Storing your bike outside can ruin your bike, but there are proper ways to do it. Sun, rain, cold, and even wind is not our bike’s friend. There are lots of things that can go wrong about bikes staying outside. Before throwing out ideas how to store it outside properly, lets have a look what can ruin your bike, what parts are in jeopardy, and how to deal with them.
Be it a car or a bike, there are two enemies of paint: sun (UV rays) and rain, especially in big cities. Even in the remotest places to human life, we have acid rains. In the past, this was a problem with big cities, but not anymore. Acid rain eats your paint. You cannot totally stop it, but you can slow it down. UV does the same.
I have no idea about the paint quality of bikes, but it can vary wildly for cars. For example, if you are painting your bike, never use rattle cans; use automotive paint instead. Automotive paint can be purchased in rattle cans, and filled in auto paint shops. If you go the basecoat – clearcoat route, never use 1K clearcoat. They are not UV resistant; eventually, they will flake off, most probably in a year if you live in a moderately sunny place.
Wax your frame and fork with car paint waxes; preferably in 3-4 month intervals. It will protect your paint, make it shinier, and cleaning your bike will be much more easier because nothing sticks to a decent wax. A good wax even prevents some minor scratches! They’re not super expensive, and
the smallest container will last for years. Do not use spray waxes, they don’t last – use good quality Carnauba-based waxes; I use Meguiars’; very decent stuff.
Do not fall for super expensive ceramic coatings; for 2 reasons. They’re superb stuff if done right. Even I can paint almost anything, I don’t have the guts to apply ceramic coating! One, getting an authentic, good product needs lots of effort, and two, they need professional application. I mean it. You have to clean the paint religiously and remove all silicone, oil, wax, and whatever may stick to the paintwork. This requires huge amounts of effort if properly done. If you don’t do it, the paint will look horrible, and it’s almost impossible to fix. Not to mention, they’re super expensive, at least, good ones.
Still, nothing replaces a good shade that will protect your bike from the sun or rain, obviously. Even if you store your bike in a closed place, waxing is a good habit, makes your bike look shiny and slick.
I learned this the hard way: UV and ozone are the worst enemies of tires, and some tires are prone to deteriorate faster. I live in a place where ozone levels are pretty high. Even I park my car in shade, and use premium tires, they started showing miniature cracks. 2 years ago, I had a superb set of Michelin Wild Runn’r slicks on my 26″ wheels, and they started flaking! It’s so bad that I could see the fabric underneath. I was shocked; not only because such wonderful tires have this stupid flaw, but it’s Michelin that makes tires longer than anyone else. (not Dunlop probably, yet I see no Dunlop bike tire) Maybe they underestimated bike tires.
If you have wired tires, mind you, they don’t like sitting for too long: if a car sits 6 months long on the same spot, tires are not round anymore, I experience the same thing with bike tires – either move it a bit or remove your tires. That’s when old tires come in handy: planning to leave your bike for months? Use your old tires.
Any rubber/plastic stuff
They are susceptible to ozone and UV damage as your tires. Anything that is not metal is usually some sort of plastic or rubber. Including your saddle, if it’s not Brooks or any other leather saddle.
Unfortunately, there is no proper or viable way to protect them, unless you cover your bike, or leave your bike under a shade.
Yes. Water promotes galvanic corrosion, where different metals/alloys mate each other. Using copper paste / grease will help a lot, but keeping your bike dry is better.
Do I have to cover my bike ?
DO cover your bike if you can, but make sure the cloth you use can breathe – otherwise you’ll be promoting condensation, which will lead to corrosion, rust and mildew. Especially, tarp is more air-proof than most tires, never use it. Some polyester-based, high-tech fabrics are advertised as “breathable” but that’s almost always marketing stuff. There is no superior fabric that you can lean on to wrap around your bicycle, yet some are obviously better. A better approach is to make a small gazebo if conditions permit. It doesn’t have to be big enough to enjoy your coffee under it!
A tent designed for storing bikes is another option: leaving small air gaps will improve ventilation, and it does have enough space to provide proper ventilation, compared to tight bike covers.
What else is effected ?
Sun and water is very persistent and shaped the world we live in. We have sand, because of the sun. We have rivers because water formed a path itself. Given enough time, they will prevail over human effort, if you’ re not persistent enough!
Under extreme heat or cold, oils, grease, and fluid decompose or lose their efficiency quite fast. Even greases designed to work under high load and temperature lose their efficiency in years, if not months. Under the heat, thickening agents for greases and oil base separate, for example, which you may already witness: this manifests itself with oil flowing, leaving a stickier and harder grease residue. You’ll have to maintain your bike frequently under such circumstances.
Never leave electronic equipment, such as bike computers or cadence sensors on the bike for too long, under extreme heat or cold. Also, condensation is dangerous for electronics, their worse enemy. You’ll get short circuits, either due to excessive humidity or corroded terminals/paths, guaranteed. Some equipment, like cadence sensors that are ultrasonically welded, have much more resilience, compared to bike computers.
Groupset components should be cleaned before a ride if bike remained steady for too long: dust will stick especially on the chain if you live in a windy wilderness, this is much more pronounced. Don’t be fooled even it looks shiny and clean. Just clean, re-lube. You may be amazed how much dirt and debris collected on it, while cleaning.
New bikes / old bikes
New bikes have better sealed components – old, vintage steel bikes will be effected more; especially tubes tend to rust inside out. Having copious amounts of steel with aluminum together adds up to corrosion more in older bikes.
If you have an old, steel bike, I highly suggest pouring rust convertor into tubes, then plugging holes, and shake vigorously. This involves taking apart the whole bike, but also an opportunity to rejuvenate it. Before using rust convertor, clean inside the tubes first with soapy water, then flush with tap water to remove excess rust, then get some steel wool, wrap it around a stick, and try to remove all rust deposits as you can; then repeat. Once the innards of your frame and fork is dry, you can use rust converter. I use this method on old car sills, and works admirably good. I suggest using heavy degreasers in the process, especially on headset and bottom bracket areas, where grease deposits would be persistent enough for dish soap.
Companies like Jenolite sells both Rust Remover and Rust Converter. Rust Remover is nice to have, before applying Rust Converter. Such products are not so cheap; so if you want to skip a step due to the price, go for Rust Converter directly. In an ideal world, I’d use both.
There is no such thing as stainless steel
Steel parts on bikes, like disc rotors, are made from stainless steel. Stainless Steel is steel plus alloys, like Nickel to add crack resistence under heat, Chrome as rust protector. Even there are some standards, don’t expect every stainless steel part to be the same. Eventually, every stainless steel part will rust, some sooner, some later.
I do apply some light oil to Bowden cables (shifters, mechanical brakes) if I decide to leave it more then 6 months; contrary to many manufacturers’ directions. And they’re right; oils attract dust. Yet I prefer a little bit of dust in exposed places to rust that runs along all cable. Do not trust oils too, they won’t work forever. Even dipping steel in oils won’t protect them forever, because even oils contain some moisture, and not totally airproof. That’s one of the reasons of changing oil.
There is always a better place to store yoır bike, and if not, why not take it apart, and store it inside? That’s a good way to store a bike for prolonged periods, say, more than 6 month, or maybe years. Sometimes you get a bike to restore it, so leaving it outside for years is not a practice after all.