When we started remodeling our house last year we moved some walls around, and we have had to resort to temporarily storing some household goods in BluesCat World Headquarters, resulting in reduced square footage available for bike parking.
One day, I made the mistake of grumbling about having all the bikes jammed together now, and having to climb over two or three bikes in order to get to the bike I wanted to ride.
“Well,” said my wife, “You should park some of them outside.”
I gave her a look which was a cross between an over-the-top double-take and an expression of abject horror. Surely, this loving, lifetime partner of mine knew full well that bikes belong in the house!
Evidently not, because she blithely added “You should go up the street to our nearest Big Box Home Improvement Center and check out what they have for backyard storage.” I thought about beginning the process of whining, screaming and thrashing around on the floor in protest (it seems to work on her for our two granddaughters), but it would have required more energy than I wanted to expend.
After an exhaustive tour of the acres of products in the DIY Home and Garden Center, not only did I start thinking that a tantrum might have actually require less energy, but I found that the most suitable and inexpensive plastic yard shed would run about $500 to $600, and would take hours to set up. Or I could pay the store to put it together and the total would go over $1,000. I knew this was definitely a deal breaker as I skipped happily back to the house and gave my spouse the joyful news.
The subject was dropped until I learned of the YardStash II. The YardStash is essentially a 74-inch long by 30-inch deep by 65-inch high bicycle camping tent selling for a mere $124.95 and promising a setup time of just ten minutes or so.
Other features of this product made it look like a pretty good solution for both me and The Missus.
As an experienced backpacker, and former Scout Leader, I was able to assemble the YardStash in far less time than 10 minutes; with only a cursory glance at the excellent instruction sheet.
Like a human camping tent, it comes with a set of fiberglass poles; each pole is in sections joined with shock cords. The poles snap together and fit through loops, hooks and grommets around the edges of the YardStash and give it a barn-like shape.
Unlike a camping tent, the YardStash is narrow enough — and at 16 pounds it is light enough — to be lifted up and moved to a different location by one person.
After testing it in several places, I put it on a concrete slab on the south side of the house, up against the wall. I settled on that location because the YardStash has a floor made of a polyester fabric. Although all the material in the YardStash looks pretty tough, I’m certain that if I were to put it in the grass on the lawn, or on top of the rock bed around the swimming pool, I would have to make sure I added some planking underneath the floor or the bike kickstands would eventually poke holes in it.
There is a large, rectangular opening on the back of the YardStash which is covered by a Velcro®-sealed flap. The whole purpose of this flap is to be able to lock the bikes (and the YardStash) to a post or wall.
I fastened a heavy duty tie-down loop to the house wall and ran a six foot length of grade 30 zinc coated chain through the opening, through the bike frames and through the bike wheels; locking the whole thing together with a hefty padlock. A would be thief is going to have to work pretty hard to steal my bikes.
All around the edge of the back wall of the YardStash are a series of extra grommets which are there for the express purpose of securing it to a wall so it doesn’t blow away in the wind. The door of the YardStash is closed via a pair of heavy duty zippers with weather flaps. One zipper loops from the upper left-hand corner of the door opening down to the lower right-hand corner, where it is met by the second zipper which runs horizontally from the lower left corner of the opening to the lower right corner.
Above the door is a nylon screen covered hole, a sort of gable vent which allows the waterproof shell of the YardStash to breathe and keep condensation from forming on the bikes inside. The gable vent has a flap, with a Velcro® closure, so that it can be sealed in case of rain.
Speaking of rain, I thought I would have to resort to turning a garden hose on the YardStash to test how waterproof it really is. But the Phoenix weather cooperated in an astonishing fashion.
Two days after I set it up, we had an amazing — for Phoenix — downpour of more than half an inch of rain. And a few days after that we had an almost unheard of event: a wind-driven graupel storm. (“Graupel” — depending upon which “expert” talking-head TV weather person you’re listening to — is either “soft hail” or “hard snow.” It doesn’t matter what you call it, you can still make cute snowmen and deadly snowballs out of it.)
Through this whole apocalyptic series of weather events the YardStash kept my bikes dry. There wasn’t a hint of moisture inside the unit.
Someone brought up another possible weather related issue: how will the YardStash stand up to the brutal Arizona desert sun?
The answer is simple: It won’t.
But this should NOT be interpreted as a knock on the quality of the materials in the YardStash. Nothing can stand up to the blazing desert sun. House paint can’t, it typically has a much shorter lifespan than in other areas of the country. And if you don’t have a carport or garage, and you don’t religiously coat your brand new car finish every month with a wax containing a UV shield, in a couple of years your automobile will look like Mad Max’s Interceptor.
The key to helping anything to survive in the desert — including you — is providing shade.
I returned to the aforementioned Big Box Home Improvement DIY store and for less than 20 bucks I got an eight foot diameter round plant covering and a package of small bungee cords. The plant covering material is a breathable, fine gauge nylon screen; it goes by several names, depending on the manufacturer; the product I got was called “Planket.” I spread it over the top and front of the YardStash, secured it at some strategic points with some of the bungee cords, and it is a pretty good “sun fly.” It takes less than a second to flip this cover up out of the way of the door when I want to access the interior. I figure it will last at least two years, maybe more, before I have to replace it.
(Note to YardStash makers: You should make your own, customized version of this sun fly as an add-on accessory, and do it quick … before the BluesCat patents it and you haveta pay big bucks for a product license!)
The YardStash II has plenty of room for two bikes, and there are a couple of big hooks on the inside of the unit for hanging bags, helmets, or other stuff up off of the floor.
And how do the bikes like it?
Well, my two mountain bikes, with their trekking handlebars and other comforts, in my eyes have a certain unconventional coolness to them. As I look at them peeking out of the door of the YardStash, it’s like they’re saying “Hey, Dude, we’re good being outdoors, you know. We’ll just crash here until you get your … stuff … together!”
BluesCat is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging (azbluescat.blogspot.com) and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.