Build a Bike Wash Station for around $50
If you live somewhere that gets actual weather, the idea of washing your mountain bike may come with baggage. If you live in an apartment or other space without dedicated bike storage, it may be a chore that is difficult to perform logistically, and one that must be done perfectly if you'd like to keep living there. If like me, you live in a rain forest, bike washing might be something you need to do after virtually every ride most of the year, which can either become drudgery or simply part of the routine.
Which category it slots into depends on what my post-ride schedule is like, and when I've got time I don't mind the task, but I know that anything to make bike washing more efficient and less frustrating changes my world. With that in mind, I set about the task of thinking about building a bike wash station in my yard. Not starting the project, or doing anything to get it started, just mulling it over in my mind and continually moving it higher on my to-do list without having it ever reach the top. And then I was inspired by junk left beside a dumpster
Before starting a project like this, one I've never attempted before, I spend far too much time fussing over how it might go together, long before doing any research. I had all sorts of scenarios in my head involving concrete forms and an elaborate wooden platform, and a lot of uncertainty about a few issues that were easily solved with the help of Youtube and Google. Next time I will research first and perseverate less.
While enjoying some post ride beverages in our usual parking lot location, which happens to be right next to some dumpsters and recycling bins, I saw exactly what I was looking for; an oddly-sized wooden pallet in good condition. It was the ideal shape and size for a to support a bike before and after cleaning. This isn't essential, if you have some grass or gravel or pavement where you plan to put your wee bike salon, but my spot was dirt and cedar and needles (from a fir tree – not a junkie) and my bike would get mucky all over again if it had to sit there. This was the inspiration I needed and I got straight to work the next day. And by next day, I mean about three and a half weeks later.
Tools and Supplies Needed
- Shovel (if you are going to sink the post)
- Saw (to cut supporting member)
- Power Drill (for pilot holes and to sink screws)
- 8' 4x4 post $20 (or 6' for free standing option)
- 8' 2x4 - $5 (for freestanding option this is essential but optional if you are digging a post hole)
- Pallet 48 x 40" free! (and optional depending on the ground near your station)
- 1 inch Pipe fittings $10 (floor flange, 1' steel pipe (threaded), end cap)
- Tape Measure
- Combination or rafter Square (or some other method to accurately mark and then make a 45º cut)
- 3" wood screws $2 - $6 (4 or 12 or 16 depending on which build format you choose)
- Gravel Free or $10 for 30kg (You'll need at least 6" of gravel in your hole to secure your post - according to the internet)
Before you begin, you need a spot to build your little spa. Ideally this locale will have a water source and a hose, or a portable bike washer. You can clean a mountain bike with a bucket and a sponge, but it's much more time-consuming. Hopefully you can find a little spot that drains relatively well so your significant other doesn't accuse you of creating a swamp where the hydrangeas used to be. Power and light are useful but a headlamp and a cold beer will get you most of the way there.
I did have some an idea about what I wanted before I broke ground. The bike had to be supported by the saddle for ease and efficiency, with both wheels off the ground,* which meant I'd need a tall post with some sort of appendage sticking out at a right angle to act as the hanger. What the hell was I going to make that out of? Wood didn't seem like a good idea but I didn't have any inkling about what I could use that would support the occasional 50+ lb eMTB. The post itself also had to be very sturdy and I assumed this would involved pouring concrete into a hole.
*this is an essential element so you can clean each wheel entirely without lifting up the bike several times
The internet steered me away from the concrete notion and suggested gravel was the way forward. I secured some crushed limestone from a friend (scavenger points) and then started digging. The recommendation was to excavate to a depth of around 1/3 of the total length of the post you are trying to secure, or in this case 1/3 of the length to the hanger. I discovered during my digging that the previous owner had used this small dirt plot to bury old concrete chunks from a demo project. That makes for tough digging but eventually I got down about 22" which would have to do. I purchased a treated 8' 4 x 4 post for 20 CAD and I had a smaller post left over from a previous project that would come in handy later.
Around the time I finished digging my hole, Noah began assembling animals in pairs. My hole filled up with water as did my buckets of gravel but I dove in during a brief reprieve. Another friend lent me a tamping iron and I added gravel in layers, straightening the post each time and then compressing the gravel with the heavy iron. The post was still a little wiggly by the time I was done tamping but I hoped this was because of the soggy ground and pushed ahead. After a few days with some sun and very little rain, it was starting to feel relatively robust, but it wasn't yet where I wanted it to be.
My post found its home part way into a cedar hedge, but my plan was to lift the pallet over the top of the pole and then slide it into place so I wouldn't have to cut it or disassemble it and compromise structural integrity. I had little optimism; I assumed it would hang up on the tree and get stuck part way down the post with no hope of ever moving up or down again. Thankfully it slid down smoothly and then fit perfectly into the little concrete frame made by the edge of the walkway. I needed to prop it up again while I dug a little deeper and levelled the ground for my high class pallet platform, but once I was done it nestled in beautifully.
What the hell was going to support the bike though? Every option I thought of seemed like a piss poor solution. And then research came to the rescue. I watched a video on Berm Peak, the new home of Seth's Bike Hacks, and he used some pipe fittings to make a hanger.* Specifically, I needed a floor flange, a short length of 1" steel pipe, and an end cap. This stuff cost about $8 together. All I needed to do was attach the flange to the post with some 3" wood screws and then screw the pipe into the flange and the cap onto the end of the pipe. This took about ten minutes.
*I don't mind stealing this from him because I at least gave him credit, and he surely stole the idea as well!
Once all this was done, I still wasn't sure how secure the post would be, so I used the extra 4x4 I had lying around and put up a 45º brace for stability. This took some tricky cutting using a chop saw, but it worked out fine in the end, with the concrete that framed the walkway acting as a support once it was was all screwed together with more 3" wood screws.
This addition made me realize that you could build one of these as a free standing system using the pallet as a base if you aren't able to dig a hole to support your post. A wider pallet than my 32" x 58" is likely required, but most pallets are 48"x40" and that should provide ample stability. All you need to do is fasten the post near one edge fo the pallet, like mine, and cut a 45º support of either paired 2x4s or 2x6s or a 4x4 like I used, and you'd be in business. Let me know how it goes.
To finish it off, all I needed to do was wrap an old tube around the pipe to prevent scratching and to provide more friction for a stable hang. Easy peasy. Since I finished the project, washing my bike has indeed become less a chore and more part of the routine. When I'm not too cold or too hungry, or if I have a beer in hand, I actually enjoy it. I don't often do the full EWS spit and polish that Jeff Bryson taught me; I generally just spray off the dirt using the jet setting* and then clean and lube the chain.
*which you shouldn't do - or at least you should avoid the bearings and shock seals if you aren't using a gentle spray
If you have the space and a reason to clean bikes regularly, I highly recommend taking this on. Since I didn't saw off a toe or burn down the house while completing this task, it will likely be easy for you.
Age - 55
Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)
Weight - 165lbs/74.5kg
Ape Index - 0.986
Inseam - 34"/86cm
Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman
Bar Width - 760mm
Preferred Reach - 485-500mm (longer with 27.5 wheels than 29)