Are RV Ladder Bike Racks Safe?


RV ladder bike rack lg

Biking is one of the many activities you can enjoy while camping. But if you’ve ever driven by a camper with bikes hanging off the back, you know how precarious they can look. So, are RV ladder bike racks safe?

Here’s what I know from biking and RVing:

RV ladder bike racks are safe if installed correctly and do not have the weight capacity exceeded. Most RV ladder racks hold 2 bikes and up to 50lbs. Some users will use bungee cords for additional safety.

But that’s not all there is to know about RV bike racks.

After all, is that the only kind of bike rack that works on RVs? And are some RV ladders stronger than others? And how many bikes can they hold? And what do you do if you want to carry 4 bikes?

Just keep reading!

Why are some bike racks on RVs prohibited?

Only certain bike racks are rated for use on RVs and trailers by the manufacturer. This is because the rear of an RV often sways significantly as many extend well beyond the rear axle. So only RV bike racks are designed to handle this.

The rear of an RV is typically extended well beyond the rear axle.

This creates a lot of extra movement in the form of swaying and rocking. Bike racks like you see on the back of a passenger vehicle are not made to withstand this kind of movement.

RV bike racks are.

Additionally, the structural integrity of many towed RVs may not provide enough support for both a rack and the bikes without potential damage.

Depending on how the rack is mounted, it could end up dragging at a sudden, steep climb like into a steep driveway. Using a bike rack that specifically says not to install it on trailers, campers, or RVs could void the warranty, too.

So be sure to use an approved bike rack on your RV.

How much weight can an RV ladder hold?

Most exterior RV ladders can hold between 250-300 pounds. But always check the manufacturer’s owner’s manual or website to verify the ladder weight capacity for the specific model of RV. However, most RV ladder bike racks have a weight capacity between 50-60 lbs.

RV ladders serve multiple functional purposes.

They get you up to your roof and get to other high points safely. They also help you perform other rig maintenance, like washing the windows, repairing seals, and sweeping off slide-outs.

They are also useful for carrying your bikes, scooters, and even camp chairs. So, a solid, heavy-duty ladder is an essential piece of RV equipment.

If you are planning on getting onto the roof itself, you will also want to check the owner’s manual to see how much your roof can hold.

When installing a bike rack on your ladder, you’ll want to take into account the weight of the rack and the bikes. Also, keep in mind that constant swaying and tugging will contribute to the overall weight.

It’s important to remember that the ladder itself isn’t the only thing you need to worry about. It also matters how well-mounted the ladder is to the RV.

Typically, a properly mounted heavy-duty ladder will hold upwards of 300 pounds.

This means that if you have four bikes that weigh 40 pounds each, your ladder will be more than strong enough to carry the weight.

Why do I need an RV approved bike rack?

RV approved bike racks are safer than regular bike racks. Not only do they go through rigorous testing, but they are designed to handle the added motion and sway that RVs typically have due to where the rear of the RV is in relation to the rear axle.

RVs have very different suspension and handling from a passenger vehicle. The added weight and nature of a tow vehicle can jostle a standard bike rack, causing it to break.

RV bike racks are built tough.

They are built to withstand the side-to-side movement of your RV as well as up-and-down movement. They are able to withstand the magnified movement that occurs at the back of rigs.

They are also tested by the manufacturer.

They test their racks on different types of vehicles to determine if they’re sturdy enough to hold up. If a rack isn’t approved, it’s because it either did not meet the testing standards, or they didn’t test it on an RV at all.

Finally, they are warrantied for RV use. That means that if something goes wrong – the rack breaks, your bike falls off (through no fault of your own), or your RV gets damaged, it will be covered by the warranty.

If you use a non-RV approved bike rack on your RV, you’re taking a pretty big risk not only for yourself but for other drivers on the road.

A bike rack that breaks while traveling down the highway can cause major injuries to other people on the road. It can also damage your rig and will definitely damage your bikes.

RV approved bike racks are usually easy to install. They will also give you peace of mind knowing that your bikes are safe and won’t end up in the middle of the highway.

Are there alternatives to ladder bike racks for RVs?

The best alternative to an RV ladder bike rack is a bumper-mounted rack or a hitch-mounted bike rack. But these will naturally cause the bicycles to protrude a little further from the rear of the RV compared to a ladder bike rack.

There are plenty of options when it comes to bike racks.

A hitch-mounted bike rack like the Swagman Bicycle Carrier Traveler XC2 from Amazon is an excellent option. It is RV-approved and works with a variety of vehicles and campers.

It’s very easy to assemble and folds down when not in use. This makes it easy to access the rear of your RV when you need to.

It’s very lightweight but sturdy enough to handle the motion of your RV.

It also makes bike loading and unloading easy. It has an upright arm with pushbuttons and ratcheting hooks. You can purchase a locking hitch pin and security cable separately, so you don’t have to worry about your bikes being stolen.

This rack fits on a 2” hitch receiver or bumper mount and can hold two bikes with a 20-20” wheel size. The max load is 35 pounds per bike and has fat bike trays available.

The rack is also anti-rust.

What is the best heavy-duty RV bike rack that isn’t a ladder attachment?

For heavier-duty use, I also love the Thule Range Hitch Bike Rack on Amazon. It weighs 36 pounds and holds up to four bikes.

It is RV approved and has anti-sway cradles. It also has an integrated cable lock to keep your bikes safe.

It’s ideal for a wide variety of bike sizes and frame styles. It comes with flexible ratchet straps to securely hold your bikes in place.

With a load capacity of 150 pounds, it can hold bikes that weigh up to 37.5 pounds each.

A nice feature is that it allows 7 inches of space between each bike, so you don’t have to worry about them getting scuffed up or scratched.

This rack doesn’t require any special tools to install and swings out of the way so you can get to the back of your rig.

However, if you have a woman’s bike, you’ll need to purchase an adapter to carry it. Additionally, the assembly instructions are not very clear, especially when it comes to installing the lock cylinders.

You will find that this is a pretty heavy bike rack.

But it has great stability, and you won’t have to worry about your bikes. However, there are a few complaints of too much play at the hitch. This can be mitigated by using a rubber shim or something similar on your hitch.

All in all, this is a stout and well-built bike rack that will last a very long time.

What is the best heavy-duty RV ladder bike rack?

The best heavy-duty RV ladder bike rack is the Camco RV Ladder Mount Bike Rack, with a weight capacity of 60lbs. It holds 2 bicycles and folds for quick and easy storage.

CLICK HERE to check it out on Amazon.

But by definition, ladder bike racks don’t hold as many bikes as other types of bike racks.

So definitely check out one of the options I mentioned above if you need to hold more than 2 bikes. Most ladder bike racks for RVs hold 50lbs.

So, this Camco one holds 10 more pounds.

I do like how easy it is to install as it basically just hooks onto one of the ladder rungs. So no tools or complicated mounting is needed.

Do make sure to read the instructions about how to properly and safely secure the bikes, as there are some reviewers that seemed to have messed that up and complained about it.

But judging from the hundreds of other mostly 5-star reviews, I suspect that was operator error.

CLICK HERE to check it out on Amazon.

Final thoughts

RV ladder bike racks are very safe to use. They are a simple way to bring your bike wherever you go without giving up valuable storage space.

Be sure to use an approved bike rack, as using one that is not approved could not only damage your bikes or RV but could actually void the warranty.

Ladder bike racks often have lower weight capacities than bumper racks. Be careful not to go over the manufacturer’s recommendations.


Photo which requires attribution:

Three in One by R. Miller is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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