Some avid cyclists ride year round, but not all of us enjoy riding through the winter. For many parts of the world, winter means colder temperatures, lots of rain, and potentially even snow. If you’re one of those cyclists who takes a break from riding or bike commuting in the winter than this is the right article for you. I’ll lay out 6 tips on how you can properly store a bicycle for the winter break.
#1 – Wash Your Bicycle
You want to give your bicycle a thorough wash and clean before allowing it to hibernate for winter. Over the course of many rides your bicycle will collect dust, dirt, sand, grime, mud and more. Leaving a dirty bike to sit for an extended period of time is asking for it to corrode and break down. Set aside time to give it a thorough clean. Here’s a check list of all the parts you’ll want to inspect and clean.
Frame – Don’t pressure wash your bicycle as it can get water in places that you don’t want. Instead use a brush and rag with a bike cleaner or dish soap and give the frame a wipe down. Knock off any dirt that’s collected over time, and wipe down the entire frame. It can help to turn the bike upside down to really make sure the entire frame is clean.
This is also an important time to inspect your bike for cracks or weak spots. Sometimes cracks in a bike frame can be masked by dirt and grime. A clean bike will make them easier to spot.
Once you’re finished cleaning, make sure it’s completely dry when you’re done. You never want to store a bike while its wet.
Tires & Rims – Take the time to wipe down your tires, rims and spokes to make sure they’re clean from dirt and grime. If you want to go above and beyond you can apply Armor All (see on Amazon) to protect your tires and keep them looking fresh.
Saddle – A quick wipe down of your bike seat is all that is necessary. Just make sure its dirt free and dry.
Grips – After a season of riding now may be the time to get new handlebar grips or put on new handlebar tape. Personally I like to store my bike in a fashion so that its ready to roll when winter is done. If you’re already doing a full clean you might as well get some new handlebar tape on there too. Personally I’m a sucker for the yellow SRAM Supercork Bicycle Bar Tape (Amazon).
I’ve said it a few times, but once you’re done washing your bike with water you need to make sure it is completely dry! Don’t store your bike if there’s even a little bit of water left on it.
#2 – Lubricate the Chain, Gears, and Cables
The chain and gears are usually the messiest part of a bicycle. While cleaning you’ll want to give the gears and chain a good rinse. Wipe off any grime and old grease.
Once all of the bike grease and grime is removed from the chain and gears you’ll want to apply a fresh layer of lubricant. Lubrication is absolutely essential for storing your bike in the winter. It will protect the gears and chain from breaking down and corroding. If you want your chain and gears to last you’ll need to lubricate them.
It’s easy to do. Put some lubricant on a small rag and wipe it over the chain and gears. You don’t want to put too much on, because it will make it easy for dirt and dust to get in there. With that said, you don’t want to be too frugal with the application or it won’t do its job.
You should also lubricate the brake and shifting cables that are visible. This will prevent them from rusting.
Bonus – If you get bike grease on your clothes don’t worry. Here are some ways that you can easily remove bike grease from clothes.
#3 – Get a Tune Up
You may be the type of cyclist who loves to do all your own bike work. If that’s the case than you should do a full tune up before you store your bicycle for the long winter.
If you’re like me and you prefer taking your bike to the local bike shop for a tune up than I would recommend doing it now.
The nice part about getting your bicycle tuned up before spring comes is being able to ride as soon as the weather clears up. As a bonus most of the steps you should take towards storing your bike for winter will be done by the local bike shop (i.e. inflate tires, lubricate chain, check for cracks, etc.).
#4 – Pump the Tires Up
Before you store your bike for the winter you’ll want to make sure the tires are inflated with air. Deflated tires can cause the tires to lose their round shape over time, and so it’s important to keep at least some air in them. The weight of your bicycle will push the rims on the rubber tires. This can cause the tires to weaken, bulge, and get distorted. You’ll notice any deformities or cracks in the tire when you pump them back up.
The best way to prevent this is just keep your tires inflated. I would recommend once or twice checking on the tires throughout the winter to make sure they didn’t lose any air.
Bike Tire Pressure Chart
|Mountain Bikes||Road Bikes||Hybrid Bikes||Kids Bike|
|30 – 50 psi||80 – 130 psi||50 – 70 psi||20 – 40 psi|
#5 – Remove Electronics and Water Bottles
Before putting your bike away for the winter season you’ll want to remove any electronics (GPS or bike computer) and water bottles on your bike.
Leaving old water bottles on your bike for months on end is gross. You don’t want to open them at the beginning of spring to be surprised with old, smelly water. Instead take them off your bike and wash them out.
You really only need to take off your bike computer or other electronics if you’ll be storing your bike in a cold place. Cold temperatures can cause the batteries in electronics to discharge quickly and reduce their life. If you’ll be leaving your bike to sit in a moderate to warm temperature room than you don’t need to worry about taking the electronics off.
If you’re leaving the bike outside you should definitely take them off and store them in a drawer inside until you start riding again.
#6 – Store in the Right Spot
The best spot to store your bike in the winter is inside. It is not bad to leave your bike in the cold, but it is bad to store in a place where it faces the sun, rain, fog, snow, etc.. Bicycles can get damaged and break down if they’re in direct moisture, a humid or wet environment. It can cause the bike to potentially rust and the rubber tires to deteriorate faster.
The best place is storing your bike inside your apartment, in an enclosed garage, a closet, or even a basement. The main thing is storing your bike in a place where it won’t face the winter elements.
Some argue that it’s not good for your bike to stay on the ground for a long time, because the weight on the tires. I think that’s stupid as long as they’re inflated. If you’re trying to save floor space you could look into getting a bike bike lift pulley system to store your bike. It’s not bad to store your bike upside down or by the wheels with these hoist systems. I put together an article titled Best Bike Lifts for Storing Your Bicycle if you’re thinking about this type of storage system.
Can I leave my bike outside in the winter? Storing your bicycle outside in the winter should be a last resort. The cold weather combined with possible rain and snow will definitely break down and corrode your bicycle. Unless you’re hoping for a traditional rust bucket look you shouldn’t keep your bike outside.
With this said – I know there are many riders who due to their living situation have no choice but to leave their bike outside. I’ve lived in apartments with roommates, and had no option but to store my bike outside. If you have to store your bike outside make sure you have a bike lock to keep your bike from being stolen and get a bike cover! A bike cover is a plastic cover that will go over your bike to keep the sun, rain, snow, and wind off it. Here’s a few of the best bike covers that will help protect your bicycle from the elements.
Do different types of bikes need to stored differently in winter? The tips provided in this article are suited for a wide range of bicycles. Your mountain, road, kids, hybrid, and recumbent bike will be safely stored for winter if you follow the tips provided here.
You’ll be Ready to Ride when Spring Comes!
If you follow all of these tips for storing your bike in the winter than you’ll be ready to roll as soon as spring comes.
Before you take off for a ride in spring you should do two quick checks. Make sure that the tires are inflated at the appropriate pressure. Secondly, check to make sure there’s still enough lubrication on your chains and gears. Over time this lubricant will dry out, and you don’t want to ride on a dry chain.
Other than that – you’ll be ready to go! I hope these tips were helpful for you as you store your bicycle away for the winter.