The Chainlink

Advice for Secure Bike Rack/Storage Solutions for Apartment Building (~13 Bike Capacity)

This summer the 6 unit apartment building I live in has had 5 bicycles stolen from the basement on four separate occasions. These bikes weren't locked because there's so few poles that a U-lock will fit around (and frankly, some people just refused to lock up even after multiple bikes were stolen). The building owner (one dude, not a big company) has taken steps to secure the basement and is open to the idea of adding bike racks. I offered to help choose bike racks so he doesn't pick something useless or install it so close to the wall it's unusable.

Do you have any suggestions for what specific racks are best in this situation? I suggested that he should provide one secure lock up spot per bedroom in the building. I have three bikes personally, but asking for that many spaces is not going to fly. So, given our building I'm looking for a solution for 13 bikes. I would like to try to find some economical options so he is more likely to be willing to follow through and pay for it (large corporate or fancy racks are out). I have suggested that it will be a selling point to renters in the future.

The basement has concrete floor and walls, low ceilings (maybe 7') and is completely full of old tenants' shit so any solution will require a lot of space clearing. Tenants bikes range from fixies, mountain bikes, hybrids, and uprights so it should be able to accommodate wide handlebars and different space needs (like the big rack on the front of my Gary Fisher in my profile photo). 

I like the idea of alternating vertical racks (must be lockable to the bike frame, obviously) but am not sure if this will work with low ceilings or if they work great for non-road bikes/usability by a range of people. My issue with floor racks is always that it's hard to get to your bike if the rack is full. I'm also open to suggesting something DIY that our handyman could make but I have no idea if that would actually be economical considering the cost of his time or be secure. I love the idea of being "assigned" my own spot so that there's no fights over who gets to lock their bike to which pole.

I've never bought a bike rack before so I'm looking for your ideas and experience. Thanks!

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It would seem that the real problem is that people are getting into the basement to steal the bikes.  How is this happening?  If the thieves can get in, I'm not sure there's any bike rack that's going to make a difference.  With time and privacy, thieves can defeat pretty much any theft prevention device.  

I live in an area that suffers from a pretty high level of garage break-ins to steal bikes.  That said, (and with a big knock-on-wood) 9 out of 10 times the garage break-ins are a crime of opportunity where someone steals an unlocked bike (or something else of value that's unsecured) from the garage.  I think basement break-ins are pretty similar. 

While a thief with an angle grinder will get whatever they want, there's enough easy pickings out there that locking a bike in a basement/garage at a minimum deters some thieves from going through the bother of cutting a ulock (at least to enough of a degree that it's worth it to lock to something).  They'll just move on to the next garage/basement rather than spend the time.   

I was sort of forced to lock my bike in an unsecure area for a long time (or, pseudo secure, it was outside with locked gates, etc., and somewhat hidden and i HATED it. I would try and keep it in the locked basement, but even then, I worried. So my hot tip that doesn't always work but does deter your sort of non-specific, quick thief is locking the wheels to the bike itself with your U-lock. 

That being said...

It's pretty easy to rig up DIY storage systems. In ANOTHER apartment, I simply installed a bunch of U-hooks you can buy at Home Depot on the porch and they're pretty strong, when driven into the right piece of wood. I know you said it's concrete, so maybe your handyman would have to secure in some two by eights or something to get the hooks in, but that's crazy easy. It is also not super secure. 

Anyway, the not-solution is, with this apartment with crazy landlord who is a jerk about storage, I said to hell with it, found a nice apartment rack and keep my bikes inside. :( Obviously I'm only one flight of stairs right now, but. 

Those hooks definitely work!

The hooks you're talking about don't allow you to lock securely, no? The problem is a place to lock to, not so much space saving.

None of the bikes stolen are mine—I keep my nicest bike in my apartment and my less costly ones in the basement well-locked. I've personally tried to advise neighbors to lock their bikes more appropriately, and the bikes stolen did have a u-lock locked wheel to frame. They did not have a place to lock it to, however. While I understand that the best defense is locking them up, most people are deterred because there is no place to lock them to (hence, the secure bike rack I'm looking for). 

I agree the underlying issue is the break in-ability of the building - he's added a bar so the door automatically closes and locks, changed locks, etc. Hopefully that stops the thefts, but while he is willing to consider putting in bike racks I'd like to take him up on it. At the end of the day, this neighbor is negligent in their locking but I think it would be great for the entire building to have secure places to lock to going forward.

I have no personal experience with buying a bike rack, but here are a couple of websites to give you some ideas and get some cost estimates.  I know you said large corporate racks are out, but if the rack is big enough, it might not even need to be secured to the floor.  It would be too big to be removed from the basement with the bikes attached.

Megan, a building was having a problem similar in the past. I agree with Jim Reho. The storage space and doors must be locked and all bikes in it should be locking up with their u-lock. Also, can all of your building's tenants and visitors be trusted?

If you watch the ch.9 video above, you'll see that the basement has the big wide rack but no one locks up.

Here's a site with apt. racks. Show it to your building owner.

Another solution for your building owner would be to anchor iron plumbing pipes (home depot, lowe's menard's) to wherever he could to get you more lock up spots if basement space is limited.

Good luck, and it's great that you're trying to improve things for cyclists in your building!

I like the idea of having a rack on the wall--

I used to keep my bike in our personal storage area - I'm surprised your basement doesn't have those, where you can actually lock it up. Now I store it in our garage space; we're lucky enough to have individual garage spaces that can only be accessed by the designated tenant.

I lived in a 7 unit condo building where we had a small shared storage area in the basement.  Like yours, it was littered with stuff from previous owners/tenants and constructions debris.  We were fortunate to have a separate (but small) storage locker outside of the building that was only accessible by the individual owner.

My wife and I had two bikes each and were only able to keep three in our storage locker.  Shortly before we moved in, a number of the storage lockers were broken into, so we knew that there was a chance that it would happen again.  To secure our bikes, we installed a few DaVinci bike hooks (link copied below post) and looped a cable lock under/through the hook's tire cradle. With the cable secured to the hook, we fed the cable through the front wheel and frame, attached the cable to the u-lock which secured the rear wheel and frame.  

So, now on to the fourth bike that we kept in the shared basement space...

After clearing out and cleaning the area from all of the debris, I secured a 2x12 into the concrete walls and attached seven DaVinci bike hooks to the 2x12.  I staggered the hooks so that we could fit seven bikes (the number of condos in the building) in a space around eight or nine feet wide.  The picture doesn't show it since the photo was taken shortly after I finished installing and hanging up all of the bikes, but the same locking technique of cable lock and u-lock employed in our storage unit was used (at least by me) for this set-up.  The total cost for the project was around $200 (minus the installation, which I did myself).

A few years later, we bought a single family home with detached garage.  We originally used the same DaVinci bike hook technique, but I got lazy and didn't lock up my commuter every day and it was stolen from the locked garage.

After that experience, we installed four Saris Locking Bike Tracs in the garage.  The greatest advantage of these racks is that a u-lock can be used to secure the front wheel and frame to the rack (we also use a cable lock looped through the rear wheel/frame).  With the garage locked and a u-lock securing the bike to the rack, it's a pretty secure set up.  I was able to install a rack on every other stud and staggered the racks by 18 inches (vertically) to squeeze four racks/bikes in a smaller space.  Total cost for four Saris racks and hardware was around $400.

I've attached some photos of the condo shared set-up and links to the DaVinci and Saris racks. Unfortunately, I don't have any immediate photos of our current garage set-up to share, but will try to post later.

Hope this helps.

DaVinci Rack:

Saris Rack:


Perhaps, you should consider other options such as security systems or hiring professional security guards to keep these pesky burglars at bay. There are crazy security camera deals that pop up every now and then. Those are dome cameras with night vision and would serve the purpose.

Anyways, racks and commercial storage solutions may be expensive but you can always rent portable storage containers of various sizes by pooling in some money to keep them secure.

I read an interesting article about storing a bike in an apartment, and it really helped me. Some places can be stored, such as storage cabinets, behind furniture, balconies, or patios. In addition, you can hang it on the wall, behind the door, or on the house to save space. In addition, a bicycle stand or rack can also be used for storage.


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