Creative Commons Licence photo by Dale Beckett @ flickr
Batman requires his secret cave in order to be a super hero, it contains all his specialist vehicles & provides the means he requires to progress his fight against crime, without it he would be nothing. Most cyclists require their ‘man cave’, or ‘bike shed’, which serves a similar purpose for the pursuit of their hobby/obsession. The subtle difference is that ‘The Bike Shed’ is very real for us, we all try to make it the best home for our bikes that we can. How & where bikes are stored often has a huge influence on how we cycle & how much tinkering we can do, this important aspect it’s often forgotten & is virtually unmentioned in most training literature. It’s one of the most important aspects to consider to fully enjoy your hobby/obsession, here are your options….
The desirable image we all have in our minds is of something like the Garmin Service Course or another similar unobtainable ideal, which is as close to the ‘Bat-Cave’ as anybody can get. In this fantastical world, bikes are stored & repaired in harmony, everything easily accessible & ready to ride instantly. This utopia also includes a training suite with a turbo & rollers, a full sound & video system and the largest cooling fan you could ever imagine.
The reality is always quite different, it’s impossible to devote half your house to bicycles, in most cases we’re squeezed into a small space & the turbo is cast into the most unsuitable space, or even the cupboard under the stairs. We live in a world where our obsession has to fit itself into an ever compressing space over time, with some occasional & sudden expansions at key moments in our lives, a world away from the pro riders team support.
1. Outdoor Storage
This is really the base of the ladder, if you’ve got nowhere else, you’ll have to keep your pride & joy outdoors. At worst this would be chained up out in the street, at best a makeshift storage area in a back garden. We’ve probably all been here at one point in our lives, whether as a student or in temporary accommodation. Our bike has had to suffer the indignity of the weather without the company of a rider, bikes get very lonely outdoors without the scent of coffee & cake while their rider recharges.
We can usually find some place inside for storage, so hopefully if you’re in the situation, it’s only temporary & you can move on to one of the other more desirable options below. This is very far away from a Bat-Cave.
2. The In-House Storage
If you live on your own or with other cyclists, your bikes will be living in your hallway, kitchen or living room, whether or not that’s the initial plan, it will evolve into this pretty rapidly. If those places are unavailable you may have to keep one in your bedroom, but this is the least ‘cyclist’ place to keep a bike, we’ll somehow always choose the public rooms to show off our bikes. However, if you live with a non-cyclist, especially if they are a wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend, then you’ll be encouraged to locate your bike in a ‘hideaway’ somewhere in the house, while they’re about anyway. We all know that if nobody saw change a tyre or take a chainset apart on the living room floor, it probably didn’t happen.
The ‘hideaway’ domestic bike storage often consists of a cupboard, in which your bike may be forced to share its accommodation with the hoover, ironing board & a plastic christmas tree, often with the indignity of a front wheel removed to fit. This isn’t ideal as we all know, for some reason unknown to cyclists, people tend to complain when the ironing board has an oily chainring mark on it. Your best bet in to commandeer an entire room, go large. There really is only one way to do this if you have a spare room, you need to offer to decorate it. As you ‘find’ more problems & ‘issues’ with this room, it’s your ideal chance to move some bikes in. The ‘issues’ are going to take time & money to fix, so it’s probably best to make better use of the space while you work out exactly how to make this room of your dwelling perfect for you partner’s wellbeing. Plenty of cyclists I know have their project room, which prior to the arrival of a child, will serve your needs, it may also encourage the in-laws to hire a B&B when they visit. The last thing you want them to see is your project/bike room & suss out your plan.
The only way in which the in-house storage can be considered a Bat-Cave is if it’s in your cellar, which nobody else knows about & it has a secret exit. If you’ve somehow managed to have it accepted than bikes could potentially be in every room in total harmony & the turbo is in full view, read no further, you have attained something we mortals can only dream about. I currently only know one such nirvana.
3. The Wooden Shed
A detached property for your bike collection is a real step up. I’ve witnessed various guises of ‘the wooden shed’, from a basic garden shed to a fully equipped & heated mini log cabin, with full coffee-making facilities.
The ‘basic shed’ is secured with a padlock if you’re lucky, the window is blacked-out & it can often leak a bit. In the worst case you may be sharing it with a lawnmower & various garden pots you will never use. You can make this space work for you & it’s amazing what you can fit in a garden shed, but unfortunately the bike you want is always at the back, so you have to remove the lawnmower, spare wheels & the other bikes to get to it. This is a hindrance to your cycling, it also doesn’t have room for a turbo to be set up. Sometimes the basic shed option results in at least one bike remaining in the hall.
The luxury shed is a completely different scenario, I’ve witnessed a few quite stunning examples of this type, well-built large wooden sheds, complete with power, turbo, TV & a kettle. In some ways the ‘extreme shed’ solution can be better than a garage, as it often won’t become a dumping ground for all those things you may need some day but never will, your partner thinks that’s what the garage is for. It can also accommodate a turbo trainer, which is another huge plus point. This option can be very close to the Bat-Cave, if planned & managed correctly, but can be very expensive.
All other variations exist between these two extremes of the wooden shed, it’s up to you to make the most of what you have available, they can all work very well.
4. The Garage
Nobody uses their garage for a car anymore, we’ve all got too much junk for that, only your car insurance provider thinks it’s a useable motor vehicle space. The garage has to be very carefully managed to secure your space for our two-wheeled friends, it’s often a free-for-all for the whole family, whether that’s a dumping ground, DIY chaos, or at the very worst a home for a train set, which will remove all available bike space.
The trick here is to claim some area, this will often involve a few small constructions to display/store your bikes correctly. This keeps the others away to some extent, while allowing you to have all bikes to hand, also forcing you to keep them in more or less one piece. There are various solutions for this, too many for me to go into here, you can make them with some simple hooks & some timber, or you can buy all sorts of hangers, lifters & holders for all sorts of prices. Your solution fits the space you have available, just don’t pile them all against a wall, as with the shed solution, the one you want to ride is always at the back.
Once you’ve claimed some space, you can start developing things, hanging bike tools on the wall, wheel storage, a workstand & a space for the turbo. If managed correctly, the garage can provide all this & become a partial Bat-Cave (or as close as you’ll get), but you also need to keep it under control, there’s always somebody wanting to invade bike space. You can start making it comfortable by plugging the gaps that send a cold wind blowing through you when you’re sweating on the turbo as it’s too cold to ride outside & finding a TV where you can watch the pro’s race as you train. Ultimately what was formerly your bike storage area could become a club room, a refuge for other riding companions to visit if they are stuck with a lesser option.
With this organisation comes a calmness, all your bike kit sorted & in place, but, as we all know, that won’t last long will it? Defend your garage space with all your might, it can easily slip away, keep it under control.
The Gist Of It
All the above options can provide you with your own Bat-Cave to some extent, it’ll take work to get there. Ultimately you’re aiming for yourself or a club-mate to develop a club-hut scenario, a refuge for like-minded souls, where the coffee is strong & the chat is bike. Get it in place for July, start building now & invite your buddies over after the Sunday ride to watch the Tour stage from York to Sheffield (6th July), all in your bike specific area, sitting in bike gear on your deck chairs in the garage with a nice cold beer & a TV.
Don’t settle for a place to put your bikes, find a place for your bikes to live, it needn’t be expensive, it just has to be tranquillo. Be the best Batman you can be.