Introduction: Bike Rack / Bike Storage for the Home or Apartment

About: Dan Goldwater is a co-founder of Instructables. Currently he operates MonkeyLectric where he develops revolutionary bike lighting products.

On a typical morning - after a bowl of oats and a cup of green tea - I head out the door and bike to work.  Well, I try to head for the door.  Usually I'll get to about spitting distance before stumbling over a Specialized or a Giant.  I'll move those to the side and get about 2 more steps.  Then i'll be in the thick of it.  To my left is the formidable fortress of Fuji's.  To my right - the towering tangle of Trek.  Dead ahead - stupendous snarl of Surly.  And underfoot - you guessed it - Univega.  After about 10 minutes of snagged up pedals, chains and spokes i've got my ride out.  whew!  Then I enjoy a peaceful ride to work.  Of course when I get home later and open the front door i'm met by a rickety roadblock of Raleigh's.   grr.  Of course we tried keeping the bikes in other places - the garage, the backyard in the summer, on the porch.  But that was just moving the problem from one department to another.  Things were getting ridiculous!  If you're like me you've got 11 bikes.  And your housemate has 6.  And your other housemate has 3.  And that girl couchsurfing is fixing up 2.  Well, luckily enough for you the 2009 Momentum Reader Survey says only 20% of you are like me (5 or more bikes).  Which is good, because if you've got 22 bikes in your house you'd best just start worshipping the golden chainring - not much else is going to save you.  But back to the other 80% of you with less than 5 bikes apiece.  You've got some hope. 

So I set about to thinking - maybe I can make some kind of storage rack for these things?  My engineering instinct kicked in.  What's the most compact way to store bikes anyway?  Probably an atomic compactor.  Oh wait, we still need to use those bikes again.  Eventually I devised a 2-level hanging rack.  It's easy to build with a minimum of tools, and stores almost twice as many bikes in the same space as a standard single-level hanging rack.  The bikes are still easy to get in and out, and this rack can work in a garage, foyer, porch, or yard.  You just need a wall or some posts.

The rack system shown is very easy and inexpensive to build, and i believe it is the most compact, tangle-free storage possible for 4 or more bikes. for 2-3 bikes its still a good rack but will use about the same space as some other options.

This article is brought to you by MonkeyLectric and Momentum magazine.  

Step 1: What You Need

First - Measure the width of the wall you plan to use.  You need 1 foot (300mm) per bike, plus another 1 foot (300mm).  So, 4 bikes will need 5 feet (1.5 meters) at the widest point (for those keeping score - i challenge you to find a more efficient and easy to build storage system!)  If you only have road bikes with narrow handlebars you can get away with a little less - maybe 11 inches (270mm) per bike.  Once you've figured out how long the rack will be, you need 2 pieces of wood (2x4's) of that length.  The big home improvement stores often can cut the wood to length for you, or cut it yourself if you have a saw.
  • two wood two-by-fours as long as your rack will be
  • drill
  • saw if you need to cut the 2x4's
  • wood screws between 3.5" and 4" long (8 to 10cm)
  • large metal screw-in hooks (available from most home improvement stores - the ones i found were helpfully called "bike hooks")
  • plastic tubing that will fit over the metal hooks (i used 7/16" tubing with 5/16" ID (8mm)).  or some old innertubes.
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • stud sensor (or you can make one by hanging a magnet from a piece of string)
  • optional - thick plastic or thin plywood sheet the full size of the rack (width and height) if you want to protect the wall from tire marks

Step 2: Dimensions Are the Key

OK.  this whole setup is totally simple.  The only trick to the double-level rack is to get the correct spacing of the bikes both horizontally and vertically.

- In order to not have the bottom row of bikes flop all around the rear wheel MUST be off the ground.

- The bottom row of hooks should be 65" (1.65m) off the ground. 

- The top row of hooks should be 14" (350mm) higher than the bottom row - this keeps the handlebars and cranks of the top row clear of the bottom row.

- spacing between hooks at the same level: 24 inches (600mm).  This gives you 11 or 12-inch overall bike spacing.

- you can reduce the spacing a little, the more you reduce the more tangling you will have trying to get the bikes in and out. at 24-inches the handlebars on mountain-bikes will be just next to each other. if you only have road-bikes you can do 22 inch spacing.

Step 3: Just in Case You Are Worried About Your Rims

I've gotten a couple of emails since i posted this project from people that were concerned about damaging their bike rims.  There are 2 potential concerns:

(1) Using a metal hook could scrape up your fancy aluminum rim.  As shown in the project, I recommend covering your hooks in vinyl tubing or innertube wrap, this will create a thick and tough rubberized surface to protect the rim

(2) Too much leverage on the hook will deform the rim itself.  This is not possible if you use metal hooks that extend at least 4" from the wall, like in all the project photos.  The only way you could risk deformation is by using a much smaller metal hook, however a hook small enough to deform your rim would also make hooking the bike on and off the wall very difficult in the first place.

Here's the math on this just in case you are not convinced:

(2a) how strong is your rim?  very strong!  it is designed to handle at least a 200 lbs person riding over the edge of a curb or pothole.  at very slow riding speed you could estimate that the contact area of a pothole corner is similar to the hook we are using.  fortunately, when you bike is hanging from the rack it is only supporting itself (25 lbs), and not 200 lbs.  and your rim can handle that pothole at speed too...

(2b) how much leverage do we have?  as shown in the photo, the weight of the bike "X" is pulling down at the hub.  this sets up a torque around point A.  if i recall my high school physics properly this means:
  • torque = force x distance
  • since there is no motion, there must be equal and opposite torques applied around A
So, the force at the hook Y = (L1 / L2) * X

(2c)  the hook point B is about 5" from the wall.  this sets the distance L2 nearly as long as L1.  that means the force at Y is only slightly more than the weight of the bike.  no chance of deforming your rim!

(2d)  lets say you used a really small hook that only extended 2" from the wall and hooked at point C.  first off, it would be fairly tricky to even get your bike on and off this hook.  but, you do get a leverage ratio of perhaps 5:1.  even that is not likely to be able to deform the rim from the bike weight alone.  perhaps then your buddy is drinking some beers while you are cleaning up from a long ride, and he stumbles, flails about and catches his entire drunken weight on the hanging bike!  now you've got 200 lbs at a 5:1 leverage.  based on some unrelated experience trying to hang a large sculpture from my ceiling, if you used the same 1/4" steel hooks that i did you still won't bend your rims, instead the hook is going to un-bend until the bike unhooks itself and falls off.  if you did happen to use some industrial grade hooks here, and they don't rip out of the wall - then perhaps your rim is toast.

Step 4: Find Your Studs and Measure Them

In a house or garage your rack needs to have firm support - it needs to be screwed into the "studs" (the vertical frame timbers of the house).  You can use a stud sensor or a magnet hanging from a string to find these.  Measure up from the floor  and mark the spots you will attach the two pieces of wood for the rack - each end of each piece should be screwed into a stud.

Step 5: Drill the Wood and Screw It On

Find a drill bit a little less than the diameter of the screws you are using (try to match the screw 'body' with the drill bit).  We'll use this to make a 'pilot hole' into the wood - the screws go in easier and they won't split the wood.  Have a friend hold the first piece of your rack onto the wall in the correct spot.  At each stud, drill two pilot holes through the rack and into the wall.  Remove the rack and drill the holes in the wall deeper in.  Next hold your rack back onto the wall and screw in the wood screws all the way.  You need to attach the wood to 2 different studs so it doesn't tip or rip out.

Step 6: Prepare the Hooks

Once you've got both of the wood pieces firmly secured, its time to add the hooks that hold the bikes.  All the home improvement stores around here seem to stock the identical "bike hook" - its a large metal hook with a thin rubbery coating.  The hook part is fine but I always find that the rubbery coating gets ripped up after a short time.  You don't want a bare metal hook scraping up your rims, so here's an easy way to fix it:  you can wrap the hook with an old innertube, or you can get some flexible plastic tubing at your home improvement store - just remove the crappy coating and slip the plastic tubing over the metal hook.

Step 7: Put in the Hooks

Now drill pilot holes for your hooks into the rack.  On the bottom row, space the hooks 2 feet (600mm) apart.  On the top row, offset by 1 foot (300mm), and again put the hooks 2 feet (600mm) apart.

Step 8: You're Done!

and your mess of bikes is history.  Note that your bike tires will leave some marks on the wall - if you want to keep things "nice" i'd recommend putting a thin sheet of plywood across the whole wall before attaching the rack.