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Not everyone has room to store a bike indoors.
If you live in a confined space or small flat without a garage, you may have to leave your bike outside.
This needn’t be disastrous for the bike as long as you maintain and protect it.
In this article, we’ll tell you how to store a bike outside and keep it safe.
How To Properly Store Your Bike Outdoors
There are several different outdoor bike storage options.
Bike Storage Options For Outdoor Use
As long as it’s permitted for you to store a bike outside, there will be good and bad ways to do it. The worst way is to leave the bare bike to fend for itself!
The storage methods below all do a decent job of protecting your bike from the elements. They vary in their ability to protect against theft.
Metal Or Plastic Bike Sheds / Storage Units
Bike sheds or storage units are usually for people who have the luxury of owning a garden. They’re usually robustly made with coated steel panels.
You can buy plastic bike sheds, too. These sometimes have steel inserts for extra strength, though they’re inevitably less secure than steel sheds.
Tarpaulin Covers & Tents
Even less secure than a plastic bike shed is a tarpaulin cover, but it will protect a bike or two from the weather. A bike tent is quite an effective solution as long as the lack of security is not an issue for you.
The level of security you have around your house affects how inviting a bike cover or tent is for thieves. We’ll get into this a bit more later. The value of your bikes is also likely to influence how much you should spend on protection.
A regular tarpaulin cover (aka “tarp”) is a form of protection you can use almost anywhere outdoors to protect your bike from the elements. It works in a garden, on a balcony, or on the landing of a high-rise block of flats.
Traditional Wooden Shed
Traditional wooden garden sheds are commonly used for storing bikes, though they can still rust in the dank atmosphere if you leave them for ages. An obvious downside is that wood is an easy material to hack into or prize open.
On the plus side, wooden sheds usually look attractive in gardens and don’t necessarily announce themselves as a home for bikes. Thieves often know there are bikes at an address before they break in. Ideally, you need a wooden shed without any windows.
The Dangers Of Storing Your Bicycle Outside
There are several ways outside bike storage can go wrong. They usually involve harm to the bike and in extreme cases may put your home at risk.
Harm Caused By The Elements
You’ll always need to protect your bike from the elements, no matter what it’s made of.
Many bike-frame materials do not rust, or at worst they’ll develop a protective patina that prevents further corrosion (e.g., aluminum).
Only steel bike frames truly rust and will keep rusting if neglected. This usually starts when the finish on the bike is damaged or scratched.
On many steel products, manufacturers add a robust powder coating or e-coating to prevent rust from getting a foothold. Indeed, this is possible with bike frames. If it doesn’t scratch, it won’t easily rust.
Drivetrain parts can rust on any bike. The steel chain is a common culprit. Rain washes away any lubricant you’ve applied and corrosion occurs as the chain dries out. Humidity or condensation has a similar effect. Neglect causes bike deterioration.
Other bike parts that might be affected by rust include screws, bolts, washers, steel spokes, and chain guards. Bike cables and pedal parts (e.g., springs) also rust if constantly stored in a damp environment.
Hot weather can also damage certain bike components. In particular, you should cover saddles if you’re leaving them exposed to the sun for long periods, as they will eventually suffer from UV damage.
Strong sunlight will also accelerate degradation in bike tires, and the color of your bike may start to fade. Extreme elements are not bike-friendly on the whole.
One thing to know about thieves is they often stake out a property and watch the occupants before striking. It’s not always that way, but often it is. They don’t want to get caught, so they watch your habits and pick a low-risk time.
If you go everywhere on a bike and leave it outside your home, it becomes a sign of your presence. Don’t leave the bike in plain view of everyone if you have a choice. The threat may not only be to your bike.
Tips For Safe And Secure Outdoor Bike Storage
It’s all very well buying outdoor storage for your bike(s), but how do you stop unscrupulous persons from walking off with them?
You need to think about the outdoor space where you’re storing the bikes. If it’s your property, make it as uninviting as possible to a thief. You could install security measures like alarms, CCTV, or some PIR lights.
If you’re only looking to store a cheap knockabout bike or two, the above measures are a bit extreme. Low value is a form of security in itself.
It helps to buy a sturdy shed that’s hard to break into, but any padlocks included won’t always ensure that. You ideally need anchor points inside the shed you can lock your bike to using a heavy-duty U-lock or chain lock (or both).
With U-locks and chain locks, the thicker the shackles are or the guage of the chain, the harder it is to break them open.
You can also use locks to make bikes secure under a tent or tarpaulin, as long as you have something solid to tether them to.
Even fake security signs are better than nothing. However, it’s not beyond the wit of the average thief to google the product. You need a sign that’s tied to a genuine security system so thieves don’t know if it’s real or not.
Dummy CCTV cameras serve a similar purpose.
In Full View
The problem with hiding a bike in a little corner of your property is that thieves like concealment. Hide your bikes from view, but not in a place that also hides thieves.
PIR lights come on when they detect movement. They’re especially effective in open areas that are easily visible to neighbors or passers-by.
If you store a bike outside in a backyard or garden, don’t make access easy. Be extra wary if you live on the end of a terrace (row houses) with a murky alleyway at the side of your property. This is more inviting to burglars and thieves.
Make sure gates are tall and locked, perhaps with a heavy-duty chain lock. A vicious dog sign on the gate may help if the intruder knows nothing about you.
Always put multiple things in the way of thieves. Same thing with bike locks – use two or three different locks together. Most career thieves are extremely time conscious. They don’t want to jump through multiple hoops to get at the prize.
Maintaining Your Bike While It’s Stored Outside
No matter how carefully you cover your bike, you’ll still need to give it a little more attention when you store it outside.
Don’t just chuck a bike under a sheet of tarpaulin for the night if you’ve been riding through rain. Get a rag and wipe the frame and drivetrain dry. It’s wise to use one rag for the drivetrain and another for the rest of the bike.
Video: Bike Maintenance After Riding In The Rain
If the bike’s dirty, you can also give it a quick clean before drying it. Some people use baby wipes (preferably biodegradable) to keep this task simple.
After cold nights, check the condition of the bike and make sure condensation hasn’t built up on it. If it has, dry the bike off. Make sure the saddle’s dry, too, if you intend to soon ride it.
Bike chains are particularly susceptible to rusting, although most of the time the rust is superficial. Even so, it’s worth keeping your chain in good condition for a longer lifespan and smoother operation.
When exposed to heat, UV light, or moisture, bike tires start to crack and degrade. A cool, dark storage place should preserve the lifespan of tires and other bike accessories (e.g., tubes, bike helmets).
Choosing The Right Outdoor Bike Storage Solution
There are several adequate ways of protecting your bike against the elements but protecting them against theft is more of a challenge.
Which outdoor bike solution you choose is going to come down to a few things:
- Bike value – the more valuable your bikes are, the sturdier you need the storage to be, ideally. That generally means heavy-duty metal with a lot of thought put into internal locking, pick-proof exterior locks, and anti-attack features.
- Crime Rate – if you live in a neighborhood or city where larceny is common, you can’t be storing your bikes in a flimsy tent. But you might be able to if you’ve somewhere safe to put the tent or have a lot of security installed.
- Design – look for useful features in your outdoor bike storage like ventilation, which prevents condensation from building up on your bikes. Some sheds make a very loud noise when thieves try to kick in panels.
- Space – the outdoor bike storage solution has to fit in with the space you have available. If you’re storing a bike on a balcony, you’ll probably use a piece of tarp draped loosely over the bike so some air can get to it.
- Cost – the more expensive bike storage solutions can easily cost a four-figure sum. But you don’t always need this if you’re at least able to lock your bikes or have a space that is guarded 24/7. There is a solution to suit all budgets.
Video: Anti-Theft Resistance In A Steel Bike Shed
You always have options if you can’t store bikes indoors. Anything from a sturdy metal bike shed to a weatherproof piece of tarp will do the job.
Pay attention to maintenance if your bike is outside all the time. A steel bike frame is vulnerable to rust, but so are drivetrain components on all bikes.
A lack of indoor storage space for your bike should never put you off cycling!
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