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   Review by Heyjames451

Review – Topline brand ladder mounted bike rack 

Topline Manufacturing makes several different bike racks for recreational vehicles. This is a review of their ladder mounted bike rack. You mount the rack on your RV ladder, then you mount the bikes (up to two) on the rack.

Why a ladder mounted rack?

Bikes can be mounted in a variety of ways on a Toyota based motorhome. Originally I tried a custom rack. My rig has a metal platform in the back that houses a trailer hitch assembly and a cargo box. There were two 2X4s affixed to the hitch assembly that provided a footing for the box. I extended the wooden footings out enough to add a cross piece to act as a platform for a custom bike rack. The bike sat upright at the very back of the rig with the wheels on the extended platform,. Some thread stock and a cool little swivel joint attached from the cargo box to the frame stabilized the bike. I was very pleased with my clever, yet kludged design. IT DIDN’T WORK WORTH A DARN. Too much weight, too far out on the platform. 

So, I turned to conventional, mass produced solutions. The first thought was one of those racks that mount into the receiver of the trailer hitch. You see a lot of those on all kinds of vehicles. That idea was immediately scrapped for my rig – only because I don’t have a receiver type mount. Just an old-style ball. Nor did I have a rear mounted spare (it’s underneath) and there just doesn’t seem to be room on the roof with all the vents and an additional storage container (I actually mounted my bike on the roof for about two weeks while the ladder mounted rack was on order. It was a pain to get the bike on and off from there). 

The other, less common solution I had seen was a ladder mounted rack. The bikes I had seen on a ladder rack looked secure and accessible, and it looked like an overall clean solution. The obvious disadvantage is that you can’t get to the roof with the bikes in place. Which portends the question; How easy is it to mount and dismount the bikes and the rack? 

I did not really see any better solution at the time, so I decided to try a ladder rack. Just recently though, a member (Jim Hendricks) posted the idea of a front bumper mounted rack. That seems like a real good idea. You can keep an eye on the beast. 

Anyway, here are some thoughts on the ladder mounted rack system I selected:


Complete package just removed from the box
(forgot the instruction booklet and 3 sponge rubber doohickies for placing anywhere on the frame where it might rub)

 


Just the rack

 

I wanted to see a ladder rack up close and personal, so a trip to Camping World was in order. Camping World had only one brand of ladder mounted rack system – Topline. The first thing you should know is that Topline bills their ladder mounted rack as a “Fits any ladder… any make… any model… any year” solution. Not exactly. 

It turns out there are two versions of the “Fits any ladder… any make… any model… any year” rack. One version for ladders with elliptical or square steps and one version for ladders with round steps. This is not mentioned anywhere on the product page on Topline’s website, nor is it mentioned on the retail box at Camping World, except on the BACK of the box, which I read AFTER getting the unit home. According to Topline, 90% of all ladders on the market have the elliptical/square steps, so that’s all distributors tend to carry. They told me this when I called them to place a special order for the rack that fits the round steps of my rig, after returning the incorrect rack to Camping World. After Camping World told me they did have the correct model, which they didn’t. 

That makes me wonder how many Toy Houses have elliptical/square as opposed to round steps. Obviously a choice made by the coachbuilder.

 


Closeup of attachment points


Toy House ladder, prior to installation

 

THE GOOD

Pricing

The Topline ladder mounted racks sell in the $50 or so range. ($53.95 Presidents Club price at CW, and 49.95 in a recent Campers Choice catalog). The quality of construction of the ladder itself and the accompanying accessories (all which seem good) would make this, IMHO, a reasonable bargain. 

Mounting the rack

This is the easy part. The rack mounts to the RV ladder pretty much with the flick of your wrist. Topline says no tools required and they mean it. You put the rack at right angles to one of the upper rungs, slip the open ended terminator of the rack over the rung, and lower it until the balance of the rack presses against the other rungs on the ladder. It comes off just as easily. 

Mounting the bike(s)

The rack has two saddles, in a fixed position, for two bikes. I like the idea that the saddles are fixed. The very expensive Thule rack for my old Accord did not have fixed saddles, so the first thing I had to do was go out and buy some clamps to keep them from slipping down the rack while traveling. 

Look at your bike. You see that vertical frame tube about in the middle of the bike, running from the top to the bottom? That’s the part that attaches to the rack. You mount the bike by turning it on its end, rear tire in the air, and lift the bike high enough to set it down on the rack, on the aforementioned tube. From there it’s mostly a matter of securing the bike to the ladder with the included tie down straps – which are plentiful and of apparent good quality. 

One thing. Topline apparently knows that bikes falling of racks on the freeway can cause all kinds of trouble – and lawsuits. They therefore make it very clear that certain steps MUST be followed in order to properly secure the bike(s). They tell you that your RV ladder must be in good shape – securely attached to the RV and no bends in the aluminum piping of the ladder. They tell you the bike must be CENTERED over the rack (rear axle of bike must be centered between the rungs). They tell you not to let the bike hang out the sides of the RV beyond the mirrors.  They repeatedly tell you to TIGHTEN THE STRAPS. Good advice all around.

 

Rack mounted on ladder. It's E-Z!


Bike in place with all straps secure.
Notice the slight hangover

 

THE BAD

The only real problem I had was following all of their warnings simultaneously. The documentation shows a picture of a bike mounted on the ladder rack with both its rear axle centered over the ladder AND not protruding too far out the side of the camper. 

I could not do both things at once. If I centered the axle properly, the bike was too far to one side and the front wheel stuck out about 20” beyond the corner of the Toyhouse. Removing the front wheel solved the “sticking out” problem but created a “I don’t want to have to pull the wheel everytime and where do I store it anyway?” problem. I tried flipping the bike so that the front wheel was inboard. Then the Saddle was sticking out about 10”. Not as bad. I opted for this position and just lower the seat each time the bike is mounted. Too completely avoid the overhang problem I have to place the bike in the saddle not quite centered. I then use extra tie-downs to insure the bike does not tilt out of position since it’s not dead centered. You with me so far? 

You may not have this problem though, for two reasons; 1) I am fairly tall (6’ 2”) and have a very tall bike, and, I raise the seat to the very end of travel. In other words, I’m a mutant. 2) It all depends on where the coach builder mounted your ladder. The closer the ladder is to the edge of the Toyhouse, the greater the chances of protrusion.

 


Wide view. You can still open the cargo doors!

Open the Cargo Bay doors HAL


Closeup to show off where bike is strapped.
The key to this bike rack seems to be taking your time the first time through and tieing down any point where the bike(s) may be loose and flop around.


Using the spare saddle as a chair holder. With two bikes,

a chair or two may go in between. Maybe.

 

THE UGLY

For all the talk in the instructions about how to properly mount your bikes, Topline proceeds to show the ugliest, most useless picture of a properly mounted bike! You know what happens to a drawing when it is photocopied, and then the photocopy is photocopied? The Topline illustrations look like about a 100th generation copy. Clean it up guys!

 

Summary

I like my new bike rack. It’s a clean, solid design, even considering the aforementioned anomalies. If anything changes after a month of use I’ll make another posting.

 

See them at www.toplinemfg.com