Thursday, June 9, 2011

hulk bike rack build

new hobby. mountain biking.

I've always been a bit weary of most bike racks, especially ontop of an SUV. All too often I see expensive custom frames mangled by low gas station overhangs, or ATM awnings, or even garages. There's also your run of the mill rear-window-strappy-contraption mount that seems impossible to use without scratching either your bike, your friends bike, your car, or all 3. Along with not being safe for the bike in a relatively catastrophic way, they're difficult to secure and have simply never been good on paint jobs. Bikes are exposed to the elements in ways they were not intended as they are hooked, bolted, strapped, or otherwise attached to a car traveling at 5x the speed of the bicycle, in a manor it wasn't meant to be used.

What are the alternatives? Flipping the seats up and throwing 1 bike in the back of the Jeep was great for road and mountain bike alike. The bike was safe inside, it wasn't banging around against the exterior of the car at 80 mph, nor was it dealing with the elements. The second you throw in a 2nd bike however, you then have to protect the 2 bikes from attacking each other as they lay on-top snuggled too close for comfort. This takes some doing and usually involves 20 minutes of negotiating pedals, spokes, rest points, and several small blankets. Every turn and shift from the back seat raises the hairs on my neck about unnecessarily ruined paint jobs on well invested pieces of art. Yes, my bike is functional art.

What are the alternatives? Build one.

After a few design iterations, this is the result. As all hard mount racks start off, the mount was in the front facing the bike forward. This is a fine orientation while riding the bike, but it doesn't need to be facing forward while in stow. It is much easier to load into the back of an SUV, especially for one person, rear first so you don't have to magically run to the front to position forks and lock down a mount before the bike topples over. It also leaves more room behind the front seats for stuff instead of handle bars angled all over the place (this is important if you're tall). Also, there's not much to mount a rack to up front since that's really the back of the rear seats when they're acting as seats. I didn't want to go drilling holes in fabric and trying to solidly mount something to things that were not intended as supports (see above notes about actually using something how and for what it was designed). Amazingly enough, there just so happen to be 2 rear hook mounts on either side of the cabin near the rear door.

The second change was a 3 to 2 bike carrier. Since the rear seats have to be folded down, the jeep itself can only hold 2 people and a 3 bike carrier becomes a bit overkill. The rear seats could be arranged so that 1 is up and 2 are down, but then there wouldn't be enough room for 3 bikes anyways. 3 bikes hard mounted on the same end, regardless if it were forward or aft, would require rotation of the handlebars or a very careful spacial recognition during design, fabrication, and continued use and I wanted this to be anything but difficult to use. There simply wasn't enough room to rotate handle bars on a 45 degree with the bikes facing aft due to their length and the lack of rear window clearance. Not even considering the ease of aft positioned install, the bars would be over the drivers head if angled and facing forward. If a 3rd bike is ever needed to ride along, one can carefully fit between the 2 hard mounted, facing forward. I'm imagining going on a bike safari and having the mountain bikes and a skinny light road bike w/ short bars in the middle.

Based on the length, height, and type of mount required for the 2 bikes in question, the final design may not have looked anything like the sketch in my head, but it is the best bike rack ever and is now painted in hulk green using the thick coat "did you powder-coat that?" spray painting method. I've found if you want something looking good with spray paint you either have to spray it on with many light coats, or just go SUPER heavy, followed up by a light spritz to hold it all together. anything in the middle doesn't seem to work very well and results in a drippy, un-hulk-like, wavy finish.

The smaller skewer-mounted bike was able to fit in normally while the bigger 20mm front axle bike required rotation of the handle bars 180 degrees and rotating the mount horizontal. The turning of one bike's bars prevented the bars arguing between the 2 bikes as well as moving the bigger framed bike's bars more forward in the cabin away from diminishing-headliner-roominess as you get closer to the rear door.