Tongue Weight–A Cautionary Tale

Our T@G is very lightweight and we pull it with mid-sized SUV, so we did not anticipate any towing issues. Our solution for hauling bikes created an issue related to tongue weight. Our earlier post, Bikes and Teardrop Camping–Our Solution, has been modified to include this new information. While what we originally had did not work, changing to a different receiver has been confirmed by E-Trailer to do the job!

We have hauled bikes with our teardrop by using a dual receiver, which enabled us to put a bike rack on the back of our SUV.

Bikes Towed with our Teardrop

When we ordered the bike rack, a customer service rep at E-Trailer explained that our dual hitch was splitting the towing capacity of the dual hitch into two amounts, each component one half of the capacity of the hitch.

Our dual hitch has a capacity of 400 lbs, so each component would have a capacity of 200 lbs.  Our trailer’s tongue weight is 160 lbs with LP and battery (less than 200 lbs) and our bike rack plus bikes weighed 100 lbs (again less than 200 lbs).

We also considered the capacity of our towing vehicle, which is 350 lbs.  One half of 350 is 175 lbs and as this is under the weight of our trailer for one component and the bikes for the other, we thought we were okay.

What we did not initially understand is that by using a dual hitch, the overall capacity of our towing vehicle was reduced.  My husband ordered the hitch on-line and was not aware of the impact of the hitch on tongue weight.   This left our towing vehicle with a capacity of 175 lbs and the tongue weight of our towing was 240 lbs.

Fortunately, we received feedback from members of camping groups on Facebook who are more knowledgeable than we and they alerted us to this problem.  However, because of the multiple things to consider, we were quite confused.

As I understand it now, if using a dual hitch, you have to compare the tongue weight of what you are hauling against two separate limitations.

1) The tongue weight capacity of the tow vehicle, reduced by 50% because the dual hitch is used.  In our case, this was 175 lbs.  Our total tongue weight was 240 lbs, and we had a real problem here.

2) The tongue weight of the dual hitch.  Our hitch has a tongue weight capacity of 400 lbs, with 200 lbs for each half.  At 160 for the trailer and 100 for the bikes, we did not have an issue with the hitch.

Because our SUV has a lower tongue weight capacity, it is the capacity that  must be used when determining our hauling weight.

We hauled our bikes on two camping trips that were relatively close to home.  The car handled well and there did not appear to be problems with the towing.  However, we had difficulty getting the leveling wheel off and on.   Also, the back tires on our SUV developed cupping. We had to replace our tires on the back sooner than we needed to replace the front tires.  We do not know that the excess tongue weight caused the tire issue, but we think it is the likely reason.

Now the good news!  I was communicating earlier with James Phipps, who is in a couple of teardrop groups on Facebook.  James and I communicated quite extensively about his concerns and he posed a question to E-Trailer to confirm his theory.  They confirmed that he was correct regarding the tongue weight issue but also offered two solutions that should be viable.  The response E-Trailer sent to James is below.

We could haul our bikes in much the same manner as we have in the past without exceeding tongue weight capacity if we just use a multipurpose ball mount instead of the dual hitch extender.

I would never have guessed that such a simple change could make such a difference.  If we were to use option 1 below, we would have a tongue weight of approximately 260 lbs and a capacity of our original 350 lbs. and will be well within our capacity.  Thank  you James for this information!

Options for hauling bikes

 

Bikes and Teardrop Camping–Our Solution

We implemented this process for towing our bikes with our camper, but have since learned that we were exceeding the tongue weight limits of our tow vehicle because of the dual hitch. This could work for those whose tow vehicle has a high tongue weight capacity, but does not work for us. See my follow-up post, Tongue Weight–A Cautionary Tale. A change to a different receiver will eliminate the tongue weight issue.

Soon after we began camping, we saw how nice it would be to have bikes with us on our trips.  We camp with friends who have much larger equipment and they routinely carry bikes, but it seemed a stretch for us.  We rented bikes on a couple of occasions and I was resigned to that option, but my husband kept searching for a solution.

He considered mounting them on the back of the camper, but we read that it is not a good idea to put a bike on the back.  We never saw any great options for an installation on top.  He had an idea of a dual receiver and was considering having a machinist make one but found a dual hitch on-line.  Below is the hitch that we used.  We have since learned that it reduces the overall tongue weight capacity of our vehicle by 50% and another hitch should be used.  See E-Trailer response below.

Our receiver caused a tongue weight issue, but according to E-Trailer, a change to a different receiver will enable us to carry our bikes.  We would choose Option 1.

Tongue weight limitations should be considered before any additional towing options are implemented.  See my post, Tongue Weight–A Cautionary Tale for additional information.

Options for hauling bikes
We exceeded our tongue weight capacity with this receiver

Next, we needed a bike rack that would work with both the camper and the hitch.  We discussed it in depth with a Customer Service Rep at E-Trailer and she helped us select a rack to carry our two bikes.

We purchased a Thule Vertex 2, 1 1/4-2 model bike rack.  Our bikes weigh about 30 pounds and the rack weighs 70 pounds.   The rack does a good job of carrying our bikes, but it does add extra steps in our hitching and unhitching process.

Bike Rack in Open Position

When we first set it up, the bikes moved around too much, which made me quite nervous.  However, they can be secured very well with two short bungee cords (purchased separately) and the adjustable strap that came with the bike rack.

Bike Rack and Securing Accessories

We had to add extenders to our safety chains because the dual hitch is longer than the standard.  We purchased the chain extenders and 3/8″ threaded connectors at Lowes.  We only use the dual hitch and extended chains if we are hauling our bikes.

Our Steps to Tow Bikes With Teardrop

  • Insert hitch into tow vehicle receiver using locking pins (one to tow vehicle and other to bike rack).
  • Attach camper to bottom receiver using appropriate-sized ball (not included with receiver).
  • Attach bike rack to top and insert locking pin (not included with receiver).
  • Attach largest bike to rack first and stabilize front and back wheel using a short bungee cord.
  • Attach second bike to bike rack and stabilize front and back wheel using second short bungee cord.  You may have to move the pedals a bit so they can fit snugly.
  • Wrap adjustable strap around both bikes and tighten the straps snugly while pulling bike frames toward the tow vehicle.
  • Hitching or unhitching with the bike rack adds approximately ten minutes to the process.

The process is reversed for the unhitch process.  We have taken our bikes on a couple camping trips and was not aware of issues with this method of transport.  We later learned about our tongue weight issue, but a change to a different receiver should solve the problem.

There are, no doubt, other ways to haul bikes with teardrops, but this has worked very well for us.  We hope it will help others who are interested in taking their bikes on camping trips.

Happy Camping!

 

Road Trip–A Wedding and the Alamo

We built a fairly elaborate road trip around a wedding we were attending in Houston. The teardrop was considered for the trip, but June in Texas would be very hot and we wanted to be in town for the many festivities. Our road trip focused on the cities of Lafayette, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; and San Antonio, Texas.

 

Houston Sightseeing

We drove straight through to Houston and on a longer path because of a tropical depression in the Gulf. It was almost 12 hours in the car and a record for me, however, we were not as exhausted as I would have imagined.  That night, we went out for dinner at the famous (with Houston family members) restaurant, Los Tios.

The next day some family members took us on a tour of Houston.  It was my first trip to Houston and it was greener and far more attractive than expected.  We spent most of our time in the downtown museum district.  There were enormous live oaks everywhere, which are my favorite trees.

With Our Hosts under Live Oak Trees

We rode a train around an enormous park in the area and visited the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science.  I have visited many museums around the world and have never seen so many dinosaurs in one place.  The Museum of Natural Science was very impressive.

Train Ride
Piece in Ron Mueck Exhibit
Only Triceratops Mummy in the World

The Wedding

The rest of our time in Houston was spent on wedding activities.  There was a bridesmaid’s brunch the next morning and a rehearsal dinner that night.  The wedding was the next evening and it was beautiful.  The bride and groom were so happy!   The reception was at River Oaks Country Club and included an awesome band, delicious food, and an open bar.  There were also Star Wars characters and light sabers, which the bride arranged as a surprise to the groom. We had breakfast with family the next day and then were on our way to San Antonio.

Rehearsal Dinner
Mr. & Mrs. John Barrere

San Antonio

Our hotel in San Antonio was on the outskirts of town.  We knew we wanted to see Riverwalk and the Alamo but did not realize that the Alamo was in the same area as River Walk.  It would have been much more convenient to have stayed at one of the Riverwalk hotels. If we go again, we will do that.

We took a Uber to Riverwalk that first night because we were not familiar with the area and wanted to be able to have a couple of drinks.  Riverwalk is very cool!  We had a nice Italian dinner at Paesanos and took a boat tour.

Riverwalk
Paesanos for Dinner

Our next day was all about the Alamo.  Only a portion of the original is still standing and sits right inside a heavily commercial area.  The Alamo played a very important role in Texas history and it was interesting to learn more about it.  Two famous Americans, James Bowie and David Crockett, died in the battle there.  The grounds behind the Alamo were incredible.  We took a guided tour and also explored it on our own.

The Alamo
Live Oak >200 years old at Alamo

We went to the San Antonio Botanical Garden the next morning and it was a beautiful place.  I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to San Antonio.  As it was raining, we rounded out the day with lunch at a local Mediterranean restaurant and a movie.

San Antonio Botanical Garden
Botanical Garden

Leaving San Antonio, we had lunch with our cousins in New Branfels, where their longtime vacation home is located.  It is a quaint resort town with cool restaurants and interesting shops.  I could see why they love to spend time there.  Our lunch was in an old building that was once a post office.  The food and company were outstanding!

Lunch in New Branfels

Traveling home, we stayed a couple of nights in Lafayette to break up the drive and also to check out the sights.  We toured Avery island, the home of the multi-generational family business that makes Tabasco Sauce.  We were able to view the manufacturing process and receive free samples.  One of the earlier family members established Jungle Gardens, a large Botanical Garden and bird sanctuary for the Snowy Egret, a bird that was in danger of extinction. It has flourished in the sanctuary.  We also saw an alligator, an armadillo, and some deer.

We ended the day with a movie (Wonder Woman) because it was raining and dinner at Bon Temps Grill.   Both were very good!

Avery Island Tabasco Sauce Factory
Bird City
Jungle Garden

We had a great time on this road trip to Texas and Louisiana and are looking forward to our next trip, which will be in our Tiny Trailer.

Happy Trails!