Don’t berate yourself; even if you have to deal with the winter weather, there are many reasons why you can wind up storing a bike outside. In an ideal world, everyone of us would have a room indoors where we could store our bikes in a comfortable environment. However, I can attest that even beloved two-wheeled vehicles may occasionally be too ferocious and unpleasant to bring inside after owning a tandem that refused to play kind with my apartment steps.
So how long can a bike be left outside before the parts start to deteriorate? According to Daniel Slusser of SRAM, that is dependent on a number of factors.
The Drawback of Storing Your Bike Outdoors
How old is your bike, to begin with? In particular if the bike is high-end, a more recent bike—say let’s one from the last ten years—is more likely to have superior seals on hubs, headsets, and other parts that block out corrosion from moisture. Additionally, where you reside affects this. It is more likely that bicycles parked in areas with a lot of rain or humidity may corrode more quickly.
Even if your bike is left out in the rain for a few days, according to Slusser, it won’t cause any major problems. But after a week, you’ll start to see damage that can be seen.
If you reside in a moist environment, the chain will begin to rust, according to Slusser. It takes a while and varies a little depending on the chain tension on your bike. Chains that cost more have more stainless steel components, which prevents rusting as soon as chains that cost less.
Your entire body will then start to deteriorate. Your plastic and rubber components will start to degrade in the heat. The plastic will become brittle and the colors will deteriorate. In colder weather, that’s less of an issue, but if you store your bike outside, you’ll have more problems with rust and seized parts.
When different metals are used, Slusser explains, “bolts can seize up because they eventually corrode and get caught.” “Your bearings will also begin to congeal, seize, or degrade. Your shifting and braking will become less effective as a result of the corrosion of your cables, which will cause the steel cable within to develop an oxide coating. The plastic components on your bike will also deteriorate in the sun. One in particular is the cable housing’s outer sheath, which will degrade and shatter and cause all of the wires to protrude.
Easy Ways to Store Your Bike Inside
Hoisted Ceiling Rack
Hanging your bike up is the best way to save space on the wall and the floor. The bike is hoisted up with thick ropes using two plates that are fastened to the ceiling and have drop-down hooks on each one that attach to the saddle and handlebars.
Without drilling holes in the wall, the pole’s two rubber ends anchor it to the floor and ceiling. Just make sure the pole is snug and solid before attaching your bikes to the hooks.
Wall-Mounted Vertical Bike Rack
A straightforward wall mount, like this one from Racor, keeps your bike off the ground and out of sight if you have the necessary drilling equipment in your space.
Saris Ceiling-Mounted Bike Rack
You have the choice of positioning your bikes closer to the wall or farther apart for convenient access thanks to the four independent racks that may slide along the mount.
Whether your bike is exposed to direct sunshine or dampness will affect how quickly it will deteriorate. The longest possible time it may take for all that rust to go is around a month. If your bike has midrange components and is kept out of the sun and rain in a climate as ideal as southern California’s, it can take three to four months before you start seeing anything similar.
However, there are certain things you can do about it. When your bike is outside, a tarp can at least protect it from the sun and rain.
If I were to use a tarp, I wouldn’t place it directly on the bike since it might behave as a tent and keep moisture inside, according to Slusser. “It would be preferable if the tarp were suspended over it, like an awning arrangement.”
By applying a thin coating of additional grease along the seals, which serves as a second barrier to keep water out, you can also postpone deterioration.
Try lubricating your cables and bolt heads in advance—even the threads of the bolts where they meet other components, advises Slusser. Grease can be applied on those to stop them from seizing up.
The majority of the time, the rust won’t be too severe, and you can typically take care of it by applying some oil to it, according to Slusser. I’m not going to bother scraping it off. Take some aluminum foil that has been balled up and massage it on the rusted chrome fenders of your beach cruiser to help with the rust removal process. It functions similarly to a wire brush but doesn’t leave many gouges. However, utilize lightweight aluminum foil rather than extremely durable.
The bottom line: Your bike won’t sustain significant harm if you leave it outside for a few days. After a week of disuse, you might start to notice rust. Your favourite bike parts will begin to deteriorate after one month of use in poor conditions. The money you’ll have to spend on replacing damaged parts could have been spent on a simple outside bike storage solution like a vertical hanging system or a small-space gravity rack.
If all else fails, give your bike some protection by using a tarp awning to keep it from deteriorating.
Learn more: Learn How to Ride With No Hands Like a Pro