Racing requires a lot of stuff. You need cars, helmets, trailers, radios, gas cans, tools, barbecues, ice chests, bicycles, spare parts and unfortunately sometimes even more spare parts. The amount of infrastructure required at the track can be overwhelming. And all of this stuff has to get from your home base to tracks across the country. How you get that stuff up and down the interstate system is up to your ingenuity.
Over the years I’ve done it a number of creative ways, with long trips across the country to the NASA National Championships or just local jaunts to a regional event. Sometimes I ordered stuff from Walmart online and had it delivered to the track. Sometimes I begged and pleaded for competitors to make extra room for our team’s gear in their trailer. Over time I have invested in our team’s ability to be self-sufficient and get our gear to the next track on our own.
One of the most important pieces of infrastructure for a weekend at the track is some paddock mobility, be it a bike or a scooter, things I have covered in Speed News in the past. As important as these pieces of transportation are, they are normally a major problem when it comes to loading up the gear needed for a successful racing weekend. As you are debating what to take to the track — the spare transmission or the bicycle — choose your adventure wisely. Do you want to do one-handed wheelies Saturday night in the paddock, or be able to actually finish the race weekend on Sunday? The obvious answer is both. Put the tranny on the roof of your wife’s car. She’ll love it.
I’m a big proponent of having a bicycle around and I have found great bike racks that go into tow hitch receivers. The problem is if you toss a bike rack into a tow hitch, then the tow hitch becomes useless for towing a trailer. This is obviously the ultimate irony. But wait, there is a solution. Admittedly, this is a solution I can take zero credit for. Like most things in my Toolshed Engineer columns, other people who are smarter than I am come up with great ideas, and I essentially steal them. Here it is: a front mounted tow hitch receiver. Yup, you heard that correctly a tow hitch that is mounted under the front bumper of a truck or RV. It looks strange initially but once you realize the utility of it, then you quickly realize it is absolutely genius.
I was enjoying a non-racing weekend, camping in Newport Beach, Calif., when I saw an RV pull into the campground chock full of bikes, paddleboards and barbecue gear. This guy had stuff on the roof, on the back and the front of his RV. That was the first time I noticed a front-mounted receiver hitch. I quickly got on the ol’ World Wide Web and ordered one for my RV, and it was waiting for me when I got home. All that would be left to do was install it and put it to the test at the next NASA race weekend.
Installing the front receiver didn’t appear to be a big lift. Some minor drilling into the frame of the RV, four bolts and we would be in business. Unlike most men, I actually read the instructions prior to assembly. I also watched a couple of videos on YouTube — then, and only then, did I decide to ignore everything I learned and do it the way I wanted to. I build racecars, I can handle a simple tow hitch install. I decided to remove the front bumper completely and make quick work of this project.
The interesting part of this project was the fact that nobody was around to help me do it. The same friends who were too busy when it was time to hold up a heavy receiver hitch while I bolted it up will be the exact same friends who will happily ride the bicycle I bring to the track using that same receiver I installed solo. Good news, it didn’t crush my skull and somehow I got it bolted up.
The bolts inside the frame rails come with square-holed plates that keep the top of the bolt from spinning inside the frame when tightening the nuts under the frame. This made for an easy mount up. A quick shot with an electric impact wrench and things were held up tightly. I later torqued the bolts to the required specs — found in the instructions most people ignore.
The only non-bolt-on modification that had to be made was a small cut in the plastic fascia of the front bumper to allow the leading edge of the receiver to protrude through. We had to move the OEM front license plate cover from the center of the bumper, where the receiver is now mounted, to the side of the bumper. We like to keep our tow rigs nice and legal for Johnny Law. Nobody needs any trouble. We just want to get to the track and play with some racecars.
Besides bike racks, there are many other devices that are designed to slip into a hitch receiver. I have seen BBQ racks, flat racks for a big ice chest or generators, and even spare tire racks that hold up to four tires. Your solutions for what you can carry on the hitch is only up to your imagination. The front receiver kit just allows you to activate that imagination.
If you and your team need more room to get more gear to the track, consider a front hitch to provide the extra bit of storage space to help you be a success in the paddock. Then go forth and collect trophies.