Friday, January 4, 2008

Sucky Bike Racks: #1

Sucky Rack #1

Most bike racks suck. This fact is one of those maddeningly frustrating little things in life. How can so many people screw up such a simple tool? And why do so many places buy them? This is first in a series of sucky racks and why they suck.

The rack in the picture above is at city hall. There are also a couple in front of Madeline's and in front of Macy's. I've seen these at other places too.

Like every other cyclist I know with a U-lock, when I lock my bike, I pass the lock through the front wheel and the frame and lock it to the bike rack. I would say that's a pretty standard method.

It's hard to illustrate with a picture, so you'll have to take my word for it: if your bike has a large front rack, then adequately locking your bike to this silly rack with a U lock is impossible.

You can't get the bike in where it's supposed to go, so you're forced to lock to outside of the rack, where there's a HUGE tube that is gong the wrong way/angle for the U-lock to wrap around, even if you try raising the bike off the ground. I do believe it is practically impossible. (Ok, for the impractical, I could tilt my bike to about 85 degrees to get the angle right for locking to the big tube, putting a bunch of stress on my front spokes and raising the rear wheel off the ground about 4 feet. So it's not *strictly* impossible.)


The root issue here of course, is a common design problem. The person designing the rack has an extremely limited understanding of the problem they are trying to solve. Or, the designer is making a conscious decision to produce a rack that is incompatible with certain bikes. The designer made this rack for bikes that fall into a certain height range and with no front racks. There are likely other non-standard bikes that might have issues with this rack (recumbents, smallish folders, etc).

I should also note that I smashed an E6 light (that was mounted on my fork) on this rack about a year ago. I busted it and had to get a new lens for it. ($35?) I'll take some of that blame, but the rack requires that you push the bike into it in order to use the smaller diameter tubes for locking. The designer had not likely seen any lights on a bike except for handlebar mounted blinkies, so the "push in" requirement was not an issue.

This wouldn't drive me insane if designing a useful rack was a hard problem. But it's not. I can't think of (nor have a seen) a better design for a bike rack than this one:

If it's more involved than that simple design, it's over engineered.

For what it's worth, here's how I ended up locking my bike:

Note that the railing here has a strikingly similar design to the simple rack noted above.

Oh yeah. And if the piss poor design of Sucky Rack #1 isn't enough to make you crazy, here's a cherry for the top:

Yes, that's a big American flag on there. And yes, those tiny words at the bottom say "Made in Canada." I don't care where it's made, but it's obvious that the intention here is to make you think, at glance, that this is American-made. That is sleeze. Even if it was a great rack, I wouldn't buy it for that reason alone.


Anonymous said...

The only racks I love to see more than those ones, which are also at the nearest Safeway, (is there really such a thing as a 'local' Safeway?)is the one at my LBS, which is just as useless and normally blocked by cars. Expect perceptions and infrastructure to change at $8 a gallon, maybe $10.


EvilElf said...

My favorite bad bike rack is the one at Hastings (29th Ave.) It's a piece of green plastic that has little divots in which to place your front tire. And that's about it. Oh there is a filler port so you can put water in it. I guess the added weight (8 lbs?) is enough to deter a bike thief. I wish someone would just steal the whole crappy deal.

If there is not a decent bike rack, I usually contact the business owners. No reply? Then I lock my bike to any kind of signage that they have out front whenever I visit, or I just make sure they don't get my business anymore - and I let them know why.

John Speare said...

Mr Evil Elf: I will be sure to get that one on here. It sounds even worse than #3. I have a couple others in mind that I need to document, then I'll be done with this.

bleckb said...

I see one of the racks is at city hall. The other looks like the new Walgreens on 29th and Grand. #3 is what they have, even if that's not the place of the photo. I'm not sure where number 2 is though.

Michael said...

I wont even use rack #3, I'll lock my bike to a tree or wheel it inside where ever I'm going instead.

Unknown said...

Referring to sucky bike racks #3: can you really classify those under "bike racks"? haha

Anonymous said...

I had a meeting with the CEO of Rosauer's this morning. He seemed open to my ideas so hopefully SOOOOON we will see actual bike racks at our favourite Rosauer's family of stores (Including Super 1 on 29th, Home of Sucky Bike Rack #3!)

Unknown said...

Awesome blog post. Thanks for sharing this details.