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Old 12-19-2017, 10:07 AM   #1
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Came down with a case of the skoolie craze...

Hi all.

I'm currently in my last year as a Power Systems Engineering undergrad student. While I ultimately love the beauty of the mountains here in my home state, I yearn to travel; to see new places, do new things, and make memories I'll always treasure. What easier way to make this happen than to put my schooling know-how, my other hobbies, and a do-it-to-it attitude and build out a skoolie conversion! I'm still six months from graduation and probably a year from finding a bus thats right for me, but I wanted to get planning early and have all the cards on the table before embarking on this never ending journey.

The skoolie will have to meet a few basic purposes. First and foremost, if has to cart me and my 70lb Collie/Lab mix (energetic couch potato) pooch around North America. I love to take my motorcycle for sight seeing adventures, particularly up and down windy mountain roads. So, that being said, the skoolie ultimately has to get my bike around somehow as well. Where I'm really stuck, as of right now, is figuring out the best type of bus to go with to accomplish this.

I've liked the idea of a RE pusher for their overall quietness and usable space ratio. However, using an RE pusher would mean towing an additional trailer or finding a hitch-mount motorcycle rack/lift that would get the job done. I could get a combo trailer that could handle the bike and the SUV if needed. Con to this is putting the bike outside in the weather, catching the road gunk flying off the bus wheels, unless I used an enclosed trailer ($$$ yikes!)

I could go with a FE bus and get an old moving-truck ramp to go straight in the rear of the bus; or an FE bus w/ handicap lift and fab up a modified platform to get the bike in and out that way. Pros of this setup are no need to tow the bike and the ability to tow the SUV along if/when needed. I could set up a nice "garage" in the back with all the tools needed for the bike and any tools for on-the-road repairs of the bus. A con to this is clearly the loss of otherwise usable space. However, if I could get everything else into the bus, I'd be content.

Other things needed in the build: Bed (queen size minimum), Toilet/Shower, Refrigerator, Stove/Oven combo, Microwave, Washer/Dryer combo, possibility of dishwasher if room available. Couch for lounging. Possibility of moving entry door to mid-bus giving ability for passenger air-ride seat up front.

It seems to be the FE is the route to take. If I were to go that route, preferably finding a flat front, FE with basement space already available or with the ground clearance to make basement space for battery bank/electrical system, water tanks, propane, generator, etc.

I've considered a roof raise but the real goal is to find a bus that already has some extended headroom.

In terms of my own abilities, I'm 100% a "If i don't know how to do it, I'll lean" type of person. I have countless hours working with power tools between helping my father with all the house renovations over the years and the numerous pieces of furniture I've build on my own. I don't currently have any welding experience to speak of but that will be tackled shortly after graduation when I have the space to get a welder and get to practicing. My area of emphasis in my education has been Power Systems so running the electrical/solar shouldn't be much of a challenge in terms of skill; just a challenge in terms of how light my wallet will get.

Anywho.. Just wanted to give a little intro on me and my hopeful project. Currently spending countless hours watching videos and reading other threads from other conversion projects.

I'm open to any and all suggestions, questions, comments, concerns, anything you want to throw my way. Hopefully some of you who've completed or are completing builds can throw this young guy some tips and tricks to smooth the build out process over.
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Old 12-19-2017, 12:16 PM   #2
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Welcome to the site.

It's good that you've got a plan in your head already. You've also allowed yourself enough time to think this out. Honestly it sounds like a pretty good plan.

There are a number of us that use the chairlift to lift a bike in and out. Much safer than a ramp. Just be sure not to pick up a bus with a midship mounted lift.
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Old 12-19-2017, 01:55 PM   #3
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Welcome to the site.

It's good that you've got a plan in your head already. You've also allowed yourself enough time to think this out. Honestly it sounds like a pretty good plan.

There are a number of us that use the chairlift to lift a bike in and out. Much safer than a ramp. Just be sure not to pick up a bus with a midship mounted lift.
Do the lifts struggle at all lifting the bike into the rear? My current 2-wheel squeeze is an '89 Suzuki GS500; dry weight about 380 with additional weight up to ~4.5gals of gas. I'm a tall, lanky type ~140lbs. IIRC, I read around here somewhere that most of the lifts are rated at 800lbs so I think it could handle current bike + me on it all at once. I do plan to get a newer bike sometime in the future but nothing more than a more recent 500 or 600cc sport or sport touring. The bikes I have in mind are right around the same weight.

I'm also curious about what engine/transmission combination I need to aim for. This bus will see plenty of time in the mountains as that's where I love to be most. And as such, I want to make sure I have the right engine and transmission to get me where I need to go.
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Old 12-19-2017, 03:01 PM   #4
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You're absolutely correct, most lifts are rated at 800 lbs. I haven't put my 640 lb bike up there yet, but it should do the job.

I also spend a lot of time in the mountains on single lane logging roads. I needed something that would turn around in tight places. I have the 5.9 cummins and the dreaded 545 transmission. I'm really not having trouble with it at all on the backroads. On the freeway this transmission isn't exactly a champ, but it does the job and it's easily available for repairs or replacement everywhere. Everything is a tradeoff.

Everyone wants a big engine with the upper level transmission. We aren't all that lucky to have exactly what we want so it becomes a matter of making due with what is reasonable.

Above all, buy what you want instead of planning to change out major components afterwards.
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:29 PM   #5
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Have you considered a RE bus and a ramp on the back bumper to roll your 2 wheeler up?
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:38 PM   #6
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Have you considered a RE bus and a ramp on the back bumper to roll your 2 wheeler up?
That thought definitely crossed my mind. I tried looking around the forums for others who'd done a "rear deck" on a rear engine and couldn't come up with much. Most of what I'd read came down to concerns over weight on the extended rear framing. Everything I came up with was RE busses with the engine frame itself mounted to the main frame. I wasn't sure what sort of stress would be introduced adding another few feet of platform for the bike. And in addition to that I would still want to be able to tow if need be.
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:45 PM   #7
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That thought definitely crossed my mind. I tried looking around the forums for others who'd done a "rear deck" on a rear engine and couldn't come up with much. Most of what I'd read came down to concerns over weight on the extended rear framing. Everything I came up with was RE busses with the engine frame itself mounted to the main frame. I wasn't sure what sort of stress would be introduced adding another few feet of platform for the bike. And in addition to that I would still want to be able to tow if need be.
You can add a motorcycle lift rated at 1000 lbs to a Class IV or V hitch. The frame and the rear axle can take the weight, and those lifts hold the bike close to the bus. You can still tow.

You can also add one to the front of the bus.
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Old 12-19-2017, 05:52 PM   #8
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You can add a motorcycle lift rated at 1000 lbs to a Class IV or V hitch. The frame and the rear axle can take the weight, and those lifts hold the bike close to the bus. You can still tow.

You can also add one to the front of the bus.
I thought about that route using a receiver in the rear but wasn't sure if that would mess with towing capability. Guess it would depend on the lift I got. Also considered the option of mounting it up front. Somewhere on the bus will have to hold a mountainbike and road bike as well.

Kinda' liking the thoughts of rear engine bus, cycle on lift on rear bumper. Moutain/road bikes on front bumper.

Would there be concerns for air movement around engine if there was a motorcycle snuggled up to the rear end?
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Old 12-19-2017, 06:02 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MountainWanderlust View Post
I thought about that route using a receiver in the rear but wasn't sure if that would mess with towing capability. Guess it would depend on the lift I got. Also considered the option of mounting it up front. Somewhere on the bus will have to hold a mountainbike and road bike as well.

Kinda' liking the thoughts of rear engine bus, cycle on lift on rear bumper. Moutain/road bikes on front bumper.

Would there be concerns for air movement around engine if there was a motorcycle snuggled up to the rear end?
RE buses don't get their cooling air from the rear, the vents are in the sides of the bus.

I'd put the bicycles in the pass-through storage lockers my bus has.
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Old 12-19-2017, 06:11 PM   #10
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I used my chair lift and dedicated a small garage in the rear of my bus for hauling a bike or two. Basically the bikes are only in there when you're going down the highway, so when you're camping somewhere you have extra space to use as you see fit. Also there is a certain amount of scum that gets on the back of the bus, and anything back there is going to be coated. Most important, nobody messes with the bike if it's inside. I didn't want to go with an enclosed trailer.
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Old 12-19-2017, 06:20 PM   #11
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I got a 26' enclosed trailer for $5K including two spare tires. It's got a real nice rear drop door and handles 10K pounds with ease. The trailer will be more-or-less permanently hooked to the back of my bus. It has a workshop in the front and plenty of room for my wife's '14 Transit Connect. I highly recommend getting one for a RE bus. The larger the engine the easier to pull. I have a 10.6L CAT 3208 that has torque out the butt. Loaded at 31K+ pounds she passes empty flatbed semis going up hill.....

Just thought I'd provide that insight since you're thinking about it.

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Old 12-20-2017, 08:18 AM   #12
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I got a 26' enclosed trailer for $5K including two spare tires. It's got a real nice rear drop door and handles 10K pounds with ease. The trailer will be more-or-less permanently hooked to the back of my bus. It has a workshop in the front and plenty of room for my wife's '14 Transit Connect. I highly recommend getting one for a RE bus. The larger the engine the easier to pull. I have a 10.6L CAT 3208 that has torque out the butt. Loaded at 31K+ pounds she passes empty flatbed semis going up hill.....

Just thought I'd provide that insight since you're thinking about it.

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Sounds like a beefy power house you've got in there! I'm really hung up on this debate. Would love the ability to have the bike inside the bus, not have to deal with backing a trailer, lower MPGs, etc. BUT, at the same time, I really enjoy the idea of having that extra space and a RE instead of FE. I'm not opposed to towing what so ever; ran my little lawn biz for a few years when i first started university courses and have towed, backed, and wiggled my way out of places. Though.. I'm sure it's nothing compared to 40 foot of bus to manage in the midst. 26' enclosed for $5k seems like a steal.

With a full length (~38-40ft) bus AND a 26' trailer, do you run into length issues in regards to various state laws? Recall reading somewhere that it's a non-issue if bus is personal use, >40ft, less than some given length for tow vehilce + trailer (excluding tongue length), and less than some given GVWR without the need for extra endorsements.
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Old 12-20-2017, 09:42 AM   #13
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Sounds like a beefy power house you've got in there! I'm really hung up on this debate. Would love the ability to have the bike inside the bus, not have to deal with backing a trailer, lower MPGs, etc. BUT, at the same time, I really enjoy the idea of having that extra space and a RE instead of FE. I'm not opposed to towing what so ever; ran my little lawn biz for a few years when i first started university courses and have towed, backed, and wiggled my way out of places. Though.. I'm sure it's nothing compared to 40 foot of bus to manage in the midst. 26' enclosed for $5k seems like a steal.

With a full length (~38-40ft) bus AND a 26' trailer, do you run into length issues in regards to various state laws? Recall reading somewhere that it's a non-issue if bus is personal use, >40ft, less than some given length for tow vehilce + trailer (excluding tongue length), and less than some given GVWR without the need for extra endorsements.
Be a bit wary of reversing with a combo like that.

A long wheelbase bus and a relatively short trailer is the most difficult arrangement possible. Sometimes backing them up simply isn't possible.

Semi tractors are short compared to the length of the trailer which makes reversing a damn sight easier provided you have the space, because the front swings very wide if you have to make turns in reverse.
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Old 12-20-2017, 12:06 PM   #14
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With a full length (~38-40ft) bus AND a 26' trailer, do you run into length issues in regards to various state laws? Recall reading somewhere that it's a non-issue if bus is personal use, >40ft, less than some given length for tow vehilce + trailer (excluding tongue length), and less than some given GVWR without the need for extra endorsements.
Most interstates are limited to 65' for articulated vehicles w.o. special permits. There are some states that limit that further like Colorado.

Some possible reference material:

http://www.trucking.org/ATA%20Docs/W...ght%20Laws.pdf

RV Driver's License Requirements

https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/pub...egs_final_rpt/
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Old 12-20-2017, 01:55 PM   #15
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Most interstates are limited to 65' for articulated vehicles w.o. special permits. There are some states that limit that further like Colorado.

Some possible reference material:

http://www.trucking.org/ATA%20Docs/W...ght%20Laws.pdf

RV Driver's License Requirements

https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/pub...egs_final_rpt/
Thanks for the references! I'm sure they have most of the regulation info I'll need.

A random aside - my father is a truck driver; has been driving with 18 wheels for all but a few months of my life. Anything from dairy to manufacturing steel. Last decade has been fuel and oil into coal mines. He's also certified to instruct trucking students as far as I recall so I'm hoping he will be able to give me good incite on what regs I need to be aware of and helping me with tips/hints/tricks on being on the road with such a large vehicle.

I feel like there's an infinite amount of things to learn with a conversion and it's all pretty exciting. Going to take a lot of effort to be patient and wait for the right bus, right deal, right time situation.
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