Saturday, October 11, 2014

There's always room for one more: DIY hanging bike storage

Lots of bikes don't necessarily have to take up lots of space.
Be forewarned, technical bike nerdery ahead. If you choose to follow the instructions, any outcome is your own risk and responsibility. Please don't attempt any construction if you are not confident in your skills.

Imagine that, one way or another, you've found yourself in a situation where you own more bikes than all your neighbors combined. Or, perhaps, you have a more culturally acceptable quantity of bikes (maybe shockingly as few a one), yet still find that you have more bikes than space for bikes. Alternately consider the not so farfetched possibility that you need to spatially justify a bike acquisition in order to maintain domestic tranquility.

In each of these cases, a better plan for bike parking could improve your life. Fortunately, a good solution is both cheap and easy, using utility hooks available at any hardware store, a few long screws, and some 2x4 or 2x6 scrap wood. You'll also need a drill, a saw, and some other common tools as needed.
The larger type hook on the left allows passage of fatter tires more readily, has a larger diameter steel core, and has a tougher coating than the standard type hook on the right. Bigger is better.
The above materials are combined into a bike hanging structure from which one or more bikes are hung from the wall by one wheel, thusly:
Alternating bars up/bars down for orderly and efficient bike hoarding.
The design of your bike hanging rig depends on a few factors:  1) the available wall space 2) the number of bikes you'd like to hang 3) the length of wood available.

The first step is to measure the length of wall where you'd like to hang your bikes. You'll need at least 20 linear inches of wall for every bike you want to hang. It may require even more space if your bikes have especially wide handlebars, which is the main determining measure. The minimum height of the wall is the length of your bike plus about 8+ inches, so as to keep the bottom tire off the floor when hung.

Next, is to measure and drill holes in the wood in which the utility hooks will be installed. In my experience, a distance between holes of approximately 18 to 20 inches works well to maximize used space while maintaining relative ease of bike removal when hanging bikes in an alternating bars up/bars down pattern. Therefore, the length of wood you'll need can be calculated as in the following example for a 3-bike rig with hooks spaced 20" apart:

  • 3" (edge to first hook) 
  • + 20" (first hook to second hook) 
  • + 20" (second hook to third hook) 
  • + 3" (third hook to edge) 
  • = 46" board length 

Remember, the linear length of wall you'll need is longer than the board length, to accommodate the handlebars of the outer bikes. In this example, the wall will need to be at least 60 linear inches.
I used three 3 1/2" deck screws anchored in a wall stud to attach the 2x6 board to the wall. The more studs, the better, as they say.
Drill the first hole into the centerline of the wood, three inches inboard from the edge of the wood. Again, be sure to allow for the distance necessary for the bike's handlebar to clear the neighboring wall. Note that it is important to drill the holes for the utility hooks angled downward about 15 to 20 degrees to relieve stress on them, as the weight of the bike pulls them down. If installed perpendicular to the wall, the utility hooks will bend downward.
Note the hook angled downward.

I installed these hooks about 18.5" apart on center, in the days before the wide bars that I now so enjoy. I'd lean more toward 20" apart if I were to rebuild.
Subsequent holes should be approximately 18 to 20 inches apart. Once all the hook holes are drilled, it's time to mount the boards to the wall. I use 3 1/2" deck screws in every stud along the length of the board. Be sure that the screws are solidly in studs, as it wouldn't be much fun to have your bike hanging rig and bikes all collapse on the floor. It is beneficial to have a stud located near each end of the board. Use a level to ensure the board is parallel to the floor, and be sure to have it high enough so your longest bike's rear tire clears the floor. The utility hooks can be installed either before or after the board is screwed to the wall.

Two 29ers with 750+ mm wide handlebars are a little snug on hooks 18.5" on center. I may respace the hooks to be a bit further apart.
In the case that you've got fatbikes to deal with, such beasts still work fine for hanging. However, a standard utility hook won't work. Many hardware stores carry a variety of hooks that can successfully grasp a fatbike wheel. I found a heavy duty hook that is about 5" wide that fits the Surly Darryl/Larry combo on my Pugsley.
Pugsley peacefully coexisting with my 30 year-old Miyata. Wide bars on both.

Fatties fit fine.
Just about any bike can be hung using this kind of rig, so long as the bike isn't so heavy that it will pull the hook out of the board. To date, I've hung bikes up to about 60 pounds in weight, with no problem other than hefting a wheel up to the hook.
These hefty old Schwinns hang just fine.
So there you go. I can't claim that this is the definitive method for storing bikes, but I don't know of any other way that is as cheap, easy, or efficient. Bikes hung in this manner remain simple to retrieve for a ride, they won't fall over and get scratched against each other, and the positive aura emitted from a wall of bikes embiggens any aspiring bike barn. Such a rig can also keep an overly abundant bike herd orderly enough so as to support domestic tranquility, though your mileage may vary.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blood Moon rising

It's unlikely that I'll be up at 2:17 am to see the beginning of the lunar eclipse tonight, but the girls and I got to see a terrific golden moonrise. Not a bad consolation prize.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy 40th, Pac!

Circa summer 1979.
Hard to believe, but each of these cool guys ended up with a doctorate in one thing or another.

The shortest kid in these pics didn't stay short for long. Happy birthday, big guy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quick DIY top tube frame pack

The pack took about 90 minutes to make in total, from measuring the frame to strapping it on.
After finding out how convenient frame packs are for carrying things, I had been wanting to construct packs specifically sized to other bikes. To this end, I put together a simple top tube frame pack, using materials that I had on hand for this first tester example. The pack is made of about 1/2 yard of cordura pack cloth that's been in my sewing kit for 20+ years, an old steel YKK 19" zipper, various scraps of Velcro, and some 100% polyester upholstery thread. I didn't produce detailed instructions, but if you are interested in building a similar pack, it's a simple process if you have at least proficient sewing skills. The design is essentially a box, shaped to fit the inside of the frame, with a zipper installed on one side.

Cardboard template for the frame pack.
To begin, I took a piece of cardboard, a pen, and a utility knife, and constructed a template of the inside of the front triangle of my 2002 58 cm Surly Cross-Check. The cardboard template guides the shape for each side of the pack. I made sure to mark the locations of cable stops, housing, bottle mounts, etc. so that the Velcro straps cleared them. To connect the two sides of the pack, I used strips 3" wide. On each piece of fabric cut for the project, I added .25" all the way around to account for the seam edge. I also constructed a flap over the zipper, to help protect it from rain, etc., though this pack is by no means waterproof.

The pack easily holds my trusty Stanley cook pot with enclosed pop can alcohol stove and fuel, among other items.  It's big enough to be useful for a picnic, a camp outing, or a small grocery trip.
The pack turned out fairly well, and fits the frame exactly as intended. The design worked well for fabrication, though I won't use the same materials for the next one. The cordura material is quite sturdy, though it's not nearly as light or water resistent as similarly sturdy modern materials, such as Dimension Polyant X-Pac. The steel zipper works well enough, but it's heavy, and its action is not as smooth as plastic. A modern water resistant plastic zipper will be part of the next pack I make. In the end, I learned a bit about how I'll make subsequent packs.

The pack is not wide enough to get in the way of riding.

The right side has no zipper.

The left side has a zipper. Why the left? I'm left handed. Make your own pack how you like.

With the pack installed, there's still plenty of room for water bottles below.