Bike protection?
November 30, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Protecting your bike from snow and rain?

I'm relatively new to having a bike as my main mode of commute and it's currently my only way to get to work (it's not very far away though).

Biking is a lot of fun, however, I live on the East Coast where winter is quickly descending and where I do not have bike storage available at my work. I usually lock my bike outside but there is no overheard awning to protect it from the elements.

I'm worried about leaving my bike in the rain (rust?) and worried about my bum getting really cold after all that snow. I've got fenders, so I'm looking for more information on how you protect your bike. Wrap a plastic bag around the bike seat? Cover it with a rain poncho?

Looking for creative, no-spendy answers. :) Thanks!
posted by pulled_levers to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What I used to do when I was parking it outside was just use a tarp, cover it completely. Preferably something reasonably waterproof. As well, bring a towel with you, and when you make it to your destination's end give it a quick wipedown. Dry it off, then put the tarp over it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2008

It's OK to leave it outside during work. The tips I have seen are to make sure you keep your chain clean and lubed as well as make sure you wipe down the frame (to remove salt) about once a week.
posted by stevechemist at 12:29 PM on November 30, 2008

For the seat, tie a plastic bag around it to keep it dry while it's parked. Or use a plastic shower cap for the same purpose.
posted by agent99 at 1:02 PM on November 30, 2008

Road salt will eat your bike alive. I would hose it down DAILY, not weekly. Don't use a high pressure spray as it would displace lube from bearings.

Apply some Frame Saver now to the inside of the bicycle frame, so that it doesn't corrode from the inside out.
posted by randomstriker at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2008

Road salt is far worse than rain. Do you know what your frame is made of? Steel, which rusts, has largely been replaced by aluminum which for our uses does not. If you do have a steel frame make sure you touch up any chips in the paint. Nail polish is cheap and effective. That leaves your drive train components. When I lived in Wisconsin I used either a good thick grease on the chain or some type of DoD rust inhibiting spray we had in the shop every week. Nothing really worked, so probably your only hope is to either spend $12 come spring for a new chain or wipe down and re-lube the chain every day.
posted by ChrisHartley at 2:38 PM on November 30, 2008

On a recent bike tour I noticed some people had covers like this one at REI. It'll definitely keep your bike dry underneath, though you'd have to store the likely wet nylon cover somewhere when you're not at work.
posted by mathowie at 2:40 PM on November 30, 2008

Best answer: Looking for creative, no-spendy answers

Sadly, winter bicycle commuting isn't a "no-spendy" proposition. You will either spend money on proper gear and maintenance or you will need a new bike by Spring.

Pay a little now, or pay a lot later. The choice is yours.

Winter biking is just like any other biking save for two things: parts wear out quicker and you will spend more time cleaning and checking your bike.

Depending upon your local, your bike may be traversing slushy, salted streets. Water and salt will eat your bike, so you should get into the habit of wiping your bike down after each ride and lubing your entire drive train several times a week. Ideally you would want to wash your bike with warm fresh water and mild soap, but that isn't usually an option, especially in sub-freezing temps.

Your chain will die. If it makes it through the winter at all it will come out pitted and creaky. So budget for that.

A worn chain will wear your chain rings and cogs, so if you don't keep an eye on it, a $20 chain could wind up costing you $100 or more for all new gears.

Wet road grime will act as a grinding compound wherever moving parts meet. This is most notable on brake pads. So, plan on buying new break pads. Better yet, go ahead and switch over to pads designed for wet ridding (shop around there are lots of options) and keep your current pads for the spring. You can stretch out of the life of your pads and rims by cleaning them frequently - like every day. A damp cloth works well.

Cables tend to be steel, and these will rust up fairly quickly, so again, plan for new cables at some point in the winter. While you're at it, go ahead and replace your cable housing.

As for lube, many winter riders prefer a "dry-lube" and some people even go for wax dipped chains. These sorts of lubes are less messy than oil, but more of a hassle to apply. I use Park Tool chain lube which is supposed to be good for both wet and dry conditions. This is the first winter I've started using it, so we'll see how it goes.

WD-40 get's a bad rap among cyclists, it's generally not good to use it on drive train components as it theoretically could force grime deeper into crevices. Further, it mostly evaporates leaving your components unprotected. That said, I absolutely love it for cleaning frames and some other parts. In a pinch it doesn't hurt to soak parts with it before cleaning.

As with all lubes, avoid over spray that may get on your rims or brake pads. It's best to clean rims with alcohol or some other potent degreaser.

Now is a good time to overhaul your bike. I'd re-pack any bearings with fresh grease, lube your seatpost and any other points that may have dried out. I use Phil Wood grease and it's wonderful stuff - it really holds up well and repels moisture.

If you're unsure of how to do this, there is plenty of information out there... just google your way to a freshly tuned and lubed bicycle.

One other thing: none of this addresses the most critical part of winter cycling: clothing. If you haven't started shopping for the proper gear, you need to now, and yes, you will spend a lot of cash, but it's worth it if it keeps your ridding in the winter.

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 2:47 PM on November 30, 2008 [6 favorites]

Perhaps there is protected storage nearby that you can use? Maybe a parking garage, or maybe you are friendly with the counterman at the deli 'round the corner and they have a back room. that sort of thing. It would be worth a bit of $$ to me if I could negotiate someplace safer & protected than the street.
posted by TDIpod at 2:51 PM on November 30, 2008

Provided you're committed to (a) applying it regularly and (b) cleaning it off everything else on your bike regularly, chainsaw bar oil is a very low cost chain lube that works in wet conditions at least as well as any of the 'proper' oils. And remember, a dirty, well lubed chain will probably chew through chainrings and clusters faster than a dirty, dry chain. By all means keep your chain well lubed, but make sure you keep it clean as well. Otherwise you're basically making a grinding paste out of the crud and lube.

Adding an external seal to your headset like this can do wonders for extending the life of your headset, particularly if you aren't running fenders. You can approximate its function with a bit of inner tube for $0.000001 if you're a bit handy with bike maintenance. Memail me if you want a better explanation.

Remove and grease your seatpost. It's a hell of a lot easier to grease a seatpost before winter than it is to remove it after winter when it's got corroded in. The combination of steel frame and alloy seatpost is probably the worst, although alloy frame and alloy post isn't great when you add salt into the equation.
posted by tim_in_oz at 9:42 PM on November 30, 2008

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