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I've got insufficient space to store my bike inside. I fear however that it will rust away within a few years. My question is twofold:

  • A) Will this be a problem?
  • B) What can I do to prevent this (and possibly other types of decay)?
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Where do you live - what kind of weather is the bike exposed to ? –  Kevin Sep 22 '10 at 11:57
what space do you have outside? –  Ian Sep 22 '10 at 12:07
@Kevin: My bike will stand in the rainy Belgian climate. –  Dimitri C. Sep 22 '10 at 12:14
@Ian: I'd like to put it in the garden alongside the house. –  Dimitri C. Sep 22 '10 at 12:18

7 Answers 7

A small shed seems like the best option if you have space, some insulation inside the shed would help stop condensation.

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A bike kept outside will rust given enough time, it’s gears etc will also not like being wet all the time. Just as importantly is more likely to get stolen if it is just left outside and I would always rather get on a dry bike then a wet/cold bike.

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Depending on the budget (at least $400 to $500), a bike shed seems like a great option. If you have a lower budget and redneck tendencies, you could alternatively try to find a run-down van for a few hundred dollars on Craigslist. :) –  amcnabb May 24 '12 at 18:06
If you have some basic carpentry skills and some tools, it might not be difficult to build a small shed out of plywood/MDF for a lot less than they charge for the prebuilt ones. –  Kibbee Jan 11 '13 at 13:56

A tarp that fully covers a bike can provide some insulation and keep out precipitation. Don't buy a "bike cover"; they're overpriced, thin, and non-customizable. For an average-sized bike, an 8' by 10' tarp is enough to just reach to the ground. A weight of around 6 oz per square yard, or a thickness of around 8 mils, seems to be ideal (standard tarps are around 3 oz per square yard and 5 mils thick). In theory, silver colored tarps reflect more infrared than other colors and are better for insulation, but I'm not sure how much of a difference this makes in practice.

One of the most important things to look out for in a tarp is that the grommets are spaced no more than 18 inches apart. You can bunch up all of the grommets along each short end of the tarp and use cable ties to semi-permanently join these grommets. This gives the tarp a fitted shape and makes it fit nicely around the wheels. A good starting point is joining all of the grommets along each short end to a single point. Once you've tried this, you can experiment with tying grommets together in various configurations with cable ties to see if you get a better fit for your bike. You can also tie grommets to a bike rack, which can make it easier to get the bike in and out if you're riding it daily.

The following picture shows a fitted tarp on a bike. On the near side, the four middle grommets are tied together at a point, and the remaining two grommets (at the corners) are tied at a point just below. On the far side, all six grommets are tied together at a point and tied to the bike rack. The long sides of the tarp in the picture are folded in a bit; without folding, they just reach to the ground. With grommets spaced 18 inches apart, you have flexibility to customize the fitting.

A fitted tarp on a bike

In summary, if you get a tarp, get one with the following specs:

  • 8 by 10 feet
  • at least 6 oz per square yard or 8 mils thick
  • grommets spaced no more than 18 inches
  • silver color (?)

and then tie grommets together with cable ties to give it a fitted shape.


As I've been using this for a while, I've noticed that air flow doesn't seem to be much of a problem in practice, so I usually let the sides of the tarp reach to the ground. The tarp is stiff enough that there are always a few small openings where air can get in and out but water can't.

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post a picture or link to picture, pls –  memnoch_proxy Apr 29 '12 at 6:56
It's important that the tarp NOT be tightly sealed, but be relatively open at the bottom to allow air circulation. The tarp is only to prevent rain/sun damage, and air needs to circulate to allow the condensation that will inevitably occur to escape. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 29 '12 at 11:52
@DanielRHicks: That's a good point. It's hard to ensure that the drive chain is protected from the elements but that air circulation is maximized. It's important, though. –  amcnabb Apr 29 '12 at 15:54
@memnoch_proxy: Done. Thanks for the suggestion. –  amcnabb Apr 29 '12 at 22:15
Yeah, you want to minimize splashing from the ground up onto the drive train. Ideally hang the bike, and, if not, place it on slats and/or use gravel or wood chips below to prevent splashing. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 30 '12 at 0:54

If the bike has a steel frame, make certain to be extra-vigilant about sealing any nicks or scratches in the paint. Steel will rust when exposed, given long enough.

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Lube and wax. I know there are bike polishes that probably have wax, but I'd get the paste car wax that comes in a can. Really clean the bike, then use the wax on your frame, seat post, fenders (especially inside where they take a beating from road grime while riding), exposed metal, but NOT your rim braking surfaces. Put good lube on your chain. One guy I know who does a lot of randonneur riding in bad weather (brace yourself, this is a bit extreme) strips his chain of grease and grime, then dips it in melted paraffin. After it cools there are excess chunks of wax, but they drop off quickly. The point is he gets wax inside the pin bushings, which keeps his chain fairly water-resistant. Really lube your cables, or even better get teflon-coated cables. Your might want to put a cover on your saddle and handlebars, just watch out for condensation forming inside the covers which would defeat the purpose.

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If the bike has an aluminum frame, then the things to worry about are the steel parts: gears, chain, cables, and fasteners (bolts and such). All of these things will readily rust if exposed to constant moisture from being outside. Leaving the bike under an awning will help, but not protect it completely—a shed or other enclosure in the best bet.

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I use the yardstash bike storage tent. Held up well for a year so far and ventilates to keep my mountain bike dry and rust free,

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Looks like a good solution, but I wonder how you would secure the bike when it's in the tent. Since it fully encloses the bike, you couldn't lock it to anything, and the tent is only secured by a zipper. I guess if you have an enclosed yard with a high enough fence it would work. –  Kibbee Jan 11 '13 at 13:30
I don't use it but there's a flap in the back so you can run a chain into the tent and lock your bike to an external object. I keep my bike on my balcony so no need to secure. –  Tim Cook Jan 11 '13 at 16:17

Tidy Tent is a zipped tent which can be secured to floor or wall - I've ordered mine just a couple of days ago... If you search for Tidy Tent you'll get more info. Hope that helps.

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While this theoretically answers the OP's question, it would be better if you were to give an explanation of why Tidy Tents are a better solution than a simple tarp and perhaps provide a picture. Also, if you are in any way affiliated with Tidy Tents, you must declare it within your answer. Just fyi. bicycles.stackexchange.com/help/behavior –  jimirings Mar 10 '14 at 14:48
At first glance the Tidy Tent doesn't appear to allow sufficient ventilation to allow condensation to evaporate quickly. –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 10 '14 at 15:29

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