Bicycle Parking

“Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes life worth living!…Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now, that’s something! And then go home again after three hours of it…and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!”
― Jack London

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

So, May was bike month and in honor of the times the City of Richardson, where I live, sponsored a bicycle parking scavenger hunt. The idea was to track down bike parking (bicycle racks) throughout the city and report them on an interactive digital online map. Despite the possibilities of actual prizes, I sort of ignored the thing.

Until our quarterly meeting with the city on transportation alternatives – where we were reminded of the event and encouraged to participate. There was only a week or so left in the month, but that included a three-day weekend and I decided to give it a whirl.

I became sort of obsessed. I planned out bike routes through the city – guided by searches I made on Google Maps. My eyes became accustomed to the tell-tale shapes of the various types of bike racks. I’d stop and take a photo with my phone, then post them on the web site.

Here’s the final map (I’m not sure how long it will stay up, hopefully, it will be a permanent reference and we can add useful bike parking outside the city). The various participants logged 250 or so bike racks during the month.

It was fun and a good excuse to explore the city on my bike.

Here’s a few that I found:

Loop racks next to a bench. I found a bunch of these in an area where a lot of new apartments are going up. That’s my Xootr folding bike.
New racks at the middle school near my house.
A unique rack at a fire station. That’s my vintage Cannondale (1987) that I ride as my everyday bike.
A gas station. There is a good taqueria inside – worth a bike ride.

Blue Threadlocker

Last weekend, it was hot, very hot. As it does every year, summer is slamming its toxic wall of incalescence into the population like Castle Bravo into Bikini. I had a ten mile bicycle ride planned out – from the DART station at Araphaho north along the Central Trail and looping through the Spring Creek Natural Area – including the new little extension that runs up under the towering vertiginous George Bush Turnpike interchange… then back. Ten miles isn’t very far, but my bike is heavy and inefficient and its motor is old and worn out – so it was enough, especially in this heat.

(click to enlarge)

My good intentions were to get up at dawn and go in the relative cool of the dewy morning – good intentions… but we know where the road that is paved with those leads to. I did not actually get on the road until the sun was directly overhead. It wasn’t too bad, though – I carried plenty of iced water and the Spring Creek part of the trail is shaded by the thick forest. I took my Kindle and stopped a few times to read a short story at any particularly tempting shaded bench I came across.

The looping trails through the Spring Creek Natural Area converge on a little footbridge over the creek. There is a nice bench there – a good place to rest and get away from the city for a few minutes.

The only problem I had was that the bolts on my bicycle rack worked themselves loose while I was riding. I noticed one side coming off and stopped to fix what I could – and then later the other came loose. I was able to keep going after some repairs, but the rack was useless.


Bike Nashbar rack mounted on the back of my bicycle.

When I arrived at home I was able to scrounge up replacements for the bolts that I lost and reassembled everything. But I knew this would happen again. No matter how hard I torque down those little aluminum bolts the constant shaking and jarring of my halting progress across uneven concrete would make them back their way out of their proper, tight position. So I sat down facing the search engines and decided to learn what I could do to stop this from reoccurring.

I entered the world of the threadlocker. There are many brands and many types… but it didn’t take long to limit everything down to one key identifier and two types – Red and Blue.

Both colors will keep your bolts under your thumb, but the red, the high strength, has to be heated to five hundred degrees to give up its grip. The blue, however, is removable with “ordinary hand tools.” So blue it was.

A trip to an automotive parts store and a tiny tube of blue threadlocker was at hand. I took the rack off, and carefully reinstalled it, squirting a little blue stuff onto each bolt as I threaded it back home.

So now, is it possible that that rack will go flying off into oblivion when I am tooling along in the middle of nowhere sometime casting my absolutely necessary survival gear into some bottomless pit? Maybe.

But I’ve done what I can.

Pack Straps

This works, but it looks stupid. Though not as stupid as when I’m actually riding the thing.

Bicycle Rack

One of my main personal goals right now is to be able to commute to work on my bicycle a couple of days each week. I don’t live all that far (though there is a big evil city in between here and there) so it shouldn’t be such a big deal – but to me, it feels like it is.

I started riding on the trails by my house. Then I realized that they now reached out in the direction of my work. I found a route that would get me there without, hopefully, getting me killed.

My head was filling with progress until I had a setback – the heat here is deadly this summer; it’s making outdoor activities impossible.

Still, I plan ahead. Planning is, after all, a lot easier than doing. I’m thinking about logistics – what I must carry with me during a bicycle commute. I realized that if I’m going to ride to work I’m going to have to carry a change of clothes plus a towel and various sundries so I don’t sit in a pool of my own sweat all day. My crappy old cheap bicycle (I bought it at a pawn shop for ninety dollars more than fifteen years ago) is ugly with bags already (handlebar bag for phone, wallet, camera, keys, water and such – frame bag for lock, chain, and pump – and seat bag for repair kit) but even with that I didn’t have any place for a clothes bag.

I needed a rack. I used to have one on the bike but I took it off for some reason years ago and it is long lost. So I went to Bike Nashbar and bought one of their cheap, generic bicycle racks.


Bike Nashbar rack mounted on the back of my bicycle.

It went on easily. Doesn’t look too bad, considering.

But now I needed a bag. I could buy an expensive trunk, or a pair of even more expensive panniers, but I’m too poor for that… or at least too cheap. I did an Internet search for DIY bike bags and found more stuff that I could handle… all the way from 2×2 wooden mounting apparatus, to complex sewing instructions for pannier production. A lot of ideas were… sort of silly, but a few of the instructions seemed really helpful, and I’ll probably work my way towards some of these ideas.

But for now, as I am wont to do, I went cheap and I went simple. I stopped by Big Lots and bought a nine dollar gym bag and a set of little bungee cords for a buck fifty. I took the shoulder strap off of the gym bag and used its mounting points to bungee the bag to the rack.


The gym bag bungeed onto the bicycle rack. This was less than successful.

And off I went. I made it a good, solid twenty feet until I felt something jam into my rear spokes. The bag had slid off sideways and fallen over. I should know better – it is always stability that gives problems, not strength.

I thought about giving up. I was tired and hot. But I had packed extra bungee cords and I used them to attach the handle straps on the bag to the sides of the rack. And that worked. I went for a little four mile ride and the bag didn’t budge a bit.

Pack Straps

This works, but it looks stupid. Though not as stupid as when I'm actually riding the thing.

It sure looks awful, though. I’ll do some thinking, work on a more elegant way to attach the thing. At least I know now what the parameters are and that it will at least work.

But who am I kidding – it isn’t the rack or the bag on my bicycle that’s the problem. It’s the engine. It’s old, crappy, and wore out. That’s what needs to be worked on and worked over. That’s what makes the simple act of riding a bicycle to my work feel like Sisyphus and his rock.

Surfing around the web at random, I found this song and video I had seen when it first came out a couple years ago. I had forgotten how wicked cool this was. Love it.