Upside down hydraulic brakes?

image source:
image source:

Is it ok to have my bike upside down? What about my hydraulic brakes? Won’t having the bike upside down put air in the brake calipers?
Correctly bled and operational hydraulic brakes have NO air inside the system.
Air is only in a bladder behind a rubber membrane. It is designed so that it cannot escape the bladder and enter the system even if upside down.
Its function is to compensate for variations in temperature because fluid slightly expands when its temperature increases. It also allows for the change in volume of the fluid system as brake pads wear.
Before riding, the brakes should always be tested whether the bike has been upside down or not. If your brakes are not fully operational it is because there is an issue in the system and it requires a service.
Here is a good site that describes how a hydraulic brake system works:

The spin on wheel bearing wear

Bearing wear is generally a result of rotations and load in combination. Wear rate increases dramatically as load increases. The life of a wheel bearing can be calculated based on revolutions and load. What’s the result of the math?
– Doubling the load on the wheel bearing reduces the life to one tenth, reducing the load by half increases the life by ten.
– Doubling spin speed reduces life by one half. Reducing speed by one half doubles life. Here is the key tho…
– When the load reduces to zero, the life extends to infinity.

A wheel doesn’t weigh zero however in comparison to a bike and rider, the load and therefore wear on a wheel bearing while spinning in transport is negligible.
Having said that some people just don’t want their wheels spinning on a rack. To cover them we include these rubber bands to hold your brakes when your bike is inverted on our rack – or as a fashion accessory wrist band at your next TDF rave party 🚴🚴🚴🚴
rubber band_mtb_1rubber band_road_1

Is it a problem to have my suspension forks upside down? Will they leak?

Having your suspension forks upside down is a good thing. It keeps the internal components like the foam rings and wiper seals lubricated. This helps to cut down on static friction (stiction) in use. Oil seals and foam wipers dry out and dry seals drastically increase friction inside the fork. Depending on the lower leg bath oil levels and service intervals, just riding and compressing the fork may not provide the optimal lubrication for the seals. It is for this reason that some suspension manufacturers and professional riders recommend storing your bike upside down.

You’ll have no problem with leaks unless you have a seal failure already. Compressing your fork due to trail surface impacts during riding produce far higher pressure peaks on the seals than turning the bike upside down.
Many forks like the current most popular fork on the market have no air inside the damping system. It is a closed system with a bladder to compensate for temperature and variations like some hydraulic brake systems. In this case the position of system makes no difference to its function.

New vs old

The Upside Rack now contains a fully sealed, integrated and electronically controlled lock. The one request we kept getting with the original design was “does it have a lock?” So here it is.

crank handle lock vs non lock

The crank handle had to grow to fit the lock mechanism and batteries. It comes factory sealed with two, replaceable AA Lithium batteries.


Some of the electronic components inside and the key fobs used to lock/unlock. Just briefly hold the key fob next to the crank handle and the lock engages, do it again and it unlocks. Simple, secure and sealed.

Generation two in the future may be smaller once we have more field data to prove the 30 year battery life.

power draw in sleep mode

This shows power draw as we are evaluating battery life. What does it mean for users … currently heavy users should expect 30 years of battery life. That includes temperatures down to -40° which also happens to be where both the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales are the same 🙂

Poland Manufacturer visits and drop testing

Assembling the prototype

Why would you spend years designing and thousands of dollars building something only to crash it full speed into a solid object? Testing and development. The idea is to do the damage yourself before anyone else gets a chance.

Earlier this month, I traveled to Poland to, well… slam our latest prototype in a simulated crash test and meet the short list of suppliers we have selected to make our pride and joy. What followed was an engineer’s dream and a whole lot of fun.

Building a production equivalent prototype was a completely new level of challenge from the 3D-printed and machined samples of our previous iterations. We used 4 specialist prototypers from 3 continents to make a prototype that is only slightly weaker than what the mass-produced production components will be. Assembly of just one rack took hours where in production we will be able to automate and quality control in minutes.

The finished prototype was so awesome to hold and part of me couldn’t believe what we were about to do. But as an engineer, there is something so visceral and enthralling about ditching the simulations, putting aside the calculations and smashing your work with extraordinary forces.

First crash test ready to be dropped

Mounting up the test rig with the weighted bike and the prototype fixed together we started the data logger and the camera then let it go. The rearward facing crash was brilliant. The rack stood strong and held the bike firm and safe in its grip. Next was the forward facing crash. This one was not so smooth. Simulations identified the sliding hook as the weakest part of the design so we wanted to confirm how it performed in a real life crash test. We got our answer as the loads crashed down and broke through the main rib in exactly the weak point our computer simulations predicted. While it was one small part of an otherwise successful rack design it was disappointing to see. We analysed the results, scoped out the changes needed and headed home for a sleep after a very long day.

But, back at our hostel there wasn’t much sleep to be had. We pored over data sheets that had been sent off for specifications from overseas and started redesigning the one component that had got in the way of a passed test. We discovered the material strength properties for the prototype hook were less than half what was expected and of the planned production material.  This gave us hope for the current design but regardless we came up with a concept which is far stronger without any negative impact. So, in the end, the break was a good thing and will make for a better final product.

Our trip to Poland wasn’t just about smashing and crashing. We also went to choose a manufacturing partner we could trust to match our obsession with quality. Meeting a toolmaker and watching mass production in action gives you a real feel for a manufacturers level of respect for the environment, the principles of physics, their staff, and themselves.

We were looking for a manufacturing partner that takes pride in cleanliness, quality control and, ultimately, the finished product. During a meet, greet, tour and component design discussion with a supplier, you can see and sense quality (or lack thereof) in every part of the physical environment and conversation.

We had a shortlist based on capability, industry references and personal experience of the team so set out across the country to meet these manufacturers and inspect their facilities. Some manufacturers exceeded our high expectations, others weren’t up to the task.

Component strength analysis

Injection Moulding is enormously complex. Mastering material selection, injection pressures, mold flow and form is extremely challenging. Experts in the field understand these multiple challenges and solve problems before they even occur. The strength, flexibility and durability properties of engineering polymers are so impressive but they are also immensely confusing without the right levels of knowledge and experience.

Conversations with manufacturers that went along the lines of “Did you consider ‘x’?” or “I have used ‘y’ to achieve ‘z’ with success in the past” were very reassuring and helped us select the right team to produce the Upside Rack. We are now very confident in the team we have selected to manufacture the rack but are keeping an independent team locally to ensure we can manage our own levels of project management and quality control.

So packing up it was off to Frederic Chopin International Airport. I have been away from the family for close to a week and away from riding also. I need to get riding more myself but so excited that we are now imminently close to getting this product in front of a worldwide audience and then getting more people riding more bikes faster.

Why are we building this?

We are riders

Trails, roads, mountains, and even slow rides with our kids.  We spend more on our bikes than we do on our cars.

When it comes to bikes, there’s a solution for almost every rider and ride.

Tyres range from the size of your finger to the size of your face.  Frames are all sorts of shapes and lightweight carbon lay-ups are not designed to be clamped.  Securing your bike for the adventure is getting harder and harder.

Over a year ago, we set ourselves a mission, to get our bike to the trailhead regardless of the bike we choose.  We went back to first principles of design, back to the drawing board to search for a secure, fast and gentle solution. We wanted less hassle, more riding.


Turning the rack upside down was just the beginning. With the Upside Rack’s secure and lightweight design, you can get your bike on your car in seconds. And it’s portable so you can switch vehicles and bikes with ease. The Upside Rack is engineered to be compact and easy to store when you’re not riding, and rugged and secure to perform for as long as you need when you are.

Our pioneering design holds your bike at the same contact points you do, and clamps down with one quick and easy action. Best of all, your bike frame is safe, stable and secure.

We’ve designed a quality product for any ride.  You choose the bike and we’ll help you get it there.

Interbike trip

Our latest prototype had been working really well. We’d captured some brilliant footage to show what the Upside Rack could do.  Now it was time to introduce the Upside Rack to the big wide world. Nervous? A bit. Excited? Hell yeah!

More specifically, in September this year I headed to the US for Interbike before crossing the pond to visit Cycle Show UK.  At both events, some key industry folk were available for a show and tell and it was an opportunity we couldn’t afford to miss.

But, as a lifelong introvert it was a daunting prospect.  Surely the workshop or CAD machine at home couldn’t survive without me. Did I really need to talk to industry people?

Afraid so. Industry feedback and hearing some opinions of our rack solution for those who really know the industry is crucial. These shows provide the golden opportunity to see all the key industry figures in one place, as well as touch base with distributors and some key media.

An outdoor demo smile

First stop: Las Vegas for Interbike, the largest annual gathering of the bicycle industry in North America.  I arrived at Mandalay Bay Convention Centre and raced to register before quickly jumping on the bus to outdoor demo area.  Sure, I was there on business but I am a rider first and I couldn’t miss out. The guys at the Pivot stand took pity on me as I ran up to them in the dying minutes of the Outdoor Demo and begged for a chance to take out a bike.  They were awesome and rallied around to find a helmet and dial up the Switchblade for me. I am by no means a bike reviewer so I’ll save you my 10 cents on the bike other than to say it brought a big smile to my face and I was feeling pretty happy as I rolled back in with the tents already packing up at the close of the demo days.

But back to business and the real reason I was there. I strolled around among the hundreds  of exhibitors and was excited by all the cool product on display. But it quickly struck me that there wasn’t much that was truly innovative and new. Sure, the GoPro stand had a huge crowd for the Karma launch spectacular and the enormous range of everything from E bikes to energy bars was super impressive. But mostly I was looking at an evolution of ideas; products and gear that we have already seen and used in some form before.

A real nervous energy grew within me as my thoughts turned to the Upside Rack. We have produced something that has never been done before. I began to view the bits of engineered alloy and polymers slung under my arm as my little piece of innovation that I just couldn’t wait to show the bike community.

Paid up associate member
Paid up associate member

I thought I’d start by dropping in at the NBDA (National Bike Dealers Association) stand. We wanted to join up, support the local industry and see what we could learn at the same time. Boy, was I in for a treat! After some friendly chats to the helpful volunteers and staff I walked away with more industry knowledge than my tiny mind could absorb. With a page full of notes and a mind blown into fragments I sat down to absorb and review what I’d learned. I couldn’t wait to share it with Sean and I didn’t want to forget anything.

During my visit to Interbike, I was able to show the Upside Rack to some industry heavyweights.  It’s always fun to see people watch our videos or check out the prototype and hear them respond with “Wow!” or “It’s that simple!”.  But things went to a whole other level as I showed the Upside Rack to people who have held senior roles across the whole bike industry for decades. These people have seen product after product and yet they still got a big kick out of our innovative bike rack. I heard encouraging comments like: “Distributors are going to want to have this!” and, “This is really a premium product with benefits that don’t currently exist”.

I was buzzing. What a blast!

After a few more fantastic meets with fellow ‘bike nuts’ and a lot more gawking at all the shiny things a  bike show has to offer, I packed up and headed for the UK to meet up with Sean and the UK side of the bike world.

When I finally reached home, tired but very excited, it was back to the engineering world of Upside Racks with a fresh enthusiasm I didn’t expect. Knowing that we will get our customers riding more bikes, more often and in less time than anyone thought was possible.