Some of us have done it and there’s a good chance you may have done too: driven into the garage forgetting that your roof rack is full of bikes. With spring around the corner – apparently the busiest time of year for bike rack accidents – we’ve decided to take a look at three products designed to warn drivers before disaster strikes.
The phenomenon of driving bikes into overhead obstacles is surprisingly prevalent, according to Bobby Noyes, owner of Boulder, Colorado based Rocky Mounts, who says he sees roughly 40 ‘tear offs’ a year. “Early spring we see a rash of them, around March and April,” he told BikeRadar. “Then they mellow out and you see them intermittently, [throughout the year].”
“It used to be no big deal,” he added. “The tray would bend and the handlebars would get a little twisted. It’s like a crash in the Tour; 20 years ago they’d get up and straighten their bars, and now everyone is waving for a new bike. It’s the same with racks; the carbon forks are so fragile that they usually just snap. The forks take the brunt of it but the Ergo levers get wasted [too].”
The latest ‘rack reminder’ is an app for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that costs $1.99 and is called just that, RackReminder. The concept comes from Nate Johnson, cyclist and president of Evolution Media, who has run two expensive bikes into his garage. Spudd Design, a web development firm based in the UK, built the app.
The principle is simple: use your iPhone to plot the position of your garage (or multiple garages) using GPS and the app will warn you when you get within 1,200m of it. After the first warning, the system switches to a simple alarm, which sounds every minute until the app is shut down.
The app is for iOS, currently but an Android version is promised soon
The two biggest drawbacks of the RackReminder app are that you have to remember to turn it on, and it puts added strain on your phone’s battery since it’s constantly monitoring your position.
Johnson has plans for an Android version, and told us that if sales go well, the next step is to build a database of low-clearance hazards. “In the long term, what I really want to do is make it [the app] interface with a web-based database of crowd sourced hazard locations,” he said, mentioning that anything from parking garages to bank teller windows could be plotted to trigger a warning from the app.
Bikes on Roof
The $10 (£6.32) ‘Bikes on Roof’ hangtag is the simplest item in this round-up. It’s a line-of-sight reminder that’s meant to hang from your rear view mirror when you’ve got gear on the roof and comes in a variety of attention grabbing colors.
Bikes On Roof is a simple hangtag
At $169.99 the HeadsUp System is the most elaborate, and expensive, of the bunch. Its warning system is made up of a wall mounted LED sign and an in-car alarm, both of which are triggered by transmitting ‘tags’ which are meant to be permanently fixed to your bike. Not only does it ‘know’ if you’ve got bikes on your roof, it also doesn’t need to be turned on or off, making it the most failsafe option.
The HeadsUp system is the most elaborate and expensive of the bunch
Back at Rocky Mounts, Noyes told us he doesn’t stock any warning systems as they don’t seem to sell well. Ripping an expensive bike off one’s car roof is a traumatic experience and one that’s never forgotten, thus not often repeated.
He did have a tip for first-time roof rack users, though. “The easiest thing to do is to put a garbage can or cooler [or whatever else found on the garage floor] in front of the door,” he said. “You have to get out of the car to unload the bike anyway, so it [can or cooler] just cues that something [needs to be done].”