А Genius Bike Hack You’ve Never Heard Before

from Rookie’s keyboard

Hello, friends

It’s time for the first post of the week. 

Today, I will reveal one of the most intelligent bike hacks I know. Let me ask you a question, first. 

Have you seen bicycles with tennis balls in the spokes? More often than those would be street models such as BMX or dirt jumpers. 

Those are not common where I live, but occasionally a dude at a local skatepark would be running the setup.

What’s the purpose? 

Honestly, there are questionable technical benefits that I will mention later, but the main incentive is – aesthetics/fashion. 

A while back, I decided to follow the trend and installed a tennis ball on my MTB’s front wheel for the fun of it and had an epiphany – you can transport small items in the ball if you make a slight cut it. 

For instance, you can carry tire patches, rubber cement, and even money for a rainy day. Obviously, the size of the tennis ball is highly restrictive, and you’re limited to small items, but sometimes those are the ones that save you out of trouble. 

If you want to be more creative, you can also consider putting a GPS tracker in the tennis ball so that you know the location of your bike (or at least the wheel – lol) when it’s stolen. Another option would be a Bluetooth alarm. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

That said, I would never store anything consumable (e.g., gums, pills…etc.) in the ball because the rubber material is super harmful to the body.

Also – never carry irreplaceable items (e.g., the only key to a storage unit, a flash drive with sensitive data, or an engagement ring.) Why? The ball may fall off and get lost without you even realizing it. 

So, here’s the hack is done:

  1. First, make the smallest possible cut that you can get away with. That way you preserve the structure of the ball as much as possible.
  1. When you place the ball in the spokes, make sure that the cut is perpendicular to the hub. If the cut is parallel to the hub, it will open when you place the ball in the wheel. Hence the choice of orientation.
  1. Done. If you want extra security, you can place a piece of duct tape around the ball.

If you want to put a small item in the ball, just squeeze the sides that aren’t in contact with the spoke, and the entrance will open. 

Camouflage The Ball(if you want to)

Let’s be real. Most riders running tennis balls in the spokes want the look, but if you want the ball to be a storage container, you can consider painting it with a rattle can in a color that doesn’t catch a lot of attention. 

Normal tennis balls have high-visibility colors so that players can easily see them. But this property works against the storage hack. If a stranger decides that they “want to play tennis”, your ball might get stolen simply because it’s in their face.

But if you want to do this strictly to attract views, you might consider the opposite – namely painting the ball in a screaming color.

Proper Installation

Don’t laugh but when I first tried to put a tennis ball in the spokes of my MTB, I needed a minute to do it correctly. Luckily, you can learn from my mistake.

Here’s how that’s done:

Step 1: Locate two adjacent spokes on the same side of the wheel that are as far away from each other as possible. This will serve as the “entrance point”.

The “entrance point”

Step 2: Use the entrance point to slide the ball between the spokes. Keep sliding it while squeezing it. Make sure that the ball is as close as possible to the hub.

Rotate the wheel at a fairly high RPM to see if the ball will stay there. 


Some History 

Bike historians say that the initial motivation behind this practice was to make the wheels stronger by increasing the tension on them. 

And since you can’t have a BMX wheel that’s too strong, riders of the 80s bought this explanation. 

While I don’t have an engineering degree to confirm whether the above happens or not, I can tell you with great certainty that a strong wheel doesn’t need tennis balls to do its job.

Additional Benefits

  • Determining Speed When Running a Freecoaster Hub

Freecoaster hubs are silent when riding backward. The lack of audio feedback could make it harder to determine the speed of the bike.

Some riders claim that a tennis ball in the spokes of the front wheel makes it easier to determine the speed of the bike in a similar scenario. If the ball is rotating quickly, so is the bike.

  • Slower deceleration

Tennis balls will increase the rotational mass of the wheel and thus make it harder to accelerate but also slow down the deceleration. 

In other words, it will be harder to get the bike up to speed, but once there, the wheel will keep spinning longer.

Some consider that beneficial because in specific scenarios it won’t be necessary for the rider to make additional full or partial crank turns in the middle of a long line.

The Negatives

The downsides of this bike hack are:

  • You can lose whatever you’re transporting. Hence avoid storing something ultra valuable.
  • You are adding 50-70 grams of weight per 1 ball. If you add 4 in total, that’s like 200-280 grams of extra weight. It’s not a lot, but its usefulness is also questionable. 
  • Appearance. Let’s be real again. Some people may not like the look. 

My Experience

I did this hack for a summer on my MTB. What can I say? No complaints. And it was nice knowing that I have extra bucks and a few tire patches stored there. Then, I had some bad events in my life and stopped riding. After the return, I switch to a road bike.

Ok, rookies. 

It’s time for me to wrap this up. 

Catch you later. 

Smile and go ride.

Until next time

– Rookie






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