Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Marty McFly Bikestand

If you don't know who Marty McFly is, then perhaps this blog is not for you.

Just as a refresher: he's the time-traveling teenager portrayed by Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future trilogy. In key scenes in the first film, he used a skateboard to get around town. When he got to his destination, he'd smack his foot on the back of the board, sending it upward at a 90 degree angle where he could then pick it up without having to bend over to get it.

When I was ten, I wanted to be Marty McFly. So much so that my parents got me a skateboard that I used a lot and saw a tremendous amount of wear and tear. I even taped tiny flashlights to the front so I'd be safer at night. I still own it today and it bears many, many scars (and I still have scars on my knuckles from a bad – sorry, I meant 'gnarly' - crash I had way back when). Here it is, and in the photo I am pointing to the little burn mark on the front from that time I taped an Estes model rocket engine to the board, Wile E. Coyote style, back when Reagan was in office.

Now I bring all of this up because many children from the Back to the Future era may still be holding onto their skateboards and not know what to do with them. For a while I had been using mine from time to time when I need a light furniture dolly, but then one day I thought: why can't I build a rolling bike rack out of a skateboard? I knew there was no way I'd mangle my Variflex Concave Rad-Cut (really, that was the name) but...take a look at this one.

If you keep your eyes open at tag sales, you may come across people who do not have the same sentimental attachments to their Variflex skateboards as myself. This one had a sticker price of $3 on it and was in far better shape than mine...in spite of the graffiti someone had put on the back with liquid paper.

I thought about the rack I made with my dad last year and thought that I could simplify the design and make it mobile. So the first thing I did, naturally, was cut a big hole in the middle of the board: fans of old-school skateboards may want to avert your gaze:

Like the rack my dad and I made, this one was made for a specific bike: another 80's veteran, the Turner recumbent, with its 27” rear wheel. So I cut the hole (a couple of times) so the tire would sit in the whole and still stay off the ground. When I made the hole the right size, I set the bike in it.

It immediately tipped over.

I knew then I needed to use 2 x 4s to give the wheel extra space to grip. So I cut a couple to the right length and mounted them to the board. I then set the bike in it.

It immediately tipped over.

I knew then I needed something to hold the wheels further up on the tire, but I didn't have much lumber left. I found some aluminum pieces that I thought would work and used my drill press to cut holes for the screws. I then removed the burrs from the aluminum with the most adorable bench grinder the world has ever seen: I bought at the Harbor Freight store in New Haven. As you can see I created a special mount so I could use it by clamping it to the vise on my workstand.

When I had the aluminum pieces mounted to the back of the 2 x 4s, I set the bike in it.

It burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.

Okay, the last part isn't true. It did stay up. Briefly. Turns out, the trucks on the skateboard made the whole thing rather tippy, but the aluminum did keep the bike in place.

I knew there was only one step left in the build: to remove the skateboard trucks and replace them with rigid casters. I did that. And...it stayed up. So I was left with the strongest rolling bike stand I had ever built.

Now that the build is over, I realize that it actually had very little to do with skateboards, but 27 years since that movie first came out, it keeps inspiring me, so the Marty McFly Bike Stand name will stick. However, you could easily get similar results with a piece of plywood, which is often easier to find than a used Variflex Concave Rad-Cut. Remember that if you try to build one of your own. Thanks for reading.

(Follow me on Twitter at @michaelknorris)


  1. Parking your dirt bike between motos at the track, in your garage when you're done riding, and everywhere in between is something that every rider has to do. There are a few different designs of dirt bike stand that can get the job done.

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