Interested in how and why I carry bikes on the front of my van? All the details are in here!
Back in 2017, I took off for a life on the road with not much more than my dog and my dual sport. Without any prior experience, it was a challenge to figure out how to make it work properly, and the setup I used evolved over the years.
Let's take it back to the beginning:
I began this journey with my first home on wheels, an old worn down 31' motorhome. This vehicle came standard with a rear 2" receiver, which made it very easy to throw a bike hauler on the back and pack the dual sport with me everywhere I went.
After 6 months of living in the motorhome, I decided it was far too big to be a daily driver and my home. There was also the factor of having the bike out in the weather and accessible to theft, and I wanted to change all of that.
The first vehicle I switched to was a 1971 Chevy van at the very beginning of 2018. It was pretty worn out and the interior was pretty much gone. I built some of the inside, nothing much more than some insulation, framing, a bit of paneling, and minimal electrical.
However, to keep my bike secure and safe from the weather, I designed the interior so that the bike could live inside the van. The cab was walled off, and I removed the windows and installed steel panels in their place so that no one could get into the back and take the bike if I wasn't with it.
This van never came equipped with a receiver, so the bike was ALWAYS in the van unless I was riding it or parked in a safe campspot. This gave me the ability to stress less about it.
However, after a year of sleeping with the footpeg hitting my shoulder, the bike taking up most of my living space, and smelling gas all of the time, I was ready for a new solution. Maybe keeping the bike THAT secure wasn't as important as my daily comfort.
Unfortunately I rolled that van down a hillside in the winter of 2018, and found its new home in a salvage yard.
I was able to find a new van fairly quickly, this time a heavier duty one. Almost immediately, I went to work on coming up with a new plan. This one ton van had an interior that was built by someone else, and most of the storage was under the bed. Accessing all of my belongings easily meant I needed to be able to open the back doors fairly often, so I decided to go straight to designing a way to carry the bike up front. This also opened up the opportunity to carry a 2nd bike on the back if needed.
After many days of researching and hunting, I could not find a bolt-on kit available anywhere, and found a local welder to help me put something together myself. A quick trip to the auto parts store, and I had a 2" receiver tube that could be welded to a piece of square steel tubing that was joined with the van's front bumper mounts. It was a bit tricky to make it all fit and sit correctly, but it ended up working great.
The first drive with my KTM up front was super fun, it was cool seeing the bike up there while driving, and visibility was just fine. I could easily get into my back doors, and the extra weight on the front actually helped the van handle a bit better on the highway.
Fast forward thousands of miles later, and I upgraded to a slightly newer and better suited Chevy van. Unfortunately, the bumper mounts on the two models were not the same after some design changes from the factory over the years, so I was unable to take my custom receiver off and transfer it to the new one.
Following the same design and process, I made another for the new van. It worked great, just as the last one did, for thousands of more miles.
With the stock headlights struggling to get through, and making it dangerous to drive at night, I added a round headlight to the front of the bike carrier that could easily be removed. It was wired to the headlight circuit with a connector to be easily removed.
However, many months later, I was driving down the highway and hit a dip. The bike bounced and was suddenly bent forward at a 45 degree angle...I thought it was going to snap off and causing a nightmare of a wreck and destroy the bike. I was able to pull over, and use some ratchet straps and ingenuity to safely get it somewhere I could find a way to make it stronger.
On this 2nd round of fabricating, to keep the bike a bit lower, 2 of the 2" receiver weld-on pieces were added on top of one another. I was able to locate a bolt on style receiver, and drilled holes into the crossmember of the front suspension.
I ran a length of 2" square tube from the lower front receiver, to the new crossmember, drilled holes and added heavy duty hardware. A bit of primer and paint was applied much later during the painting of the full exterior of the van.
To this day, the same front receiver setup is still being used years later and still works great! With upgraded headlights, the aux front headlight became unnecessary and it's much easier to see properly while driving at night.
Even before the beginning of this journey, I have been using the Ultimate MX Hauler as my go-to bike carrier. It makes it so much easier to load/unload the bike, and even leaves your suspension unloaded at all times.