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What happens when you leave your Bicycle Outside

Unfortunately, some of us don’t have much of a choice when it comes to Bicycle storage. Whether you live in a small apartment with no extra space or you lack a garage, an open parking space might be as good as it’s going to get. But leaving your Bicycle outside doesn’t come without consequences. Learn what happens to your Bicycle when you leave it outdoors along with a few tips for what you can do if this is your only option.

If you have to leave your Bicycle outside for an occasional day or two, or lock your Bicycle outdoors while you are at work for a few hours, there is probably nothing to worry about. The problems that occur over time with corrosion and damage to your Bicycle’s components usually begin after you have left your Bicycle outdoors for a few weeks. Rain, humidity and intense sunshine are common elements that can begin to degrade and ruin your Bicycle, eventually turning your Bicycle to an unusable state with rust.

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Here are a few common problems that occur when your bicycle is left outdoors for extended periods without any protection from the elements:

Seals: On older Bicycles, seals become less effective over time. This allows water and moisture to seep inside your Bicycle, affecting the bearings on your headset and bottom bracket, wheel hubs and other drivetrain components like your shifters and rear derailleurs.

Steel bike frames: While rain and moisture aren’t good for any frame material, rust can develop quicker if your Bicycle frame is made of Steel. Even if it doesn’t show on the outside, the frame can start to rust on the inside, compromising its integrity and making it less safe.

Chain: Stainless Steel chains on more expensive Bicycles rust slower when exposed to rain and moisture. On lower-end Bicycles, the metal components start to show signs of rust much sooner.

Bolts: The metal on your bolts might not be the same as the metal on your other components. The stem and stem bolts are one common combination. When the bolts and metal on the stem begin to corrode from rain or moisture, it can cause them to seize up and get stuck, making the bolts difficult to remove when you decide to replace them or remove a part.

Rather than watching this happen to your Bicycle and doing nothing about it, try to take as many precautions as possible to preserve the life of your precious steed. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Buy a tarpaulin or plastic sheet: While you won’t want to wrap your Bicycle fully using this sheet and create moisture inside, using one to create a roof over the top of your bicycle to shield it from the sun and rain is a good idea when possible. A waterproof Bicycle cover is another option.
  • Invest in a shed: If you have a Patio with some space, a Bicycle shed might be a better option than a tarp to protect your Bicycle from the elements.
  • Monitor your seals: If you know you are going to have to leave your Bicycle exposed to the elements, consider getting new seals for your Bicycle — especially if they are more than five years old. This helps keep rain and moisture from getting inside the frame and components.
  • Grease your cables and bolts: Greasing parts that commonly seize and oxidize helps to some extent.
  • Remove rust: When you start to see signs of rust, try to remove it as soon as possible to keep it from spreading. WD-40 and other rust removal oils help. You can also scrape rust off without damaging the parts by using a thin sheet of tin foil.
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