It's about the ways you use your bike.

Racking my brain

In Washington DC on 9 May 2010 at 12:21 am

UPDATED 5.9.10

I’ve noticed that DC has a lot of less than ideal hardware for locking up.

Many of the metro stations have those weird bike bank things that hold your bike like a bear trap. In general, I dislike this style of rack, but these ones make it even worse by not being designed for use with U-locks. You have to have a padlock to use them according to the designers’ intentions, which effectively renders them no more useful or efficient than a chain link fence, and I’m sure far more expensive.

Some of the stations have proper inverted U stands, which I like, but they seem to be an afterthought. They’re always far from main entrances and too few. I would venture a guess that many DC area cyclists would appreciate more of this kind of rack. I’m gladdened and inspired by organizations like The National Center for Bicycling and Walking and the League of American Cyclists, who seem to be donating and installing racks like these around DC.

A welcome surprise when I find them, they’re brightly colored, so easy to spot; they offer multiple contact points between a bike and the rack, and are very space efficient. So thanks to NCBW and LAC for those.

And they sure beat these monstrosities.

I don’t quite understand why anyone would put these in front of their establishment. First, they’re ugly and look like a piece of playground equipment. Second, they make terrible use of the space they occupy and third, you can usually only get one point of contact on your bike, which–aside from being less than secure–can lead to bent wheels or spokes. No bueno. When racks like these are all that’re around, I look for a sign post or fence. No thanks to the bike breaking pilfer posts.

DC also has a few good ring-and-post racks, which are nice, but I’d like to see more of them closer together. They’re quite sparse and seem to be randomly placed.

So, when you’re out in DC (or anywhere, really), look for the inverted U racks or the ring-and-post racks. They serve their purpose much better, I’d guess they’re far less expensive than the monstrosities, and perhaps if we all stop using those monstrosities, people will stop installing them.

UPDATE 5.9.10: added photo of my ride at my favorite kind of ring-and-post rack, and the following.

At brunch this morning, I saw probably the ideal rack set up. Notice that the racks are clustered together at an intersection by a well trafficked business, not sporadically dotting the area. This reduces the chance that anyone would mess with your bike, as it’s more likely someone will notice. Also, there’s ample room on either side of each post so that multiple bikes can be secured to one post. And best of all, notice the road block posts surrounding the whole set-up, preventing cars from parking too close and rendering the racks useless. This kind of thing makes me happy. I just love finding communities that really get the bike mentality and cater to it. So, thank you Del Ray, VA. Good job on the bike racks.

Do you have a favorite type of bike rack? What makes it good? What do you look for when locking up? Let us know in the comments.

Also, Fireflies and Evening Star Cafe made for a great Sunday brunch.

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  1. […] I also lock up with a cable. It allows me to secure the wheels and seat to the frame and rack. If you wanna be super secure, get a cable with a built in combo lock. That way a thief has two locks to break. For tips on locking up, see this post. […]

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