Jess Leong, HaveFunBiking.com
Unless you are using your bike this upcoming winter, then preparing for bike storage is one thing that should be on your list of things-to-do this fall. Doing it now will save you time come early spring when you just want to grab those handlebars and get out there on the road and trail. Plus, proper storage means extending the longevity of your bike – and who wouldn’t want that? If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it is that bikes are not cheap. That’s why bike storage is so important.
1. Secure a Bike Storage Location
Whether the location is a place in your basement, in your garage, or somewhere else that allows the bike to take shelter from the snow, make sure there’s enough room for your bike. Not sure where to put the bike for the winter? There are many bike shops that will store the bike for you. Though it does come at a cost it may be included in a fall winterizing/tune-up fee. Letting your bike sit outside is tempting and easy, but can cause problems come spring. These problems may need more maintenance to repair. Or, in most cases, causes the frame to rust (whether internally or externally). That longevity we mentioned? Rust and maintenance issues are some ways to really cut down that lifespan of your bike.
Tip: If possible, hang your bike to save some space on the ground.
2. Frame Care: Brushing and Wiping it Down
Note that it says ‘wiping it down’ and not ‘spraying’. Spraying your bike down with a hose can cause water to get into unprotected parts of the bike. This stray water can cause rusting of some metal components. Some wonder how this can be when we sometimes ride our bikes in the rain. In the event of spraying, the water can enter in from other angles (with more force mind you) and therefore the moisture can get into parts that it might not have during a normal rainy day. And yes, rain on the bike – without proper care – can also cause the bike to rust! However, just because you’re not ‘watering it down’ with a hose doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean it carefully before storage. How do you do this? By using good old fashioned elbow grease and by taking a soft-bristled brush to the frame and wheels.
Some experts recommend moving the brush in a circular pattern for optimal cleaning ability. Honestly this can be done in any way including a simple back and forth scrubbing motion. The purpose of the brush is to remove any and all debris that has made the bike their home. That dried mud, stuck-on grass, any dust, all of that should be brushed off as much as you can.
Then, once you’ve gone over the bike, take a damp rag and wipe down the entire bike. This wipe down will remove anything that is still stuck onto the bike.
3. Before Bike Storage Look Over the Frame for Problems
It’s important to check your bike for structural integrity and this can be done while cleaning, or after you brush and wipe down your wheels. Are there any cracks? Any parts in the frame that’s bent in a way that it shouldn’t be, or looks suspicious? Pay special attention to the spots where the metal connects (welded areas) and the bottom bracket. These areas undergo the majority of the stress when out biking and should be checked carefully. The last thing you want is for the bike to come apart when you take it for a spin.
4. Tire Care: Inflation, Cleaning, and Inspection
Remember to fully inflate your tires and do a check to ensure the tire integrity is still intact. Are there any cuts in the sidewall or tire punctures that might have escaped your notice? If that’s in the clear, check out the spokes of your tire visually. Check to see if any of them look broken or loose. Nothing? Then, take the wheel and give it a gentle spin while watching the spokes and wheel. Make sure the wheel isn’t wobbling or spinning at an angle.
Is there anything wrong with the brake pads? Are they still in good shape and working condition? They shouldn’t be rubbing up against the wheel, be at an angle away from the tires, nor should they be loose. If your brake pad is looking worn down, it’s time to get it changed. Something you don’t want to forget about over the long winter months ahead, especially when a spring ride pops up.
Once everything looks good, give the tire a good wipe down to clean any debris that might be on it before bike storage.
5. Drivetrain Care: Cleaning and Lubrication
It’s time to get down and dirty by cleaning the cassette, crank, and the chain of your bike. Admittedly, this is probably one of the least glamorous parts of cleaning your bike due to the grease, but it’s something that is really important. After all, this is what helps you propel your bike forward to that #nextbikeadventure. Properly cleaning and lubricating these three items, and making sure there’s no leftover debris or major wear, will help keep rust away and keep you safe.
Reminder: According to Brad, from One Ten Cycles, a chain should be changed when it looks worn or if you have ridden with it for two to three thousand miles. It is at that point when the chain begins to stretch, though this can vary person to person. How fast the chain ‘stretches’ and needs replacing will depends on your riding pattern (recreational biking, mountain biking, etc), how well it’s been taken care of, and how often it’s cleaned. While some people will continue to ride well past the time of when the chain should be changed, Brad noted that the wear pattern of the chain will eventually transfer to the cassette. If the cassette is worn down, it can cause issues when putting on a new chain (to the point that you may have to replace both the chain and cassette together).
Unsure if your chain is worn? The only reliable way to check is with a chain checker gauge (generally a $8 tool) to measure the stretch of the chain. It will gauge when it’s time to replace it before causing wear on the cassette.
6. Cable Care: Inspection and Lubrication
Did you know cables can rust too? Just like the rest of the bike, these need to be inspected for frays or other potential problems to keep you bike rides safe. If nothing seems frayed then you can go ahead and lubricate the cables. This is important to prevent rust from forming on them and weakening the cables. To apply the lubrication, add some lubricant to a rag – only a little is needed at first – and rub it into the exposed cable, rubbing back and forth to ensure that the lubricant gets in throughout the cable and isn’t just on the surface.
Reminder: If your cables are fraying, you can try to repair the cables – particularly if it’s at the end of the cable. If it’s really bad or you’re unable to do it yourself, you can bring in your bicycle to your favorite bike shop and they would be happy to help you out before bike storage!
7. (Optional) Handgrips and Saddle: Wipe it Down and Replace if Desired
This is more for aesthetics rather than functionality. Looking over and cleaning the handgrips and saddle seat now can make it more exciting to ride in the spring. If your saddle seat or grips have a tear and you’d like to replace them, now is the time to do so. You don’t want to get caught up trying to do that when you just want to get out there and ride in the spring.
8. Remove Batteries Before Bike Storage
Anything that has batteries should be removed to make sure leakage doesn’t affect your bike or the area where the bike is stored. This means taking out the batteries (or lights) of flashers, front/back lights, headlights, and the like.
If the battery is not able to be removed easily or without assistance, make sure the battery is fully charged before placing it in that storage location mentioned at the beginning!
9. Clearing Out Bike Bags and Holders
Make sure you’re checking those panniers and trunk bags thoroughly to ensure they are
cleared out, clean and ready to go into storage. Finding a moldy sandwich or leftover snack from last year that bugs and mice are munching on might put a cramp on the start of your next ride season, after finding that. Also, remember to remove the water bottles from your bike, wash them out properly and put them away. We can guarantee that the water won’t be so inviting by the next time you ride!
This might take some time, but it is time that is well invested. You’ll pat yourself on the back once the weather warms up next spring, begging you to get out there and HaveFunBiking.
Jess Leong is a writer for HaveFunBiking.com.