Keeping a bike parked outside?
March 26, 2010 3:27 PM   Subscribe

New bike, new apartment and for the first time in my life I have to keep my bike outdoors. Any tips/tricks to keep it clean, safe and in working order when it's parked in my backyard?

I just bought a brand new bike that I'll commute with on a daily basis. I've been a summer cycle commuter for the past 5 years but this is the first summer in my new apartment and there's nowhere to park the bike inside.

So for the first time in my life I'm parking my bike in the backyard. It's still locked up but I'd like to keep it in best working order. I'm in Toronto so there will be some inclement weather to deal with.

I'm thinking about things like keeping the chain well lubricated and even keeping it wrapped in a tarp. I also plan to take the seatpost and lights inside with me every night. Otherwise do you have any tips or experiences for me?
posted by thecjm to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They make bike covers you can buy, and those might fit better than a tarp.
posted by dilettante at 3:35 PM on March 26, 2010

I wrapped my bike in a tarp on my patio. My bike is now covered in rust. Don't use a tarp. :(
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:40 PM on March 26, 2010

can't you hang it from your ceiling, wall, etc? even a $2.99 home depot hook into a drywall sinker is enough to keep it off the floor, and 2 of them can do it on the ceiling. if you angle them the right way (perpendicular to the tires) you can use a 3rd with a pulley to hoist the bike near-horizontal and give yourself headroom.

i ask because i would never leave my bike outside...
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 3:42 PM on March 26, 2010

Two problems: weather and security.

As for weather, I keep my bicycle outside in Stockholm, Sweden and generally ride it everyday except in the winter (too much snow and ice.) Rust and dry rot of the rubber parts are the biggest problems I have which are not problems at all if I ride everyday. I take it inside out of the weather when I'm not going to ride if for longer than a few days.

As for security, act as though you expect it to be stolen and you will probably not be disappointed. I don't spend much money on a bicycle I leave outside so I never worry about leaving it outside. I have been surprised by the absolute beater bicycles that thieves have stolen from me. That someone would go through the effort to destroy an expensive lock to steal a piece of crap always amazes (but no longer surprises) me.

Good idea with the lights and saddle. Anything that can easily be removed will be.
posted by three blind mice at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2010

You just can't expect to protect it effectively, in my experience. It will end up with rusty bits where there's steel (even if you tarp it, as mentioned above), and UV deterioration where there's rubber/leather/plastic, and so on. Even covered storage (screened porch) means rust because snow & rain often fall sideways. Outdoor storage is hell on bikes.

If you can't find any way to bring it in, you might try taking the indoors outside by building or buying a bike locker. I don't have any experience with them, but if they're closed off on the bottom and have a little airspace around the bike, they should outperform the tarp idea. Example.

One other solution is to have a beater that you can leave outside without feeling guilty, while you store your good bike(s) indoors - that way, it doesn't have to be super-easy to stow/deploy the good bike, which opens up your indoor storage options. I prefer this method, because it involves buying another bike ;^)
posted by richyoung at 4:08 PM on March 26, 2010

You're in Toronto? It will be a race to see whether your bike rusts out before you see it listed for sale by someone else on Craigslist.

1) Can you rent or barter garage space from a friendly neighbour? Check Craigslist or ask around your street.

2) You can get some really efficient freestanding indoor bike racks at Mountain Equipment Coop (site's down at the moment, but here's a cache). They will take up some space, and a wet bike on occasion may also mean some clean-up, but wrapping/unwrapping and otherwise babying a backdoor bike is even more work for a bike that could get stolen pretty soon.
posted by maudlin at 4:20 PM on March 26, 2010

I don't know what Toronto puts on the roads when there's snow and ice, but I'd rinse the bike off with a water bottle after riding through sand or salt. I'd also use a dry wax chain lube.

But I'd also ask whether there's really no way you can bring the bike inside, somehow. Keeping it outside is bad mojo wrt to elements, and I'd worry that keeping it locked outside in the same place every night would eventually attract a non-casual thief with bolt cutters or an angle grinder.
posted by zippy at 5:28 PM on March 26, 2010

Also, if the no indoor bikes thing is a question of space, you can take the front wheel off. And if it's a question of dirt or oil, clean off the bike before you come in, and carry it through the common areas. That's addressed my prev. landlords' issues about no bikes indoors. They really meant "no rolling your bikes on the carpet indoors, or worse, riding your bike indoors and breaking something or someone."
posted by zippy at 5:32 PM on March 26, 2010

Yeah, I would not leave a brand new bike locked outdoors in Toronto even in the backyard, if you can avoid it. This was 15 years ago, but I had some friends over, one of them left her bike, unlocked, lying down on the patio of my parents' backyard and it was stolen. Granted, it was in plain view of the next door neighbour's and a pretty easy steal. Here are some more bike storage solutions from Velotique.
posted by foxjacket at 8:47 PM on March 26, 2010

Agree with previous posters re: don't have high expectations and you'll be better off mentally. I've had 6 bikes stolen from me in the last 12 years.. 6!! No matter how I played with the variables (type of lock, how shitty the bike looks, locations etc..) they still stole them. Fuckers. If you can't put it inside, just look at this as an added cost thats part of the deal. I would still cover the bike with something impermeable. Yeah maybe it won't prevent your parts from eventually rusting but its hard for me to believe it wont slow the process down considerably as opposed to just letting it sit in pouring rain exposed. Rubber parts are cheap so who cares if you have to spend $40 on tires every 6 months. How much would you be paying to take the metro every day anyway? Are you any good at maintenance? take a class if not because that way, you can upkeep it yourself, eliminating all the added cost of having to have it tuned up at the shop. Its pretty easy to learn. One thing you should do for example, aside from lubing your chain frequently, is if you ride it in the rain, when you get home, clean the chain with a simple degreaser and then relube it. Riding in the rain pulls a lot of extra grit and dirt up into the chain. Oh and never use WD-40 as a lubricant for bike parts. [This guy explains why, in an annoying kind of way]
posted by postergeist at 2:39 AM on March 27, 2010

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