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DIY FTW

Build a Bike Wash Station for around $50

Words Cam McRae
Photos Cam McRae
Date Jan 27, 2021
Reading time

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

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More shovelling to be done.

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.

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22" and several large pieces of scrap sidewalk later, it was time to add some limestone gravel. The internet experts promise this is a better strategy than pouring in concrete.

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Things were very soggy and loose at this point but I hoped it would firm up over time. So far so good.

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.

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I already had the pallet in place when I decided to add a 45º brace so I had to wrestle it up to an angle that allowed me to screw the brace to the inside of the pallet frame. After that I slid it back in place and secured the post to the brace with toe-nailed screws.

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)

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Virtually every saddle has a little hollow in front of the rails that is perfect for hanging your bike. Even this super-cool BikeYoke Sagma saddle. My hanger has since improved, as you'll see below.

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

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The first hang... At this point I was so pleased with myself you'd have thought I'd cured COVID. I put the hanger 57" from the ground. I can hang size large and XL bikes with the saddle extended (see below) without the front wheel touching the ground, so you shouldn't need to go much higher, because you can always hang it with your saddle retracted. Unless your dropper is pooched that is.

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.

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In an ideal world you'd be able to wash both sides of the bike without turning it around, but an encroaching hedge eliminated that option. I clean the non-drive side first and then spin it so I can finish by cleaning and lubing the chain.

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!

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I wouldn't say I look forward to cleaning my bike now, but I don't mind it nearly as much. And I do it almost religiously now. Before I'd often leave it dirty which would make my workshop dirty. And everyone knows clean bikes work better.

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.

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That's a wrap... I was just going to leave this bare and industrial but this is a much more pleasant solution. Before it always made me cringe as rails contacted the steel pipe. Now it's quiet and even more secure.* Nails to hang brushes on were another late addition.

*Credit to Mike Wallace

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.

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae

Age - 55

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 160lbs/72.5kg

Ape Index - 0.986

Inseam - 32"/81cm

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman

Bar Width - 760mm

Preferred Reach - 475-490mm

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Comments

mrbrett
+2 Dan Pete Roggeman
mrbrett  - Jan. 27, 2021, 6:35 a.m.

This is clever - every time I visit a bike park I think about how convenient it is to have a bike wash right there at the end of the day.

Reply

denomerdano
+5 AJ Barlas Tim Coleman Cam McRae Dan Pete Roggeman
Deniz Merdano  - Jan. 27, 2021, 7:58 a.m.

I have all the space for this and still just lean the rear wheel against the garden furniture (water resistant) for a wash. It does make it easy to walk around the bike that way but it's time I built a clean bike celebration station..

Reply

Timmigrant
+3 Cam McRae Dan Pete Roggeman
Tim Coleman  - Jan. 27, 2021, 9:36 a.m.

I'm in the same boat! Thanks for the inspiration Cam.

Reply

rnayel
+1 Timer
RNAYEL  - Jan. 27, 2021, 8 a.m.

I just shake the bike off and put it away wet. Occasionally, if it was a really nasty ride, I'll wipe the chain with a rag, and lube the next time I pull the bike out for a ride.

Reply

Hollytron
+3 Cam McRae Dan Pete Roggeman
Hollytron  - Jan. 27, 2021, 10:09 a.m.

In my area you can get crushed concrete for $25 for a cubic yard. Its super cheap and sets up a bit after it gets rained on. Im never mixing concrete again.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Pete Roggeman
Cam McRae  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:30 a.m.

I was pretty happy to avoid the mess of mixing and pouring concrete. If I ever need to pull it out of the ground, it should be a lot easier this way. My only concern is that the post will rot prematurely because the ground will often be wet from the hose, and I imagine concrete would offer some protection.

Reply

Squint
0
Squint  - Jan. 27, 2021, 3:21 p.m.

When we got our fence posts replaced the contractor swore by gravel instead of concrete, said less rot with gravel as the water can drain through instead of sitting on top. Maybe he just didn't want to mix concrete but 10 years later they're all still solid.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 AJ Barlas
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:36 a.m.

I just bought a yard of 3/4" crush myself a week ago and was shocked at how cheap it was ($29 all in, dumped straight in the back of my truck). And yeah, absolutely beats having to mix concrete.

Reply

YDiv
+1 Cam McRae
YDiv  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:23 a.m.

If it's already a rainy day, I find that the quickest way is to wash all the bikes on the rack. With the NSR, mine is angled out enough that I can use the hose wash the frame and spin up the wheels so the centripetal force takes care of excess water. Take off, bounce, wipe, and you're done.

Only downside is your car gets dirt all over the back but I don't mind, it's just a quick wash to clean off.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Pete Roggeman
IslandLife  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:26 a.m.

This is a great idea, nice work.  Also highlights how great it is to have bike wash stations in the parking lots of the two places I ride most often.  I'd build one of these, but it would get so little use I don't think the value is there for me... and, humble brag complete.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 IslandLife
Cam McRae  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:32 a.m.

That is a bonus. There is one near the Fromme parking lot but I rarely use that these days, and it would still be more hassle (in my case) than doing it at home.

Reply

dan
+1 Pete Roggeman
Dan  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:34 a.m.

Great reminder that I should construct something like this as well. I am having my hot water heater replaced soon - I will be sure to have the plumber not only install a new, more-conveniently located spigot, but also include a hot water tap at the same location. Hot water dissolves the muck even faster than cold water, according to science! :)

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+5 Dan AJ Barlas Deniz Merdano Agleck7 Timer
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:38 a.m.

For sure pipe hot water outside, and run a pipe high enough to create an outdoor shower. Stand under it in your muddy glory, and voilà, clean bike and riding gear.

Reply

dan
0
Dan  - Jan. 27, 2021, 11:41 a.m.

Bingo! Even better.

Reply

denomerdano
+2 AJ Barlas Agleck7
Deniz Merdano  - Jan. 27, 2021, 12:53 p.m.

Outside warm water showers are the best thing in the world.

Reply

mike-wallace
+1 Deniz Merdano
Mike Wallace  - Jan. 27, 2021, 4:12 p.m.

Dang it Deniz.   I just pictured you outside having a shower...

Reply

denomerdano
+1 Velocipedestrian
Deniz Merdano  - Jan. 27, 2021, 4:42 p.m.

Keep that to yourself Mike... And cherish. :)

mrbrett
0
mrbrett  - Jan. 27, 2021, 12:28 p.m.

An outdoor hot water supply would be heavenly.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 28, 2021, 3:32 p.m.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to have hot water piped out to my bike wash zone. It's a beautiful thing. Also great for washing the dog. Not so great when your buddies put it to scalding temperature to wash their own bike as your heating bill doubles...

Reply

khai
+1 Cam McRae
khai  - Jan. 27, 2021, 12:47 p.m.

I've been telling my wife I want to build one of these for over a year now.

One of these days/weeks/months I'll actually do it...

Reply

skooks
0
Skooks  - Jan. 27, 2021, 5:17 p.m.

I fully expected this to turn into a wash/don't wash your bike debate. I guess I will start. I am firmly in the 'dont wash' camp. No matter how careful you are with the hose, you are going to end up forcing dirt and water into the rotating bits. Let er dry and wipe clean with a rag I say.

Reply

rolly
+1 Cam McRae
rolly  - Jan. 28, 2021, 12:31 p.m.

Just don't use a high power hose.  Be gentle and get that crap off yer bike . . . and treat her like she deserves.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 28, 2021, 3:41 p.m.

I used to be in that camp, but I'm happier now that I wash after every mucky ride. It's also a great time to evaluate your bike's condition before something catches you out on the trail. Like my pedal that needs to be overhauled because I've been washing my bike so much! lol

Reply

Timer
0
Timer  - Jan. 29, 2021, 10:14 a.m.

I don’t think it makes much of a difference to the bike, but I like to keep it somewhat cleanish so it is easier to work on. 

Oh, and when I ride to and from the trails on the road in winter, cleaning is mandatory to remove the salt.

Reply

TomM
0
TomM  - Jan. 28, 2021, 10:24 a.m.

I use DIY stand that cost about $20 and works great for washing or just parking the bike.  Here's the video where I got the idea:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyWW_BL_OHk

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 28, 2021, 4:13 p.m.

That looks great for parking, and at least your rear wheel is off the ground.

I definitely wanted both wheels off the ground as well as to access hard to reach areas, but if those aren't priorities that looks solid.

Reply

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