How do I avoid driving into my garage with my bike in the roof rack?
May 24, 2013 4:08 PM   Subscribe

I just bought a roof rack for my bike. Without some kind of alarm in place, I will drive into the garage with bike on the roof. I will destroy the bike and damage my house and I want to avoid this. I need some kind of directed sensor such that when the bike breaks the line of the sensor a light flashes to remind me not to drive into the garage with the bike on my roof. Any ideas along these lines or better?
posted by alcahofa to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you put up a mirror on the back wall of the garage. As you drive in, you would see your car and what's on top of it.
posted by willnot at 4:09 PM on May 24, 2013 [15 favorites]

Get a little velcro strap, and put it on your steering wheel when the bike is on the roof.
posted by colin_l at 4:09 PM on May 24, 2013

Put up a large sign that hangs down inside the door. IS THE BIKE ON THE ROOF?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:13 PM on May 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

Get rid of the automatic door opener in your car. Having to get out of your car to open the door will force you to notice if the bike's on top.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:14 PM on May 24, 2013 [24 favorites]

I was going to say basically what Sweetie said. When you put the bike on the roof, remove the garage opener from the car or put it in the backseat or something, then when you're like "Why is my opener in the backseat???" you'll be like, "Oh yeah, bike on the roof."
posted by magnetsphere at 4:16 PM on May 24, 2013 [14 favorites]

Seconding Sweetie Darling. Move the remote so that you have to get out of the car first.
posted by ambrosia at 4:17 PM on May 24, 2013

You could easily cobble something together using a photoelectric beam sensor. You will have to find an appropriate mounting arrangement, power supply and flashing light.
posted by Talk To Me Goose at 4:17 PM on May 24, 2013

You can do what parking garages do, and hang chains or a bell down to the level of the top threshold. But you'd need a garage with enough overhang so that it would give you enough time to hear the chains and slam on the brakes.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 4:17 PM on May 24, 2013

Somehow rig up a low clearance warning bar on the outside of your garage. One that will make a lot of noise when you hit it, to scare you into stopping quickly before you cause any real damage.

On preview, same as thewumpusisdead
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:18 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the problems with an ordinary photoeye is the standoff distance; where would you mount it so that you could get an alert beacon and be sure that you would see it before advancing into the garage ?

Another problem is the photoeye range; diffuse sensors can transmit a few feet. To cover a 20 foot driveway, you would need a through-beam style or a reflector (recently linked to an inexpensive one, above), and that means another tower or location to hold the reflector or transmitter.

An industrial laser zone scanner would work ! But they start around $3000.

I've never seen a general-purpose infrared proximity sensor that could distinguish between a car with a bike on top and a car without a bike on top.

If you usually store the bike in the garage, I would try to enforce the habit of moving something large into the middle of your parking spot every time you remove the bike. Seeing a sawhorse (or another bike, or a traffic cone) in the middle of the parking spot will remind you the bike is on the roof.
posted by Kakkerlak at 4:22 PM on May 24, 2013 [13 favorites]

Seeing a sawhorse (or another bike, or a traffic cone) in the middle of the parking spot will remind you the bike is on the roof.

This is the sort of thing I do. Low tech! Cheap!
posted by small_ruminant at 4:29 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ya, put the opener underneath your bike helmet. That should be a good reminder that you were on your bike, and that the bike is on the roof.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:29 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree, the manual solution of removing the remote, or turning off the opener from the inside, is probably going to be the most effective.

I can't think of any sort of sensor that's going to be sensitive enough to recognize the difference between a car and a car with a bike on top.

Another option might be some kind of giant sign or flag that you have to drive through that says "BICYCLE?" when the garage door is opened. That, or some other kind of obstruction that will tell you there is a bike on your roof. Maybe an orange cone that is stored with the bike, and when the bike is mounted on the roof of the car, the cone is placed in the car's parking spot?
posted by gjc at 4:30 PM on May 24, 2013

Absolutely - get a weight triggered sensor installed in your driveway. Set it to the weight of the car + bike. When you pull in with the bike, it will flash bright lights at the start of the driveway. When no bike, it will not go off.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:31 PM on May 24, 2013

Weight sensor would never work - how would it possibly recognise empty car+bike but not go off for car with 3 friends and no bike, or even car with groceries?
posted by jacalata at 4:33 PM on May 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

Luckily/unluckily, there's really no such thing as a precise driveway weight sensor for consumers. I support the idea of removing the remote OR maybe slapping a magnetic "bike's on the car!" sign on when leaving the bike.

Respectfully, I think an everpresent "check for bike" sign would only work a few times, based on the effect of the "do your timecard!" signs on the exit doors at work.
posted by ftm at 4:37 PM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

+1 for store the garage door opener in the backseat or under your bike helmet.

Weight would never work- road bikes barely weigh 20lbs. A decent load of groceries or a Target run is far more than that, let alone another person in the car.
posted by lyra4 at 4:37 PM on May 24, 2013

But there isn't an exact weight of the car, because the car will contain varying numbers of people and/or things at different times. Hell, even if you only have the same person in the car and it is always kept scrupulously clean and dry, that person is likely to vary in weight from day to day.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:39 PM on May 24, 2013

Yeah, let's not forget that 3 gallons of gas weighs as much as a bike. But again - this device doesn't exist.
posted by ftm at 4:39 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

A bike weighs the same as like some books or a few gallons of gas. Weight won't work for sure.

I think if I had to do it I'd use a camera mounted above the garage door hooked to a computer. It would not be that hard to code something that could detect something on top of the car. I'd run the opener control through it - door doesn't even open if the bike is there.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:40 PM on May 24, 2013

This problem reminded me of Flo Control.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:44 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Replace roof-mounted bike rack with trailer-hitch mounted bike rack.
posted by zippy at 4:45 PM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

I was thinking about that exact same project, actually (Flo Control)

There are certainly a lot more practical solutions to this problem than an electronic detector of some kind. I'm not sure how serious OP is about specifically making some kind of alarm vs techniques to avoid crushing his bike that aren't along those lines.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:46 PM on May 24, 2013

If you have a long driveway, you could hang a rope across high enough for the car to go under, but not the bike mounted to the car. Attach some wind chimes or tin cans to it so when you knock over the rope and its posts, it makes a ton of noise.

Or you could put your remote in your jersey pocket whenever you ride.
posted by advicepig at 5:03 PM on May 24, 2013

Keep your garage door transmitter in a pencil box under your passenger seat, along with your bike rack keys.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:06 PM on May 24, 2013

Best answer: Someone actually makes a product to solve this problem: the HeadsUp Wireless Gear Alert System. And here's an in-depth review.

But putting the garage door opener somewhere else is cheaper, but a bit less fool-proof.
posted by zsazsa at 5:16 PM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Half-orb spherical mirror the size of a cantelope on the hood of your car.
posted by dirtdirt at 5:24 PM on May 24, 2013

Seriously, a cone or piece of empty luggage is the best and cheapest and really only good way past hiding the remote. Scales, really?
posted by kcm at 5:57 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I dunno, I think people suggesting the "cone" or other reminding techniques are maybe not the kind of people who'd drive into a garage with a bike on top of their car.

I, however, am.

I have left my laptop at home, like, 30% of the times I've brought it home. It's more than a 1-hour round trip to get it. I try a lot of techniques to remind me. I figure if I have 3 or 4 tactics then probably 1 of them will work. Some of these help a bit, I still forget it.

That is, if you were the kind of person to remember to put out a cone every time you left with the bike, you'd not be the kind of person to ram your bike into the garage when you left it up top without remembering.

I do actually think the most practical solution is "don't use a bike rack that puts your bike in a position where it'll get ripped off the top of your car" but that isn't what was asked.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:02 PM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have done this (more than once). I have no suggestions for how to avoid it, because in my case it's usually a parking garage away from my home. I can offer you two thoughts, though:
1. It actually hasn't done much damage to the bike, car, or garage. The failure point is the roof rack (after-market Thule rack). The roof rack half-falls off, and the bike slides down onto the back of the car. It's a pain to reattach everything as it should be, but no real damage was done.
2. The way I avoid it now is that every time I drive into a parking garage, I ask myself, "Is the bike on the car? No? Am I sure??" I'm a touch paranoid, actually, but having this accident a couple of times has help stamp the possibility into my brain.
So, I don't know if this will reassure you or not, but if you do slip up a couple of times, the damage might not be so great, and it will likely help you remember the next time.
posted by pompelmo at 6:04 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Get an aftermarket backup sensor meant for parallel parking and attach it to the front of your bike whenever you mount it on the rack. It will beep in the car when the bike is about to hit something whether that something is your garage, a drive-through overhang, or a parking structure.
posted by contraption at 6:08 PM on May 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

Also, if possible, store your bike on the back wall of the garage so you can get used to seeing it there, so then when it's on the roof and you're pulling in you'll think "That's weird, where's my OH YEAH BRAKES BRAKES BRAKES!!!"
posted by contraption at 6:15 PM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Love the idea of a huge mirror on the back walk of the garage so you can see the bike as you pull in.
posted by amaire at 6:18 PM on May 24, 2013

After jacking up my friend's bike and my car by backing into my garage I attached the key to the bike rack to my garage opener and would throw it in the back seat after putting a bike on the roof.

Another friend made himself a rear-view mirror hang tag that says "BIKE ON ROOF! CLEARANCE 8'5"," or whatever the height was.
posted by MonsieurBon at 6:22 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

+ to MonsieurBon. Make a sign inside your car, so you will remember that the bikes are on the roof, even if you drive into some other garage besides your own.
Don't ask how I know...
posted by TDIpod at 6:39 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

A couple other ideas expanding on points made by others:

- combine Cool Papa Bell's suggestion with mine and make a "STOP! BIKE ON ROOF!" sign that hangs on the garage wall right behind the spot where you hang the bike, so that it's only noticeable when the bike isn't stored there and you don't learn to tune it out.

- to help ensure that pompelmo's "mistakes are unavoidable but it really won't be that bad" theory pans out you could make a habit of attaching something relatively collapsible to the front of the bike; for instance you could strap a bamboo garden stake to the bottom tube such that it juts up and out beyond the front of the bike to harmlessly but palpably ram up against any obstacles before real damage is done.
posted by contraption at 7:22 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Print out this picture, and attach it with magnets to your garage door before leaving with your bikes on the roof.
Or you could print out a smaller version, and stick it on your car console or garage door opener.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:49 PM on May 24, 2013

I really like the idea of moving the garage door opener out of easy reach; that sounds like the easiest low-tech (i.e.: cheapest!) solution. Maybe back that up with hanging something like a toy bike from your rear view mirror whenever the bike's on the roof.
posted by easily confused at 2:38 AM on May 25, 2013

I also really like the idea of moving the garage door opener. I want to add something that I didn't read in the list.

Put the Garage Door Opener on the bike or attach it to the roof rack.

Do you store the bike in the Garage? Can you somehow build a bike storage rack that blocks the car from entering the garage when the bike is not put away?

I think you need to make some sort of process step that you always follow that forces to you to get out of the car before you drive into the garage.
posted by jazh at 3:14 AM on May 25, 2013

Umm, other than being mindful of when you have a bike on the roof of your car, maybe you could tie a tennis ball on a rope to the front of the garage, just to give you a reminder when it plonks your windscreen to think "Is my bike on the roof"? Sharp reflexes required for this to work, of course.
posted by Diag at 4:06 AM on May 25, 2013

Besides eliminating your garage door problem, a trailer hitch bike rack is just sooo convenient.

My 73 year old Mrs. would have trouble muscling her bike onto a roof rack. But she has no problem with the hitch rack. Yeah, yeah, I know. You are young and healthy. But you are clearly already concerned about your short term memory function. :)
posted by notreally at 4:47 AM on May 25, 2013

I would hang a bell rom a pole extending a few feet from the garage such that an empty car will clear it but the bike will hit.
posted by BenPens at 5:17 AM on May 25, 2013

This is not a solution, but can help raise your awareness. A really cheap pair of sports sunglasses from the drugstore, a wraparound pair with mirrored lenses, can sit folded on your dash up against the windscreen. The mirror tint and parabolic shape lets you tell at a glance that your bikes or whatever is on the roof of your car is right where it should be.
posted by No Shmoobles at 6:37 AM on May 25, 2013

And put some sort of speed bump at the entrance to the garage to help train yourself out of just tearing in there at highway speed and screeching to halt, so that all that these suggestions can get their warnings across to you with enough time for you to react.

I like the hidden garage door opener idea as an additional layer of precaution, but as a standalone solution it will fail on the day you come home and somebody has the garage open already.
posted by contraption at 8:29 AM on May 25, 2013

In case zsazsa's or contraption's suggestions don't pan out, a low tech solution would be:
1) attach a small, short rope or bungee cord to the front of your bike-rack, with a hook that attaches to another part of the rack that is blocked when the bike is mounted up there.
2) Therefore, this has to be hooked somewhere else when the bike is up there. So, you have a small clear plastic hook or similar attached to your windshield, so it is convenient to attach the rope to. Because you can't load the bike up without moving the rope-hook from the rack, you won't forget to do this.
3) The spot you fix for the plastic hook on the windshield is important. First, it will it need to be visible to the driver without blocking the driver's view.
Second, you want it to visually line up with a big poster or similar that you put in your garage. Position the hook and the poster so that they visually line up at as spot well before the bike hits the house.
And if you put something on the rope-hook that visually contrasts with the poster, it will catch your attention when they line up. For example, put a green or turquoise ball on the rope-hook, and make the poster red or orange, and or have vertical lines on a clear piece of hard plastic attached to the rope hook, and horizontal lines on the poster.
This way you won't become accustomed to it the way you would to something that is always there when you are pulling into your garage, or driving with your bike on the roof.
posted by neutralmojo at 8:50 AM on May 25, 2013

Return it and get a rack that hangs you bike off the back of your car.

The risk is high, and I don't think there is anything you can do to eliminate or sufficiently mitigate the risk inherent in the design. All it takes is one lapse in your system and you've got thousands of dollars in damage to your car, bike and house. And that's just the risk you can best address. What happens when you drive into a public parking garage with low clearance, or a low-clearance drive through, or under a tree with a low limb?
posted by Good Brain at 10:06 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think your best solution is going to be procedural, not technical. Rather than hiding the garage remote, I'd just keep a fat red rubber band around it, and slide it over the button every time I put the bike on the roof. I would also use the traffic cone in the parking spot idea. That is still going to rely on your discipline: bike on roof, flag the opener, put out the cone.

A "is bike on the roof" sign that is always there, either in the garage or on the dash of your car, isn't going to work. People become blind to something that's always there.

You also need to develop a new habit. Every time you open your garage door, bike on top or not, physically get out and look over the car to see if it will fit. If you do this every time, you can't mess this up.

(You would think, but this is classic military style. Except that if it was the military, we'd have someone sign a form certifying that they personally verified the car would fit, and have it second-checked by another person. And it still would get messed up.)
posted by ctmf at 10:40 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, if you go with the low-tech reminder route, LABEL your devices. The buddy or spouse who decides to park your car for you won't know what the rubber band on the opener means unless it says "The bike is on the roof" right on it.
posted by ctmf at 11:42 AM on May 25, 2013

Response by poster: I think this is an classic. Thank you all for your responses. I am leaning towards getting this thing or constructing something like it...

In the meantime, I will be hiding the garage door opener in the glove compartment with a sticker on it that says bike on car. Of the non-technical solutions, the various solutions involving the garage door opener would be the most effective.

thanks everyone
posted by alcahofa at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2013

yea late to the thread but after thirty years of dealing with roof racks, and in my case always being, like 2" too short to gracefully deal with putting them up, the thru-axle mounts on our new 29ers (and all the adapter mount fuckery related thereto) was the absolute last straw and my husband and I got a Kuat hitch mount rack.

One thing no one mentioned here, but 2 different teammates of mine have done, that you cannot plan for, was the act of automatically putting the bike on the roof rack BEFORE driving out of the garage, and subsequently wrecking it that way. And you may think "durr, why would anyone even do that?" but neither of these guys is exactly stupid - habits are weird.

Also, roughly 90% of the many bikes I've known that were driven into garages / tree branches / overhangs were destroyed. That maybe biassed because they were mainly lightweight racing rigs owned by fellow bike racers, but still. Bikes really aren't designed to take that kind of blunt force trauma, and even steel forks will bend and/or fail after getting a hard shot like that.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:40 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Web Links / book recommendations for sample emails...   |   New York hotel comparison: Hotel Beacon vs. The... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.