Project Overview  |  Proof of Concept  |  Final Design  |  Fabrication  |  Testing and Results  |  Meet the Team  |  Acknowledgements

Project Overview

Mountain bikers often travel great distances on a tight budget for short day excursions, or multi day riding adventures. These individuals need a place to sleep that is easy to set up and take down, as well as a comfortable place to relax after the ride, all while maintaining minimal distance from the bike that potentially costs thousands dollars. Team tailgate is developing the Tailgate Pad+ in order to accommodate the mountain biker who owns a truck and has experienced the former necessities.

The design consists of a fully functioning tailgate pad much like the existing Raceface tailgate pad that can secure up to seven mountain bikes on a full size pickup, while causing no harm to the bike or truck. The key differences between existing tailgate pads and the Tailgate Pad+ is evidenced in various sub-functions of the pad, those being a deployable hammock and couch back each with built in cup holders for post ride beverages. Additionally, the Tailgate Pad+ technology has a rainfly for the users comfort while sleeping in the hammock through rain and wind environments.

Tailgate Pad+ will market towards the bicycle industry. There are many tailgate pads on the market, mostly from apparel, and rack companies. They have created tailgate pads that serve one function, to safely transport bikes. These pads are largely afterthoughts for rack companies that do much more indepth engineering on things like roof mounts, or the most complicated thing an apparel company does, but they likely do not have a team of engineers, if any. Though there are several pads on the market, they are all functionally identical with straps for each bike and a pad that covers the back and top of the tailgate. Team Tailgate has a competitive advantage over these companies’ products because of the sub-functions of the Tailgate Pad+. These accessories consist of an easily deployable couch back for user relaxation after an exhausting ride, and a hammock with a rain fly for a comfortable, fast, and easy sleeping setup. Team members are also currently working as mechanics in the bike industry, as well as being former racers. Team tailgate is well acquainted with the industry, with connections at national wholesalers, and with athletes ready and willing to test, use, and advertise the Tailgate Pad+



Proof of Concept

Team Tailgate is moving forward with their original plans to provide comfort to outdoor enthusiasts. The team is compiling features to a regular tailgate pad that is used to protect the bike and the vehicle from damage. Of the many features, the redesigned tailgate pad will include a couch and hammock. The team’s proof of concept will be used to prove that the chosen design is capable of holding four people on the hammock and the couch. To test the proof of concept, Team Tailgate will first utilize computer-aided design programs, such as SolidWorks and ANSYS. These programs will be used to simulate the forces that acts on the design to find the failure points. The engineering analysis will be used to determine the stress and the weight limits to ensure that no harm is fallen on the consumer when the product is used as directed. Additionally, Team Tailgate will utilize hand calculations to verify the strength of various materials to ensure the quality of the project. After completing the computer analysis, the team will move forward to testing the proof of concept using certain types of machinery to further understand any problems that may arise.


Final design

The Tailgate Pad+ was designed with three main features in mind: protecting bike frames during transport, allowing for pre or post-ride relaxation and quickly deployable sleeping arrangements for traveling bikers. This tailgate pad design allows for easy installation by placing the pad over the pickup truck tailgate, securing a nylon straps around the bottom of the gate and through the plastic buckles located at the base of the tailgate pad. Once the pad is fastened and tailgate in the closed position; bicycles are ready to be loaded with the front wheel draped over the gate, handlebars turned and rear of the bike positioned in the bed of the truck. The Tailgate Pad+ is designed to hold up to five bicycles on compact pickups and seven bicycles on full size pickups. To protect the downtube portion of the frame in contact with the pad, a cushioning cradle has been included on the top rail of the tailgate. The cradle holds the bicycle frame using velcro nylon straps with D-rings to avoid to avoid shifting or bouncing during transport. Over time after many uses the cradle tends to wear down. One of the features that separate the Tailgate Pad+ and regular tailgate pads is the replaceable cradle.The Tailgate Pad + allows for simple replacements by removing the velcro fastening strap from the slot through the pad and installing a new cradle. A cut out is made on the outside face of the pad for easy access to the tailgate latch or to provide an unobstructed view when using a backup camera a cut out is made on the outside side of the pad.

The Tailgate Pad+ incorporates a fold out couch from the inside face of the tailgate. In order to use this seating arrangement, bikes must be removed and the tailgate placed in the open or lowered position. The couch back flips out from the inside face and housed in a pocket on the inside face of the pad. The back support for the couch is a single cloth portion of fabric which deploys, unrolls, and clips to the top corner of the truck bed anchors. J-hooks with adjustable buckles are used on either end of the couch for this connection. Cup holders are built in to the couch pad to provide the user with easy access to the their beverages.

Additionally, the Tailgate Pad+ will deploy a nine foot nylon, abrasion resistant hammock. Once the pad is mounted to the tailgate, a desired anchor point should be selected in order to use the hammock. Tension between the hammock and anchor point can be adjusted via a two inch, heavy duty ratchet strap in order to adapt to different anchor positions and to fine tune tension for desired sleeping comfort. The Tailgate Pad+ includes a built in tent pole guide channel to support a rainfly, extending over the hammock. Four integrated hanging cup holders allow users to enjoy a refreshing beverage while relaxing on the hammock.

The main objective of the Tailgate Pad+ project was to develop a unique tailgate pad with versatile functions and uses. Currently, when mountain bikers plan group rides or road trip excursions there is a lack of comfortable places to unwind or sleep. Using a built in couch and hammock, the Tailgate Pad+ design creates a dynamic seating arrangement for relaxation with friends or family. Integrating a form of sleeping quarters such as the hammock will allow users to take advantage of a quickly deployable campsite or lounging area. The hammock provides a three season camping solution that can be set up and taken down in matter of minutes. The waterproof rainfly will provide shelter by protecting individuals from damaging sun exposure or torrential downpours. Rubber formed frame cradles give robust downtube protection to ensure every riders peace of mind, knowing their bike is in good hands. Keeping the elements in mind, the Tailgate Pad+ was designed with materials intended to last a lifetime of abuse and is equipped for year round, outdoor use.




Once the team had received the ordered parts, fabrication began on the Tailgate Pad +. First, the team prepped the nine foot, 400 denier nylon hammock by hemming the seams with ribbon. The nylon hammock material was placed on the ground to align the ribbon edging and then secured with blue painters tape and binder clips for sewing. Two parallel seams were run along the taped ribbon edges for the full nine foot length.

Next, the team prepared the pre-cut aluminum pipes by deburring the edges. With the pipes ready to go, they were placed in position with the tail ends of the hammock wrapped around for fitment. Blue painter’s tape and binder clips were again used to hold the material in position.  One side at a time, the support seams were sewn into the nylon. Due to the large size of the hammock, two team members were assigned to this task. One guided the hammock through the sewing machine and worked the foot pedal, while the other helped support the remaining fabric.

The team began fabricating the tailgate pad next. The team opted to have a local sewing shop cut the upholstery foam for the pad assembly to minimize mishaps in the cutting process.

The foam pads were laid out on top of the tailgate pad fabric and sewing patterns were marked in chalk and cut out. Once these pieces were cut, the team used the binder clips to position the inner two sections onto the single, outer portion. Seams were run along the outside edges of each front and rear face. With these complete, the foam was installed into the newly created pockets. The one inch foam was inserted into the couch section for extra cushioning, while the half inch piece was used to protect the tailgate. Next, the couch back was sewn onto the inside tailgate face, along the bottom edge of the pad. Buckles were sewn into loops of one inch wide nylon webbing to create the pad’s fastening point. These were subsequently sewn onto the front face of the pad, one on either end and one in the middle. Three 8”-10” long pieces were cut from this roll and sewn into the rear portion of the pad to be run around the bottom of the tailgate and secured.

To avoid having the hammock slide down the tailgate while in use, the team fabricated four, four inch steel plates to be used as clamps. Each plate was cut from a ¼” thick, 1 ½ inch wide rod of raw steel using a hacksaw. Each piece was then clamped to the table to drill two holes for bolts to feed through. Trunk tie down loops were used at the base of the tailgate, with the steel plates placed through its loop, sandwiching the two inch webbing and bolted together for a non-slip solution.

Now that the main sections of the pad, hammock, and couch have been fabricated and assembled; the sub-assemblies could be joined together. The pad was draped over the tailgate and secured with the one inch webbing straps fed into the buckles. Then, the team wrapped the two inch webbing around one end and through two metal buckles to secure it down. The free end was fed through the two inch aluminum pipe, which had been inserted into the sewn support seam on the hammock. Once through, the remaining webbing was wrapped around the opposing end of the tailgate, fed through the buckles and secured. The steel plates and trunk tie downs were fitted and fastened at the rear of the pad. The one inch aluminum pipe was inserted into the tree end of the hammock support seam, along with the rope fed through the pipe. The rope was placed in the ratchet tie down’s free end loop, and secured around a tree. Once taught, the hammock was ready for use!


Testing and Results

The Tailgate Pad + prototype was tested outdoors during a team camping trip. After a night’s use, the smaller hammock support beam was bent into a crescent. The team replaced the 1” pipe with a 2” pipe. Team Tailgate chose to use this size aluminum pipe because the 2 inch diameter pipe used on the truck bed side easily withstood the applied loading without evident fatigue, or material damage. The second round of testing with the 2 inch diameter piping proved successful.

The Tailgate Pad + allows the user to have a quickly and easily assembled couch for post ride relaxation, and a deployable hammock with an overhanging rainfly for a rapidly available campsite. For truck owning mountain bikers the amenities of the Tailgate Pad + greatly facilitate committing to a weekend trip with a few mountain biking friends. Friends of the team who have utilized the couch back and the hammock accessories have found the products features to be awesome and can’t wait to use the Tailgate Pad + on a real mountain biking, or camping adventure. Team Tailgate has accommodated all of the product design specifications through the final prototype with the exception of including cup holders, due to a lack of time.



Meet the Team


Graham Dickinson

Graham Dickinson is a senior, majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. Graham was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and raised in the east bay area’s, Danville, CA. Upon graduating in the spring of 2018, he hopes to be hired at a construction company working as a field engineer or project manager in the Reno area. Currently, he is seeking a part time internship position for the remainder of the school year to carry into the summer as a full time position. During the summer of 2018 Graham plans to build a tiny home short bus to travel across the country.




Thomas Steuer

Tom Steuer is a senior Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is also pursuing a Fine Art minor in photography. He grew up in Arcadia, CA, in a suburb of Los Angeles county. Tom’s most recent projects and academic accomplishments include becoming proficient in SolidWorks modeling, finite element analysis and passing the CSWA to be a certified associate. His goals currently are to graduate and pass the FE exam in the spring. After graduation Tom intends to enter either the geothermal, renewable energy fields or aerospace industry.






Rasindu Jayakody

Rasindu Jayakody was born in Sri lanka and moved to Reno, NV in 2012. He’s a senior in the undergraduate mechanical engineering program at the University of Nevada, Reno. He previously worked at the Nevada state Contractors Board. Rasindu is currently working on restoring a 1970 Honda CL350. He previously rebuilt a Nissan engine. His current goal is to graduate in the upcoming semester. After graduation, the goal is to have acquire a career in the mechanical engineering field in the Reno area.





Ryan Schmid

Ryan grew up in Carson City, Nevada. He is currently pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in Japanese studies. He has worked with both the Composite and intelligent materials lab & the advanced robotics and autonomy lab. During his research tenure he has developed Magnetorheological elastomers (MRE), testing apparatuses for MREs, deployable sensor arrays and hydraulic tanks. All of these projects helped develop his design, drafting, fabrication and documentation skills. After school, Ryan hopes to go into the robotics industry and eventually to own his own engineering firm.



Loren Montague

Loren grew up in Pleasant Hill CA, in the San Francisco bay area. He started out in the bay area at a community college where he was able to get accepted to UC Davis and Cal Poly SLO, his greatest academic accomplishment. Professionally, Loren interned at NASA AMES where he was tasked with writing and performing tests for new atmosphere reentry shields, and helping fabricate parts for the Mars 2020 mission.  In his time at NASA Loren saved the government over $ 100,000 on an air cannon for testing wind tunnel blade wear.. Instead of a custom air cannon being made, an existing pellet gun was bored out to  large enough size and a thick sleeve was pressed on for safety. This project took days instead of weeks, costing a few thousand dollars, instead of over a hundred thousand.

As of now Loren is currently trying to find a job doing vehicle testing in the Nevada desert for military contractors in order to stay in the area. If this does not pan out he has an offer in the unitary plan supersonic wind tunnel.