Regularly travelling to different locations with your MTB is a great way to test your skills, step out of your comfort zone, and escape your daily routine. But public transport and overnight hotel stays can quickly become economically taxing. Not to mention the additional organisation involved in such endeavours. Thankfully, vanlife offers a perfect solution to this conundrum.
By day, Robert works a standard job as a professional builder/carpenter. But outside of the 9 to 5, he devotes all of his spare time to MTB.
Unhappy with how restricted he felt, Robert started building vans several years ago to accommodate his MTB trips. For him, vanlife is all about getting out, riding, and adventure. The van has everything he and his bikes could possibly need, which enables him to spontaneously get up and jet off whenever he feels like it.
The van in question is a Mercedes Sprinter Short Wheel Base with High Roof. Robert bought it from a dealer in Manchester. Beforehand, it was owned by a crane company that works on railway repairs.
The bright red Sprinter is not Robert’s first van conversion, but he argues that it’s definitely the best. He’s learned from past mistakes and now has a better understanding of what he needs from a MTB van.
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- Mercedes Sprinter SWB High Top with 313 CDI
- Elite Wheels Black Rhino Alloys– These are fitted to BF Goodrich tyres.
Kitchen and Appliances
- Kitchen pod– Made by The Camper Company. As a professional carpenter, Robert considered building building a kitchen by himself but with all of the labour and material costs, it wouldn’t be economically viable. It made more sense to buy a premade pod, and he’s really happy with the outcome.
- Dometic CRX50 fridge
- 2 burner gas hob
- Sink– This can be hidden using a glass sink cover.
- Raised bed– Unlike most van designs, Robert hasn’t blocked in the bed. This means the underneath storage space can be access from both inside and outside of the van. As it stands, the space is big enough for approximately 3 – 4 MTB. The base itself is made from Unistrut, metal brackets used by electricians for racking. He chose this option as it’s easy to build up but also easy to remove if necessary.
- Memory foam mattress– Bought from eBay and cut to size.
- Reading lights
- 2 x Swivel seats
- Lagoon swivel table– This can be pivoted inside or outside of the van. It works really well as a dining table or study space. It also unclips from the floor and can be mounted onto the side of the kitchen unit to create more space in the van.
- iPad bracket– Perfect for watching movies either in bed or sitting on the swivel seats.
Power and Electrical
- Sony 10.9 stereo
- Camera system– This dash-cam records everything that happens while driving. It has lenses at the front and back of the van, plus a rear camera for reversing.
- Solar panel– Located on the roof of the van.
- Solar charge controller– This allows Robert to set timers and monitor the charging rate of the solar panel.
- CO2 meter
- 1500-watt Inverter– This nifty device allows Robert to charge his e-Bike.
- Edecoa inverter controller
- LED spotlights
- USB outlets
- 2 x 110-amp-hour New Max batteries– One battery under each seat.
- Kill switch– For safety purposes.
Heating and Cooling
- Diesel heater– This is located underneath the kitchen unit. There are adjustable outlets dotted around the van.
- Diesel heater controller– Instead of the industry-standard German diesel controllers, Robert opted for a cheap Chinese alternative that he found on eBay for £80. So far he’s had no problems with it and says there’s no way he’s going to buy an £800/900 heater when he can get a cheaper one and replace it around 10 times for the same price.
- Fire extinguisher
- Window blinds
Cabinetry and Finishes
- Overhead cupboards
- Overhead bins– Robert took this idea from an American company called Sink Vans. He took inch-by-inch box section steel, welded it up, and then clad it with plywood.
- Hessian material– Throughout the van, Robert has used hessian material that he bought from eBay. It’s hard-wearing yet nice-looking, apparently it’s what Ikea uses for a lot of their furniture.
- Black rubber penny coin design flooring– As well as being robust, this floor is super easy to clean which means Robert doesn’t have to worry about bringing muddy MTBs or equipment into the van.
- Black mat– In the front driver’s cabin, Robert has put down a large car mat. It cost around £40, which is much cheaper than getting the section properly carpeted.
- No bulkhead– Initially Robert planned to incorporate a bulkhead into their van, but he soon realised that he really enjoys being able to walk from the back to the front without banging his head. So for now he’s left it as is.
- 35 litre tank– Situated in the garage space, the water tank has a handy screw top to allow for easy filling.
- Water pump
- No hot water– At the minute the van only runs cold water. In previous van conversions, Robert never really used the hot water. If he wants to make a tea or coffee, he can just boil some water on the hob.
- Speakers– According to Robert, it was extremely hard work wiring the speaker cables down the doors, under the floor and then all the way across the van. But it was worth it in the long run.
- Bike T track
- Blok Pod bike axel stands– These slot into the T track and can then be used to hold Roberts MTBs.
- Compressor– Housed in a small compartment box, Rob incorporated a MTB tyre compressor into the back of his van. Using a hose, you attach one end to the compressor and the other to a tyre pressure gauge. Now you can easily and quickly fill tyres up or let them down.
- Jet wash– This is connected to the water pump, it’s ideal for hosing down muddy MTBs.
- Park tool– This is affixed to one of the garage doors and allows Robert to mount his bike, making it easier for him to work on.
- Hoop rail– For hanging bags on.
- Large LED light– Large LED light – This is mounted to the roof of the van. It’s extremely handy during daylight savings when it gets dark early. It also serves as a security deterrent.
- Running board– This is fitted in front of the sliding side door, it makes stepping in and out of the van a little bit easier.
- 2 x Blackout glass windows– Located on each side of the van. The window next to the kitchen has a small opener that helps to ventilate the van while cooking.
- Fiama F45 awning track– This model is designed for a medium wheelbase van, but it fits Robert’s short wheel base perfectly. He had to adapt the set-up by fitting a roof rack to the top of his van and then affixing the Fiama to the rack.
- Awning– This is easily assembled using a winder and a series of clips that are attached to the side of the van.
- Security bolts– These small bolts add an extra layer of security to the van. This is important for Robert because he’s often carrying MTBs that are worth thousands of pounds.