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How To Use An Inverted-U Bike Rack

July 9, 2013 Bicycling, Featured 17 Comments

Bike racks come in all shapes and sizes, but my preference is the basic “inverted-U” rack. Very simple, easy to use.

Here’s a perfect example:

This bike is properly placed next to the Inverted-U rack, the rack helps support the bike. .
This bike is properly secured to the Inverted-U rack in two points, helping support the bike. Looks like a fixed gear bike, nice!

And here’s how to NOT use an inverted-u bike rack:

This bike is not properly placed, it is taking up extra space on the sidewalk and could tip over.
This bike is not properly secured, the bike is extended beyond the rack blocking the path the driver of the red car might use. Also being locked in one point, it is a target for theft and at risk of tipping over.

So if you’re a cyclist and you use an inverted-u rack please place your bike so it is centered on the rack, using two locks so it doesn’t get stolen.

Bonus tip: If I can see your forehead when you’re wearing a bike helmet it won’t help you if you crash, cover your forehead.  Click here for pictures on the right & wrong ways to wear a helmet.

— Steve Patterson


  • marina schillebeeckx

    Bike racks should be able to be used by multiple bikes. At least four should be on that. So, it is perfectly ok for that bike to be situated like that. Look, I’m from a place where people predominately use bikes for transportation. I dare you to go to Amsterdam or any city in the Netherlands or Flanders where I live. You will never never find people saying what you just said. You are way too legalistic in your approach. Nobody even uses helmets and everyone is perfectly fine. Honestly, you’re thinking way too much. Bikes should be all over the place. It’s just you all are not used to it. Just go to Amsterdam and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    • Mark

      Regardless of what they may or may not do in Amsterdam, I question if the inverted U bike rack is practical because, if Steve’s recommendation is correct, then only 2 bicycles can be effectively locked to the rack at a given time. In that racks appear to be in limited supply in and around St Louis, I’m wondering where the rest of us can go to lock up our bikes? And how many lineal feet of sidewalk would have to be devoted to bike racks in order to accommodate (say) 20 bikes. Seems like a case of “much ado about little” in that the cost to purchase and fabricate the steel, then the labor to install the rack, and the area needed to accommodate all the racks needed to handle even a small group of bikers might lead some to believe that a different design is more cost-effective.

      • Visit Chicago and you’ll see the inverted-u with four bikes, two per side. Granted these people must come & go at the same time.

    • I’d be lucky to find four bikes locked to racks, sign posts, trees in all of downtown St. Louis at any one times.

    • wump

      bikes are basically a street currency in st louis and many american cities. we have to take extra precautions. I stopped using vehicles (save public) of all types for transport cause they get stolen and broken into.

  • Carl

    The second picture has the lock around the wheel and frame which keeps people from stealing the wheel. I don’t see anything wrong with that locking job.

  • moe

    It’s only going to take one or two trips to any area with these bike racks and finding them full before the ride says ‘screw it, next time I’ll drive.’ They may be pretty, but they aren’t very useful.

    • These racks are supposed to be spread out on every, in contrast to a rack designed to hold 8-10 bikes placed every 5-6 blocks.

      • moe

        Ah Steve, but you and I and the rest know….Supposed to and Actually are are two very, very different things.

    • I gotta disagree here, I only bike places and many, many times I’ve been confronted with every ‘legit’ bike rack being filled and I just lock up to something else – sign, fence, parking meeter, whatever. I see a lot of others doing the same.
      Never once have I said or even though next time I go to ___ I’m going to drive.

  • Frank Monroe

    First picture: In Chicago, that front wheel would be stolen in a heartbeat. #2 is the way to go, unfortunately.

    • True, both wheels need to be locked as well as the frame.

  • Lori

    Agreed theft is a problem, but there are supposed to be more bikes than one (or even two) on that rack. Installing one similar to that at work and it is supposed to hold 4 bikes.

  • Dan

    With the new City of St. Louis racks, it is impossible to get your wheel and frame locked with a U-lock without maneuvering your bike into that leaning position. And you can’t get it into that leaning position if the bike is lined up flush with the rack, as in Pic 1. Prepare to see many bikes in that odd position.

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