Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Some of the worst damage to your roadster can come from something that seems harmless: the bike falling over when it’s parked against a pole. I learned this lesson the hard way. It was a long time ago, but I still remember the pain.
It happened in 1971, to my first dream ride, an almost full-Campagnolo Raleigh International, with a feathery Reynolds 531 double-butted steel frame. After a ride, I parked the bike against a pole next to the little market I stopped at to get some snacks.
Not wanting to risk scratching or chipping the Raleigh’s gorgeous Chartreuse paintjob, I carefully rested the side of the Brooks Pro leather saddle against the pole. I made sure the bike was balanced, standing up straight, and perfectly safe – or so I thought.
When I came out of the store with my Coke and Snickers, I found my bike lying on its side next to the pole. There were more bikes parked around now. I was annoyed that one of these riders had apparently bumped into and knocked my baby over. But, I didn’t yet realize how much there was to be mad about.
It was later at home when I saw the damage. When my International toppled, the frame must have struck the pole. Because not only was the paint on the top tube scratched, there was also a bad dent in the tubing!
I knew about the risk of scratching the paint when I parked my bike against the pole. But, I had no idea that bikes frames were so fragile that simply falling into a pole could damage them like that.
Pole Parking is Just as Risky Today
That incident happened back when almost all bicycles were made of steel. Today we have many more frame materials, such as aluminum, titanium and carbon. All can still be badly damaged from a bike falling over like mine did.
What happens is, something causes the bike to move. And because bikes rest on wheels, once they start moving they keep moving until something stops them. When parked by the seat against a pole, the most likely object the bike frame slams into is the pole.
And, it doesn’t take something or someone bumping into your bike to cause this accident. Even a gust of wind or a passing truck vibrating the pavement can make a bike move enough.
Besides scratches and dents, you don’t want your road bike to topple because if it falls to the right, the rear derailleur usually strikes the ground the hardest. This can bend the derailleur and/or the “derailleur hanger,” the little piece of metal on the frame the derailleur is attached to. This damage is almost always fixable, but it can be expensive. So it’s best to avoid it.
The Safe Way to Pole Park
From what I see on group rides every week, many even experienced riders don’t park their bikes safely against poles. So, to help you avoid what happened to me, here are the simple steps for parking against poles safely. Please share this with friends to save them, too.
You can lean the left or right side of your bike against the pole – your choice. You need to lean it at enough of an angle that gravity makes it want to stay against the pole. If it’s too upright, it will fall to the outside. You don’t want that (see tip #1 above).
In the photo, the key points for Steps 1 and 2 are shown.
Find the deepest point in the curve on the side of the saddle and place that point against the pole. The shape of the saddle will keep the bike from being able to move forward because the seat is wider in back.
Now, “lock” the bike in place by turning the inside crankarm backwards until the inside pedal comes up and touches the pole’s front side (the pedal will probably be at around 10 o’clock). Make sure the pedal is flat against the pole, rather than having just the edge of the pedal against it.
That’s all there is to it. What makes this pole parking technique safe is that the saddle keeps the bike from shifting forward while the pedal and crank stops it from moving backward – so the bike is essentially locked in place.
The first time you try this, you will need to experiment to make sure the lean angle is right in order for your pedal to come up and rest against the pole. Keep in mind that the pedal can only lock the bike in place if it’s resting on the front side of the pole (the front side is the same side your handlebars will be on). Because in that position, the bike’s drive mechanism keeps the crank from changing position.
Former RBR chief, John Marsh reviewed a nifty $2.99 item called the Bike Brake that acts as an emergency brake preventing your bike rolling, which will help stop a bike from falling over, too. https://bikebrake.com/
As an important final note, this safe pole parking technique is NOT a guarantee that your bicycle cannot fall over when parked against a pole. Someone could still hit it hard enough to move it. An earthquake could do it, etc.
If you want to be 100% sure your bike can’t fall over no matter what, park it by laying it gently on the ground, preferably on its non-drive side (so no drivetrain parts are close to calamity). Just don’t put it where it can get run over.
Ride total: 8,996
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.