Friday, January 29, 2021

Metris Camper Van

Volkswagen has not sold its camper van state-side for going on two decades, leaving the active road-tripper with choices including:

  • Buying a bed on wheels from some dirtbag who used it for decades before selling it (gross);
  • Buying a full-on 'merica-style RV that is impossible to park on a suburban (to say nothing of urban) street;
  • Buying a trailer, with the same parking problem;
  • Paying gobs for some third-party shop to convert your Econoline van, likely voiding the warranty in the process.

There's also buying a tent from Walmart for $50, but here at HBC we are about technological improvements to our lifestyle rather than obvious smart choices. 

I was getting plates put on the new wagon this afternoon and found this:

This is the Mercedes Metris popup van in the "Getaway" configuration. One reviewer says it is the "first daily driver" popup van. Obviously this reviewer was born after the first bursting of the tech bubble.

At 202" long and 76" wide, this is just a few inches bigger than the normal full-size Euro SUV (which seem to run 195"-200" in length). So plenty manageable on city streets. Reviewers report 208 hp and 258 torque, kind of puny by modern specs but almost identical to my Ford Ranger from 2001. And the Metris is AWD. So should drive fine for a camping use model, probably less than perfect for autocross.

There are apparently three versions. 

  1. You can get a basic pop-top, which lets you raise it and stand full-height without getting wet in the rain. That would probably be the bike road trip mobile, with a sleeping deck built into the pop top and the main storage reserved for bikes.
  2. You can get the "Weekender," a semi-constructed camping offering with sleeping and eating inside but cooking etc. outside. This is the picture above. With the awning as pictured it looks pretty perfect to park for a week at Tahoe while riding all the High Sierra passes.
  3. You can get the full camper configuration, which includes the cooking and food storage options one expects in a motorhome, but in the smaller package. This isn't cheap, at all - $50K on top of the basic Metris cost (which is about $40K already). 

Who can justify such a thing, really, but if one could, this would be an attractive option. 

A few more pics of the Weekender I saw:

Reversible front pax seat is nice.

Cooking outside in the back. I wonder if that raised hatch serves effectively as a rain shield.

And interior table. That can pivot so it is easily used by the person sitting in the reversed pax seat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Bike Rack

 I blogged about bike racks a while back, when I had just purchased a new car.

After all that fuss I went with the basic Saris Bones 2-bike trunk rack, which I sold because I didn't like how it marred the paint.

Sam blogged about the Seasucker, which he put to use on a rental car in Nevada for D__'s go at the Silver State 508.  I'm psyched to see the Seasucker in use on Sam's Corvette.

I just switched vehicles and decided it was time for a roof rack. Not 100% because I needed a roof rack - the new vehicle is deliberately capacious enough to hold more than one bike on the inside. In truth, because I think the roof rack gives my old-man-looking car more of a Euro-athletic aesthetic.

As with most roof racks, there is the problem that everything would be better if you skipped the rack, skipped the car, and the bike itself had its wheels on the ground. No happy way around that I suppose.

This Thule rack works well with the thru-axle setup, which is ubiquitous in both mountain and road biking. It can also handle old school quick-release, however.

These are the Thule Thruride, ordered from Amazon. I put three on the car.

 The bars are ovular, theoretically to mitigate wind noise and wind resistance, but realistically to look good with modern car design specs. These are the 53" "Wingbar Evo", which I found for not too much on Amazon. It was actually important to me that the bars extended past the feet - the single-arc mount/bar combinations look a little too "urban SUV" for my liking.

I am also impressed with the clamp on the low-profile side rails. Thule has upped its game from the last clamp-on rack I purchased many years ago.

As with all these clamps, one must buy several pieces. Here are the two that combine for this mount:

The t-bolt channel and rubber gasket is also well designed. In particular, I like that the gasket is split down the middle, so it does not need to be removed to insert or remove a t-bolt.

Not a huge fan of that clamp-around back end on the rack (picture above). It would seem easy to run another t-bolt right through the middle of the bar with the hand-tightened nut above. Perhaps the problem in manufacture is knowing where to place the hole (i.e., not knowing the spacing between the bars). Maybe I will drill it now that I know where.

All-in-all pleased with the result. Will be much more pleased when I get a few road-trips in.