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Trailer, ute or van is the never ending question on bike transport. Our Digital Editor Bernie den Hertog tells us how he built his Mercedes Sprinter to haul dirtbikes.

Getting from home to out bush is not as simple as most may think. While a ute with a bike on the back is the go-to method of transport for most, it’s not without its drawbacks. The bikes and gear are exposed to the elements, space is limited, they are often high and cumbersome to load and prone to theft. But a Mercedes Sprinter dirtbike hauler might be a better option.

Enter the humble van. They allow everything to be brought along including the kitchen sink, plus it’s all “outta sight outta mind”. Just don’t throw huge bike stickers on your van advertising its contents!

What van will ultimately come down to budget and your requirements. We started out by hiring a few first to get a feel for scale and how this would work with the all-important dirt bikes.

The common Hi-Ace was simply too small, the driving position cramped and storage limited. The larger VW / Sprinter / Fiat / Ford vans are much more practical for bike haulage and come in many flavours. Width is a critical factor if the aim is to stack dirt bikes, three is the perfect number.

Having done my research, we ended up buying a Mercedes MWB 319 High Roof Sprinter 4×4. The 4×4 option is worth chasing after, the downside is a bit taller floor height but nothing compared to loading a Ute.

The width is important on any vehicle. If you can fit two bikes side by side without handlebars touching then you’re gold. If not, you may need to turn one bar slightly so they don’t kiss during transport. Three bikes will fit comfortably in most, as the middle one pushes forward enough to clear the handlebars.

The key for me is to load bikes without any disassembly, ease of use is critical. I have many mates that put their bikes in backwards, take out front axles, or try to load them on a Mo-tow setup on the tow ball. These are all undesirable as it becomes too much of a hassle.


Vans also come in a variety of heights. In the case of Sprinters normal height is 1.54m, high option is 1.9m and super high has a fibreglass roof. A normal roof is workable and our first Sprinter had this. For my 1.9m high frame I can lean over and still load bikes. The pick of the sizes is the high roof IMHO as this allows me to stand straight up, and utilise the extra height for bed and storage space.

Another consideration is sliding doors. This is great for access and should not be understated. It is possible to have two sliding doors (opening up both sides) which my first van had and was brilliant as we could access from both sides.


We had lots of kids so for our large family we purchased a row of four seats, located this behind the front seat, and bought a middle “dicky” seat. The kids then all jumped onto said seat, and happily watched movies during long trips. The bikes were all supported against said seat row, tied to the wall, one strap each side. This setup worked great for years. I made the four row seat demountable, so I could take it out if needed.

The key takeaway point here is versatility. You don’t want your van to be locked into any fit out. Being able to pull a box or seat row out when required has huge advantages and is something to consider, especially when you upgrade to a newer car.

With kids come mountain bikes and small dirt bikes. We were able to bring seven pushbikes with us, as well as cart up to five bikes in the rear. I lined the rear with plywood and put shelves up allowing all sorts of tie down points and to lean bike handlebars to the sides. Nowadays the kids don’t want to tag along, so the van has been revised to seat two which allows us to focus more on the camper arrangement.


The big mistake people make is fitting out a van into a camper they think they can spend weeks travelling in. The primary purpose of a van is its ability to change over time and meet your changing needs. It’s a good idea to maintain the van’s versatility.

Most of us bike types have pretty rough and simple setups. Most racer types have only a basic van and straps, it seems the fancier setups are few and far between for riders.


A SWB is simply too small. A MWB is the size of a large car and will fit in a normal carpark albeit hanging out slightly. They drive like a normal car, and the medium is the ideal size IMHO.

LWB or bigger becomes an additional metre in length but affords little assistance in the fit out or bike storage and this in turn dictates the layout and possibilities. My mate had fitted out a Super LWB and while it is impressive what you can fit in there, it literally becomes a bus. You probably won’t’ ever fit into any basement parking, but for day-to-day manoeuvrability parking and living with, the MWB is my pick. I laboured for many days looking at options and configurations and finally conceded that the extra length is not that helpful.


For me it’s a pretty simple formula, bikes go in the rear. Typically two are loaded and in the van at all times in middle and left side, leaving an aisle to the right that I can access my riding gear. Also adventure bikes fit but as they are much taller, this often prevents any bed over bikes arrangement. I like to keep it clear to walk in and out of.

The middle becomes my bed and storage box. My current van is the high roof, so the bed could be raised higher than the bikes front mudguards. The size of the bed was dictated by the middle bikes headlight to the back of the drivers’ seat. Basically, it’s a double mattress on top and a bit squishy when you slam the sliding door.

I keep the mattress in its cover that it came in from the shop as you inevitably store bike gear, gloves and helmet there when you’re gearing up. It’s a giant shelf and thinking you won’t do that is folly. The cover keeps the dirt out. Simply unzip to slip into the sheets when required.

So, imagine the rear of the van as having 3 bikes comfortably. I have rear wheel arch storage boxes. I keep my loading ramp to the rear RHS for easy access at all times, stored vertically. Helmets hang from racks up top LHS.

Within the middle of the van is a large plywood box with nooks and drawers. I’ve dreamt of having a “professional” version for years, but the reality is you don’t want it too fancy for various reasons.

First it needs to be removable. Mine simply screws into the timber floor with 3 screws. It’s easy to undo and pull the box out if ever required and the van is completely empty again.

Second, big drawers only add weight and little gain. I simply use large plastic tubs on a few shelves for easy access to pantry food, cutlery and plates etc. I keep other shelves aside for photography gear in a Pelican case, a 20L jerry of water and sundry items including tools, fridge and portable stove.

I have seen many pull out kitchen setups but again it seems overkill to me, as they rarely get used and you don’t need much more beyond a fridge 95% of the time. I use a small 30L drawer fridge which is perfect. As I don’t have a second sliding door I have modified this to store a chainsaw behind the middle bikes front wheel. Riding gear in the rear RHS shelves, and the leftover corner behind the drivers’ seat is accessed from the top to store winter blankets, packraft and pillows.

A plastic table and chair is stored neatly behind the passengers’ seat, an often unused storage that fits these on their side just nicely.

A second battery setup sits between the two front seats in a plywood box with inverter, charging cables and 240v and solar setup to run my winch and fridge and is always charged by the solar panel. It’s all portable so it can be taken out and setup in a new van as required. This also serves as our step up to the bed which is quite high now but 650mm below the roof so you can still sit up in bed.

A lot of people are concerned about vapour /fumes from the bikes. I have no issue with the smell or vapour and sleep regularly with everything in there.

Hopefully I’ve explained it enough to understand and the rationale behind it. Suspension seats are highly recommended. I love my 4×4 and would never go back but it’s not a deal breaker. You don’t often go bush bashing with a van as its more about getting bikes out bush vs going hard core but having that ability means you can rescue yourself once the rain sets in or accessing beaches etc.