Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
A bunch of interesting comments were posted in response to last week’s Tech Talk about safely parking road bicycles: The Safe Way to Park a Bike Against a Pole. Let’s look at your best tips and I’ll add some insights along the way.
What we’re trying to avoid when parking is our bike falling over. Because in a worst case scenario, it’s entirely possible that just by falling and hitting something, the frame could get seriously damaged or even broken.
I’ve seen this happen so often that if I even hear a bike going “timber!” I cringe and – I’ve been known to dive to try to catch bikes before they go “crunch.” I bet some of you do, too.
I’ll let a reader named “Frank” start the comments off. He described a cool parking product that I remember from the 1980s – and that reminded me of another. “I learned that trick for leaning the bike against a pole many years ago myself, glad you shared it. My touring bike came with a different type of parking aid. It was a brake lock, a small wedge-shaped plastic thing that goes inside the brake lever and locks the lever open so that the front brake is applied.
So that it’s always at the ready, the wedge is connected to the brake lever by a short length of cord. There’s no name on this thing so I’m not sure what’s it’s called, plus it’s probably old since it was already attached to an 85 Schwinn Le Tour Luxe when I bought it very slightly used a few years ago. Of course all one really needs is one of those short thick round hairbands to do the same thing.”
Thanks, Frank. That plastic gizmo you had that goes into the brake lever and locks on the brake was an accessory made by Blackburn if my memory serves me right. I used those back when they were available. They worked nicely. I tried to find a picture of one online but couldn’t turn anything up. I might actually still have one at home. If so, I’ll share it.
There was also the Rhode Gear Flickstand, a little device invented by students at the Rhode Island School of Design and that launched the company. The Flickstand attached to the down tube and performed another bike stability trick. It featured a little wire loop that you flipped out so that it jammed into the front tire. This kept the wheel from moving left/right and also prevented the wheel from turning.
It looks like you can still buy these on ebay and if you google on Rhode Gear Flickstand a lot of photos will come right up. It’s a cool little device that put Rhode Gear on the map.
If you go shopping for one, keep in mind that a lot of modern road bikes have oversize down tubes. The Flickstand was made for conventional steel frames with 1 ⅛-inch diameter down tubes. For oversize tubes you’ll need to modify it to make it work.
You are right that a stout hairband (and other wraparounds) will also hold the brake on. That’s how the Bike Brake that I mentioned last week works with a strong elastic.
Speaking of wrapping things to keep your bike from falling over, several readers carry straps for this purpose.
David Jones had the most unique suggestion.
“There is a far better holder-upper than the Bike Brake, y’all. Not that the Bike Brake is a bad product, but it only solves one problem… preventing the front wheel from rolling forward or backward… the handlebars can still turn and allow the bike to fall over. This is especially true on a loaded touring bike.
Instead, I recommend you buy a cheap snap-closure dog collar and fasten it around the wheel and down tube to act as a front brake lock and prevent the handlebars from turning, too. Clip the collar to the handlebars when not in use. And viola, when you park, your front wheel cannot roll forward or back and the handlebars cannot turn left or right. Keep the fuzzy side of the collar to the wheel and down tube to prevent scratches!”
Chuck Matson added,
“I find the cheapest and best way to protect my bicycle when leaning against something is to use a piece of Velcro long enough to wrap around the down tube and the rim of the front wheel. It not only keeps the bicycle from moving back and forth, it also keeps the front wheel from turning. Cheap and easy. You can wrap it around the rails of your saddle when not in use.”
And, Bill Strahan chimed in,
“A short Velcro strap, or the locking straps from an old roof rack are perfect for holding the brake levers in the on position – and easy to carry. A single strap will keep the front brake engaged which is 90% of the problem when parking a bike upright.”
A few other bike parking techniques were suggested.
Larry English wrote,
“There is yet another way to park your road bike, which usually works if your bike has no fenders. Lean the back tire against the pole (or against car tires, walls, trees, too). The
rubber will have enough friction to keep the bike from rolling-usually. Regarding the fenders, they may be too slick, and the bike leaning on it may bend the fender letting the bike fall.”
Meanwhile, Marsha Thurston offered another idea.
“OMG, why not use a kickstand? So useful. There are kickstands that temporarily attach to the bike and weigh very little. I use an Upstand for my road bike and a Click-Stand for my touring bike. No problems. No more leaning against poles. Oh, and the commute bike has an actual kickstand, which the local bike shop cut for me to the exact right height for my bike, given the frame size, the size of the wheels and the bottom bracket height.”
To which reader “DJ,” replied,
“I tried the Upstand and it is not up to the job for a loaded touring bike… or even for my unloaded steel frame touring bike. I donated it to the Boy Scouts.”
For more on the Upstand, please see John Marsh’s review here (he gave it an excellent rating): Upstand Bike Stand.
Also, I’d like to point out that if you choose to use a kickstand be sure that the way it attaches to your bicycle is safe and doesn’t damage the frame. There are many different kickstand designs and some clamp on, which can damage bikes.
Another issue kickstand users learn quickly is that the ground has to be firm enough to support the bike. If you park with a kickstand on hot pavement, for example, the kickstand may sink in allowing the bike to fall over. The same thing goes for sand or wet soil.
Brian Nystrom pointed out something I hadn’t thought of that roadies riding the newest shifting technology will want to keep in mind.
“One recent advance has made bikes falling over even more likely: electronic shifting. Without the two additional shift cables to help hold the handlebars straight, the front wheel is much more likely to flop to the side and cause the bike to roll and fall. If your bike has Di2, EPS or Etap, be extra careful when leaning it against a pole or anything else.”
Taking a different approach, two readers use locks to hold their bikes up when parking.
“Bob” uses a cable lock and padding to protect his bike.
“On my nice road commuter bike, I use your seat and pedal method of leaning the bike against a pole. Plus, I carry a 36-inch long, ⅜-inch diameter vinyl-covered cable with lock around my waist that I use to secure the bike to the pole so that it doesn’t fall over, and to prevent theft. I thread the cable through the rear wheel and frame and around the pole so that the bike is snug against the pole.
I, also, use the cable to lock the bike to a ⅜-inch eye-bolt in my garage wall to prevent theft at home. Also, many of our new downtown bike-racks are upside-down U’s that do not reach up to the seat. To prevent leaning the bare top tube against the bike rack, I have secured 6-inches of foam water-pipe insulation around the top tube, just in front of the seat tube, to prevent scratches.”
Paul Rauber prefers a U-lock.
“An even easier option is just turning the handlebars slightly so the front wheel is on one side of the pole, down tube is on the other. Then, lock all three with a U-lock. The bike won’t fall down.”
Good idea, Paul, but it sounds like you’re locking the bike by only the front, meaning that the rear wheel can be stolen, which is expensive to replace. But, it should solve the falling over problem for sure.
Let’s wrap up with a super simple and clever tip from Dennis.
He says, “A useful option for holding the brake lever to the handlebar to lock on your front brake and prevent your bike from rolling is your glove’s strap!”
Good one, Dennis. Thanks everyone for the great feedback!
Ride total: 9,003
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.