The humble van, beloved of builders, getaway drivers and mountain bikers alike, it’s also one half of a double life for the MTBVanLife guys
This is Luke Dokic, and this is Sam Rook, they both live in Essex and work in IT. But on weekends an amazing transformation occurs, Luke and Sam are… the MTBVanLife guys.
Luke’s van life tips
Buy a van
Any van, it doesn’t need to be new. Work out what you need first of all, what you can’t live without, and what you’d like. Then try and figure out how you can fit it all in! The most important thing is to just go and do it though. It’s also a good idea to get an awning too, it’s great when it’s raining, and really handy to have when the sun’s blazing too. Fit swivel seats to the front, it opens up more space in the van.
Don’t buy a caravan
You’re tied down to one place and can’t move around as easily or access as many places. With a van, you can park anywhere and do anything… as long as you’re not taking the mickey.
If you’re happy with social media get some sponsorship
Become an influencer, Luke reckons it helped hugely with the cost of everything. Don’t expect to make a living from it though, unless you’re very adept at it and very lucky. “Social media has changed so much and it is much harder to earn from this sort of thing now,” he says. “But we never set out to earn a living, just make memories and live for the adventure.”
Van half life
Luke and Sam are best friends dedicated to having off-road adventures from their custom modded van, they now document the experience on Instagram for our amusement.
This double life has seen them set about hitting up as many top riding spots around Europe as they could squeeze in, from weekends in Wales to weeks in Scotland and overnighters up Alpe d’Huez, sponsored by a host of companies like Haibike and Thule.
“It’s the life we live when we’re away from the office,” Luke says. “We get to earn the money in the office in the week, but then we also get to live the van life at the weekend and escape it all with adventure.”
Pre-van, and like most of us, the pair rode their bikes at weekends and any chance they got when they weren’t working, socialising or hanging out with family. They had big plans though, a wanderlust to do more that wasn’t satisfied by trips to Hadleigh or further afield in the Surrey Hills.
“We’d speak a lot about doing things, but it just didn’t happen,” Luke says. “With this van, it does happen. The people we’ve met, the places we’ve seen, the friends we’ve made. I wouldn’t want to be without it. You make friends.”
It’s more than a campervan for the pair though, it’s a real life poster board for MTBVanLife and the brand they’ve created. Luke explains that while there are thousands of van lifers out there on social media channels, there just weren’t any mountain bikers doing it. Niche duly found, they invented MTBVanLife. “We stickered up the van and made a point of it.”
With the brand came sponsorship and recognition… most of it good. “It’s funny, you drive to places now and people recognise you,” Luke says. “A copper came over one time in Wales and said ‘what are you doing fellas?’, but he was a follower so it was all OK.”
Pop the back open and you’ll see Luke and Sam’s Haibikes spanning the back. “People think it can’t be done, that there isn’t enough space. And there isn’t if you have it from the factory with a rock and roll bed then there just isn’t enough space. But we built everything ourselves to make the space.”
The kitchen and all the inside cabinets are made from recycled pallet wood that’s scribed to fit in perfectly, and stained. “It’s no carpentry job, but we think it looks good,” Luke says. Above the van things are a little out of the ordinary too, with a 40-litre water tank for showers and bike washing, with a Worx pressure washer, all bolted to a Frontrunner roof rack. “There are attachments for everything, it’s really modular, you can even get a fitment for a cauldron,” Luke says. “We have a light bar for night driving and we can put bikes up top if we want.”
Naturally there’s a leisure battery and a solar charger, and combined with the water Luke and Sam can go off grid for five days at a time. There’s also an inverter to charge the bikes. “It’s great, we’ve ridden places and exhausted the bikes’ batteries, then put them on charge as we drive to the next spot,” Luke says.
What it doesn’t have is a loo, there’s just no space. “You can get a pop up cardboard toilet, but we’ve always been fine without – a poo with a view, he says.”