The Importance of Bike Storage Hooks
If you follow the rule of n+1, where ‘n’ is the amount of bikes you currently own, and you keep adding to that number – eventually you’re going to need more bike storage. I crossed that bridge a long time ago. Even before my days at GravelBikes, I could have been considered a bicycle hoarder collector, and it’s only gotten worse. Recently after moving, I found myself in need of a complete redesign for my storage of the fleet. With a new space to fill out, I eagerly researched a number of different bicycle storage products. In spite of numerous options out there, I kept coming back to the humble bicycle storage hook. The simplest solution is usually the best, right? I’ve used various hooks for years, usually whatever version you could find at the local home center. This time though, I wanted to check out the hooks from Park Tool. Are they noticeably different than those that have dutifully supported my bikes for the past decade? Before I knew it, a box of hooks was on its way from Park Tool to find out.
In terms of storage capacity, simplicity, and cost, the bicycle storage hook simply cannot be beaten. If you have a ceiling with sufficient height with a floor above it, you likely already have a built-in mounting system. Most basement ceilings will have floor joists that are spaced at 16″ on the center. That’s almost the perfect width to space out a row of bicycle storage hooks. Simply drill a pilot hole in the center of the joist, thread in the hook, and voila, you have bicycle storage. If you use this method, there’s nothing else to buy and no need to build anything. It doesn’t matter if the ceiling is finished or completely exposed – just make sure you’re not drilling into any electrical or plumbing lines, HVAC systems, etc.
Efficient Use of Space
I’ve always hung my bikes in an alternating fashion with bar up/bar down. This allows you to cram a bunch of bikes into a smaller space while still allowing your fairly easy access to each individual bike. Shown above: three bikes with handlebar widths of 800mm (including grips). The 16″ on center spacing of the hooks still works well in this scenario. Even with the wide handlebars of modern mountain bikes, the 16″ spacing works quite well. Again, in terms of efficiency, it’s hard to find a way to store more bikes as effectively and efficiently as this. I do have a hanging rack that fits more bikes into a smaller footprint, but the spacing is too close to allow easy use with mountain bikes. The 12″ spacing is just wide enough to use with many dropbar bikes, but even for wider bars on gravel bikes it can be a challenge to wiggle the bikes in and out. If you’re limited on ceiling height, don’t forget to think about the wheelbase measurement of various bikes. Some are quite a bit longer than others and require more height to properly hang.
Is it OK to Hang Bikes by the Wheels? Upside Down?
This is a common question, likely because there are a lot of anecdotes floating around about someone who hung their bike upside down and “now the brakes don’t work.” I’ve hung every type of bike in almost every direction for years, and chances are very good that if you look in the back of your local bike shop, you’ll find the same thing. But to be completely sure, I reached out to a few brake and suspension companies to ask their opinion on the matter – namely, SRAM, Shimano, and Hayes/Manitou. The consensus seems to be that it’s completely OK to hang bikes with hydraulic disc brakes or suspension. Both Shimano and Hayes said that it’s fine to hang them in either direction, but is probably best to hang them with the brakes pointed up just in case there’s any air in the master cylinder. Shimano MTB Product Manager, Nick Murdick went on to say, “Like other open system hydraulic brakes, Shimano brakes all feature a reservoir of extra fluid above the master cylinder piston. We take things a step further by using the brake’s architecture to guide air bubbles to the top of this reservoir where they won’t affect brake performance. This also makes the brakes easier to bleed when the time comes. It is quite normal to find a small bubble in the top of the reservoir and it’s generally no cause for concern. If you hang the bike, it’s possible for the bubble to move into the rest of the brake system. However, the bubble will generally move right back to the top of the reservoir when the bike is taken down for a ride. Pulling the lever a few times can help get it back where it belongs, essentially self-bleeding the brakes. If you do that step with a bleed funnel filled with fluid installed, the bubble can even be eliminated completely. The one thing to avoid would be pulling the brake lever while the bike is hanging. That can force any bubble into the brake line, making it harder to get it back into the reservoir.” It was a similar story from Hayes/Manitou, with their engineers stating, “there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way of hanging a bike, at least not from the brake or suspension side of things. For brakes it shouldn’t matter since there should be no air in the system. The rider would notice air in the pressure path so if there is any air present it would be in the reservoir. In that case anywhere between bike horizontal (like it would be on the ground) and front wheel up would allow the air to remain in the reservoir. So if you are due for a bleed, avoid hanging it from the rear wheel. As for suspension, some of our engineers hang their bikes so the bushings are at the bottom end so the bath oil can get down to the seals. But honestly, without any pressure differential the clearance between the leg and bushing is tight enough that the oil won’t break surface tension and slide down. Same goes for the damper, air shouldn’t migrate past the check valve unless there is sufficient pressure to push it through. If in doubt, the compression adjuster can be set to max before hanging the bike to eliminate the leak path for the air. In the case that air does get past the check valve, a few quick cycles of the fork should take care of bleeding those air bubbles out from under the damper.” SRAM’s response gave the all clear for either direction, making it an easy decision. Based on all three responses though, it seems like bar up is probably the safest bet for bikes with hydraulic disc brakes, but as long as they’re in good working order, you probably won’t have an issue either way.
Considerations for Carbon Rims
This one is a little trickier since there are carbon wheels out there that are likely too fragile to hang from a hook. These seem to be more rare these days, but there were a few wheels that used essentially a carbon ‘fairing’ on top of a standard box section rim to create an aero wheel. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I vaguely remember one such wheel from my bike shop days that even had a warning sticker on it not to hang it by the rim. But these rims typically feel fragile, and you could physically squeeze the carbon and see it flex. If your wheel feels stronger than that, it’s probably OK – but better to be safe than sorry and consult the manufacturer to be sure. I’ve had no problems hanging many different carbon wheels over the years – the one thing I would say, is to be mindful of the graphics on the rims and of the valves themselves. It seems universally constant that if you pick up a bike to hang it, the hook will either land…