The Time I Installed a Bike Rack

I finally broke down and bought a new bike last month. I went to a cool local shop and ended up with a Trek hybrid in very good condition. It was a great experience. The salesman was knowledgeable but not pushy, and he encouraged me to take it out for a spin on the nearby trail before I committed to the purchase. Throw in a sweet deal and I didn’t need much convincing. A bike rack was the next purchase.

To find the rack that best fits my needs I had to do some research. I don’t have a trailer hitch so I needed one that would mount to the spare tire on the back of the vehicle and also hold 3 bikes securely. The next stop was The phrase “spare tire bike rack” yielded 132 results. I automatically ruled out any rack that could only hold 2 bikes. That brought the number down to 36. Prices ranged from $69-$230 and I wanted something in the middle. Next I read reviews, paying particular attention to opinions on quality and ease of installation. Of the 63 reviews, most gave the Surco BT300 4 or 5 stars, so I ordered it and eagerly awaited its arrival.

A few days later, I was ready to go ahead with the install. First I had to figure out how to remove the spare tire from my vehicle. With this design, the mounting plate is affixed under the spare tire, which is then re-applied during final assembly. I’ve never used the spare tire and it’s been under a vinyl cover for years. After removing that, I noticed the nuts that secured the tire to the vehicle. Since I don’t own a wrench, I wondered how that was going to work. This time I referenced my owner’s manual, which revealed that the vehicle comes with a wheel-nut wrench secured in a rear compartment. I bought the car used so I was surprised that this was indeed stowed where the manual said it’d be.

The Nuts and Bolts

Removing the nuts was fairly easy. The spare was heavier than I anticipated but I was able to remove that myself as well. Then I took the rack out of the box and looked at the parts. The instructions were fairly simple: align the mounting bracket to the holes for the nuts, position the spare over that and refasten the nuts. This is where things got a little tricky. The mounting bracket would not stay in place without being fastened with the nuts. You need another set of hands to hold it in place when you align the spare. With no body in sight I wondered if I had any double-sided tape. (I later read one reviewer did end up using double-sided tape.)

But just then my neighbor happened by and I roped her into helping me. The rest was a piece of cake. You simply slide the bar that holds the bikes onto the channel and secure it with a padlock. This was something I had overlooked. But you have to have a padlock or the warranty is void and over time vibration can loosen the rack so you really don’t want to skip that step. (On a side note, I had no idea there were so many lock options and brands. But I did choose one that’s specifically made for being outdoors so I don’t have to worry about rust, etc.)

Anyway, there were a few takeaways from this experience, not the least of which is that I’m pretty proud of myself for figuring this out and seeing it through. It makes me more confident to tackle other DIY projects. Henry Ford was on to something when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.”

Until next time, happy trails.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

I want to ride my bicycle. I really do.

However, my current bike is nearly 18 years old and it’s time for it to head to that big bicycle rack in the sky. In addition to being not-at-all cool, only half of the gears work and I’ve replaced more tubes and tires than I care to count. Doing the walk of shame a mile from home with the incessant thwump of a flat tire announcing your presence to anyone within earshot is fairly embarrassing and not something this gal cares to experience again.

But as soon as I decided to get a new bike, I just as quickly realized I have no idea what kind to get. For being such a simple machine, the bike has really evolved a lot in the last few decades. So I did what any self-respecting person does and hit up Google for some advice. There’s a lot of good information out there, but this 2-part piece called “How to buy a bike” by Jim Langley, a bicycle aficionado, is quite thorough.

What Kind of Bike?

To get you thinking, he asks: Why do you want a new bike? What kind of person are you? What kind of riding do you want to do? Lastly, how much do you want to spend?

To summarize, I want a new bike for riding around town and paved bike trails with the kids and as an alternative to my running routine. I don’t need the latest and greatest technical features, just something reliable and well made, and I’d like to spend $500 or less, knowing that it’ll last me at least another 10 or so years. I also know that I don’t want another mountain bike, nor do I plan to race, so a hybrid of the two seems to make the most sense.

The next step is to visit a couple bike shops to see what’s available and take a few bikes for a spin. Fortunately, there are quite a few bike shops to assist me in this process. While we have a couple of big box sporting goods stores in the area as well, I like the idea of patronizing a locally-owned establishment. I think it’s important to support small businesses, and I feel like I’ll get more personalized attention, something that’s important both now and down the road, as it were, when I need service or repairs.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress. And if you have any suggestions as to where to shop or specific models or brands you favor, let me know.