HER PERSPECTIVE: Really, this was Brandon's idea, but it makes getting into the back when we're hauling the mountain bikes much easier - just like the swing away spare tire carrier.
HIS PERSPECTIVE: We had a "normal" bike rack before - you'll see it in a bunch of the older pictures on the site. It was okay, but it was always something of a pain. It holds onto the top tube of the bike, but with a lot of modern full suspension mountain bikes (ours included) it wouldn't work without an extra piece. The bikes wobbled. The bike rack folded down, but it was a pain to do when loaded. It also folded straight down, so we couldn't use the shower easily. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't great either.
THE SOLUTION: Really, the deciding factor was when I saw the GoWesty rack on wheresmyofficenow.com. Once I saw that, it was all over. Honestly, it was just too cool, I had to have one. The problem was that our bumper is a one-off and was in no way compatible with the GoWesty setup. We could've bought the complete GoWesty setup, but I kinda like our bumper and we're working with a limited budget. Plus, I like a project.
THE DESIGN: The general idea was pretty easy - mimic the curve of the hatch, put load bars on it, attach off-the-shelf bike roof racks, and call it done. I designed a hinge, but I knew I wouldn't trust it to hold the bikes with the dynamic loading during driving. The solution was to make it so that all of the load (during driving) went into the bumper, not the hinge. I also knew the hinge would be a little sloppy, so it'd need a ramp to move it into position. To hold the rack open, I used the same theory as the spare tire - the angled cut on the bumper and gravity do a nice job. I considered lessening the angle, but the 10° cut was pretty good. I designed in a stop to keep it from going too far, but you can't just let it go. There are two latches, one at the bottom and one at the top (with wear resistant tape on the top of the hatch). I invested a bit of time in this one, started up the CAD machine and everything. It's not perfect, but I'm really happy with how it turned out. Much better than the rack we were using before, and much less of a pain on a day-to-day basis - which will be that much more important once we're living in the van.
WHAT I'D DO DIFFERENTLY: The first iteration wasn't perfect, but it was pretty close. The hinge is stout, but it's still a little sloppy. As a result, I had to put too much of a ramp on the plastic blocks (one on the bumper, one on the bottom of the rack itself). Also, one of the bike tires obscures one of the taillights. I'm not sure how I could position it differently, and I'm not going to redesign it now, but it's something I would examine if I were going to do another one. For this one, I'm going to get a receiver-hitch mounted brake light.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! I knew we'd need an easy way to work on bikes. A quick search of Amazon turned up this bike stand arm. I welded the bracket on, and now we can simply drop the stand arm into place and work on our bikes. It's a little low, but it gets the bikes off the ground, so it's nearly perfect.