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‘Dish Drainer’ Bike Racks Least Functional

May 28, 2009 Bicycling, Parking 12 Comments

Bike racks come in all shapes & sizes.  Some are more useful/functional than others.  Unfortunately those who specify bike racks for facilities often fail to understand what makes a bike rack useful.

Above: Saint Louis University

Take the above examples spotted at Saint Louis University yesterday on my way into class.  Both are the “dish drainer” type.  The farthest one has been there a while but the near one just recently appeared.  Note where the bikes are locked on each rack — at the end.  These racks offer many slots for bikes yet these two bikers instead used the rack frames at the end rather than the designated slots.  There are two reasons for this.

First, many modern bikes lack a kickstand.  Second, security.

Kickstands add weight and when you are riding serve no purpose.  A goood bike rack design, such as the simple inverted-U, allow the bike’s frame to be supported.  The near bike above has no kickstand.  By sliding the front wheel through one of the verticle slots that would be the sole support for the bike.  Even with a kickstand winds can knock over a bike or row of bikes that are not fully supported.  By locking to the end of the racks these riders were able to support their bikes in a way the center of the racks do not.

The second issue is security.  Modern bikes come with quick release hubs to make wheel removal easy.  Nice when changing a flat tire but also nice for thieves that may take a fancy to the rims on your bike.  Good locking practice includes running your lock/cable through your bike’s frame and at least through your front rim.  This is nearly impossible to do if you use the dish  drainer type rack unless you have a very long cable.

The dish drainer racks are often selected by facilities managers, I suspect, because they indicate they can hold a high number of bikes.  The far rack was probably listed in the product catalog as holding 20 or more bikes.  In reality it is 3-4.  One per end and a couple parallel with the rack.  I can only imagine the second rack was added because the other is often full with 4 bikes.

The inverted-U rack shown above is best.  In this case my bike does have a kickstand and it is not locked in the above picture.  But you get the idea, I’d easily be able to secure the front rim and the frame.  My urban commuter bike lacks a kickstand and has been “uglified” with stickers to the point you can no longer tell what color the frame was painted.  With such a bike leaning it against the rack for support is of no concern because scratches to a perfect paint job are mute.

There are so many bike racks on the market.  Wild custom frames seem to be all the rage locally.  I use the same criteria to judge them: does it support the bike and can you secure the frame and front rim.  Bonus if both rims can be secured.  The ability to use a U-lock is important.  The dish drainer fails on these.


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    Out at Verizon Amphitheater/Riverport, they call their movable barricades “bike racks”, since they look a lot like these . . .

  2. DJ says:

    Whenever I’ve used these “dish drainer” bike racks, I put the front wheel over the main bar and slide it into the slot. It’s holds the bike quite well, doesn’t scratch the paint, and allows me to use a u-lock through the wheel, rack, and downtube. It actually works quite well, and I prefer it over the inverted U-racks.

  3. Kathleen says:

    One of those bikes is mine… and I parked at the end, first, no one else was there so why not. But when there are a few more bikes the precious end spots are taken, I use the alternative that DJ mentioned more because the diameter of my wheels (like many “communter”-style bikes) is too big to fit in the slots and stand up (even with no wind) or get the frame close enough to lock without lifting the front wheel over. But this often ends with me brushing up against my or others’ tires and getting road grime on my clothing — not a good start to the day.

  4. Brian S. says:

    Looks like Tegler Hall.

    Is there a similar bike rack solution that doesn’t require the rack to be sunk into concrete?

  5. Andrew F. says:

    The “dish-drainer” racks are typically called french barriers after their similarity to crowd control barriers in Paris. I agree with DJ that it is very easy to lock to them by lifting the front wheel up and placing it over the top rail. The backside of the wheel then slips into the gap between the thin rails and you can lock to wheel and through the center triangle easily.

    You raise the major issue of density. While the second bike rack is vastly more aesthetically pleasing it has a maximum capacity of four (trust me, I’ve tried) and in order to accommodate the same density of bicycles an entire block of sidewalk would have to be given over to 13 bike racks at many more times the expense. If we are to actually be serious about encouraging alternative transportation we will stop fussing around with competitions to design novelty bike racks and simply place as many racks in as many places as efficiently as possible.

    That being said, I find the “sine curve” style of bike rack much more effective because it still allows multiple locking positions and is constructed of very heavy gauge tubing and typically securely anchored in concrete unlike the flimsy french barriers.

    As a reaction to Brian S.’s comment: when considering bike racks remember that the weakest link is what will cause your bike to be stolen. French racks are typically bolted to the ground in 4 places and often are missing at least one bolt. As one cyclist found out in Vancouver it is always better to lock to something securely anchored in concrete.

  6. publiceye says:

    My peeve (tho way after no-rack-at-all) is a rack in a nook or a cranny that gets no foot traffic. I want everyone watching out for my bike.

  7. Ben says:

    I despise the dish-drainer racks. Many of the units sitting in public/institutional environments have very little space between the bars, presumably because the design predates popularity of mountain bikes, or the designers assumed everyone only rides old-skool 10speeds. But yet I never like having to hoist my battered Raleigh 10speed over the top bar of such a rack because A) it scratches paint and exposes the frame to the elements, and B) my old Raleigh has very little clearance between the tire and down tube and often won’t fit over the rack’s top bar. Plus, this Raleigh has its shifter cables tensioned under the down tube, and those cables get pinched against the rack.

    Poor design all around.

  8. thoughts from south grand says:

    Keep an eye out for some really cool, custom designed bike racks coming soon on Morganford just south of Arsenal.

    You will know when you see em.

  9. Steven Smith says:

    I got the coolest bike rack Steve. I can’t believe it wasn’t mentioned. Hand made, and they make others too. Just so you know, it is the first thing I put in my place that had the name of my place on it.

    My spells out the work Royale on metal. Coolest in town. These are the guys that make them:


  10. Sam George says:

    i posted a comment earlier, but it hasn’t shown up yet, wonder why.

  11. Sam George says:

    Check out dish rack at Zojila

  12. it's have a lot creativity functional design bike rack more than this


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