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Tech Talk: Storing Bicycles in your Home

Preparing for Winter Storage

Many people ride their bicycles year-round, but if you're getting ready to put yours away for the winter, follow these steps first to ensure it stays in good condition throughout the off-season.

  1. Remove your water bottles, cyclocomputer, and any other electronic devices. Store these items inside in a warm, dry place. You don't want your water bottles sitting around all winter getting funky, and keeping your electronics out of the cold air helps to extend their batteries' life.
  2. Thoroughly wash the bike. Dirt, mud, grime, and especially road salt can cause corrosion on your bike's frame and parts any time of the year, but it's especially more likely if the bike's sitting dirty for weeks or months at a time. See these tips for how to properly wash your bike.
  3. Get your bike a full tune-up. It won't hurt to have your bike tuned up before you put it in storage. You'll avoid the spring rush for tune-ups, and the bike will be ready to ride when you are as soon as the weather breaks!
  4. Air up the tires. Even though the bike won't be ridden for a while, it's a good idea to fill them to the recommended pressure for storage, so that they won't develop flat spots, bulges, or other deformities from sitting under-inflated.
  5. Lubricate the chain and cables. Lubrication provides an extra layer of protection against corrosion for these most-sensitive components.

Note that if you do step #3 (get a tune-up), this will take care of steps #4 and #5 for you!

Choosing a Storage Location

Your main consideration in choosing where to store you bike will, of course, be what you available where you live. Ideally, you want to store your bike indoors. However, if you live in an apartment or dormitory, you may have no other choice but to store your bike outside.

If you MUST store your bicycle outside:

  1. Be sure it is locked in the most secure possible way. See these tips for how to lock your bike.
  2. Use a cover to protect it from the elements.

If you have the option of storing your bicycle in your garage, basement, or even an inside room, that is the safest choice, both to avoid theft and to preserve the condition of the bike. There any many options for ways to store your bike in any of these locations; see below for a descriptions and some of the pros and cons of each.

If you store your bike in the garage, it's still a good idea to lock it up. Unfortunately, an open garage door often provides an easy opportunity for a would-be thief passing through your neighborhood.

Many bike storage devices hold your bike by having it hanging by one or both wheels. Is it okay to hang a bike by the wheel? YES, in fact this is one of the best ways to store a bike. The weight of the bike will not hurt the wheels.

Avoid having your tires rest on a bare concrete floor (such as in a basement or garage) for long periods of time. This is because the concrete draws moisture out of the rubber of the tires, causing dry-rot and premature aging of the tires.

If you must store your bike upright with the wheels on the floor, store them on a non-concrete floor (e.g. wood or carpet), or put rugs or rubber mats under the wheels. In this case, check the tire pressure and pump them up occasionally--this will prevent the tires from bulging out for long periods of time, and prevent cracks and other weak spots from forming.

Is Cold Storage Bad for my Bike?

Cold temperatures, in and of themselves, are not damaging to a bike. The only possible negative effect of cold air is that it can reduce the life of the batteries in your cyclocomputer or other electronic devices.

What can potentially cause problems is frequent shifts from cold to warm conditions and back. For example, bringing a bike from the cold outside air to the warm inside air can cause moisture to condense on the inside of the frame, which can lead to rust.

Repeated freezing and thawing can cause components to come loose, or in the worst case, crack. This can also make minor imperfections in in the frame's finish become major cracks.

So, you should choose a storage location that is not subject to changes from cold to warm temperatures. If you are occasionally riding your bike outside in the cold, then you should try to store it where it will remain relatively cold, such as in the garage.

Wall and Ceiling Storage Hooks

Storage J-hooksThe most basic type of bike storage device is a vinyl-coated J-shaped hook (pictured at left). These can be found in bike shops, as well as many hardware stores. They can be screwed into the wall or ceiling, and let the bike hang by one wheel.

PROS: Inexpensive, simple to use.

CONS: Must be screwed into a wall stud or ceiling joist; bike must be lifted to height of hook.

Wall storage hook with trayA similar device is a wall hook that also includes a small tray for the wheel to rest against (pictured at right). The tray prevents your tire from marking the wall. Some models include a second tray for the second wheel, or a long continuous tray for both wheels (pictured below).

PROS: Simple to use; does not mark walls.

CONS: Must be screwed into a wall stud; bike must be lifted to height of hook.

Wall storage hook with full-length tray

Fold-up wall storage hookAnother type of wall-mounted bike holder has a pair of hooks that hold the bike by the frame, so the bike does not have to be turned vertically to store it. Some of these holders, like the one pictured at right, also let you swivel the arm up and out of the way when it's not in use.

PROS: Holds the bike in normal horizontal position, no need to lift the bike high off of the floor.

CONS: Must be screwed into a wall stud.

There are ceiling-mounted hooks available that let you easily lift the bike up off the floor and out of the way. A pair of hooks is attached to a rope and a set of pulleys, making the lifting task easy for a person of any strength or stature!

PROS: Frees up floor space, no heavy lifting required.

CONS: Must be screwed into a ceiling joist.

Ceiling-mounted bike pulley system

Wheel Stands

Wheel holder bike standThis type of bicycle storage rack is ideal for people with limited space. The rack holds one wheel of the bike, keeping the bike from falling over. Some models have small wheels on the stand itself, making it easy to move the bike around the room as needed.

PROS: Small, easily portable, no need to lift bike.

CONS: One wheel of the bike rests on the floor.

Free-standing Storage Racks

Free-standing bike storage rackThere are many racks avaiable that hold one or more bicycles on a rack unit that can be moved to any part of any room. Some have wide legs are bases that allow them to stand freely on their own (see picture at left) and hold bikes on either side, while others only have bike hooks on one side and the other side leans against a wall (see picture below).

PROS: Hold multiple bikes, no permanent installation required.

CONS: Second bike must be lifted to upper hooks.

Wall-leaning storage rack

You can also get a home version of a bike parking rack, similar to those found on many public streets and businesses. These are great for families with several bikes.

PROS: Multiple bikes; no permanent installation required, easy to lock bikes to rack.

CONS: Large floor space required; one wheel of each bike rests on floor.

Parking rack

Getting Ready to Ride in the Spring

When the winter season is finally over, follow these steps to make sure your bike is ready to hit the road or trail:

  1. Get a full tune-up. Unless, of course, you followed the advice to have this done before you put your bike away for the winter!
  2. Pump your tires to the recommended pressure. This, of course, should be done before every ride anyway.
  3. Re-lubricate the chain. This may not be necessary; feel it to see if it's exceptionally dry, or ride it a little bit to see if the chain sounds noisy.

This article was published on February 3, 2012.

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