Bicycle Hoist or "How to Get the Wife's Bike Out of My Way"




This is a pretty simple and quick way to build a bike hoist that will lift a bike evenly and easily out of your way. The neat trick is that it uses one rope to lift the bike evenly from two points which helps it lift easily and uses pulley magic to reduce the weight of the bike for the hoister. No power tools required although a drill is handy.

This setup would also work for a kayak or canoe if you had a longer beam.

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Step 1: Gather Supplies

You will need:

- 5' or so 2x4 or a rafter that you can attach this stuff to

- (2) larger hooks that will hold bike. I did not end up using the ones in this pic - i ended up bending my own out of 3/8 aluminum stock from Hope Depot. Lots of options here (see hook page).

- (1) 50' length of rope. I used 3/8th inch poly (something that is softish but does not stretch much).

- (5) pulleys to fit the rope. Pulleys should all have swivel heads (two of mine did not...) and be one size larger than the rope will fit through. This give you some leeway for safety..

- (3) hooks with wood screw threads (basically monster sized cup hooks) and/or:

- (1) eye bolts that is the same size as the hooks above (you can use eye bolt style hooks for all four depending on what you have on hand).

- one drill bit that is the slightly smaller than the core of the hook shank (ie the size of the bolt if you ground off the actual threads) - err on the size of small...

- Brackets to attach hoist to ceiling - i used 2x12 rafter hangers which are $2 each at Home Depot.
Depending on your hardware, you might also need a propane torch (nothing fancy - just the small one...

- some utility screws/drywall screws (the duct tape of fasteners) or decent sized nails.

A few wrenches or something to help you bend the hooks (ie bench vice)

- Ladder and someone to hold it while you monkey around.

- Optional equipment: cheapo carabiners (like the $2 100 lb rated ones from home depot), lighter to fix rope ends, etc.

Step 2: Prepare Wooden Frame

Cut your 2x4 to size - make sure it is longer than the distance between the seat and handlebars by at least 1'.

Center the board on the bike spanning the handle bars and the seat. Mark the board at about 1" to the inside of where you plan to attach the hooks to the bike.

Drill the pilot holes about 2" to either side of your mark in the thin side of the board. Drill the holes only as deep as the threads on the hooks. too small and the board might split (unlikely if you are far enough from the end), too large the hook could pull out, causing the bike to fall and hurt you.

NOTE: Its important to have the two sets of hooks centered on either side of the the two hanging points on the bike. If you do this, the rig will not bind with the lower pulleys when you hoist the bike all the way up...

Step 3: Prep Upper Wood Hooks and Pulleys

Start with the hooks that will go into the board.

If you bought eye hooks, you will need to open them slightly to slip on the eye of the pulley. The easiest way to do this is heat up the hook with a torch and bend it while its red hot. This will prevent the hook from fatiguing and becoming weak. However, if you just bend the loop sideways 2/8 inch or so, slip the pulley on and bend back you should be ok.

If you have cup hooks and are bending shut against the pulley, please use a torch to heat up the elbow. this will prevent the hook from breaking or becoming weak. when you finish the bend, dunk the hook in cold water. wear gloves. use caution, don't hurt yourself. i am not responsible.

NOTE: had i bought all this stuff from the start, i would have used all pulleys that are the size of the two larger ones, and therefore one sized larger hooks.

Step 4: Bike Hooks and Pulleys

OK - here is the somewhat tricky part.

If you want to do it the easy way (but more work to hook up the bike) - just attach some of those cheap carabiners from the hardware store and use a loop of rope to attach to the bike. This requires you to know how to tie a real knot, which i will let you look up elsewhere.

I started out by making some simple hooks from those ubiquitous organizer threaded hooks. I ground off most of the threads with my grinder, (making sure it would fit into the eye of the pulley, and then bent a loop on one end using my little propane torch. these worked ok, but lacked the geometry to pull straight up. see the sketch for what i mean. what you want is a "S" style hook that has the hanging point directly beneath the holding point. The yellow ones I show here cocked sideways when you lifted the bike.

For the front bar hook, you want something that will hook around the stem of the handle bars and come back up on both sides. I made one out of 3/8" aluminum stock (again, Home Depot - $4 worth did two). You don't need to heat aluminum stock to bend it. my "S" was offset to compensate for not having swivel hooks.

If you don't get it right, just play with the angles and such until it works.

On the rear end of the bike, I ran out of time and ended up using a carabiner and rope loop. I may update this with a better version though... or take suggestions. I did not want the hook to grab the back of the seat because of the way this bike was made with springs and such. Other bikes you could just snag the back of the seat with the hook.

Step 5: Assemble Hoist Unit and String the Rope

Starting with the pilot hole on the end of the board that will take the tied off end of the rope, screw in one eye bolt that does not have a pulley attached. Use a screwdriver to help turn the bolt in.

Next screw the three pulley/threaded hook units into the other three holes on the board.

Tie one end of the rope off to the first eye hook using a bowline with a stopper knot. At this point, you should also think about which end of the hoist will hold the front and rear of the bike, and also which direction the thing will attach to the ceiling - you should also figure into this where the loose end of the rope will tie off when the bike is up in the air. Knowing this stuff will help you decide which end to attach which hook, assuming that they are different for front and rear...

Next feed the rope through the first bike hook, then back through the next pulley, then across to the next pulley, down to the second bike hook, and finally back through the last pulley. Pull all of the rope through the pulleys, leaving a few feet of extra for each hook.

Do not cut the rope until you are totally finished with the project. And then, don't be a dope and cut it when the bike is in the up position. You need to cut it when you have the most rope used in the hoist - ie when the bike is down and you know how much rope you will need.

Step 6: Test and Attach Hoist

If you can, try to test the rig before you permanently attaching it to the ceiling. I used one of those canvas tie down straps and a lower cross beam. I just strapped the board to the beam and tightened the strap. This allowed to to hoist the bike a few feet and make adjustments to the setup.

Once you are ready to hang the hoist, get someone to help hold the ladder and hand you stuff. I used two joist hangers that are available at most lumber yards or home mega centers. I used four screws per hanger to attach it solidly to the roof beams in my shop. You may need to fine straight hangers rather than right angle ones, or use some other method.

In my case, because of the board length and such, one of the hangers was 18" or so from one of the ends of the hoist. Because the whole system is over engineered, I was not worried about the cantilever issue. Ideally, you would have the two brackets as close to the pulleys as you can manage or on the ends of the board.

Step 7: Make Rope Tie-off Cleat

Now you will need to make something that will hold the rope after you hoist it and walk away. Or find someone who will live in your garage and hold the bike up there while you relish you new-found space.

I used two "U" hooks and just wrapped the rope back and forth a few times. You want something that will not slowly unwind or let go if some kid pulls on the rope. Again, err on the side of safety. No one wants to be killed by their wife's pavement cruiser.

You might need to use an extra eye hook to route the rope to the side of your room instead of having it come straight down to your tie-off. this also helps the rope approach the tie-off from a better angle. In my case, I happened to have a wacky joist set up so it worked out ok without that.

ADDED NOTE: Several people, probably people who sail or something, have found this step disturbing. Probably because it looks messy and is not the optimal way to hold a rope. I agree.

They suggested using a cleat. You can buy them at any boat supply place such as Boaters World, maybe your local hardware store or even an outdoor supply place that sells climbing supplies. I've added a few examples from google images below.

In the end, as long as the rope is held securely and cannot be undone inadvertently then you are good to go.

Thanks to theRIAA and Willofgod for the tips.

Step 8: Hoist Away

Now give it a try. The bike should go up pretty evenly. One end or the other may get ahead but gravity and tension should even it out. If one side does not go up well, make sure that the rope is riding on the pulleys correctly and not hitting the bike or anything else.

Once the bike is up, tie off the rope and move on the the project that you were trying to do before the bike got in the way.

And I take no responsibility for people who try to make this hoist and don't apply common sense or safety to the project. If you are that guy, go buy it from LL Bean.

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    27 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just to save someone a bit of work: Harbor Freight stores (and online) have this same pulley arrangement w/rope (a Bicycle Lift) for about $12 (I got it for $8 on sale).
    The main problem I have is I tried to hang a boat that was heavier on one end and it doesn't work because the heavy end will not lift until the light end reaches the top. Does anyone know of a pulley arrangement that does not do this?

    3 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    THANK YOU!!!! And, little did I know, we have a Harbor Freight in our town! Total cost will be $9.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Have you tried adding weight to the light end?

    Or try moving the pick points closer to the centroid.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Most bike hoists use a single-rope system, yielding a mechanical advantage of 4.  The disadvantage of these systems is, as you stated, the heavy end will not rise until the light end is at the top.
    There are a few bike hoists available that use a double-rope system, yielding a mechanical advantage of 2.  These allow independent control of the front and rear pulleys.  The disadvantage of these is, the mechanical advantage of 2 allows one to lift only about 50 pounds before serious hand-pain ensues.

    The double-rope bike hoists currently available are:
    1) "Sport Solutions Up and Away Deluxe Hoist System" available on for $53.99
    2)"Kayak / Canoe Lift Hoist by RAD Sportz" available on for $34.95
    3) "BAC Industries PH-01 Storage Pulley Hoist, 100-Pound Capacity" available on for $49.99


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Man, I have been looking for some thing like this, to hang my bicycle. Terrific idea. I will make my own. Thanks for your time.

    2 concerns: (not step seven, that's probably how I would rig it up if not for the comments)
    1.  I've always thought that heating up the metal weakens it, though maybe in this application it is no bog deal.
    2.  The entire weight of the load is suspended only by the threads of the eye hooks into the wood.  Not sure that will last forever and could be catastrophic if it pulled out.  I'm running a threaded eye hook through a pre-drilled hole (actually I'm using unistrut but a hole drilled through the 2x4 depicted here would work just as well).  A big fat washer and nut keeps it from ever having a change of pulling out.  This, and the method of fastening to the ceiling are super important.  Make sure they are robust. 

    Great instructable!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Using 2 rope slings to lift the bike. A pulley fixed securely to the overhead, with rope with a hook on one end,  Run the rope through the pulley, and connect to the slings on the bike to the hook and hoist it up.  


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Why did you have to attach it all to a separate piece of wood? Why not just the center beam?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I set this up, but I'm having the hardest time getting the hooks to lift evenly. I'm using brand new pulleys with the right sized rope, but I still can't seem to get it to lift evenly. Any ideas? Oh, and I modified your design to accept 4 bikes at once. Basically, I attached a 2x4 with 4 hooks across it to where you have your bike hooks. Simply hook the front wheel through the four hanging hooks. For strength, I'm using a ratcheting boat trailer crank to do the lifting.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    When I built the lift for my bike, which weighs a monstrous 70-80lbs, I also needed a way to help out with lifting it period, so I tied an old lead-acid car battery to it, and it's heavy enough that it helps me lift the bike, and holds it in the air, but isn't so heavy it just takes off with the bike pulling it straight to the ceiling


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I think this system should be designed with higher standards as it is a life safety device. As you said, that bike can kill somebody if it's let loose. Check the rope and all connections from time to time and go for climbing knots used for man carrying applications. I would advise a Munter hitch which gives control and safety when descending the bike. This way there will be no way for the rope to just run away and send the bike down crashing. Safety first!!

    One more thing. The hooks should have enough weight to descent to the floor when they are not carrying anything. Otherwise it could be a problem to pull them down when they are somehow pulled all the way up. What do you think?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    The canoe should raise and lower evenly if your pulleys are well oiled or otherwise give you about equal friction. With this project you can use nylon rope but you will find that nylon will stretch all the time. I prefer using Dacron or polyester rope for something like this. If you can't fine polyester rope at the orange store you can find it at the blue one, and vice versa. Step 7 still gives me the heeby jeebies. Here's a better picture of a cleat hitch. It is very (VERY) simple to tie off securely. You go around the entire cleat twice (only), cross over the top once (only) then under, back to the other side twisting the loop onto the other side and you're done. Figure out something else to do with the extra rope but don't try to store it on the cleat by wrapping and wrapping. On my boat I have a zippered bag the coil of excess goes in.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    LOL - yea step 7 gives my wife the heeby jeebies too. I was going to go the cleat route, but I was trying to minimize the project to hardware on hand. One of these days soon I'll switch it over to the style you suggest and modify the instructions to something more reasonable. My version is perfectly functional - but no where near as efficient. Thanks!


    12 years ago on Introduction

    thats neat!! i wish i had a high enough place to put this id even buy a shed with a high roof to use as an ecscuse to put this up :D


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic, now my wife won't have to hear me whinge about her bike being so heavy (until she makes me ride it since the kids' trailer is attached to it). And when you decide that radial arm saw is just too dangerous, I'll take it off your hands.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome instructable. Going to do this this weekend. I think I may get a little goofy and see if I can rig it with a sixth and seventh pulley in a triangle type support so that I can end up with the bike being horizontal to the ground. My head has some type of magnetism for low hanging objects.


    12 years ago

    Thank you! I used your method to hang two 14' sea kayaks in my garage. It worked great. Pulls up and sits down easily.

    Chris Bilton

    12 years ago

    you've sold it to me, I'm making one of those, pronto.