Introduction: Bicycle Rack for Child's Bicycle

About: I like to explore with my hands, but I trouble choosing one area of focus. I have completely renovated my house, but nothing I do is craftsman quality. I want to build an electric car, hack computer hardware…

Introduction: A simple rear rack for a child's bicycle, but it could be used on any size bike. It is made with some old curtain rods, some left over bolts, and an old board. It is not as solid as I would like; read the end of this intro below.

Backstory: My son learned to ride a two wheel bike this summer, and is now riding all around our village. Going to his summer program, the library or the store he is faced with the problem of not having anywhere to put his books, artwork or other goodies. As he does not like to wear his backpack while riding, or the backpack is full, I put his stuff in my basket. Because he wants to be more independent, though, I knew some sort of basket or rack was essential.

He rides a 20' bicycle. He does not want a basket on the front, and we thought a rear platform rack would be ideal. As the bike does not have a rear fender and he loves riding through puddles, it will serve to keep his back dry, too. When we went to our local bicycle shop, we were told they did not make them for so small a bike. They did think one could be had, but it would be a bit large and very expensive. As it is a used bike, we declined.

I had wracked my brain (ha, ha) about what I could use for supports when my wife threw out some curtain rods. They are a staple of every house; check the attic, garage, basement or the back of a closet. Someone wants them gone, but holds on to them thinking they will need them one day. The rest came together quite naturally.

Note About Strength: The curtain rods are not as solid of a material as the solid rods used in over-the-counter bike racks. A comparison would be the cheap aluminum metal shelving units vs. the steel shelving used by industry. They are, after all, curtain rods; if you've handled them you'll have an idea of how strong/weak they are. When it was done, I had to add a second support. Even then, it has some play. As this is for a child, is meant as much as a fender as a rear rack, and cost me nothing to be put on a salvaged bicycle it does the job. He's not carrying engineering textbooks at this point, so it will suffice for what little weight he does put on it. Make sure it is what you want, though, before starting.

Step 1: Materials

This is a bit of a cob job, so materials can all be found around most homes. As this will be individualized for each bicycle, and different materials can be adapted depending on what is available at your house, I will not be overly specific as to not lead concrete thinkers astray.

3 sections of adjustable curtain rods for supports. *
1 1x4 board about a foot in length for deck. +
7 bolts with locking nuts and washers (I used 8/32 stainless steel) to hold it all together.
1 can of spray paint to make it look nice.

* Update: My son thought it would make a nice seat, so he sat on it.  Curtain rods aren't very strong, and they buckled.  I straightened them and they've lasted three years.  When he got a new bike last month, I built him a new rack.  This time I used metal from an old filing cabinet.  Many filing cabinets have metal strips, flat and about a centimeter in width, that hanging file folders hang from; some cabinets have a whole insert frame.  I used those strips and they work great!  They are shorter than curtain rods, so you need a strip for each side; I overlapped them when I attached them to the underside of the board.  I could also see using old tubing and flattening out as needed (or not).

+ Update: The wood worked fine, but while at the dump I found an old license plate.  It works great.  It was too wide for my taste, so I bent the long edges on both sides (about a centimeter or so).  It's tough, already painted, unique and really cool looking.  I was going to use an upside down ski for my other son's rack (he inherited my older son's bike in the photos) but the kid thought it too odd.  We just updated the rack here.

Step 2: Bend the Curtain Rods (or Metal Strips From Filing Cabinet... See Materials Update).

You are going to take your curtain rod and bend it into a U at the appropriate height. The first leg becomes an L, with the second leg making it a U.

First, you need to have a basic idea of how long the supports need to be.

Find the hole in the frame near the hub of the rear wheel. Put the end of the curtain rod over the hole and hold the rod vertically. About an inch above the tire, mark a line. This is the appropriate height. Do the same thing on the other side, using the other end of the curtain rod. Where you marked the lines is where you will bend the rods.

The space between the marks is where the deck will attach and rest. It should be nearly four inches to offer support. If it is much longer you will need to trim the length of your rod. Measure four inches from the first mark: this is your new bend line. The amount the new line moved from the old is what you need to cut from the end of the rod.

Now, take your rod to the vice and clamp it in at the mark. Pull the rod towards you until you have a right angle. Put it in again at the second mark and bend it there, too. You should have a U.

Things to Note:

Most curtain rods have that little bend on the end. If you need that length (I did) you need to bend it straight. Do it as you can always cut it off.

I used a large table vice for bending, but you could probably use the edge of a table. Some of the folds might tear the rod. As rods are pretty much disposable, you can just get a new rod and start again.

I also flattened out the ends and the cross piece where the deck board will sit. It makes things flush when bolted down.

Update: If you are using a metal strip from the filing cabinet, note that they are shorter than a curtain rod.  You'll need one for each side.  Bend them into an L and overlap them as you attach them to the underside of the board.  Very strong.

Step 3: Drill Holes in the Support U

You will drill four holes in the support U so that you can attach the deck to it. For this, you will need a metal bit for your drill.

Drill two holes on the cross piece of the U. These will be used to secure the deck to the support U.

Then, drill two holes at the bottom of the U. These bottom holes will be used to secure the supports to the bicycle near the hub of the rear wheel.

Step 4: The Deck

I used simple pine because it was laying around and wood is easy to work with. I imagine metal might hold up better; I had thought of a scrap from a computer or even a license plate might be cool. I was also thinking of an old skateboard deck, although it might prove a bit large for a kid's bike (note update below).

Cut to desire length; mine is about a foot. I did not want a really wide deck, so I used a 1x4 piece of pine. Adjust to what you need.

Placing the support U on the bicycle, place the deck on top and mark in general where they will connect. Then, turn the deck upside down and place the support U on it. Now, specifically mark where you want to drill the holes. Put the support U aside and drill the holes in the deck.

+ Update: The wood worked fine, but while at the dump I found an old license plate.  It works great.  It was too wide for my taste, so I bent the long edges on both sides (about a centimeter or so).  It's tough, already painted, unique and really cool looking.  I was going to use an upside down ski for my other son's rack (he inherited my older son's bike in the photos) but the kid thought it too odd.  We just updated the rack here.

Step 5: Make Front Support

Using another curtain rod, measure the distance from the little tab behind the seat the where the platform will need to rest.

You will need a bent tab of less than an inch, where the support will attach to the bike, and a longer tab of about four inches for under the platform.

Again, bend accordingly. Drill a hole for the forward screw, and two holes that will used to attach this support to the platform. As in the platform step, you will then drill two holes in the wooden platform for the screws that hold the front support to it.

Note: If you do not have that hole on the frame, and many 20" children's frames do not, I have thought that a copper pipe hanger, used for hanging copper water pipes from basement joists and such, might do the trick. Attach the adjustable part that goes around the pipe to the seat stem, with the rest attached to the deck. It even has holes ready-made for screws.

Step 6: Second Support U

When I originally planned this project I had not planned to add this second support. It was for a child, and I thought the smaller scale would not require it. When I put it all together, though, it was very wobbly. So, after looking at my wife's store bought rack, I created a second support U. This is where this step belongs in the process, but because I added it after my initial failure some of the photos may seem out of order.

The steps are the same as the first support U. In the photos, it is the white support holding the black rack. My son was anxious to use it and did not want me to paint it to hurry the process. The white matched the bike, so I obliged.

When I bent the U in the vice, though, I did make the flat part under the deck a bit angled. I also made sure that the rod would fit, as the length from the hub hole to the deck is longer.

Notice the angle. The extra points keep the whole thing from wracking, although in the end the entire thing is a bit delicate.

Step 7: Screw Platform and Supports Together

You will need four screws long enough to go through the wood and curtain rod support U and front support pieces. Push them through the holes.

Because the rods are flat and metal, and the screw heads are large enough and I wanted them somewhat flush against the platform, I did not use washers.

I did use lock nuts, as the bike and rack will be under a lot of stress with use.

Step 8: Paint It

I used a can of spray paint I happen to have around. The wood needs protecting from the elements, and it makes it look a lot less like a hack job.

Let it dry before you attach it to the bike, as you don't want to ruin the paint or get it on the bike.

Step 9: Attach Rack to Frame

Your rack is done and ready for the bike.

Attach the ends of the support U to the holes near the hub of the rear wheel. Then, attach the front support to the hole by the seat. Again, I used bolts with lock nuts as being on a moving vehicle will loosen regular bolts over time.

Step 10: Enjoy!

Your rack is ready to go. Go to the store, buy a soda, and bungee cord it to the deck for the ride home.

I am thinking of finding an old Vermont license plate, attaching it to the deck and bending the sides over. I think it would look cool, and protect the deck from the elements.

Update: I did do that (license plate) and it is cool, etc.  I had not read this Instructable since I wrote it three years ago.  I thought last month was a cool epiphany, but I guess it was more a memory of an earlier idea.

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