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I'm about to start a new job, within cycling distance of home. Trouble is that the office is small and has nowhere to store my bike. So I'm going to have to chain it up outside each day.

I went to my local bike shop today to get a cover and was surprised to find they didn't sell them. The staff said most are no good: they are too thin and light to offer proper protection.

Is this right? If so, is there anything else I can do to protect the bike from the elements (I live in the UK so this is mostly rain rather than extreme cold)?

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    A simple lightweight tarp should suffice for your situation. The main thing is to work out how to fasten it down so it doesn't blow away. Note that it is NOT necessary to "wrap" the bike -- you simply need to cover it so that rain is shed with minimal contact with the bike. Importantly, make sure that air can circulate underneath. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 15 '18 at 21:28
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Don’t worry about it. A bit of rain or dirt won’t harm your bike.

Regularly lube and clean your chain (even if it’s not yet rusty) and everything will be fine.

Salt can be quite nasty but unless you ride close to the coast it won’t be an issue in the UK.

If you want to save yourself some trouble, make sure you grease the contact area of parts such as the seat post or pedal threads before installing them so that they don't rust in place and you are still able to remove them at some point in the future. The bearings of some parts (e.g. pedals, headsets) can be re-greased which could be a good idea to do every year or so.

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You could look for/ask about a bike cover that is designed to go over a bike when it is on a bike rack behind a car.

If I remember correctly, I had one from Topeak that used a heavier nylon cloth (akin to cloth used for light backpacks) that survived many multi-hour trips at 55 mph covering my Allez Elite. Durability was excellent, and largely waterproof.

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    Good points. I'd be worried that a nice cover screams "Nice bike here" to any passing lightfinger. – Criggie Nov 27 '18 at 18:51
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Good choice, cycling to work given its that close.

Covers generally don't work for bicycles because they tend to be lightweight and offer little real protection. Your bike is already wet cos you rode it.

Bikes can live outside in the working day, and as long as you store them inside at night deterioration is minimised. A 40 hour working week is still only ~25% of a 168 hour week, so not leaving it outside all the time will help the most.

Things you can do while parking:

  • Park your bike in a more-sheltered area. Ideally under a porch roof or carport or something. Second choice would be beside a wall to provide some protection from the prevailing nasty winds (southerlies for me, probably winds from the north/ocean for you ?)
  • Avoid parking under trees, if you can. Trees tend to gather moisture and drop it a lot longer. Also leaves and dirt hold moisture.
  • Parking in the sunlight and not the shade is helpful if possible - even in the UK.

Things you can do to your bike:

  • MUDGUARDS! (fenders) are fantastic and will help keep your drivetrain and you much cleaner. Try to go for full-length ones, not the stubby cosmetic ones.
  • Saddle - consider a plastic saddle and not a leather one. Properly protected leather would be okay, but its a hard life for wet leather. A stout plastic bag on the saddle alone can help, but condensation still makes it damp on the inside.
  • Brakes and rims - will suffer from road detritus and will wear out faster. Best protection here is to wash your bike periodically. If you feel or hear grinding while braking, its stones or grit abrading your rims and costing you money so wash it clean. Disks are slightly better here.
  • Lock - given your bike is out of site, you need decent locking to make sure it doesn't get pinched. For an ugly bike a simple cable lock might be enough. If its a nice bike then the sky's the limit and you might need two D locks and a stout chainlock.

Things you should do for yourself:

  • Store clean clothes and towel at work - a full change at least. Hang up your wet clothes somewhere to dry ready for the trip home.
  • Get a decent waterproof jacket - you probably already have this given its the UK, but a waterproof jacket that can still breathe can be hard to find. You will sweat up the inside of a solid plastic coat. Ideally not a black coat for visibility reasons.
    Depending on your weather you might want waterproof overtrousers too.
  • Gloves - good for warmth, dryness, and abrasion resistance in a fall. Don't go expensive - they wear out as fast as cheaper ones. Full fingered will help too.
  • Get decent lights - more important in winter/dark but there's also solid proof that daytime lights help too. Ideally should have two front and two rear so that if one dies you still have another working one.
  • Get a waterproof bag to move things, whether it be your spare clothes, your phone, laptop, or whatever. Not just water-resistant. Then store some stout plastic bags inside for torrential days.
  • Shoe covers. I haven't found a good answer here, but commuting in gumboots tucked up into overtrousers was an excellent way to keep the feet warm and dry. I've also tried overshoes but they're more for warmth not dryness. Your choice of pedal and shoe is relevant here.

Longer term, if there are problems then you may consider a smaller bike that can be folded and taken inside, and stored under your desk. Drawback is they're generally not great bikes, and can be expensive. Cheap folders tend to be heavy and no fun to ride, but are better than walking.

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    For the saddle, a good cover is a "shower cap". – Daniel R Hicks Nov 15 '18 at 21:30
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    Excellent point - and you can use the shower cap to cover your helmet while riding and keep rain out of the air vents. – Criggie Nov 15 '18 at 21:39
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    Big contributor to degradation is a dirty bike. The dirt holds the water against surfaces. Clean the bike regularly with soapy water to get rid of the dust and grime buildup. – mattnz Nov 15 '18 at 21:54
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    One of the best winter tools to carry is a bus card or a bus pass. If its rainng real hard and you just do not feel like riding the bike then ride the bus. Even more if your busses have bicycle racks. – Pete Nov 16 '18 at 9:52
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    @Pete Sure, and they seem very common in the US, too. I was just mentioning that they don't exist in the UK, which is where the asker is. – David Richerby Dec 2 '18 at 21:28

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