If you have to leave your bicycle outside for any length of time, make sure it is clean, lubricated, and under a cover in order to prevent it rusting.
Need to store you bicycle outside?
While it's always better to keep your bike inside whenever possible, that's not always realistic.
It's not ideal, but sometimes circumstances dictate that you have to keep a bike outside in the garden, on a balcony, or next to the house.
If you're just keeping the bike outdoors for a day or two, it's no big deal, but if you're planning on storing it outside for an extended period, there's some things to consider.
Problems with outside bike storage
There's two main risks to storing a bike outside. One is security, in that the bike might get stolen. The other is that the weather will take its toll and the bike will rust.
How to keep your bike secure from potential thieves is a subject all of it's own – blog post coming soon!
Keeping your bike protected from the weather so it doesn't start to rust is something that requires a little thought and extra effort. Particularly if you won't be touching your bike for three to four months because you live in a country with bad weather in the winter.
Even if you don't have a garage or bike shed to keep your bicycle in, there are still things you can do to reduce the risk of rust and weather damage.
Ways to prevent your bicycle rusting outdoors
Here, I'll describe the best ways to protect bikes from the elements if you need to store your bike outside.
You can use all of these tips to prevent your bicycle from rust even if you're just keeping your bike outside for a short while.
1. Keep it clean
Even on the driest days, road and mountain bikes have a tendency to accumulate dust and grime. In wetter conditions, that translates to mud!
Not only does this look bad, it's also ideal conditions for rust to form. The mud will hold moisture against the metal which will cause corrosion to start.
The best way to prevent this is to clean your bike regularly – at least once a week,
A quick hose down after a ride is always a good idea, but you should give your bike a more thorough clean before storing it outside for a while.
Wash the frame with soapy water and a sponge, taking care to rinse off all the soap afterwards. Then dry the bike with a clean cloth.
Pay particular attention to any areas where mud or road salt has built up – these are places where rust is more likely to occur.
2. Lubricate the chain, gears and moving parts
Once your bike is clean and dry, lubricate all the moving parts – the chain, gears, brakes, etc. Even stainless steel chains need to be well lubricated to prevent rust, especially if you plan to keep your bike outside and untouched for a long period of time.
Even if your bike has an aluminum frame rather than a steel frame, you'll still need to protect any exposed metal surfaces with a layer of oil, silicone grease or Vaseline.
Personally, I give bolts and nuts a spray of WD40 – again, even if it says stainless steel, a gentle spray of WD40 is not going to hurt.
Related: Why does my bike chain fall off?
3. Use A Bike Cover
Once the bicycle is cleaned and lubricant has been applied, it is best to keep it covered. A purpose built bike shed would be ideal for this. Bike sheds come in all shapes and sizes, and can fit in a small backyard or even on an apartment balcony.
If a bike shed is not practical, you can keep the bike covered with a bike tent or even a tarpaulin. The key of course, is that bike covers should be waterproof in order to keep the bicycle protected from rain and snow. Additionally, it might be better to find a way to suspend the tarp over the bike as putting it directly on the bicycle risks it traps moisture.
Having a bike cover that can be securely tied down is important for windy days. In addition to the bicycle cover, you might also want to put on an additional seat cover.
4. Keep riding the bike!
When the bad weather role sin and winter descends, it can be tempting to just leave the bike under its protective covers and forget about it until spring.
However, unless you take your bicycle out for a spin every now and then, you're more likely to come back to a rusted bike come springtime.
The best way to prevent rust is to keep the metal moving. This means taking your bike out for a ride on dry days, even if it's just a short spin around the block.
When you've finished with the ride, look for any visible damage, clean the bike, apply lubricant to the bike parts, and cover it up again!
Related: My bike tours around the world
FAQ About Storing A Bike Exposed
Some commonly asked questions about storing your bike outside include:
How do you rust proof a bike?
Making sure the bike is clean of dirt and dry, well lubricated, and protected from the elements when stored is the best way to rust proof a bike.
How do I keep my bike from rusting in wet climate?
After every ride, make sure to clean down and dry the bike, as well as to lubricate it. When storing a bike outdoors in a wet climate, a waterproof cover is a good idea.
Will keeping my bike in direct sunlight damage it?
Direct exposure to UV rays can damage some bike materials. It might not affect the frame, but it might degrade brake hoods, cable housing, and other rubber parts. Tires may also start to crack if kept in direct sunlight.
What is the best way to remove rust from my bicycle?
There are several approaches to removing rust from a bike. One trick is to use baking soda and water, and a small wire brush or toothbrush. Another is to use a small amount of white vinegar.
What is the best way to keep my bike safe outside?
Either buying or building a bike shed is the best way to store your bike safely outside. It will keep your bike more protected from the weather, and also be more secure.
You might also want to read these other cycling and bike troubleshooting guides: