BluesCat is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging (azbluescat.blogspot.com) and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.
As bike commuters, we all know that bikes belong on the roads as part of America’s transportation future. Even if we don’t personally ride to work or the grocery store, we know that bikes belong as an integral part of a healthy exercise regimen. There’s even an organization, called the Bikes Belong Coalition and composed of a group of U.S. bicycle makers and retailers, whose sole purpose is to make sure American bikes belong in more and more places.
A recent Commute by Bike article explored why some of us become Bike Hoarders. We accepted the premise that at the root of the phenomenon is a crazy compulsion akin to either kleptomania or some other psychological disorder. Take it from Doctor BluesCat, this is not a disease, it is a recognition of the true nature of the bicycle.
The bicycle is a remarkable, finely crafted device which has been described as “extraordinarily efficient” (Wikipedia) and the most efficient human-powered means of transportation in terms of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance (Scientific American).
I hate seeing a bike rusting away in a field or gathering dust in an abandoned shed somewhere. That’s gross disrespect. You wouldn’t leave your Rolex watch out in the outhouse, would you?
Bikes belong in a nurtured, protected environment where they can be pampered with frequent applications of quality lubricant following soothing baths. Think I’m being silly? Mawkish? Think on this: every time you hop onto the saddle of your bicycle, your life depends upon the smooth, proper functioning of your bike and all of its parts. I’m not trying to start a whole new discussion about how dangerous bicycling is, I’m trying to emphasize how important it is to properly care for something which has the potential to make you healthier, wealthier and wiser.
My bicycles live in the house, and it isn’t just because I don’t want to expose them to damage from the weather. I looked at my bike fleet and tallied up their MSRP’s, then I added the value of all the bags, racks, electronics, upgrades and tools I’ve acquired since I bought my Giant in 2002. The number even surprised me because it is pretty close to what I paid for my first house around thirty years ago! There is no way I’m leaving that amount of money out on the patio or in the driveway.
Another thing, I leave my Vaude Egger — a combination briefcase and pannier — attached to the rack on my bike when I get home at night. It’s got my laptop, organizer, satellite radio, and a bunch of other personal items in it. Leaving that bike outside would be like leaving my wife’s jewelry box out on the front doorstep.
When I get home from work, I roll my bike up the driveway and through a door into what was originally the carport; it’s now a secure utility room called BluesCat World Headquarters. Just inside the door I park my commuter bike with three other bikes, in a space about the size of a queen size bed. A key to getting that many bikes into that space is some sort of bicycle rack which allows you to put more than one bike in the same floor footprint. I have a freestanding Nashbar Steel Two-Bike Rack. It holds two bikes, one directly above the other.
There are a number of multiple-bike freestanding racks like this available, and they fit with almost any playroom or family room decor.
The Gearup Platinum 2-Bike Freestanding Floor Rack is a lot like my Nashbar, but with flashier, more colorful mount arms. They say you can get up to four bikes on the Sparehand Freestanding Bike Storage rack. The ad for the Feedback Velo Cache Bike Storage Stand actually shows four bikes mounted on it; now that is conserving space! The same thing goes with the Brookstone Quad Bike Rack.
If the space in the foyer, the playroom, the family room or the living room where you store your bikes is even more limited, instead of a freestanding multiple bike rack you can get what’s called a gravity multi-bike rack. These usually have two legs which are on one side of the rack, so the rack literally falls against, and is held up by, the wall.
Look at the Gearup Lean Machine Gravity Rack for a good example of this kind of rack. Although usually they can accommodate only two bikes, these racks have a slightly smaller footprint than a freestanding rack.
Some other gravity racks are the Saris Bike Bunk 2-Bike Gravity Storage Stand, the Racor Pro PLB-2R Two-Bike Gravity Freestanding Bike Stand and the Delta Cycle Michelangelo 2 Bike Wall Rack.
For a really minimalistic home indoor bike rack, you can get a pole rack like the Topeak Dual-Touch Bike Stand or the SpareHand Q-Rak Dual Bike Rack. You wedge these racks between the floor and ceiling; the tension keeps the rack in place, in the same way a shower curtain pole keeps the curtain in place.
Freestanding racks, gravity racks and pole stands all assume you’re making room for your bikes in some room of your house. Even though you, properly, have your bikes inside, sometimes there is a certain interloper quality to the bike rack: they occupy space you were using for something else.
To remove the Bike as Alien quality, an alternative is to incorporate your bikes into your home decor. When I was initially presented with this concept, my first response was “Ugh! Putting your bike in the same class of personal possession as your house plants is a nonstarter for me!”
Then I found a site called freshome.com and saw an article entitled “15 Practical and Unobtrusive Ideas to Park Your Bike Indoors.”
I was blown away. The bicycles in the pictures there make no apologies for taking up room where people live. Rather, they enhance the living area; they transcend “conversation piece” and sometimes go all the way to “art.” Some of the bikes are posed next to furniture or walls with all of the effectiveness of a fashion model on the pages of Vogue. Others look like the space where they are parked was made specifically for them.
A lot of the bicycles are hung on the wall, using everything from what looks like a simple Park Tool Storage Hook, a Crawford Bicycle Hook or Crown Bolt Hook, to some of the most unique wall racks you’ve ever seen.
First among the snazzy wall systems is the Cycloc Bicycle Wall Mount. You attach the Cycloc to the wall at a height convenient for you, hook the top tube of your bike up over the left side, then twist the front wheel of the bike down and hook the top tube — just behind the handlebar stem — underneath the hook on the right side of the Cycloc.
The weight of the rear of the bike keeps it secured to the wall. The Cycloc comes in four different colors so you should be able to match almost any decor.
Then there’s the Bike Shelf from The Knife & Saw. This is a handsome piece of wood furniture you attach to the wall, put some books up on top of it if you like, and hang your bike from the bottom. Very nice, very clean looking.
Speaking of cleanliness, since BluesCat World Headquarters is a utility room, with vinyl floor covering, it easy to keep clean if I come in from the road just after riding through a mud puddle; I just grab a sponge mop.
If your bike resides in your living room, and you have carpeting, you’ll have to figure out a way to get your bike to “wipe its feet” before coming in out of the weather.
The simplest way I have found to do this is to keep a cheap, light-weight bath towel and a pair of disposable rubber gloves just outside the door. When you pull up and dismount, you put on the gloves, fold the towel twice, put it on the ground and then put your front wheel on top of it. You then grab the front wheel just ahead of vertical and lift up slightly on it as you rotate the tire back towards the stem — sliding the tread of the tire along the towel to clean it. You repeat the process several times until you have done the entire tire, then move the rear wheel onto the towel and repeat.
(Some of you entrepreneurial types out there should design an inexpensive device to make this whole process easier; I wasn’t able to find such a gadget and I think this would be another of my million dollar ideas which will make somebody else rich.)
It takes only a few seconds to clean your tires and your bike will be ready to go inside. Your bike will belong in your house as a guest more welcome than your kids! Or your mother-in-law! (Oops, got carried away there.)