Bikes are good exercise and good for the environment, but rarely do they contribute to good design at home. There are two basic solutions: Hide them or display them. In small homes and cramped apartments, the first option may not exist.
Limited space in Steven Tiller's apartment is one of the factors that went into a new bicycle rack design that looks so good it actually adds to the decor of a room. Tiller, a carpenter and furniture maker who kept bumping into his bike in his cramped apartment, came up with the Bike Valet, an elegant, sculptural solution. The Bike Valet, $95, operates on a simple counterbalance idea that allows the bike to hang from its top tube without tipping. It is made of steel, with pieces of leather attached to the contact points to prevent scratching.
The Bike Valet is just one of several designs that are simple and clever, artful and utilitarian, for getting your bikes out of the way without banishing them to a closet. And counterbalancing a bike against a prop on a wall is not new. The $100 Cycloc bike rack is a circular plastic piece popular in design circles. Another, the Hood, designed by Quarterre Products, sells for $200. Both companies are based in the United Kingdom.
Brian Schmitt of Schmitt Design, a Sacramento-based maker of bamboo light fixtures, was instantly impressed when he saw the Bike Valet.
"It's a really clever design. It's both attractive and functional," he said. "It not only stores your bike, it's a place to hang your helmet and your bag."
Schmitt, who lives with his family in an east Sacramento house and often rides his bike to his studio, took a different approach to his bike storage. He built a modern custom shed in the back yard, with a specific compartment for bikes, which hang vertically and don't compete with the garden tools.
There are, it seems, as many ways to store bikes as there are ways to make bikes. Sacramento interior designer Curtis Popp said the Cycloc rack is "brilliant, absolutely brilliant" but adds that there are many choices for those with too many bikes and too little space.
REI, for instance, has options ranging from a $3 vinyl-coated hook screwed into a ceiling stud that can elevate a bike by its front wheel to a $230 Saris CycleGlide that can be mounted on a garage ceiling and can hold four bikes hanging upside down by their wheels.
A Twin Cities bike-rack company focuses on outdoor and garage bike security and storage, but also with an eye for aesthetics. Dero Bike Racks, based in Minneapolis, makes standard and custom designs for bike parking, including the paper-clip racks outside the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the tree-shaped racks that dot the Seward neighborhood in Minneapolis.
Cyclist Michael Williams, whose Sacramento house includes a shrine to the great Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, said he has always wanted to make a vintage bike a focal point in his home. But, he adds with a laugh, "I also want to stay married."
Williams keeps most of his bikes in the garage, hanging from the ceiling. Two of them are displayed in his home office. One is held aloft with a rack made by Prostor that costs about $20 -- two rubber-coated forks screwed into the wall that elevate the bike horizontally.
"I got it several years ago. It's very elegant, definitely more industrial-looking [than the Bike Valet]," he said.
The other bike elevates from a simple custom rack in which two chains hang from the ceiling, with two hooks holding the handlebars and two more at the back of the saddle.
"It's an idea I stole from an old bike shop in Belgium," Williams said.
As for Tiller, he is hoping his Bike Valet will offer the combination of art and function many bike owners in tight spaces covet.
One of them is Christina Ragsdale, who spotted Tiller's design on Facebook. When she moved from a suburban home with a three-car garage to one downtown with a single-car garage, she knew she needed to focus on space and storage. Her bike? It might even get to hang in her home office if she can make it work with the decor.
"I just thought it was really beautiful," she said of Tiller's design. "Functional art is something I've collected for years. It accomplishes something you need in terms of storage. We've become accustomed to hiding things away. This is kind of hiding things in plain sight."
Staff writer Catherine Preus contributed to this report.