If, like me, if you've lived in a small apartment before, you understand how space can be a priceless commodity.
So, while I loved my bike dearly, I began researching how to store bikes outside, as there just wasn’t enough space in the apartment.
Fortunately, I was able to find ways to keep the bike outside with little or no damage at all.
The following are some excellent solutions on how to store bikes outside:
- Bike cover.
- Bike tent.
- Bike sheds.
The Best Ways To Store Bikes Outside
If security isn’t an issue, then short periods outside won't do your bike much harm.
Even so, how long you can leave a bike unprotected outside depends on the bike itself.
Newer bikes have improved seals, hubs, and headsets to resist corrosion better than a bike manufactured 15 years ago.
Where you live is also a factor, as even without rain, places with high humidity will cause rust to appear quickly.
However, if you intend to keep your bike outside for longer than a week, consider these proper storage options:
Bike covers are materials you pull over the bike to protect it from the elements and prevent scratches.
You can use bike covers inside or outside. Outdoor bike covers are waterproof, shielding the bike from dust, rain and snow, and may provide ultraviolet (UV) protection.
Most covers have some form of elastic in the material or at the hem. This allows covers to fit snugly around the bike. Some covers might also have fasteners to keep it from blowing off in a strong wind.
In addition, some bike covers are made with breathable fabric that allows the condensation to escape. This ability to "breathe" is an essential feature, as condensation under the cover can cause rusting, too.
Bike covers tend to be inexpensive, but consider these factors when purchasing covers for outdoor storage:
- Material: It should be waterproof, breathable and have UV protection.
- Fit: Ensure the cover fits snugly around the bike and shield it completely, if possible.
- Security: Included eyelets are perfect for threading locks.
Tarps are quite similar to bike covers, especially since they’re water-resistant. They’ll also protect your bike from rain, sun, scratches and snow, with some providing UV protection.
But, unlike bike covers, most tarps don't have structure, elastic or fasteners, so don’t fit as snugly.
If you decide to use a tarp to store your bike outside, ensure that it's large enough and that you can bunch it up to fit the bike's shape. This is done by threading cable ties through the grommets.
Since tarps aren't usually breathable, it's essential that you tie the grommets so that the tarp fits around the bike but not so tight as to restrict airflow completely. Airflow will prevent rust by removing any condensation under the tarp.
In addition, if you live in an area with high winds, consider weighing the tarp down, so it doesn’t lift off.
Tarps for outdoor storage should meet the following requirements:
- Large enough (about 8 x 10 feet)
- Gromets to pass ropes or cable ties.
- UV protection or white/silver colored, as lighter colors absorb less heat, preventing condensation and rust.
A bike tent is like other outdoor tents, only not as big.
Their main benefit is that they’re portable and foldable, so are excellent for storage and bike trips.
Bike tents are also specifically designed to fit bikes, so have a tight fit, removing the space they take up outside.
Consider these points when considering a bike tent:
- The smallest size to fit your bike.
- Waterproof and UV-protective material.
- White or silver to reflect heat.
Bike sheds aren’t as large as typical sheds, but they're the biggest outdoor storage options for bikes, so they aren’t ideal if there isn’t much space in your yard.
However, a bicycle shed is the most secure outdoor storage solution available if you have the space.
Most bike sheds can accommodate more than one bike, and the pricier ones come with insulation to prevent condensation.
They're, understandably, more expensive than any other outside storage solution, considering their size and the increased security they offer.
If you like DIY projects, you can make a simple and functional bike shed with wood, nails and water-resistant material.
Vertical Bike Sheds
A vertical bike shed is a variation of a typical shed, being taller and thinner than a regular option.
You hang the bike vertically in the shed with hangers; its tires perpendicular to the wall.
Vertical sheds are great for people who want the added security of a shed but have limited horizontal space.
You may not easily find a premade vertical shed, but you can get a carpenter to make one.
The Best Outdoor Storage Option
Of the four options (bike cover, shed, tent, and tarp), sheds are the best storage option as they’re more secure, sturdier, and insulated to prevent condensation.
Breathable, UV-blocking bike covers and tents are the next best option. While they aren't as secure as bike sheds, they offer protection from rain, snow, UV rays and are portable.
Modified tarps are the least protective. Still, even the worst storage option is better than no storage at all!
What Happens if You Don't Store a Bike Properly?
If you don’t store your bike properly, you'll begin to see some degradation after a few days left unprotected outside. The chain is often the first to show signs of disrepair, as it's usually fully exposed, but higher-end bikes have more stainless steel in the chain and will corrode at a slower rate.
Next to rust are the bolts and nuts that hold the different metals on the bike together. These will eventually get stuck as the rust progresses. Bearings will also seize up in frigid weather.
Finally, your shift gears and breaks will become difficult to use as the cables corrode.
In the summer, heat will first affect the plastic parts, causing them to lose color and become brittle. If there's no humidity, then rust will likely not appear.
Preparing for Outdoor Storage
Even with storage, outdoor conditions can still affect your bike, especially when the storage solution isn’t very effective.
There are several actions you can take to prepare your bike for outdoor storage. In addition to proper storage, these measures will help your bike remain in pristine condition as it stays outside:
- Inflating the tires.
- Cleaning and inspecting the frame.
- Lubricating chains and cables.
- Checking the wheels for damage.
- Locking the bike.
Inflating the Tires
You need to inflate the tires properly before putting the bike in storage. If you don't inflate the tires, the bicycle's weight will rest on the rubber touching the ground. Over time, this tire rubber section will become distorted.
Clean and Inspect the Frame
You should always clean a bike before putting it in storage. Do not use a hose, though, as pressurized water can wash out grease from the bicycle parts. Instead, use a wet rag to wipe down the bicycle frame.
As you clean, look for damage signs, such as discoloration or cracks in the joints. Fix any damage you notice before putting the bike back in storage.
Lubricating the Chain and Cables
Lubrication not only makes the parts move better, but it also prevents rust, as moisture can't get through the oily grease.
The chains and cables in the gear shift and brakes are frequent victims of rust. Accordingly, clean them and use a rag to apply lubricant on the chain and any exposed cables.
Checking the Wheels for Damages
Inspect the wheels and repair any loose, absent or damaged spokes. Loose or damaged spokes can let moisture into the rim, leading to rusting.
Locking the Bike
Locking the bike won't directly prevent the bike's degradation, unlike inflating tires, lubrication or checking the wheels. Still, locking preserves the bike by preventing theft.
How To Care for a Bike in Outside Storage
If you aren’t leaving the bike outside for extended periods but are actively using it, regular bike maintenance will do.
However, if the bike is to remain outside for a long time, you need to carry out periodical maintenance:
- Check the tires and inflate any deflated ones.
- Spin the wheels and chains regularly.
- Pump the brakes.
- Wipe off any dust.
- Let the bike air for a few minutes to dry off any moisture that may have gotten through the cover, tarp or tent.
Now you’re fully clued-up on how to store bikes outside, it’s time to pick an option that best suits your space and budget.
While the ultimate option is a shed, any of the options will suffice.
No matter what you go for, prepare the bike before storing it. Some preparatory measures include lubricating the chain and gear cables, and inflating tires.
In addition, if you’re storing it for a while, ensure you check on your bike and carry out regular maintenance.