Saturday, October 11, 2014

There's always room for one more: DIY hanging bike storage

Lots of bikes don't necessarily have to take up lots of space.
Be forewarned, technical bike nerdery ahead. If you choose to follow the instructions, any outcome is your own risk and responsibility. Please don't attempt any construction if you are not confident in your skills.

Imagine that, one way or another, you've found yourself in a situation where you own more bikes than all your neighbors combined. Or, perhaps, you have a more culturally acceptable quantity of bikes (maybe shockingly as few a one), yet still find that you have more bikes than space for bikes. Alternately consider the not so farfetched possibility that you need to spatially justify a bike acquisition in order to maintain domestic tranquility.

In each of these cases, a better plan for bike parking could improve your life. Fortunately, a good solution is both cheap and easy, using utility hooks available at any hardware store, a few long screws, and some 2x4 or 2x6 scrap wood. You'll also need a drill, a saw, and some other common tools as needed.
The larger type hook on the left allows passage of fatter tires more readily, has a larger diameter steel core, and has a tougher coating than the standard type hook on the right. Bigger is better.
The above materials are combined into a bike hanging structure from which one or more bikes are hung from the wall by one wheel, thusly:
Alternating bars up/bars down for orderly and efficient bike hoarding.
The design of your bike hanging rig depends on a few factors:  1) the available wall space 2) the number of bikes you'd like to hang 3) the length of wood available.

The first step is to measure the length of wall where you'd like to hang your bikes. You'll need at least 20 linear inches of wall for every bike you want to hang. It may require even more space if your bikes have especially wide handlebars, which is the main determining measure. The minimum height of the wall is the length of your bike plus about 8+ inches, so as to keep the bottom tire off the floor when hung.

Next, is to measure and drill holes in the wood in which the utility hooks will be installed. In my experience, a distance between holes of approximately 18 to 20 inches works well to maximize used space while maintaining relative ease of bike removal when hanging bikes in an alternating bars up/bars down pattern. Therefore, the length of wood you'll need can be calculated as in the following example for a 3-bike rig with hooks spaced 20" apart:

  • 3" (edge to first hook) 
  • + 20" (first hook to second hook) 
  • + 20" (second hook to third hook) 
  • + 3" (third hook to edge) 
  • = 46" board length 

Remember, the linear length of wall you'll need is longer than the board length, to accommodate the handlebars of the outer bikes. In this example, the wall will need to be at least 60 linear inches.
I used three 3 1/2" deck screws anchored in a wall stud to attach the 2x6 board to the wall. The more studs, the better, as they say.
Drill the first hole into the centerline of the wood, three inches inboard from the edge of the wood. Again, be sure to allow for the distance necessary for the bike's handlebar to clear the neighboring wall. Note that it is important to drill the holes for the utility hooks angled downward about 15 to 20 degrees to relieve stress on them, as the weight of the bike pulls them down. If installed perpendicular to the wall, the utility hooks will bend downward.
Note the hook angled downward.

I installed these hooks about 18.5" apart on center, in the days before the wide bars that I now so enjoy. I'd lean more toward 20" apart if I were to rebuild.
Subsequent holes should be approximately 18 to 20 inches apart. Once all the hook holes are drilled, it's time to mount the boards to the wall. I use 3 1/2" deck screws in every stud along the length of the board. Be sure that the screws are solidly in studs, as it wouldn't be much fun to have your bike hanging rig and bikes all collapse on the floor. It is beneficial to have a stud located near each end of the board. Use a level to ensure the board is parallel to the floor, and be sure to have it high enough so your longest bike's rear tire clears the floor. The utility hooks can be installed either before or after the board is screwed to the wall.

Two 29ers with 750+ mm wide handlebars are a little snug on hooks 18.5" on center. I may respace the hooks to be a bit further apart.
In the case that you've got fatbikes to deal with, such beasts still work fine for hanging. However, a standard utility hook won't work. Many hardware stores carry a variety of hooks that can successfully grasp a fatbike wheel. I found a heavy duty hook that is about 5" wide that fits the Surly Darryl/Larry combo on my Pugsley.
Pugsley peacefully coexisting with my 30 year-old Miyata. Wide bars on both.

Fatties fit fine.
Just about any bike can be hung using this kind of rig, so long as the bike isn't so heavy that it will pull the hook out of the board. To date, I've hung bikes up to about 60 pounds in weight, with no problem other than hefting a wheel up to the hook.
These hefty old Schwinns hang just fine.
So there you go. I can't claim that this is the definitive method for storing bikes, but I don't know of any other way that is as cheap, easy, or efficient. Bikes hung in this manner remain simple to retrieve for a ride, they won't fall over and get scratched against each other, and the positive aura emitted from a wall of bikes embiggens any aspiring bike barn. Such a rig can also keep an overly abundant bike herd orderly enough so as to support domestic tranquility, though your mileage may vary.


  1. That 18.5" on center looks positively luxurious compared to my 12" hook spacing.
    It's a bit of a tight fit, but I can (and do) hang 10 bikes between the garage door and my workbench.

    1. Years ago, in a previous house I used 15" spacing. Although it worked fine, I went more extravagant with this iteration. I could see 12" being do-able, though I imagine you have to at times angle your other bikes away from the one you're extracting, sort of like shirts on hangers in a closet.

  2. I have a few hooks that I've spaced at 11" using the same technique you describe. I turn the handlebars of seasonally inappropriate bikes 90 degrees so I can store them closer together during the winter months.

    1. Ah yes, the turned handlebar technique of the true aficionado. I've turned the bars and removed the wheels of several bikes that I store, in a less accessible manner, in the attic of my bike barn. I know the only real solution is to let any go that I don't really have room for, but so far my weakness doesn't allow such action.

  3. Great article, just in time to help me with my storage woes!

    1. Glad to be of help. If nothing else, I'm an enabler to those afflicted with the bike hoarding illness.

  4. That big hook for your Pugsley cracked me up. I used to loop a quick-release dog collar around my Pug's wheel to hang it on the hook before I spotted the exact same "big-boy" hook down at the hardware store.

    I hang my gang off the ceiling so I can park the kids' bikes and scooters underneath. Helps being 6' 5" though :^)
    - Antoine

  5. At my house I use a 2x4 with hooks spaced at 22". Then, about 8" below, I run another 2x4 with hooks spaced to split the gap between their upstairs neighbors. H-bars up on the top hooks, h-bars down on the lower hooks. That effecively gets me 11" spacing with no saddle/bar tangles. It also gets me a $h!tlo@d of bikes in a little garage, which makes me a happier person.

  6. I really need me one of them bike barns! Currently in my 2 bdrm apartment: bike in work-stand in the dining room (it will be going away on completion), bike in entryway, bike in living room, bike in bedroom, 4 bikes on balcony, 5 framesets also on balcony although two are destined for the scrap yard. Coming soon on an episode of bike hoarders...sigh

    1. These pics just show my "orderly" bike storage. I have additional disorderly storage as well. I think I'm actually down a net 8 or so bikes from when this post was new, so that's progress, I suppose.