By Jim Langley
Jim’s Tech Talk
Last week’s column on ways to store road bikes elicited helpful comments and an interesting question we’ll look at today. But first, a couple of folks asked for photos showing hanging bikes on hooks.
Hanging By One Hook
Here’s the easiest way. All it takes is one bike hook screwed high enough to hold the bike above the ground. Screw it into a wall stud or anything like that strong enough to hold the hook from pulling out, and to support the weight of your bike. My hooks in this photo are in a 2 x 4 that’s resting on the top of two bookcases on either side of my home office.
You can hang the bike from either wheel on a single bike hook. To hang multiple bikes as in the photo, space the hooks about 7 inches (18cm) apart. At that width, you will hang one bike by the front wheel, the next by the rear. That way the bars don’t bump into each other. This is the way to get many bikes into the smallest possible space.
TIP: If you’re worried about bike theft from your home, bikes stored tightly like this are easier to hide so that crooks might not see them. For example, in a closet. Or by disguising the bikes with a curtain, etc Since they take up so little space, it could make them “invisible,” and hopefully more safe. For more tips on safe storage, see this article.
For Easy Lifting
If you want to hang all the bikes with the bars up, make the hooks about a foot apart (30cm). The reason you might want to hang all the bikes with the bars up is because it makes it easier to lift the bikes.
To lift bikes this easy way, standing a little behind and to the side of the bike, grab the bars with both hands and pull up so that the bike pops a wheelie and is standing on its rear wheel.
With the bike like this, roll it on its rear wheel under the bike hook. Now, put the knee of your dominant leg under the back of the seat and together with your knee and your hands, hoist the bike onto the hook. Even heavy ebikes are easy to hook this way.
Don’t worry, you’re not actually lifting much with your knee, mostly you’re pushing and you keep your foot on the ground and use it to push off and help your knee. Try it, it’s easy.
Hanging By Two Hooks
If you want to get the bikes higher, which might be required to be able to park a car beneath them in the garage, that’s doable with two hooks. Just like with single hooks, screw them into something solid. Each hook carries less weight but you still don’t want them pulling out. Especially if your Ferrari California is parked underneath.
With double hooks like this, space them about 40 inches apart (101cm), which will center each hook on each wheel. For spacing other bikes next to each other, use the same measurements as with single hooks.
If you look close, you might be able to see that I used a simple trick to raise my bikes higher than the original framing in our garage. Had I hung the bikes there, they would have been too low preventing parking beneath. So, I simply added vertical risers, put boards on top for the hooks and that got the bikes high enough.
Lifting Onto Double Hooks
Since bikes are higher overhead, it takes more oomph and care to lift and hook them. If you’re tall and strong enough, you can invert the bike, hold it by the seat with one hand and the bars with the other and lift it up and onto the hooks.
I used to be able to do this all day long. Now, not so much – especially with heavier bikes. So, to make it easier, I use the pop-a-wheelie approach to get the front wheel up. I then hold onto the bars firmly to control the bike’s front end, and then grab the seat with my dominant hand. I can then lift the rear end of the bike high enough to get the rear wheel on the hook. Once that’s in place, it’s easy to swing the front wheel up onto the hook.
I have never had any properly screwed in bike hook pull out. I have never had one bend such that a bike could fall off. At the Bicycle Center we had 50 bikes hanging from the ceiling on double hooks when the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake struck October 17, 1989. That was a terrifying quake that destroyed downtown Santa Cruz. But only one bike fell from the ceiling hooks.
Safe For the Bikes, Maybe Not For You
Still, it’s only fair to tell you that I have dropped bikes trying to hang them with both overhead techniques I described. Naturally, I have let the bike clobber me so as to avoid damage to the bike. But, that’s always risky and painful.
So, I would never say it’s the perfect, safest way to hang bikes. But, it’s how I still have about 30 bikes stashed at home. So it does work. Just be careful when hanging and taking them down if you do it this way.
Alternatively, you could look into the bike hoists that make the lifting and lowering easy. These were mentioned in the comments, too. Here’s one by Delta: https://amzn.to/2Y8WjMt.
Upside-down Bike Storage and Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Which brings us to Bill Hubbard’s interesting comment. He wrote:
“One thing to keep in mind: hanging bikes with hydraulic disc brakes upside-down can be problematic. Typically, this will cause air to be introduced into the brake system and will require bleeding before every use.”
I have heard the same thing Bill wrote, but I have also heard that it’s completely safe to hang bikes with hydro discs however you want. But, then, I was reminded of hanging mountain bikes with suspension forks upside down and how oil could seep out from gravity.
Thinking on it more, I recalled having one of my bikes with discs lose its braking after being hung overhead, too. So, I decided to reach out to someone who would know for sure.
Going to the Source
That someone works at Park Tool. The reason I contacted Park is because they actually invented the bike hook in 1968 – the very first one (photo). And today, they have bike hooks of all types. Here’s the one for most road bikes: https://www.parktool.com/product/storage-hook-wood-thread-451.
Plus, Park recently introduced full brake bleed kits for mineral oil and DOT systems. Here’s an example: https://www.parktool.com/product/hydraulic-brake-bleed-kit-mineral-bkm-1?category=Brakes. Apparently they’re already popular because for me it’s showing a temporarily out of stock message.
I spoke with John Krawczyk, a product manager at Park who knows his stuff and has helped me out many times over the years. He gave me a two-part answer to Bill’s question.
Bicycle Hydraulic Brakes Are Sealed
First, John told me that it’s perfectly fine to hang disc brake bikes any way you want, because bicycle hydraulic brakes use sealed systems. Since they’re sealed, the brake fluid can’t get out and the air can’t get in. So hanging the bike won’t harm the brakes in any way.
Second, he explained that since Bill is having an issue with his brakes when he hangs the bike, it has to be because the system isn’t sealed anymore. This could happen if a piston had gotten stuck allowing air to get in behind it. Or, if somehow a pinhole had developed in a brake hose somewhere on the bike.
In that scenario, the brake could operate adequately when riding but it would be losing a small amount of fluid and simultaneously taking in a little air. Then, when the bike is hung upside down, the air could find its way to the high point and escape. That could result in the feeling Bill experienced having no brakes when he takes the bike down and checks it.
Which means he needs to find the problem and fix it. John said that the best way to find leaks is to look for traces of escaping brake fluid. If the fluid is getting out, air is getting in.
But, back to whether or not it’s safe to hang hydraulic disc equipped bikes upside down, my final take is that it depends. If you know your bike is in proper working order, you then know it’s safe to hang it upside down.
However, if you think your brakes might be going south, then you probably shouldn’t risk hanging it upside down. So, in my opinion, Bill’s comment was partly correct. And, hopefully, he’ll now find any issues with his brakes and seal them up again.
Thanks to John and Park Tool for the assist!
Ride total: 9,667