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I have to leave my bike outside at work for 8-10 hours at a time.

If it's -3°C or -6°C, is there anything special I need to do to ensure it will still ride when I'm ready to go home? i.e., will it freeze up?

Also, I can bring it inside at home but I read somewhere that the constant defrosting/refrosting could be worse than just leaving it out in the cold 24/7. Is this true?

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Frequently lubing your components (especially your chain) is crucial in cold weather. Lube (which won't freeze) pushes out water (which does). Besides the protection against freezing, it also will help extend the life of your components even in the face of sand, salt, and gravel debris from cities deicing the roads. Fenders with mud flaps are useful as well, as they will protect your drivetrain from slush. Basically, anything you can do to keep the bike's componentry dry is crucial.

To this end, I would bring the bike inside overnight every day in order to warm it up. This lets water drip off of it, and you can wipe off any that's left with a pile of used rags before you take it on the road each day.

The temperature flux might cause wear on the components, but I suspect the amount pales in comparison to the damage done by freezing (ice expands, putting pressure where it shouldn't go), salt (which corrodes steel), and sand (which prematurely wears components due to grinding).

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  • To add to what Stephen said, I would use a wet lube as opposed to a dry lube. Nov 20 '11 at 22:50
  • Bringing the bike inside would encourage condensation to collect on it (and inside components). Probably better to leave it outside, if it has no ice on it. Nov 21 '11 at 0:19
  • Leaving it outside is guaranteeing it getting damp and frozen, IMHO. At least by bringing it inside, you have the opportunity to let it unfreeze and wipe it down. Nov 21 '11 at 19:17
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    Depends on how long, and how humid it is inside. If you bring the bike in for 2-3 hours that's probably worse than leaving it outside. Overnight might be OK, though. Nov 22 '11 at 0:31
  • Agree 100%. Clarified my post. Nov 22 '11 at 4:06
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My bike was outside all of ten hrs, and when I got on it I couldn't go any where!. My chain was so cold it was just sliding around the cassette. I had to walk home from work. So when I eventually arrived home I poured hot water over the chain and cassette. It done the trick, but it happened again. Its a pain!

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    Your chain won't skip on the cogs merely because it's cold. Was the issue that there was ice on your cogs? That has happened to me before on a cold and wet ride. If so, I'd suggest editing your answer to clarify.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Mar 13 at 20:10
  • This sounds like the lube had conjealed from a slippery substance into a more viscous state, and was preventing some part from moving like it should. One half-way is to "scooter" the bike by standing on a pedal with the opposite foot, resting hip against saddle, and push off the ground to roll at about 3x walking speed while steering normally.
    – Criggie
    Mar 14 at 0:16
  • Some makes you can get the freewheel not engaging properly when well below freezing. Basically the grease inside getting too sticky and the paws don't engage. For this potentially being a bit valiant and banging it with it helps free it. Pouring hot water over it will typically free it if you have access to any.
    – Ifor
    Mar 14 at 20:46
  • I think Weiwen Ng is right: It's not the fact that the chain was frozen, it was the fact that it couldn't engage the frozen sprockets properly. As such, single speed and internal gear hub bikes should be immune to this: Their chain tension is not controlled by a derailleur with its rather weak spring, but by the geometry of the bike. If there were too much ice between chain and sprocket, chain tension would skyrocket and simply crush the ice on the first revolution of the sprocket. After that, the bike would ride like in summer. Mar 14 at 21:59
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Whether it will freeze is dependent on the weather conditions.

Theoretically, enough freezing rain could coat your entire bike, including your drivetrain, with a frozen layer. I have driven in a car in freezing rain and the car did receive a frozen coat several millimeters thick. All of the parking ultrasound sensors were "permanently on" so they told they touched an obstacle, due to the frozen layer. It required a parking in a warm environment to melt the frozen layer.

Other than that, it is unlikely your bike would freeze. A long time ago, I worked at a place where parking places were scarce. So I parked a kilometer away and rode the rest of the distance with a beater bike. The beater bike was always stored outdoors 24 hours a day during the winter at similar temperatures than what you describe. No damage from outdoors storage. It worked perfectly fine. And yes, it was a derailleur bike.

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