by Bill Anderson
Having enjoyed another summer of riding with many great memories along the way, it’s now time to think about preparing your bike for storage, for the winter. Unless you are planning on running your two-wheel steed through the winter for commuting or using it inside on a trainer, it’s time to get it ready for next year. That way, early next spring when the temperatures rise, you are not cleaning and lubing your bike when you should be riding – Or even worse, waiting two-to-three weeks out for your bike shop to tune it up.
Cyclists enjoying a beautiful day riding with a flower garden in the background
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. By following the helpful tips listed below or taking it to your favorite bike shop you will help to avoid future problems disuse and ensures 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 in storage unit. If you don’t have a good place to store at home and don’t want to rent an entire storage unit many bike shops now offer, with a tune-up, storage of your bike for the winter. Just don’t let your bike sit outside.
You would think this wouldn’t need to be mentioned, but visit any college campus in the upper Midwest in February and you’ll see dozens of beautiful high-end bikes out suffering in the cold and snow. Maybe the students, who own these bikes, were never tutored that money doesn’t grow on trees?
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
While I’m not really a fan of wet washing a bike with a water hose, because of the problems water causes when it gets down into your components and with rusting of certain metal parts, you will want to ensure that it is thoroughly clean before you put it away.
The best way to do this is to first take a stiff, soft-bristled, brush to your bike knocking away any chunks of dried-on mud that may be on your frame or wheels. Followed by taking a damp rag to your bike, wiping it down generally all over to get off any remaining dust or dirt, then focusing an attack to remove the grease and grime that may have accumulated around your drive train or other areas where lubrication can attract dirt.
2. Inspect Your Frame
Here’s a bonus hint. Wiping down your bike offers you a chance to thoroughly inspect the frame for overall soundness and structural integrity while you are cleaning. Look for any signs of cracks or metal fatigue, particularly near weld spots and on the bottom bracket, which supports a lot of your weight and can be subject to great stresses, depending on the type of riding you do.
3. Cleaning Your Drivetrain
Now is an ideal time to clean and lube the cassette, chain and crank to get rid of 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 there is a lot of wear, it is a good time to replace it so you are ready to go next spring.
4. Lubricate the Cables
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 shifting. 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 to your cables.
5. Inspect Tires, Wheels, and Brake Pads
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.
At the same time, inspect your brake pads for proper alignment and to make sure you’re not encountering 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, as opposed to having it suspended from a ceiling. If your tires are flat, the weight of the bike sits there pressing 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
Now that you have cleaned and lubed your bike, wipe down all the remaining components for any wear or misalignment. This is optional, as it mainly affects the appearance of the bike. Something like 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 as well as keep the material soft. This only takes a couple of minutes and will be something that you’ll be glad that you did in the spring, as your bike will look really sharp, right off the shelf.
8. Remove any Batteries
To avoid corrosion from anything leaking out onto your bike while in storage remove any accessories with batteries, like front and rear lights, etc. 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.
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
Take all of your water bottles off of your bike or at least make sure they are drained. It is best to dump out whatever is left in them since the last time your rode and run them through the dishwasher to get them nice and clean. When finished, be sure to leave the lids off to allow them to dry completely 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.