Sacramentan creates artistic solution to bike storage

02/18/2012 12:00 AM

10/08/2014 10:35 AM

Bikes are good exercise and good for the environment, but rarely do they contribute to good design at home. Simple and functional when you ride them, bikes can become a clunky burden when it comes to putting them away.

There are two basic solutions: Hide them or display them.

In small homes and cramped apartments, the first option probably never existed.

In fact, limited space in Steven Tiller's midtown apartment is one of the factors that went into a new bicycle rack design that looks so good it actually adds to the décor of a room.

Tiller, a carpenter and furniture maker who kept bumping into his bike in his cramped apartment, went to sleep one evening mulling over the problem and awoke in the middle of the night with a solution – one that's getting buzz on design websites and bike blogs throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Tiller's elegant, sculptural Bike Valet came to life once he decided he wanted to store his bike and still have something nice to look at – something more than a bike leaning against a wall or hanging from a hook in the ceiling.

Turns out, bike storage is a hot topic these days. There are all kinds of designs simple and clever, artful and utilitarian, for getting your bikes out of the way without banishing them to a dark closet.

Tiller's middle-of-the-night sketches were not exactly an overnight sensation – it took him four months to turn his ideas on paper into something he could sell – but the design is on the verge of being a big hit. The Bike Valet, temporarily priced at $75 – the regular price will be $95 – was getting plenty of attention less than two weeks after he put photos online, thanks to the viral potential of the Internet and the apparent widespread need to get bikes out of the way in a novel way.

"If you get onto the right venues, the right blogs, people notice really fast," Tiller said recently. "I'm really excited at the possibilities, and I'm in awe of what can happen in 11 days."

The Bike Valet operates on a simple counterbalance idea that allows the bike to hang from the top tube without tipping. It is made of steel, with pieces of leather attached to the contact points to prevent scratching.

When Tiller was ready with a prototype, he applied to have his design presented on a website, Kickstarter, that would allow admirers of the product to make monetary pledges. He raised $12,000 – enough to go into production.

"I'm the kind of guy who is always playing with stuff in my head," Tiller said about the design.

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.

Tiller does his work alone in a nondescript Sacramento warehouse off a lightly traveled street. The building doesn't have heat. His fledgling company, Reclamation Art and Furniture, has no money for marketing. On the Internet, the reaction can often be like an instant litmus test. Does it fill a need? Is the design something cool and new?

Brian Schmitt of Schmitt Design, a Sacramento-based maker of bamboo light fixtures and mobiles made with sustainable materials, 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 backyard, 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 new wave of young, urban fixed-gear cyclists is rife with style and eye- catching design.

He refers to the Cycloc rack as "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.

Michael Williams, a local cyclist known for his sense of style – he owns a Citroen DS painted to look like a vintage caravan vehicle from the Tour de France – said he has been in friends' homes that run the gamut of bike storage. Some simply lean their bikes against the sofa. Others take over an entire spare room, with several bikes hanging from hooks in the ceiling.

Williams, whose east Sacramento house includes a shrine to Eddy Merckx, the great Belgian cyclist, 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 downtown from a suburban home with a three-car garage to one 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 décor.

"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."

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