Of all the ways to spend the night before your wedding, driving along a deserted French country road in the pitch dark looking for a bike carrier that's fallen off the back of your van probably wouldn't top the list.

Maybe I took a roundabout too fast? Thankfully I'd already unloaded the bikes back at the venue, so no vélos were harmed.

But I never did find the rack, which - once the confetti had settled - left me in the market for a new carrier.

The Thule BackPac 2 can carry up to four bikes on the back of a van or MPV.
The Thule BackPac 2 can carry up to four bikes on the back of a van or MPV.

Swedish brand Thule are a trusted name when it comes to the car-bike interface. I've had good experiences with their roof-top boxes and bike carriers, so jumped at the chance to try out the BackPac 2.

The BackPac 2 carrier, also referred to as the Thule 973, takes two bikes, with potential to add a third and fourth if needed. A lockable arm keeps your bikes safe from opportunists who might take a shine to them.

It's designed for vans, minibuses and MPVs, and looked an ideal choice for the current Sportivemobile which is a Mazda Bongo.

The arms - here extending to the left - are sold as a separate mounting kit specific to your vehicle model.
The arms - here extending to the left - are sold as a separate mounting kit specific to your vehicle model.

As well as the base carrier, you'll also need to buy the specific fitting kit with the arms that attach the carrier to your vehicle. For the Mazda Bongo, Thule 973-18 was the part number I needed. This adds around £35 to the overall cost.

Note too that assembly instructions are provided with the kit, rather than the carrier - so it's easier to wait until you have both parts in hand before putting everything together.

If you're familiar with Ikea manuals, you'll find Thule's instructions are just as easy to follow. They even include the basic tools you'll need with the kit.

The Mazda Bongo is a common sight on UK roads but, being a Japanese import, it isn't included among the vehicles listed in Thule's instructions. For the benefit of any fellow Bongonauts reading, I found the settings suggested for the Mercedes Vito worked well.

I assembled the carrier first with the bolts just finger-tight, to measure against the van and ensure everything lined up.

Assembly is a 30-minute job, and once bolted together the carrier can be fitted or removed from the vehicle in a matter of moments.

Road trip to Ribble

Rack freshly fitted (and with the value of my van approximately doubled), it was time to put it to a road test.

Back in the pre-lockdown days of February, I had just the mission: a visit to Ribble Cycles at their headquarters in Lancashire with Eoghan and Andy.

We were returning Eoghan's CGR AL and Andy's CGR AL e review bikes, and picking up an Adventure Ti for Eoghan's Atlas Mountain Race escapade. It was the perfect opportunity to road-test the carrier over 10 hours of motorway driving from the south coast.

Loading the bikes was a piece of cake, albeit the CGR AL e required a bit of grunt to get it off the ground. The arms' jaws clamp securely to the bike frame, while the wheels are secured tightly to the carrier with straps. With the bike securely affixed to the carrier at three points, it isn't going anywhere.

Road trip! Two Ribble bikes loaded ready for the journey home.
Road trip! Two Ribble bikes loaded ready for the journey home.

The wheel trays can be extended or shortened as needed using sturdy dials.

Only one of the two arms has a lock, but that's enough to secure two bikes; just place the longer, lockable arm through the frame of the first (inner) bike and clamp it to the frame of the second (outside) bike so that neither bike can be removed.

It's a neat design, and another of those features that suggest Thule's wealth of experience and know-how.

Similarly, the jaws on the clamps are made of a slightly softer compound, to avoid marking the paintwork on your bike while applying a secure grip.

The rack generally inspires confidence; it's relatively lightweight, but it feels rock solid once fitted to the rear door of the van. The arms hook over the top of the door, while clamps at the bottom can be tightened to make sure the carrier is at no risk of taking a dive, no matter how haphazard your roundabout technique.

Setting off to Preston, I was quietly confident we weren't going to see a repeat of the French episode. And so it proved. I'm happy to report that bikes and rack arrived safely at the Ribble mothership, and back south again with the Adventure Ti onboard.

At cafes and service stations, the lockable arm meant that leaving the bikes unattended on the carrier wasn't a cause of stress. And, checking the rearview mirror nervously, neither bikes nor carrier budged even as the Bongo rattled along at top speed in crosswinds.

Essential kit for your post-lockdown escape

Ready to escape...
Ready to escape...

Loading up a car with bikes for a weekend getaway may seem a distant dream right now. But now's the time to plan and prepare. Once the coronavirus restrictions ease, we're bound to see a stampede for the hills and/or cross-Channel ferry.

When that day of freedom comes, and you're looking for a dependable carrier to haul bikes to your sportive/holiday/wedding in style, look to Thule.

Solid, well-designed, and easy to use - the BackPac 2 comes highly recommended.

Thule BackPac 2 Bike Carrier - £310 from thule.com