What to look for when you are parking your bike

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Parking your bicycle

Posted on June 14, 2019 - Josh Orita

What to look for in a bike rack

Everyone benefits from good bike racks: They reduce the chance of theft and damage to bikes, and make it easier for people on bikes to visit your business.

Cyclists: When you arrive at your destination by bicycle, take a second to scan the area so you can choose the best parking option. Being strategic about where you lock your bike can reduce the chance of theft or damage.

Business owners: Choosing the right kind of rack can make it more likely that people who bike will use it and patronize your business. If you’re looking for a rack, check out the list of suppliers at the end of this post.

Let’s explore the characteristics of a good bicycle rack and what to look out for the next time you park your bicycle or buy a rack.

What makes a bicycle rack good?

  • It’s intuitive to use: It supports a variety of bicycles/accessories and doesn’t require lifting the bike.
  • It supports the bicycle in two places horizontally so the bike doesn’t fall over.
  • It allows at least one wheel and the frame to be locked.
  • It’s securely attached to the ground so it can’t be moved. Bolted racks should be firm and not wobble. Racks anchored into the concrete are best.
  • It’s in a visible location and not tucked at the side or back of a building.

Recommended bicycle racks

These bicycle racks are recommended because they are easy to use, support a bicycle upright without putting stress on the wheels, accommodate a variety of bicycles, and enable locking both the frame and at least one wheel with a U-lock.

Inverted U racks

Inverted U, also called a staple or loop, are anchored to the ground in two places and have space for locking two bicycles.

  • Easy to lean a bicycle against it.
  • Flexible locking options.
  • Low risk of bicycle damage.

Ring & post racks

Ring & post racks are anchored to the ground in a single place and have space for locking two bicycles.

  • Easy to lean a bicycle against it.
  • Flexible locking options.
  • Low risk of bicycle damage.
  • Security tip: If it’s not one piece, double check that the ring is securely attached to the post.

Bicycle racks that require special attention

Coat hanger

Coat hanger racks are freestanding and typically have space for about five bicycles and are easily identifiable by triangles (or other shapes) that hang down from a horizontal bar like a coat hanger.

  • The horizontal bar limits the types of bicycles that can fit. If your bike is able to fit, it will likely still be difficult to insert and remove.
  • There is a risk of someone else damaging your bicycle if they are inserting or removing their bicycle beside yours.
  • Coat hanger racks are popular and it may be your only choice. If you have to use one:
    • Parking on the end is ideal.
    • Do your best to lock the frame and wheel.
    • Ensure the rack is secured to the ground.

Bollard racks

Photo: fairweathersf.com

Bollard racks are bollards with very small hoops. They’re very similar to ring & post racks, except they often do not support the bicycle at two horizontal points.

  • It might be difficult to lock your bicycle by both the frame and wheel.
  • It does not support bicycles well, increasing the risk of damage from moving itself or a neighboring bicycle.
  • If you have to use one, do your best to ensure the bike is settled against the post so it does not slide and fall.

Spiral racks

Spiral Bike Rack
Photo: furphyfoundry.com.au

Spiral racks look neat but are not very bicycle-friendly.

  • It is not obvious how to place or lock your bicycle.
  • The design may limit the types of bicycles that can fit, making it difficult for some bicycles to securely rest against the rack.
  • There is a risk of someone else damaging your bicycle if they are inserting or removing their bicycle beside yours.
  • If you must use one: Parking on the end is ideal—and do your best to lock the rear wheel and frame.

Bicycle racks you should try to avoid

Comb racks

Comb racks, also called a schoolyard rack or grid rack, are freestanding racks that typically have space for about five bicycles and hold them by a single wheel.

  • Comb racks should be avoided because they generally do not allow locking of the wheel and frame and can cause damage to the inserted wheel.
  • There is a risk of damaging the bicycle wheel and frame because the bike is not properly supported.
  • If you have to use one, park on the end if possible so you can properly lock both your bicycle wheel and frame to the rack.

Wave racks

Wave racks, also called undulating or serpentine racks, typically have space for about 5 bicycles and only support a bicycle by one point on the frame when used as intended (bike inserted into a slot).

  • It is not obvious how to place or lock your bicycle.
  • The design may limit the types of bicycles that can fit, making it difficult for some bicycles to securely rest against the rack.
  • There is a risk of someone else damaging your bicycle if they are inserting or removing their bicycle beside yours.
  • If you must use one: Parking on the end is ideal—and do your best to lock the rear wheel and frame. Or if other bikes are not expected at the location, park your bicycle parallel to the rack rather than perpendicular.

Wheel well racks

wheel-well-only

Wheel well racks, or “wheel benders,” as they’re known by many cyclists, are freestanding racks that hold the bicycle by one wheel. It is easy for your bicycle to be damaged if it (or someone else’s) falls over, and it is typically not possible to properly lock your bicycle. It is best to avoid using wheel well racks.

Odd-shaped racks

Bicycle racks that are unusual or designed for visual appeal may not be intuitive to use, increasing the risk of theft or damage. It is best to avoid these types of racks unless you are confident in identifying the characteristics of a good rack.

Unable to find a bicycle rack? 

These alternatives to bike racks are common and might do the trick for you. 
Please be mindful to not obstruct any doors, parking spots, walkways, or anything else that might create a challenge for other people in the area.

Sturdy handrails or fencing

Sturdy handrails and fencing that are solid metal and securely anchored to the ground might be a good alternative to a bad bike rack.

  • Lean your bicycle against the handrails or fencing, ideally in a way that supports it in two places so it won’t fall over. Lifting the handlebars over (or under) metal bars might make this easier depending on your bicycle.
  • Lock your bike by both the frame and wheel to solid metal. Double check that you are not locking to a decorative part that can easily be removed.
  • Be mindful to not obstruct any doors, parking spots, walkways, or anything else that might create a challenge for other people.

Sign posts

Sign posts that are anchored into concrete (not bolted) are a decent option.

  • Lock your bicycle by the frame and wheel and do your best to ensure the bike is settled against the post so it does not slide and fall.
  • Be mindful to not obstruct any doors, parking spots, walkways, or anything else that might create a challenge for other people.
  • Do not lock to a short post that would allow a thief to lift your lock and bicycle over the top of the sign.

Secure parking in the Downtown Kitchener core

If you frequently visit Downtown Kitchener, it might be worth looking into the City of Kitchener secure bicycle parking. There are multiple locations, each of which consists of bicycle racks inside secured inside a cage area that requires a key fob to enter.

For more information, visit Secure parking on the City of Kitchener website.

Where to buy bicycle racks

Are you a business owner interested in attracting new customers or an individual planning to request bike parking? We have compiled a short list of bicycle rack companies to help you get started.

Disclaimer: CycleWR is not affiliated with and does not endorse any of the companies in the list. The list is provided for your convenience.

Canada

Greenspoke
Kitchener, Ontario
www.gogreenspoke.com

Maglin Site Furniture
Woodstock, Ontario
www.maglin.com

Bike Rack Mfg. & Dist. 
Toronto, Ontario
www.bikerack.ca

Parco Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
www.parcoproducts.com

Dobra Design
Vancouver, British Columbia
www.dobradesign.com

USA

Cora
www.cora.com

Dero
www.dero.com

Madrax
www.madrax.com

Sportworks
www.sportworks.com

TreeTop Products

 

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