty Seconds–especially if your bike isn’t adequately locked.
5. Insurance? More Like WINsurance!
Get renter’s or homeowner’s insurance that covers your mountain bike. If your mountain bike gets stolen, it’s still a big bummer as your trip might be shot, but insurance can cover a replacement. Even if you don’t have your bike stolen, insurance offers invaluable peace of mind on mountain bike road trips.
6. Mountain Bike Maintenance 101
While some mountain bikers will travel with enough tools and spare parts to start a mobile bike shop, even novice mountain bikers should plan to carry the basics, especially on more remote bike trips. Here are a few things we like to carry when we’re chasing singletrack far from home:
- The Trail Kit: At the minimum, you should have a solid bike tool anytime you ride. This multi-tool from Crank Brothers or more robust option from Park Tool both play on the trail. We also like to have essentials like spare tubes, tire levers, a small pump, CO2, etc. whenever we pedal into the wilderness.
- The Trailhead Kit: Especially if you’re on an extended trip, it’s smart to have a bigger kit on hand, like this Home Mechanic Kit from Park Tool. We recommend this option for beginner and intermediate mechanics, as it also comes with a helpful guidebook that explains basic repairs and can be extraordinarily helpful if you are out of service and can’t attend an emergency class at the University of Youtube.
- The Essentials: Bring a basic stash of degreaser, lube, tire sealant, etc. We also like to bring a spare chain, spare tire, tubes (even if you’re riding tubeless), etc. Depending on your mechanical know-how and the length of your road trip, you also might want to lug additional items for bleeding brakes, replacing brake pads, so on and so forth.
- Fans of the Stand: Working on your bike–or even just giving it a basic clean–becomes much easier with a proper bike stand. We love Kuat’s radical NV 2.0 hitch rack because it comes with an integrated bike stand for on-the-road repairs.
7. Support Local Bike Shops
While it’s a smart idea to learn the basics of bike maintenance ahead of your trip, it’s often the best move to turn to pros in times of need. Chances are if a destination merits a mountain bike road trip, it’ll have a bike shop or two worth visiting.
Pro Tip: Local bike shops won’t just help you make sure your equipment is in order, they’ll also often point you toward worthwhile trails. If you prefer paper maps to digital ones, local bike shops are also the move.
8. Don’t Skimp on Bike Shorts and Chamois Butt’r
While we’re all for roughing it, MTB camping trips don’t require the same monk-like austerity as bikepacking trips. No need to use the same pair of bike shorts day after day–bring a few pairs. Also, if you’re logging serious miles, Chamois Butt’r is worth its weight in gold.
- We like to keep a spare pair of fresh bike shorts and a tube of Chamois Butt’r in the vehicle at all times, just in case we forget or run out. Our advice? Roll up a fresh pair and backup Butt’r and stash it in a cup holder in the back passenger door.
- Camping near a river? Bring some bio-degradable Doctor Bronner’s and a cord to use as a clothesline. Give your bike shorts, socks, jersey, etc. a scrub and rinse. Hang ‘em out to dry. Fresh, clean riding duds are a road trip luxury and we’re here for it.
9. Bike Shoe Storage
If you’re camping in your vehicle, we highly recommend storing rank bike shoes outside of your rig. The best way to do just that? Our Luno Gear & Shoe Storage Bags. These bags are nothing short of genius, if we say so ourselves. Built-in magnets attach the bag to the exterior of your car, ensuring your shoes are easy to find and off the ground. A waterproof lid protects your shoes from overnight precipitation, while a mesh bottom of the bag lets squelchy shoes drip dry.
Pro Tip: We like to road trip with a few of these bags. We use one for flip-flops, one for bike shoes, and another inside the rig for stashing easy-to-lose gear like headlamps, tire levers, and more.
10. Download Apps and Maps
“Don’t Get Ready, Stay Ready”
There you have it–ten tips to ensure your next mountain bike camping trip is your best one yet. Just writing this piece has us stoked to hit some singletrack, so we’re going to get out for an afternoon ride. But before we go, here’s one last bonus tip: don’t be afraid to visit your local bike shop after a mountain bike road trip to ensure your bike remains in tip-top shape. If your equipment is always in primo condition, you don’t need to get ready for the next trip–you stay ready.
Thanks for reading our second installment of Driver’s Shred! We hope it helps you embark on the mountain bike road trip of your dreams. We’ll see you on the road–and on the trail.
-The Luno Crew