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Caravans and Cycling

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We have always enjoyed taking bikes with us when we go caravanning. There are hundreds of sites across the UK and abroad, many of them close to cycle tracks and trails. Others are in beautiful parts of the country which it seems a shame not to explore on your bike. Inspired by the boom in bike riding, it's our plan this year to get ourselves fitter and to mix and match our weekends with more cycling.

Cycling gives you that great feeling of being out in the open without having to park the car, and there is something entirely different about the experience of exploring the countryside at a different pace and much more pleasurable than driving.

Depending on the time of year, your inclination and how fit you are, a bike ride can consist of everything from a simple tour of some country lanes with all the children in tow to full-blooded cross country gallops. In every case the caravan or motorhome provides a great temporary base and an even better place to store or carry the bicycle to begin with. We like the mix of activity and relaxation the combination gives us.

Several of our friends have got quite serious about using their motorhomes to follow cycling when they found they couldn't get any accommodation for the Tour de France in the UK. As it turned out, it was not much easier when they looked for camp sites, but that is another story: they had the bug. It allows them to set up early and watch the race rush by and to combine that with a spot of intrepid cycling along route or nearby either early in the morning or after the race has finished.

That is not really us, but we do share something - a good cycle rack.

For the caravan, these come in a few combinations: towbar bike racks, A-frame racks, rear wall racks and roof mounted carriers, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Towbar racks - these are mounted to the ball mount of the towing vehicle’s hitch. It makes it an excellent option when you want to leave the caravan at the camp site and take the bikes with you during the day. Disadvantages include less easy access to the towing assembly and it may not be a good option if you use a 4 x 4 with a spare wheel at the rear.

A-frame racks - these are mounted to the A frame of the caravan. Like anything in the area, they can get in the way of the gas container, though many of them pivot out of the way recognising this is likely to be a problem. Fittings of good brands are well thought through, so you should not get any of the old problems where the rack can bang up with the front caravan window. Our advice, check the fitting, first. A-frame racks have the advantage of usually allowing a tighter turning circle than towbar racks.

rear bike rack for a caravanRear wall cycle carriers - these obviously remove the problems faced by racks placed a the front. Don't forget them when you are reversing! They come in a number of fixing configurations - for example, to the spare wheel assembly, or to the back wall of the caravan itself. With the latter, check to make sure that the combined weight of the rack and fully laden bicycles is not likely to do any damage.

Roof mounted carriers -best for camper trailers, they are a good idea if you use expensive bikes. There is less chance of them getting damaged there, with the corresponding disadvantage that they have to be got into place to begin with.

Whatever your choice, there is every excuse for taking your bike with you this year. Sustrans is a great place to go to plan a cycle route and they have every type from the most simple to the positively arduous. If you are like us, and looking for something easy to start with that you can mix with the National Trust, then they have some easy routes on their site.