When the temperature drops, most cyclists give up on outdoor rides. Some of us will continue riding on an indoor trainer, and others will put a bike to rest until the sun comes out in the spring. If you belong to the second group, ensure your bike is stored properly over winter. Otherwise, there will be a few surprises for you in the spring.
When storing a bike for winter, make sure that it’s cleaned and then thoroughly dried up. Inflate both tires and lube the chain. Find a dry and not too cold space to store it. Raise your bike from the ground by hanging it on the wall or putting styrofoam underneath the tires.
It sounds pretty easy and it actually is, if you follow the instructions. However, many cyclists forget one step or another and have to face consequences months later. I want to help you not be like them, so read below what you need to pay attention to.
Give your bike a proper cleaning
The first rule of storing your bike, not just over the winter, is that it must be stored clean. You don’t know when you will use it again because plans change quickly, and “I’m gonna use it tomorrow” soon turns into a week or two of standing still.
I know you want to squeeze a few last miles out of your bike before it becomes too cold. I would argue that autumn rides can be one of the most beautiful rides of the year, but they come with a price. Roads are full of leaves, mud, and salt – a combination that will make your bike dirty in a matter of seconds.
Salt is bicycles’ worst enemy as it causes corrosion. Not cleaning it off in time can result in bike parts becoming rusty. Once the rust occurs, there isn’t much you can do to return parts to their original state. So preventing them from becoming rusty is a must, otherwise, you’re in for an expensive spring.
The best way to remove salt from your bike is by wiping it down with a wet piece of cloth immediately after the ride. Nothing fancy, just a minute of wiping the frame, fork, wheels and drivetrain. It’s much easier to do that after the ride as the bike is still wet.
The other enemy in the winter is the dirt. As mentioned before, roads are dirtier in the autumn and winter, so bringing home a clean bike is a big, if not impossible, challenge. Wiping down the dirt can work from time to time, but more often than not, a thorough cleaning will be needed.
For sure, you’ll need to clean it properly before you store it. Wiping down with a cloth will not be enough this time.
First, hose your bike (with low pressure) and apply the shampoo all over it. I usually use Muc-Off shampoo, which can be found relatively cheap on Amazon. Leave it to work for 5 minutes and then brush it with a soft sponge or a brush. There are some special bike cleaning tools available on Amazon, but the brush that’s lying around in your garage will do just fine.
After that, it’s time for round two of hosing. This time, the goal is to remove all the dirt and excessive shampoo.
After cleaning the frame and wheels with shampoo it’s time to pay attention to the drivetrain.
Spray the chain and the cassette with a degreaser and wait for 5 minutes. While waiting you can check if Amazon has some degreaser in stock. Ensure you don’t run out of it when you need it the most. When the time is up and the order is completed, hose the chain and cassette so there isn’t any grease left.
If the chain is still greasy, repeat the process.
Prevent rusting by drying it up
Congratulations, you cleaned your bike. But this isn’t the end just yet.
A wet bike is NOT a happy bike, so take a piece of dry cloth and dry your precious bike real good. Be precise and don’t miss a spot. Pay attention to the small parts and the undercarriage, as well as the joints.
The biggest challenge you’ll be facing over winter is how to keep your bike dry. Any moisture is unwanted, as it can cause rusting, so storing a dry bike is a must. Even then you can have problems with moisture, especially if it’s stored in a highly humid place. In that case, check your bike once in a while (1-2 times/month) and dry it again if necessary.
Lube the chain
A lubricated chain is necessary when riding. Everything runs smoother and you’re not damaging parts by rubbing them dry against each other. This also results in a better cycling experience without annoying squicky sounds. You know, the ‘i-i-i-i-i-i‘ sound that makes my ears bleed every time I hear it.
However, lube is much more than just a greaser. It also protects the chain. It protects it from dirt, salt, and other damaging products on the road.
Before you store your bike, lube the chain. Dry lube is better than wet lube because the latter is stickier, meaning that dust and other particles are easier caught on it. Don’t go crazy when lubing. One layer is enough.
You can find lube on Amazon. My recommendation again is Muc-off dry lube. I’ve been using it since forever and never had any problems with it.
Make sure you lube only the top side of the chain and not the side. It’s not the end of the world if some drops fall on the side, but don’t put them there on purpose. The side of the chain is not in contact with the cassette, so lubrication is unnecessary. Any lube there will just attract unwanted dust particles.
Take care of tire pressure
When you bring your bike back to the sun from the darkest corner of your house, the tire pressure will be significantly lower than when you stored it. That’s normal and expected, as that tires lose pressure over time.
However, that can cause problems.
A flat tire means the whole bike’s weight is pressing on a tiny spot where the wheel meets the tire. If you leave it like that for a month or more, the rims start to press on the tire and deform it. If you’re using an inner tube, that can get ruined too.
Another problem with a standing bike with a flat tire is that the tire can start bulging. You will see that as a bump on the surface when you’ll inflate it. Riding with the bulge is not just uncomfortable but very dangerous as well, as the tire can explode midway you ride.
So how can you avoid the problems?
Prevent any unwanted scenarios by inflating your tires to the maximum before storing the bike. I suggest you inflate it a bit more than usual rather than a bit less. That way, the flat tire will occur later. But don’t push the limit, as the tire can explode if you overinflate.
For road bikes, the required pressure is between 80 to 130 psi (5.5 – 9 bar), while mountain bikes need pressure between 25 and 35 psi (1.5 – 2.5 bar). For storing purposes, I recommend staying on the higher side of the scale.
Find a space to store it
Your bike is ready for winter hibernation. It’s clean, the chain is lubed and the tires are inflated.
But where to put it?
The most obvious answer is inside. Leaving it outside will expose your bike to weather changes with rain, snow, and low temperatures slowly destroying your precious machine.
I know that for some of you, outside storage is the only option. I used to be there, so I know how it feels. If you are one of the unlucky few, then make sure the bike is covered with some kind of waterproof cover. Put a block of rubber (if you have it) under the wheels, thus preventing tires from touching the cold floor, which can speed up the degradation of the tire.
Most people will store the bike inside. If you have a luxury of a dedicated bike room, store it there, but a garage or any other space will work just as well. It’s also not uncommon for people (including me) to have a bike inside their flat, as they don’t have space elsewhere.
Try to pick a room that isn’t too humid and doesn’t change the temperature too much, as this doesn’t do your bike any favor. Damp rooms will result in excessive moisture, meaning you’ll have to dry up the bike more often.
Leaving your bike sitting on the floor is not the best as the pressure is applied on one spot of the tires for a long time. Rather hang your bike on the wall or on the ceiling. That way the tires are relieved of bike weight, which will extend their life expectancy.
Installing a simple hook into a wall is the cheapest way of hanging your bike and it’s quite practical. However, there are many other ways to raise your bike from the ground, from a bike rack to the ceiling hook. Choose what suits your home the best.
TIP: If you’re doomed on storing your bike on the floor, rotate both wheels one-fifth of the circle every week. That way the part of the wheel that is touching the floor will change weekly, meaning there will be less chance for a problem in the spring.
Save the hassle by servicing it before storing
When the first sunbeam shines through a window of your house, you’ll want to go for a ride. There’s only one problem. You’re bike still wasn’t serviced from the last ride of the previous season and winter break only worsened its condition.
Believe me, you will not be the only one with that problem, which means that bike shops will be crowded and waiting times will be unbearable.
Be smarter than the rest and have your bike serviced before the winter break. That way, you’ll be ready to enjoy the first sunny days in the spring.
Another positive side of servicing your bike before the winter break is that they will take care of tire pressure and chain lubrication for you. However, cleaning the bike is still your job – you don’t want to be one of those who take a filthy bike to the service center.