Friday, 17 February 2017


Storing cycles at home is a conundrum, especially for people renting, those living in apartments or those with little space.

I am not going to be able to solve everyone's storage problems, but I might be able to inspire some of you to either improve your own storage or at least show landlords that it could be very easy for them to provide some.

Apart from all of the obvious points about infrastructure which enables people to cycle, one of the important little things I have done for my own cycling convenience is to install cycle parking hoops in the front garden. I originally installed two; one for my commuting bike and the other for family bikes when we didn't want to/ couldn't be bothered to stick them in the shed. 

Lugging cycles through the house/ along alleyways or upstairs to balconies is a pain in the backside at best and impossible at worst. As a sometimes cargo-triker, getting the machine into the shed wasn't going to happen and so the second hoop (with a supplementary wall anchor) was used up. My son sometimes cycles to school and having to get his bike in and out of the house was a pain, so he needed his own hoop.

The point is one of convenience. For the commute, I don't need the faff of getting my bike in and out of the shed (especially in the winter when enthusiasm to go out in the cold takes a little more effort) and so a hoop out front is great. The downside of course is cycles are out in the weather, but they can be covered and if it helps to stop the easy reach for the car keys then storage has to be simple.

The point of all of this is that I needed to add a third hoop and so this is a little guide to how it can be done. There are two ways hoops are installed and that's either concreting them into the ground or bolting them down. Personally, I would concrete them in every time because even with anti-tamper nuts (stop laughing at the back), they are relatively easy to remove with an angle grinder. In fact, I've been known to lock my bike to the uprights of a cycle shelter in preference to the hoops being covered!

So, our first job is to dig a hole; easy right? A word of caution. You might think digging in your front garden is safe, but this is where utilities can be found running from the street to the building and so you need to exercise safe digging procedures. If you want to scare yourself, read HSG47 by the Health and Safety Executive.

If you are put off now, then don't feel bad about it, digging through utilities is a serious subject. Utility services through gardens are rarely mapped and although they should be deep enough, we can never take it for granted. Just because you might have a lawn, it doesn't mean it is free from buried utilities. So, taking on board the issue, we can manage the risk by being gentle and methodical. This is something a competent DIYer can do themselves.

If you are digging in a grassed or soil area, then you don't need to worry about pulling up paving. I had to take up some block paviours which involved a lump hammer and bolster to break a couple and then easing them out with a little crowbar. If you are going through a a concrete slab or tarmac, then it is a little more tricky in terms of breaking up the surface and so you will need a breaker. The key here is to just get through the surface paved layer, no deeper at this stage.

Once you are through the hard layer (or even just under turf level) then you can start to dig. In the photo above, you can see my digging tools - a hand fork and strong plastic trowel. You can also see a lump hammer which used with the bolster to break through a thin layer of concrete under the black paving sand bed (it was very weak).

The key here was to think like an archaeologist and to dig a little at a time. The fork was for gentle loosening of soil (thick London clay for me) and the plastic trowel was for digging out soil and scraping the hole into a decent shape. I did find stones and so gently used the little crowbar to nudge them, keeping a sharp eye out to make sure I wasn't tugging on a utility! By working carefully and exposing anything which wasn't soil gently, I managed the risk of hitting a utility.

It would of course have been easier to go flying in with a small digging spade, but unless you know the area is free of utilities, it's a bit risky. Once I had the hole down to 450mm, I did use a small digging shade to scrape the holes a little larger and to square off their bottoms. The holes were about 250mm diameter.

When you order cycle hoops, you need to be sure they aren't coming out in a hurry. Most suppliers give an option on how they are fixed and assuming you go for my recommended concrete-fixed version (often called "root-fixed"), they will come with the ends crimped flat so they can't be pulled out vertically. It happened that my hoop had splayed ends. Some come with a plate on the bottom or even a bolt drilled through. In my opinion, crimped (and splayed) are the best options.

For concrete, I took the cargotrike down to the big-box store (helped by #TheDoodle) and picked up two bags of rapid-set concrete. You can also use post-fix - I went for rapid set because it cures, well, rapidly. This meant I could use the hoop later in the day, post-fix or hand-mixed concrete will need a day or so to become strong enough.

The rapid-set concrete is pre-mixed, you just have to cut the bag and pour it into the hole. You need to add a little water as you go and it's worth using a little piece of wood to tamp it down as you place it as you want the concrete "plug" to be nice and dense.

One of the risks with rapid-set is it going off before you've checked the post is level and plumb. I used my trusty magnetic spirit level to make sure the installation was spot on. With ordinary concrete, you do have more adjustment time!

After 20 minutes of filling the second hole, the concrete had cured (it's a chemical reaction, it doesn't "dry") enough for me to replay the block paving. I simply put the bedding sand back in, tamped it with the lump hammer and then relayed the blocks, tamping them into place. I will put some kiln dried sand in the block joints to make sure they lock in place.

All that was left was for me to put a little bit of concrete around the base of the posts to fill the gaps around them and then tidy up.

Once I had cleaned and put my tools away, the hoop was ready for use. So there you go, despite my warning about buried utilities, it isn't too difficult to install a cycle hoop. Cost-wise, expect to pay around £35 for a basic galvanised steel hoop. There are lots of options for them to arrive painted or even PVC coated and stainless steel (but these are more expensive). The concrete I used was £6 a bag.

To get someone in to install a hoop for you, you are probably looking at at least £250-£350 all in (depending on who and if any paving needs replacing). So there you have it, a job you could tackle yourself or not too costly for a landlord to help their tenants. Hoops can be cut, but so can shed locks. The aim is to keep your cycle handy and deter thefts, so the hoop and a couple of D-locks is a pretty cost-effective solution.


  1. If you're very scared of utilities, you could rent a cat scanner from Jewson, Brandon Tool Hire etc ;-). It looks pretty good!

    1. You certainly can, although they won't pick up plastic service pipes. In any case, always dig methodically, gently and slowly!