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Gski 06-02-2019 03:38 AM

144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
I have learned a lot from so many of build threads on this site, which means it is time to start giving back. If you are expecting another amazing build (or build thread), well this isnít likely to be it.

Our 2019 RWD 144Ē HR sprinter arrived in May, and the build has started as it will go on: slowly.

Most things in our dream come in twos: two people, two mountain bikes, two folding kayaks, two burner stove. The most notable exception is that we canít really do trips with just two pairs of skis.

If our design doesnít suit your needs, donít worry, it suits us.

I stole more from traipsingabout.com than anywhere else, but a lot of you on this forum will see your ideas borrowed, re-purposed, twisted, or otherwise used without adequate thanks. I owe you for sharing what went right and, often more usefully, what went wrong.

Our core layout is the now-common garage style with two sliders. Fresh and hot water tanks will be near the centreline in the garage so they donít freeze in winter mode. The tanks will be framed-in, partly to support the bed, but also to protect bikes from loose payload. The original idea was to have a big open garage, but we slowly realized that dividing the space would let us carry more gear. Imagine traipsing about with tanks under the central storage unit.

A small fridge, storage, and a bench/head will go on the windowless port side, and a storage cabinet/sink/workspace will block the aft half of the door. More port-side storage on the bed platform will make the bed narrower and eliminate the need for upper cabinets.

Because I studied engineering way back when, the build will be complex. After 15 years with a small sailboat, I have experience in cramming life into small spaces and a lot of nautical terminology to add confusion to conversations.

You have been warned.

Gski 06-02-2019 04:52 AM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
Step one of the build was taping out the plan and checking the design inside the actual van.

Step two is insulating the garage area, so we can start building the two most essential elements: a bed and a bike rack.

This US built van came with anti-vibration material (like rattletrap, fatmax, etc) in the critical places. Of the four 2019 cargo vans I have been inside, this one has much more of this material than the others combined. First noise reduction task complete, with no labour from me.

We chose thinsulate SM600-L (thanks Hein) because it does a good job with sound deadening and it should be adequate for winter glamping.

After sitting in an empty van in full sunlight on a 32C day, it became clear that the metal ribs transfer heat past the insulation, which makes me believe I donít need to go crazy here.

The steel shell is fairly conductive, but nothing compared to the aluminum L track. Before insulating, the steel and aluminum got too hot to touch. After insulating half the van walls, both steel and aluminum were slightly better.

As many people have said, a thermal break between the van and the 8020 aluminum structure is essential. My first idea of using PVC (aka vinyl flooring) as a thermal break may not work as as PVC flows at about 70C. Donít tell the beautiful one, but I will be sneaking the spare cooking thermometer down to the van to measure just how hot the metal gets.

It will take an age to insulate the whole van, as the sections that need glue have to be done early in the morning while the sheet metal is cool enough for 3M 90. We got the walls of the back half of the van done in four hours working time. The second side took only an hour as we had learned some tricks by then. We should be good at this by the time we never need to do this again.

We are not insulating the floor, as the van is reasonably quiet already. We will eventually add decorative (and mildly insulating) flooring to the parts of the floor that are exposed, but that is far in the future.

We are using reflectix and magnets for temporary window and skylight covers, but donít see a need to use it as a vapour barrier in the walls and ceiling.


I took more photos of the thinsulate in place and they look just everyone elseís photos. Here is the loadable wheel arch, which is new.

sanomechanic 06-02-2019 02:53 PM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
Thanks for the update

Surveillance Van 06-05-2019 03:34 PM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
Looking forward to seeing pictures with this build.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

Gski 06-09-2019 11:20 PM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
The bed platform is in!

Well, temporarily, as this was my first experience with 8020 and I learned some things. We will get the bike mounts in (without the slider for now) and do some practice glamping to see how well the bed layout suits us. I have only 2.5Ē head clearance sitting fully upright in bed: once the ceiling and mattress are in, that may not be ideal. The top of the plywood is currently 39Ē above the factory wooden floor.


The 1010 (1Ē) aluminum is definitely strong enough for a van conversion. There are 1030 pieces to provide stiffness around heavy items (fridge, water tanks, batteries. The big downside of 1010 is the limited connector selection. I didnít think the inability to slide in carriage bolts would become inconvenient this early in the build. And I definitely should have ordered some roll in t nuts, as I had to disassemble sections and remake them more often than I expected.

Most commercial RVís have been built to current government safety standards (none!), but as a person who has used up eight lives already, I am hoping to get close to passenger car safety standards. My van, my choice.

You can see red nylon climbing slings around the bed posts. The bed frame is only lightly attached to the walls to allow the van to flex. Basically about 2000lbf forward will break the bed free along with the forward floor cabinets that are Ďsuspendedí from the 1030 cross bar. At this force level, the van is no longer drivable, possibly totalled, so the focus changes to protecting passengers.

The slings will gently bring all the payload to rest, by stretching about 6Ē in a head-on collision. That extra stopping distance will reduce the peak load in the van walls, which should allow them to absorb enough energy to keep heavy items away from humans. Think of it as a crumple zone for payload, except inside out.

The central bed supports are going to be the frame for floor level water tanks (with storage above), and there is more 1030 on the floor to ensure the plastic tanks will travel directly forward and not upwards into the bed platform. By having a central support, I was able to make the bed platform out of 1/2Ē plywood. The tank frames will also protect the bikes (eventually on a sliding tray on the port side) from stray cargo. The folding kayaks will be on a starboard side slider. The installation of the sliders will be tricky, so that has to wait until we confirm that the bed height and shape will work. I only want to do that install twice!


I will definitively reshape the corners of the bed platform during the next reassembly. The corners are a bruise hazard and it is difficult for my partner to open the back door from the bed (I can reach around the plywood, her arms are shorter).

Gski 06-12-2019 07:02 PM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
I have road tested the bed platform and partial insulation.

Adding thinsulate to the aft walls and the wheel covers has definitely made the van quieter. Road testing on clay, gravel, and coarse pavement shows a big gain in aural comfort.

There is still an annoying loud spray noise from the starboard side on wet roads and puddles. My guess is that it is coming from the aft edge of the side door step, which is bare metal on both sides.

I also hear occasional loud pings from gravel, but these arenít from the wheel wells, which now make a muffled thud noise. Not sure where the pings are coming from, but with luck I will eventually insulate the right spot.

Loosely covering the skylights with reflectix makes the van much cooler inside. I will attach the magnets properly as the painters tape experiment wonít last long; the magnets are on the back side of the reflectix so they donít scratch the van or grip too hard.

It seems like the bed platform is not interfering with the flexing of the van on bumps. Fingers crossed that I got this right.

Gski 06-29-2019 03:25 AM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
We did a mini-roadtrip to test the half-insulated van.

Driving is vastly quieter with the bed mattress installed. Previously, sound was bouncing between the bare metal ceiling and the plywood bed platform, enhancing every noise.

Insulating the lower walls made a dramatic sound difference, but adding the bed mattress is probably equally effective.

In terms of heat on a sunny day, the roof is going to be the big influence. Even with the skylights covered, I can feel the heat radiating down from the bare metal ceiling, which is too hot to touch. It is very obvious which wall sections are insulated and which arenít, but this is a minor effect on a sunny day.

Covering the glass is the biggest heat effect so far, maybe five times more effective than the wall insulation. Doing anything at all to the ceiling will probably be as dramatic as covering the windows.

We are really looking forward to getting the vent holes done, as this will let us cool our rolling greenhouse down.

Gski 06-29-2019 04:36 AM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
The bike slider is done!

Well, version 0.9 is in and it works. It came out slightly narrower than designed after I learned a new way to make mistakes with a jigsaw, but the bikes still fit nicely.


We stole the core idea from Traipsing About, and then stole some tweaks from at least ten other people who built on their ideas.

The tray is 0.5Ē malaysian birch plywood, with steel corner braces and glue used to attach the sides to the base. It feels a bit flexible on its own, but is suitably rigid once bolted to the sliders. The corner braces work well enough that I was able to leave the front and back walls off the box.

The sliders are the extra-heavy duty Knape and Vogt 9208 locking version and are rattle free (so far) when locked closed. Expensive, but worth it. The lock on one side is a bit finicky to release, but with luck will wear into happiness.

The sliders are mounted to two 1030 aluminum rails (1Ēx3Ē 8020). These are ridiculously over-strength for the purpose, but the adjustability makes it worth the cost. Installing was painless: preload five bolts on a slider, push it into the 8020 t slot from the end, and tighten where it needs to be.

When the wood tray came out too narrow, I loosened two bolts, slid one rail outboard to perfectly fit a very imperfect tray, and tightened in place. The photo shows a sheet of 1/4Ē plywood stuck in the gap, which is temporary to test fit.

The first (outboard) bike faces forward, with the forks turned to make the bars fit. The block angles the fork mount to lean that bike inboard, which keeps the pedal from overhanging the wheel arch too much, and also makes a bigger space to store the loose front wheel.

The fork mounts are RockyMounts DriveShaft HM. They are not cheap, but eliminate the challenge of holding the bike still while sliding a thru-axle into position. Open the mount, drop the fork with pre-installed axle in the slot, and flip the lever shut: magic. As a bonus, I no longer need clearance space to slide the axle in.


The forward facing bike has a visible lean, which keeps the pedal from stealing too much of the storage space in the wheel arch.


The door clearance can be adjusted by sliding the 1030 rails forward or backwards. Bikes are getting longer every year, and we donít want a major van rebuild when we get our next bikes.


The second bike has the fork mount raised to get the bars as high as possible, which means the overhanging bar blocks less of the central storage area.

We could have used 1020 rails and got all of the adjustability at lower cost, but the extra inch of height makes a relatively flat surface beside the tray. When we are using it for transporting anything other than bikes, that flat area will be convenient. The rails take up a lot of horizontal space (2Ē total), but we needed width for pedal clearance anyway. The loose wood block in the photo will be used to raise the rear tire of the first bike, improving the clearance from the second bikeís fork crown.

We used the bke tray as a test for the polyurethane we selected for our (future) birch plywood cabinet faces. I can definitely say the cabinets will be finished differently, but I am not sure if we picked the wrong polyurethane or just applied it wrong.

We are using chunks of a pool noodle (cheap, stiff, closed cell foam) to keep the rear wheels and loose front wheels from moving around. These will be replaced by a more permanent solution after a testing period.

Itís a long weekend, so time to start testing!

MERLEANDSARAH 06-29-2019 05:03 AM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
Thanks for the continuous write-up. It's always nice to see what people are doing the same and differently.

Gski 07-03-2019 06:05 AM

Re: 144 HR 2fer: two people, two bikes, two kayaks
We got a chance to drive up the hill and camp in a friendís driveway for a test of the build so far. We had a high of 28C in the valley where we live and a low of 8C overnight. Summer went for a holiday without us, apparently, but it was good to get April conditions to test in.

The milliard folding mattress was very comfortable, by our standards. It folds in three, which has been very convenient while working on the van. It is only 4Ē thick, which lets me sit up in bed with reasonable clearance. The platform is 39Ē above the stock floor, and I am 5í8Ē. More mattress detail here: https://www.milliardbedding.com/prod...p-bottom-full/
This mattress was cheaper than buying foam to make a custom solution. The cover unzips so we can cut away some foam to improve the fit.

Our choice of a summer weight duvet did not go well at 8C, so we added a sleeping bag on top. The beautiful one was curious why I chose a duvet that is less warm than what we use in the house, and I didnít have a good answer.

We need to come up with some bedside storage as well. Headlamps, phones, and clothes need to be accessible while we sleep. There is lots of space beside the full (74Ēx52Ē) mattress, but we need to do something with it. There are about 20 major projects higher on the priority list, including a step to get up into the bed.

The factory floor was uncomfortably cold, even with socks on. The original plan was to add a foam, rubber, or pvc layer to the 10 square feet of floor that will be exposed. We are now thinking of upping the insulation a bit.

The bike tray worked very well. No rattles, the bikes stay still on bumpy roads, and it is quick to load/unload. The brilliant idea of leaving off the end walls of the tray makes it very easy to clean the mud off the tray at the end of the weekend. It also allows mud to drip out of the tray onto the van floor, where it is much harder to clean up. Oops.

It is amazingly convenient to have a private changing area at the end of the ride. It is also nice to have the bikes securely out of sight in a locked and alarmed van while we made a stop for some post-ride pain au chocolat.

The basic bed layout is now final. Next up, building cabinets.

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