Preparing your bike for storage, a check list to protect your gear

by Bill Anderson

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Cyclists enjoying a beautiful day riding with a flower garden in the background

Having enjoyed another summer of riding with many great memories along the way. It is that time of the year to think about preparing your bike for winter storage. Unless you plan to pedal your two-wheel steed throughout the winter? Wouldn’t it be nice when the temperature rises early next spring, you are not cleaning and lubing your bike when you should be riding?- Or even worse, waiting two-to-three weeks for your bike shop to tune it up.

Preparing Your Bike for Storage

When putting your bike away for the winter, there are several things you will want to do to store it properly. Following the helpful tips listed below or taking it to your favorite bike shop will help you avoid future problems and ensure that it will be ready to ride next spring when the weather breaks.

These tips apply whether you’re putting your bike in your basement, garage, or storage unit. If you don’t have a storage place at home and don’t want to rent an entire storage unit, many bike shops now offer winter storage. Just don’t let your bike sit outside.

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Bikes left outside over the winter

You would think this wouldn’t need to be mentioned, but visit any college campus in the upper Midwest in February and see dozens of beautiful high-end bikes out suffering in the cold and snow.

In any case, follow these pointers, so you are ready to go when the weather warms up next spring:

1. Wipe-Down the Frame and Inspect It

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Inspecting the frame is important

While I’m not a fan of wet washing a bike with a water hose, due to problems when water gets down into your components. Then, wipe it dry to ensure that certain metal parts don’t rust.

The best way to do this is to take a brush to knock away any chunks of dried-on mud on your frame or wheels. Then, take a damp rag to your bike, wiping it down all over to get off any remaining dust or dirt. Also, remove any grease or grime accumulated around your drive train or other areas where lubrication can attract dirt.

2. Inspect Your Frame

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Look for cracks, signs of fatigue

Here’s a bonus hint. Wiping down your bike offers you a chance to inspect the frame thoroughly. While cleaning, look for cracks or metal fatigue, particularly near welded spots and on the bottom bracket, which supports much of your weight.

3. Cleaning Your Drivetrain

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Wiping the chain is important

Now is an ideal time to clean and lube the cassette, chain and crank to eliminate all the crud that may have accumulated over the riding season. Plus, a fresh coat of lubricant will help protect against rust. If you have several thousand miles on the chain or a lot of wear, this is the time to consider replacing it.

4. Lubricate the Cables

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Apply oil near cable housing and work in

To avoid problems that may pop up in the spring, with rusting or poor performance in the cables, take a few minutes to lubricate the cables that control your brakes and derailers. Here apply a few drops of light lubricant on a rag and rub it on the exposed cable – lightly work through the cable housing. This will help keep your shifting mechanism in shape while eliminating any stress on your cables.

5. Inspect Tires, Wheels, and Brake Pads

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Tires should be free of cracks

While you’re wiping down your tires. Check your wheels for loose or broken spokes by spinning the wheels and looking that they still spin true. Make sure your wheels spin straight, with no wobbling from side to side and no rubbing against the brake pads. If your wheels don’t spin straight, it’s probably time to take your bike in for wheel truing.

At the same time, inspect your brake pads for proper alignment and any excessive wear in the pads.

6. Then Inflate the Tires

Before you put your bike away, be sure to fully inflate your tires. Especially if you are going to store your bike resting on its wheels, instead of hanging it from the ceiling. If your tires are flat, the bike’s weight presses down through the rims on one spot on the rubber. Over several months, that can cause deterioration of your tire as the rubber can end up distorted and/or the tire can develop a weak spot in the sidewall

7. Wipe-Down the Tires, Saddle, and Handgrips

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A conditioner will keep it soft

Now that you have cleaned and lubed your bike, wipe down all the remaining components for any wear or misalignment. Take an optional step that mainly affects the appearance of the bike. Armor-All works well for your tires, rubber handgrips, and seat – if it is one with a cover made from leather, vinyl, or another smooth synthetic surface. Products like this are both a beautifier and protectant and will give a nice clean, and shiny appearance while keeping the material soft. This only takes a few extra minutes and will be something that you’ll be glad you did in the spring, as your bike will look sharp, and ready to go.

8. Remove any Batteries

To avoid corrosion from battery acid leaking out onto your bike while in storage, remove any accessories with batteries, like front and rear lights. If the battery is hard to remove, like in the case of some electric-assist bikes, be sure it is fully charged before it goes into storage. See, “How to maintain an E-bike” for more information.

9. Clean Out Your Panniers and Trunk Bags

If you choose to leave your bike bags on, in storage, clean and wipe them out. Make sure there are no food items left inside, as you may find a family of rodents, nesting there next spring.

 10. Empty Water Bottles and Camelbaks

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Clean and dry the insides of your bottles if you plan to store them on the bike

Take all your water bottles off your bike, or at least make sure they are drained. Dumping out whatever is left in them since the last time you rode and running them through the dishwasher to get them nice and clean. When finished, leave the lids off to allow them to dry entirely inside.

If you have a Camelback or backpack canteen water carrier, flush the bladder with a very mild solution of vinegar and water, and then follow that up with several rinses of plain hot water, then leave the lid off to dry.

Now, as you sit in front of the window watching the snow fly, recalling all the memorable rides you had this year, you can rest assured that when the first opportunity to ride next year comes along you are ready.

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