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Out spokin'
In cog? Neato!
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Is there a van life forum or thread on MTBR? I admit I didn’t look thoroughly but in any case I didn’t find one.

These days people are building out their own custom micro homes on wheels like mad — it’s becoming a common lifestyle and mountain bikers are at the top of the list of likely suspects to lead such lives.

So many trails, so little time.

I’d love to see MTBR add yet another forum (sorry, but yeah, I’m serious) for those of us who want to see what mountain bikers have created in order to experience their very own version of van life. Carrying bikes presents its own unique quirks.

As for my personal situation, my GF bought a 1996 Roadtrek Class B (eg: van) a year and a half ago. We spent 100 nights in it during our first 12 months of ownership — it’s been fantastic. But the Roadtrek is old and we’ve outgrown it. I’m 6’2” and the ceiling is only 6’1” — that sort of thing. We’re looking at buying a new or newer high/long Ford Transit shell van and building it out exactly as we want. After owning a camper van for a year and a half, we’re confident we know what this is.

That said, we’d love to see what other mountain bikers have done, what they love about their creations and what they’d do differently if starting over.
=sParty
 

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high pivot witchcraft
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There's a smattering of stuff in the Cars and Bike Racks subforurm.

I have met tons of people at trailheads, living this lifestyle, passing through my area. I have ridden with some and yeah, invariably they have all been supreme shredders.

One comment - the dudes with the MB van have been shocked at the maintenance costs. The first one is apparently a real eye opener.

This lifestyle intrigues me. I have been pondering taking a short leave of absence from life and doing it myself.
 

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There is a "Cars and Bike Racks" forum. If there any good van threads, I suspect that they'd be there. Given the traffic of most general topic forums, I'm not sure if MTBR would think it worth it to add another, but you never know.

That being said, I love camper van and would love to have one someday. I built a folding platform with storage underneath for my Transit Connect that let me carry 5 and sleep 2. I got a swinging hitch adaptor to clear the liftgate (which then served as a porch roof), cut some mosquito netting to size and sewed in elastic/magnets to cover the windows, and had a cool little travel set up (though it wasn't meant for living longer periods in). I now have a young son, so it is less useful at the moment as it isn't big enough to cram three people in to sleep comfortably, even if one is little, so I have to add a tent anyway. Guess who gets the tent? Yep me. Guess who then always decides he wants to sleep in the tent? My three year old. So my wife ends up stretched out in memory foam padded comfort while my son sleeps on my face.

Like you, my dream is to do a Transit build. I'm the same height as you, so I'd need the high roof. Do you want the long wheel base normal or long wheel base extended length? If I was building an RV, I'd probably want the extended length, but if I got to do this in the semi-immediate future it would have to function as the families less often used second regular vehicle as well, so I'd want to keep it to the regular length. It would be hard to get a bathroom in there though at regular length.

At the trailhead a month or two ago, I ran into a couple with an amazing van. It was built by a company called VanDoIt. It was really nicely modular. I'd be aiming to build something with similar flexibility if I were to do it. I like that the Transit now comes in a Crew Cab as I think it would be the ideal start.
 

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Dirty Old Man
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I'm curious, have you looked at other used class C and B RVs? Personally I'd take a working galley and bathroom, as well as some slide outs, over a van conversion any day. I spoke with someone at a trail head not too long ago who had more money tied up in his van conversion than I do in my 40ft DP. Meanwhile, he still had no shower or toilet in the van yet was living in it full time. IDK, maybe I'm just not meant to understand.
 

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slow
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If you're on Instagram, there are lots of cool photos of nice setups.
These guys have some nice options for bike hauling:
https://www.owlvans.com/
A local friend and strong MTB rider sold his house and spent over a year living in a van he built. Upon his return to town, he started a business building these. His Instagram has some nice pix of the build process of his latest creation, and of the finished product:
https://instagram.com/weathersidecustom?igshid=1f7wn8gspx4q3
 

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It doesn't cost any more to purchase, and in fact it very well might cost less to buy a proper small RV with slide outs, a bathroom, and a toilet.
Have a good friend that crams a family and their bikes all in a sprinter, and it seems terribly uncomfortable to me, and money is definitely not an issue for him.
Either way, living life on the road sounds like quite a dream really and I wish I could even contemplate it.

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Singletrack Sampler on u tube had a van build going on a year or two ago.
I've seen some nice vans/builds at trailheads, so jealous. Mt bike van living would definitely be a dream of mine, my wife doesn't ride but does like camping so maybe there's hope for me.
 

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A van is just toooooo cramped for me to be comfortable for anything other than really short trips. I have friends who have done almost all manner of these things. I have a friend with a Roadtrek, another with a Sprinter, another using an older Dodge van, and another who works at a company that does 4x4 and camper conversions on Ford Transit vans.

I currently have a teardrop trailer that gives about as much space as a van conversion, and even though it's a little tougher finding a spot to park it to sleep (especially wilderness boondock type camping), I prefer this over a van because I can park it to store it or to camp and not have to deal with dragging my camping $hit with me everywhere. I can shuttle to distant trails with my tow vehicle, go get food, etc.

The one I always thought was the more comfortable of the smaller rvs was the small Class C RV another friend has. Of course, short of a big Class A or luxurious 5th wheel (I know ppl with those, too).
 

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I'm curious, have you looked at other used class C and B RVs? Personally I'd take a working galley and bathroom, as well as some slide outs, over a van conversion any day. I spoke with someone at a trail head not too long ago who had more money tied up in his van conversion than I do in my 40ft DP. Meanwhile, he still had no shower or toilet in the van yet was living in it full time. IDK, maybe I'm just not meant to understand.
Pooping in a hole in the ground (with a nice view) is my preferred method of defecation. I'd rather shower outside too, and sunshowers work fine.

I lived in a '86 Toyota PU for 13 years. For the first few it just had a camper shell on the back. I had two bikes and everything I needed.

If you want fancy stuff and don't plan to offroad, then the RVs will work. If you do plan to offroad then a truck plus a good quality camper is a better option IMO. The RVs aren't built to hold up and neither are most of the campers. No way would I want a Sprinter, Transit, or Promaster for offroad. A Nissan, GM, or other body on frame style would be better, but a truck+camper would be best.
 

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to each their own I guess... I'm 6'3" and trying to live in a relatively small van sounds terrible.. I guess on the upside with a transit or sprinter I could stand upright I guess.. but since most of these vans seem to involve some sort of pooping outside.. no thank you ...

I think the youtube videos make it seem waaay more fun than it actually is.... i would think the 15~ time you park on the street and have the police banging on the side of your van telling you to move it would get "old"... plus you can't smell them vans on youtube.. I bet the ones with people trying to live in them (wet / muddy mtb clothes, food ..etc scents...) are pretty dank after awhile...

for me... I would need a RV to even consider it... (trips not living in one full time)... but I'd probably be much more likely to get a hotel near a riding spot and stay there... indoor plumbing / beds you don't have your feet overhang... etc conveniences... way more to like my personal liking.
 

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Sneaker man
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Just this weekend we picked up an old Transit van (2002), came decked out with a bed and storage, pretty well done for someone on a budget, although a bit hippiesh on the interior decorating. Good for us as not totally fitted for living (kitchen etc, so bed and storage in the back, but still enough room to fit a few bikes behind the seats. Not good for actual living in, but good for a night, mostly so the GF can do triathlons, drive down, put bike into transition, then sleep and race in the morning, but also good for me for some of the 4/6 hour race things.
We'll see how it works out, if we like, then upgrade down the track to something bigger/better/newer.


I think this thead was the inspiration:
https://forums.mtbr.com/cars-bike-racks/van-conversions-lets-see-them-1021494.html

although i wanted to spend more $$$ as I like the comforts... but the GF she likes the cheapness, so crusty old transit it was.
 

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Pooping in a hole in the ground (with a nice view) is my preferred method of defecation. I'd rather shower outside too, and sunshowers work fine.

I lived in a '86 Toyota PU for 13 years. For the first few it just had a camper shell on the back. I had two bikes and everything I needed.

If you want fancy stuff and don't plan to offroad, then the RVs will work. If you do plan to offroad then a truck plus a good quality camper is a better option IMO. The RVs aren't built to hold up and neither are most of the campers. No way would I want a Sprinter, Transit, or Promaster for offroad. A Nissan, GM, or other body on frame style would be better, but a truck+camper would be best.
More power to ya. Not into it personally. As you get older things like peeing in the middle of the night, meds, and comfort matter a lot more.
The wife and I will buy a well used but luxurious RV at some point for about $30k. Enough room for us, the kid, the dog, 3 bikes, and snow gear. Enough room to comfortably bbq, sex up my beautiful wife in privacy, cook a good breakfast, look at mtbr.com, and so on.
Doesn't really cost much more, and a whole other level of comfort.

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More power to ya. Not into it personally. As you get older things like peeing in the middle of the night, meds, and comfort matter a lot more.
The wife and I will buy a well used but luxurious RV at some point for about $30k. Enough room for us, the kid, the dog, 3 bikes, and snow gear. Enough room to comfortably bbq, sex up my beautiful wife in privacy, cook a good breakfast, look at mtbr.com, and so on.
Doesn't really cost much more, and a whole other level of comfort.

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Like one of those ex-rental Class Cs? I always wonder how good they would be. Older class C's always give me pause as we had one and it was always acting up on us. Still, for the price I might give one a try if I had somewhere to store it. It would just be a trip vehicle though. No using it as an extra car.
 

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I've done 3 big (7+ months) 23-28k road trips in a van. 2 with girlfriends, 1 with a buddy, and they were all unequivocally the best times of my life. Very simple builds with just insulation, roof vent, beds, and shelving. I think the "living" part means very different things to different people. I only slept and drove in the van and in that it was all I needed.

For me the footprint of a van is perfect both in it's off-road ability to get you out there and it's incognito ability to park and sleep in a city/town. Never once had a cop knock on the door, and you do laundry/ clean just like any other living space.

The cost, parts availability, and ease to work on a van is also a priority for me. I had a huge mechanical on the coast south of Bella Coola which is remote. Some ingenuity and my tool kit had me back on the road in 3 days. I currently have a 2011 e150 which I put about 13k on just this summer bouncing around the PNW. Whatever gets you out there but if the point is to simplify and free up more time for the living part of live, well it's #vanlife for a reason.


 

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I thought about getting a van, but settled on a much easier and waaay cheaper option in a small toy hauler. Fully self contained, can haul my dirt bikes and keep them secure, and leaves me a 4x4 truck still. Dual axles and surprisingly good ground clearance means I can pull it damn near anywhere I'd take the Tundra.

I like having a 4x4 truck. Vans are a PITA to work on and I don't pay mechanics, do it all myself.

I did the van life thing in NZ for a while. Awesome experience but got that out of my system. Definitely recommend it for a while though!


Carson.jpg
 

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Dirty Old Man
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Pooping in a hole in the ground (with a nice view) is my preferred method of defecation. I'd rather shower outside too, and sunshowers work fine.

I lived in a '86 Toyota PU for 13 years. For the first few it just had a camper shell on the back. I had two bikes and everything I needed.

If you want fancy stuff and don't plan to offroad, then the RVs will work. If you do plan to offroad then a truck plus a good quality camper is a better option IMO. The RVs aren't built to hold up and neither are most of the campers. No way would I want a Sprinter, Transit, or Promaster for offroad. A Nissan, GM, or other body on frame style would be better, but a truck+camper would be best.
Meh. An RV with a truck in tow works fine. Especially if you plan on being somewhere for more than one day. My coach is 18yrs old and holding up just fine. The reason they seem to not hold up tends to be a lack of maintenance on the owners part. If you like digging latrines every time you need to $%!+ then good on ya, but I like having a bathroom. A hot shower. A washer and dryer. A refrigerator. A freezer. A proper bed. An oven. Somewhere comfortable to relax and watch TV when stormy weather hits. I could go on. Of course, having raced out of a Chevy van, then a C cab Winnie when I was younger, and now having traveled the country in a large DP RV with my family I just can't see the appeal of these van conversions. I will admit that it's easy to get sucked into the hype on social media. There was even a guy recently trying to glamorize his life living out of a Tesla model 3. Seriously. I've seen so many of these vans here in San Diego and nearly bought one before I got my Navigator to use as a family/biking vehicle. The prices these homemade conversions were pulling was just stupid; and for those prices you still have to go outside and $#!+ in a bucket. No thanks.
 

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Meh. An RV with a truck in tow works fine. Especially if you plan on being somewhere for more than one day.
???

Not if you want to be in the boonies. You need to get far from where the RVs tread. I liked to be places where I wouldn't see another human all week.

I'm a little surprised by the responses. I expected MTBers to be more rugged I guess. I was more comfortable living like that than I have been in any house. I had near zero camping experience when I started and didn't know if I'd hate it or not. I honestly didn't miss anything. Best time of my life...
 

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Dirty Old Man
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Like one of those ex-rental Class Cs? I always wonder how good they would be. Older class C's always give me pause as we had one and it was always acting up on us. Still, for the price I might give one a try if I had somewhere to store it. It would just be a trip vehicle though. No using it as an extra car.
We looked at a rental C class but then tend to lack the things that make RVs desirable in the first place. There was a decided lack of electrical outlets, no awnings and a few other things that you would assume to be standard in a modern RV. They are basically built with ignorant renters in mind, such that they aren't going to equip them with things (like awnings) that can be forgotten about and hence broken. The big issue I see with smaller coaches and trailers is often a lack of roof maintenance. People seem to forget (or not be told) that there are a ton of seems on the roof that will need occasional resealing.
 
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