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Storing your bike properly over winter helps to protect it from harsh weather conditions, moisture, and resulting rust.
Leaving your bike outside or in a damp place for an extended period can cause parts to deteriorate. It harms tires, too.
Taking the time to store your bike properly can save you money on repairs. It will also ensure that it’s in good condition when you’re ready to ride again in the spring.
Proper winter bike storage also helps to extend the bike’s lifespan.
Tips For Storing A Bike In The Winter
There are various ways you can protect your bike and preserve its longevity during winter storage.
Clean Your Bike Before Storage
Before winter storage, use a bike cleaner or gentle detergent and warm water to wash the bike frame, wheels, and components. Avoid using high-pressure water or harsh chemicals to remove dirt, as they can damage the bike’s paint and parts.
Use a soft brush or sponge to clean hard-to-reach areas, such as the chain and cassette. Dry the bike thoroughly with a clean towel.
Apply lubricant to the chain and other moving parts to prevent rust and keep them functioning smoothly. Storing a clean and lubricated bike in a cool, dark, and dry place will help protect it during the winter months.
Have Your Bike Serviced
Most bikes require annual maintenance, depending on how frequently they are ridden. We’d recommend taking your bike to the local bike shop for pre-storage servicing, including a check on all moving parts and replacement of key items like cables.
If you wait until the first warm day of the season to have your bike serviced, you may experience long wait times. Staff at bike shops often have more time for bike servicing during slower periods, which means they’re less likely to miss anything.
Even if you perform routine maintenance yourself, it’s a good idea to service your bike before putting it away for the winter.
Keep Your Bike Dry
Avoid exposing your bike to water or moisture during winter. This means rain, condensation, humidity, or any other source of fluid.
A wet bike is likely to rust. Even if your bike does not have a steel frame, nuts, bolts, washers, and other fasteners and fixings are prone to rusting. Key drivetrain components also rust, like the chain and cassette.
If your bike tires are often wet, they may wear out faster. When water accumulates on the tires and dries up, it can remove the protective layer on the surface of the tire. This makes it more vulnerable to damage from ozone exposure.
Most bike saddles don’t suffer any long-lasting damage from moisture or rain, but how durable are leather saddles? Most of the time you don’t need to cover a leather saddle, but you shouldn’t leave one bare in the rain.
Consider storing your bike indoors to keep it dry if you have room.
Lubricate Moving Parts
Lubricating your bike’s moving parts is crucial to prevent corrosion and ensure smooth performance when you want to use it again.
Regular lubrication during the riding season prevents excessive wear and tear while enhancing the components’ overall performance.
Similarly, lubrication during storage can extend the life of the bike’s components. It’s important to use a bicycle-specific lubricant and not a solvent.
Apply a few drops of lubricant to brakes, shifters, and derailleurs, and one drop in each cable. Thoroughly clean and lubricate the chain. The most rigorous way to do this is off the bike, though you can use a mechanical bike scrubber to clean the chain in situ.
Read more: How much do bicycle chains cost on average?
If you’re wondering how to choose bike chain lubricant, there are various types. These include waxes and different lubes. A wet lube is more suited for winter cycling, but you’re more likely to use dry lube on a bike in storage, ready for finer weather.
Video: How to Quickly Apply Bike Chain Lubricant
Cover The Bike
You need to cover a bike if you store it outside and have no choice in that. Even indoors, you’d ideally want to protect the drivetrain from the copious amounts of dust that can settle on a stationary object.
You have to be careful in the way you cover a bike outdoors. A lack of ventilation in the cover creates condensation and can easily lead to corrosion in bike parts. Steel bike frames rust when their protective paintwork is chipped or scratched.
When choosing a good outdoor bike cover, be sure it’s the right size for your bike and not too tight or loose. You ideally need some airflow. The material should be waterproof. Look for ventilation in the form of strategically placed holes or mesh panels.
Other outdoor cover features include elasticized hems and zippered openings. Some products have portholes for locks.
Indoor covers simply stretch over your wheels and drivetrain and can be used on all types of bikes, including road bikes and mountain bikes. You also have the option of a bike bag, which is also useful for travel.
Keep Your Bike Off The Ground
A bike that’s left motionless on the ground is more likely to develop problems with tire degradation. Tires can deform and crack, especially if the ground is moist concrete. They can develop flat spots over prolonged periods.
Keeping a bike on the ground is more high maintenance because you have to ensure the tires are constantly pumped up. This is not such a concern when the bike is hanging. Flat tires resting against the moist ground are likely to degrade.
Hanging a bike may also enable you to protect it from the elements. For instance, this could be an option on some balconies, where a standing bike may be more exposed to the weather. You could also hang a bike in an apartment if there’s room.
Removing accessories from your bicycle before winter storage is useful for several reasons. Firstly, accessories like lights, baskets, a pump, and mirrors can become damaged or corroded due to exposure to the elements.
You also don’t want water bottles sitting on your bike through storage. Take them off, wash them thoroughly, and store them in a cupboard until you need them again.
It’s also easier to properly store your bicycle in a compact space if you remove all the peripheral items from your bike over winter.
Video: How To Store Your Bike In A Tight Space
Winter Bike Storage: FAQs
Can I Store A Bike Outside In Winter?
You can do it at a push, but it’s not generally recommended, especially in areas subjected to harsh winters.
If you must do it, drape it with a high-quality waterproof cover and check on the bike regularly to prevent problems like rust or tire damage.
Is It OK To Store A Bike In A Cold Garage?
You can store a bike in a cold garage, though it’s better if the temperature is consistent and there is some form of ventilation.
If the floor space is moist, place your bike on a rug, a piece of cardboard, or a bike stand. Again, it’s a good idea to hang it up.
Read more: The best garage bike racks
Do Bikes Rust In The Winter?
Bikes rust if steel parts get wet and you don’t dry them off. This could happen at various times of the year, but rain and inclement weather make it more likely.
Cold weather also causes condensation under certain conditions, which adds to rust if left unchecked.
How Can I Protect My Bike From The Cold?
Keep it indoors above freezing temperatures to prevent bike parts from freezing up.
Often, it’s the moisture cold creates that does harm rather than the cold itself.
Keep the bike ventilated and avoid sudden transitions in bike temperature.
How Do I Maintain My Bike After Winter?
Depending on where you live, the season after winter (i.e., spring) can be unpredictable in terms of weather.
You need to keep the bike clean, dry it off after any ride in the rain (especially the drivetrain), and keep the chain lubricated.
Read more: Bike commuting in the rain
Is It Safe To Ride A Bike In The Winter?
That depends on the bike you’re riding and the precise conditions you’re riding in.
It’s more dangerous riding skinny tires on snow and ice than riding a fat bike, for instance.
You can reduce risk by choosing tires and equipment suited to the environment.
Effective bike storage during the winter season just requires you to be a little careful and vigilant.
Try not to expose your bike to rain or moisture when it’s standing still or any extremely cold temperatures.
One of the main things you’ll fight against is rust, which means not allowing the bike to repeatedly get wet and slowly dry. With care and attention, your bike will survive the winter and be ready to perform when you are.
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