Bike Rack Re-Design
Dear Cycling Community:
I’m a senior mechanical engineer at CMU and I’m working on a group project to re-design a standard bike rack.
We’re trying to identify current issues/gripes that people have with bike racks in an effort to brainstorm possible opportunities for improvement.
Please take some time and respond to this post if you have any commments, complaints, or suggestions.
Thanks for your help!
The perfect bike racks are poles or the three rivers racks. Design a better pole.
what do you think a “standard bike rack” is… post pictures. there are lots of great bike racks out there, i’m sure people already have favorites… so the real question is based on what is out there, and what you think the ‘standard’ is, what do you plan to improve? cost, ease of use, ease of installation, security, looks, protection, etc… ?
what are your goals.
the biggest issue with the standard “toaster style” rack is that it only allows you to lock the wheel, an infamously bad way to lock up a bike. as ryan said, check out the bike-pgh three rivers racks or the ones that attach to parking meters or light poles (half a circle on each side) which allow multiple bikes to be locked through the frame on a single rack. any rack system that maximizes the number of bikes that can be locked through the frame without getting in each others way is, in my opinion, ideal.
Not to be negative, but I think you’ll find that you’re trying to solve a problem that’s been solved thousands of years ago.
CMU racks rust out on the bottom at the bolt hole and can ding up the fork.
You might have better success by picking our brains for what’s NOT right about BAD racks, at some value of bad.
My personal non-favorite is the interconnected “U”-and-upside-down-“U” design. There just isn’t a good way to hook a bike to it, and when you have a lot of bikes, it just doesn’t work at all. I’ll get a photo when I can.
I put my whole bike frame through the U-shape in the squiggly-wavy-type racks. The “union-symbol” upside-down-U is there to give a buffer between bikes.
The biggest drawback to all racks is that no matter how good a lock/chain you have, the components of your bike are vulnerable (i.e. seat, bags, bottles, etc.) For longer than an hour’s worth of parking, a locker is the best way to go.
Marko82 (and others)– I know there was a spate of things (lights, panniers) being taken off bikes in Shadyside a few months back but have unattached accessories been stolen all that much? In particular, I’m wondering if you’ve had problems with seats being stolen (in Pittsburgh, anyway). I’ve seen people with chains looped around, but around here it seems like overkill or paranoia imported from elsewhere.
I, too, will agree that “toaster” racks are undesirable, and the Three Rivers Rack, among others, is a very good solution. (Can someone fill me in on the origin of that nickname? They don’t really look like toasters.) I find the wavy/U-shaped racks are OK so long as it isn’t crowded–I do the same thing as Joe.
Cburch– Do the Three Rivers Rack or pole-half circles accommodate more than two (independently locked) bikes at a time? I’m just wondering if there’s a way to lock a third on without blocking the “inside” bike.
Can someone fill me in on the origin of that nickname? They don’t really look like toasters.
They all stink as far as I’m concerned. I think the flat kind is the worst though.
I think the Three Rivers racks are cool, and useful, but they are not as efficient as toaster-style racks, though I also agree with cburch’s assessment of them. The rack in my office’s loading dock is toaster style, but I can get my bike over the top bar, so I can lock the frame and the front wheel. This is, however, entirely due to the dimensions of my bike–I couldn’t do this with my last ride, and just had to stuff the front wheel in there and lock that. Of course, the dock is closed 75% of the time, and the racks sits at the back of the dock, so I feel pretty secure there.
The overflow racks at REI in the South Side are okay, I think, as they allow you to easily lock the front wheel and frame.
All that said, it seems we want to have our cake and eat it, too–we want the convenience of quick release wheels, panniers, lights, etc, etc, but we also expect them to be safe. When I had to lock up on the street for a job, my bike had nutted axles, and I did chain the saddle to the frame, and I left NOTHING on the bike.
Toast Rack, not Toaster rack is probably the origin which got changed to Toaster rack at some point http://www.johnlewis.com/jl_assets/product/230335099.jpg
The Brits (among others) often prefer dry toast and use such racks.
I agree the Three Rivers Racks are a great solution to many problems. Now, if someone could come up with an indestructable U lock that was a nice size and weighed like 5 ounces, then CMU, you’d have a product!
Now, if someone could come up with an indestructable U lock that was a nice size and weighed like 5 ounces, then CMU, you’d have a product!
Ah, this reminds me. It would be nice to have a U-Lock that folds down to back-pocket size, and telescopes out to the full 8″ or so. Get on it.
I think the coat hanger type racks in front of Wean Hall are the best I’ve come across for storing more than 2 bikes.
I personally like when there is at least something that runs more or less parallel with the down-tube as it allows a fairly efficient way to lock the frame and front wheel with a U-lock (like the coat-hanger style and the 3-rivers style.) That along with no quick-release components is a pretty good combination.
I haven’t had anything stolen for quite some time, but then I don’t leave anything on the bike either. And youre right, I’ve never had a seat stolen in Pgh. The point I was trying to make is if they are trying to design a better rack, maybe a way of protecting your gear could be designed in. Maybe a small metal cube with a lockable door? Or a better/cheaper way of designing a locker. They’re from CMU they can figure out anything!
How about a rack that allows you to loop a U-lock through the rear triangle through the rack and through the lid of a box where you can stash lights and such.
Has anyone seen/heard of a vertical rack, sort of like a freestanding coat rack? Hang the bike up by the wheel, then lock it to the rack…you could probably fit six bikes on one vertical pole w/ wheel hooks and lock anchor points.
Also, attaching several short lengths of chain to a rack could be cool, so you can wrap the chain around things you care about and pass the shank of the U-lock through the free end of the chain. Like a cable lock, but fastened to the rack itself…
I’ve seen a number of racks that have a big cable fixed to them, to secure extra stuff if you’ve only got a U-lock.
Don’t they have coat-hanger-ish racks at PNC Park? I found whatever they had there completely useless when I had a bike with a porteur rack. I had to lock my bike to Jen’s bike.
To the engineer,
I don’t know if you can imply this from the discussion or not, you have 2 main user types,
1. utility bikes with nut-secured wheels that require a tool to remove, usually less expensive, people usually lock these at a single point on the frame to any fixed object that their lock fits. Single speed bikes usually have nut-secured wheels also, so the wheels stay on, so requirements are similar, but the owners usually have better locks or chains, and are a little more particular about how they lock up.
2. Road or mountain style bikes with quick release wheels, the right way to lock these up is to remove the front wheel and run a lock through the loose wheel, frame, and rear wheel.
The most common kind of lock is the “U” type, best combination of portability and security, though that design certainly has its own drawbacks.
A simple pole works fine for both types as long as it is tall enough or has an obstruction at the top to prevent just lifting over. Some kind of coating would be nice to protect the frame, like that ridiculously tough black truck bed liner stuff.
The old slot type racks like at schools don’t work well because they just hold the wheel and put the locking point too far from the best locking point on the frame, UNLESS you drape the front wheel over the top horizontal bar to lock the front wheel and frame, which I like a lot, but then you still haven’t secured the back wheel.
Accessories people are mentioning (that are easily removeable) include frame pumps, lights, odometer, water bottles. Seats sometimes have a quick release height adjustment that can allow the seat to be taken, but that I think is becoming less common, and can be solved by replacing the q.r. with a bolt.
That, I think, is the basics.
I agree with pretty much everyone here. The ideal bikerack is:
a) one that is space efficient, but easy to maneuver a bike around,in, and through if necessary.
b) One that allows for various locking techniques.
c) one that is easily accessible and protected.
d) one that is sturdy and strong, but doesnt use tubing or design that makes it difficult to use a variety of locks. LIke tubes that are overly fat so to make it difficult to use compact U-locks.
I agree that having some sort of lockable storage for lights/computers/etc would be nice too.
Has anyone seen/heard of a vertical rack, sort of like a freestanding coat rack?
There looks to be something of this sort at that new bike parking facililty downtown–the big green one. (There was a post elsewhere on the boards about it). They are wall mounted but I think the bik would stand up in them somehow. I haven’t been close enough to look yet.
I personally have some difficulty with the Three Rivers Bike Racks given my bike’s frame and design (hybrid mountain). Personally, I’ve not had much as much difficulty with the bike racks on Pitt’s campus…you just have to make sure you’ve locked the right part of your frame to it. These look like triangles hanging from an arched piece of metal.
Honestly, the most secure way to keep bikes would be some sort of enclosed storage container, similar to the lockers on Pitt’s campus or something like has just been done downtown. That way, you don’t have to worry about losing your components or your bike.
I really prefer the three rivers racks because of my bike’s design. It will not fit on a toaster style, U style, or the awful rack outside REI without taking up at least two, if not three spaces.
Different racks work in different situations too. The 3 rivers racks or a staple rack work great on a sidewalk while these work well for bike parking lots, http://www.flickr.com/photos/59878729@N00/2349379901/
If I may add a 2-cent summary:
a) One size and shape rack does not fit all. If you’re going to provide a rack in an area with a lot of bike usage, please allow some spaces for utility bikes, bikes with panniers, etc.
b) Rack or not, preservation of accessories also ranks high. I personally have a couple of $20 bikes with over $50 in add-ons (lights, etc.). Protect the whole bike, not just what can be easily locked down!
c) I shouldn’t have to lug around a boat-anchor chain, and lock to match, for fear of losing the bike to the first guy with a bolt cutter. Deter theft. Make it seem secure, with recorded, full-motion cameras from multiple angles, plentiful lighting, and the assurance that any thieves will be tracked down, prosecuted and convicted.
Look into some kind of durable soft coating to prevent scraping up your bike when you lock up.
“Look into some kind of durable soft coating to prevent scraping up your bike when you lock up.”
Stu: Deter theft. Make it seem secure, with recorded, full-motion cameras from multiple angles, plentiful lighting, and the assurance that any thieves will be tracked down, prosecuted and convicted.
In some commercial garages, all you would need to do is put the bike racks in very clear sight of the guys taking money.
I’m not sure how bike racks could get better, but I like the idea of putting the soft-coating on them (yes yes yes!) and putting a roof on them/housing them in something like the shipping container downtown.
But as far as a more functional style than the better ones out there.. hmmm.. maybe I’m just not thinking creatively enough. I’ve definitely seen pictures from other cities with some really unique, artsy designs that have something to do with the business they are in front of or show-off something that the city is known for. The 3-Rivers racks are a perfect example of this. I like that.
My rack dreams have more to do with location rather than the style.. like, I would love to see a whole parking space dedicated to a bike rack in a place like Craig St.
I’m glad you’re working on this project though.. please show us what you come up with!
In Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, he had some pix and drawings of interesting racks.
Thank you to everyone for all your comments. This is exactly the type of discussion I was hoping to elicit. From your posts we were able to get an idea of some of the issues bike racks pose and potential solutions.
When we develop a prototype at the end of the semester I’ll be sure to post pictures.
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