Van Life: The Yakima Backswing Bike Rack
Recently we’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to buy a bike rack for our van. Turns out it’s a little more complicated than just getting a bike rack. We’ll need a hitch and a part that allows the rack to pivot out and away from the vehicle so that we can still access the back of the van. It hasn’t been an easy decision but after riding in Key West and on Jekyll Island we realized just how much we love our bikes. It’s one of the main ways we get around when we’re in Asheville. Why not do it on the road? After weighing the pros and cons we chose the Yakima Backswing Bike Rack for our Dodge Ram Promaster City.
Yakima Backswing Review
Pros of the Yakima Backswing
- The rack was easy to install. The directions were simple and clear. All you need is an adjustable wrench. The whole thing took about 20 minutes to install.
- It fits nicely onto our 2 inch hitch. (This didn’t come with the van or the rack. It was something we had installed after we bought it.)
- The pivot system of the Yakima Backswing opens up to 90 degrees. This allows us to access the back of the van and even open the doors.
- Once open, the rack will lock in place which is great in windy conditions or on a slope because it won’t swing back at you.
- The Yakima Backswing can carry up to 250 pounds (rack plus bikes).
- It’s easy to uninstall. You simply loosen the bolt and slide it out of the hitch.
Cons of the Yakima Backswing
A lot of these cons are actually overall cons to having a bike rack. They’re not specifically limited to the Yakima.
- Putting a bike rack on your vehicle means it’ll no longer be stealth. It’s pretty obvious that you’re either living or traveling in your van when you’ve got a couple of bicycles attached to the back.
- Theft is an added worry. We got a lock for the rack and also have one for the bikes but no system is perfect. When we really worry we throw them inside the van.
- Finding a hitch for our van was difficult. U-Haul and even the Ram Dealership both told us we could expect a hitch to come out soon but that newer models sometimes takes a while. After about a dozen phone calls we finally found a hitch in Maryland at the Fruitland Pasco.
- It makes the length of the van a bit longer.
- Hitting your shin on the rack hurts so. damn. bad.
- The pivot arm is not for standing on. Hopping in and out of the van, we have to constantly remind ourselves not to use the rack as a way to get down since it’s not meant to support additional weight.
- The rack is fairly low and will hit the curb if you’re not careful.
- Our bikes extend a couple inches past the side of the van (this will vary based on the size of your bike and van.)
- The bikes impact the view in the rearview backup camera which is a huge piece of information when driving this van site we don’t have windows.
Van Life Bike Rack Considerations:
- We wanted something that allowed us to get into the back of our van. We found three companies that make something like that: Thule, Yakima and Kuat. The part works with a 2 inch receiver. There might be others out there but those are the three we’ve considered. Thule’s were backordered around the country for 6 weeks. Our local REI had a couple Yakima’s in stock. We ended up ordering the Yakima Backswing through Amazon.
- The bike rack that I bought to use with my old Toyota Matrix will actually do the trick. Though I sold my car in an effort to downsize (more on that HERE) I kept the rack thinking, well maybe someday it’ll come in handy. And it has! It’s a simple system, a Thule 958 Parkway 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack (2-Inch Receiver) (pictured below).
Why we did not buy a roof rack:
We’re short. Caroline is 5’6 and I’m 5’4. I’ve had a roof rack for bikes before that went on top of my Toyota Corolla and it was a struggle to get them up there. I could do it but I had to be next to a curb. And I almost always dinged up the paint on my car getting it up there. I know there’s ways to prevent this but the van is even higher and we don’t really want to have to drag a ladder out (not to mention carry one) with us just to get our bikes up and down off the van.
Reduced gas mileage
I’ve read that having things on the roof can really negatively impact your gas mileage. How much depends on what you’re carrying up there. We’re getting about 24 miles a gallon in our Dodge Ram Promaster City (21 city / 28 highway) and we’d like to keep it there because fuel is one of our most expensive costs. To learn more about how certain gear impacts your gas mileage, check out this piece by Men’s Health: How Adventure Gear Strapped to Your Roof Affects Gas Mileage. We were shocked to realize just how much two mountain bikes on a roof will impact gas mileage. No joke, the fuel economy impact percentage is 31%. As in a 31% reduction in gas mileage.
Access to parking garages
Sounds like a weird thing to be worried about but we do a good bit of city travel for work and there are numerous times when the only option for our vehicle has been a parking garage. We want to be able to get in and out of these places when we need to rather than become limited due to our rack.
Yakima Backswing Review and Recap
If you are doing a bit of traveling in a van and want to bring your bikes, we recommend the Yakima Backswing. We think it’s the best bike rack for van life (at least for us). It allows us entry to the back of the vehicle due to it’s unique pivot system. In addition, we can still gain access into the back of the car without having to take the bikes off the rack.
Do you have a bike rack for your van? If so, we’d love to hear about the pros and cons of your setup.