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Is there anything special I need to consider for the long term storage of a bicycle.

I have been staying home since March. Prior to March, I was riding my bike about 20 miles per day. One day in early March, I took my bike for a tuneup. I took it home.

Then I decided to stay home. I had no idea COVID-19 was going to be this bad. At the time, I had no thoughts of staying home multiple months (or even years).

Since then my bike has been collecting dust. Yesterday, I pumped the tires. The front tires were fully deflated. The rear tires needed some air too.

I want to keep my bike in a condition so that when I decide it is once again safe to go outside, I can. Do you have any tips?

I keep my bike in my kitchen. I do not have a rack. I lean it against the wall. It has hydraulic brakes.

It seems like the advice is to regularly pump the tires and shift the gears.

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    In most countries some form of exercise including cycling was allowed even in the strictest lockdown; in many it was positively encouraged. Cycling is a good way to keep in good cardio/respiratory fitness while avoiding getting close to other people, so unless there's some very specific reason not to, you'd probably be better riding it than literally never going outdoors – Chris H Sep 14 '20 at 6:49
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    @ChrisH That's true, unless OP has underlying medical issues that would make him catching COVID a death sentence. That's something we don't know about OP, and we really should not know. – Mołot Sep 14 '20 at 9:03
  • @Mołot "I decided to stay home" implies that there isn't such an issue - but I wouldn't (and didn't) rule out the possibility that the OP or someone they live with does have something serious. – Chris H Sep 14 '20 at 10:31
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    Keep it dry, keep it cool, keep it away from petroleum vapors, and, if possible, hang it somehow so there is no weight on the tires. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 14 '20 at 11:56
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    As an aside, it is perfectly safe to go outside unless you are in a crowd. I'd bet considerable money that the health benefits from being outside on your bike (unless you are currently, September 2020, on the West Coast, cough) overcompensate any residual risk of infection (which is afaics virtually non-existent alone on a bike). You need vitamin D and you need general physical fitness to stay healthy. (Oh, I see Chris made almost the same point; so, I concur ;-).) – Peter - Reinstate Monica Sep 14 '20 at 14:08
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The biggest issues you will have when you store a bike for a long time in a warm and dry environment (you haven't stated where the bike will be stored) will be:

  1. The tyres going flat
  2. Dust

For the tyres going flat, if you leave them flat for a long time with the weight of the bike on them, you will ruin the tyres. Most tyres won't do well with being bend at the bottom and being folded by the rim with the weight of the bike for extended periods of time.

For the dust, the issue is that the dust in the braking surface (disc or rim) will make the brakes not work well until they are cleaned. Dust on the chain and any exposed inner cables will mean that the gears might not work properly.

So for storage, either make sure the tyres are pumped up by regularly pumping them, or lift the bike of the ground so the tyres don't hole any weight under load. And cover with a dust proof sheet or make sure you clean the braking track, chain and exposed cables before riding again.

If you store the bike somewhere like a shed or garage with poor insulation, then you need to watch out for the above, plus from rust as it's likely to be damp.

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  • If I run the pedals and the derailleur - say weekly - do you think that would solve the dust issue? I pumped the tires this weekend after about 6 months of non-attention. They seem to be holding the pressure. Do you think the 6 months damaged them? – emory Sep 14 '20 at 16:53
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    Not only pump the tires, but also turn the wheels a bit so its not constantly sitting on the same spot of the wheel. – Luuklag Sep 14 '20 at 19:12
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    @emory Spinning the cranks won't solve the problem, it will just make it more gradual. Coz you will be mixing the dust with whatever chain lube you have. 6 months of fully deflated tyres with full weight of the bike will probably damage them. I would suggest doing there every 1/2 months and wiping the bike and pumping the tyres. – abdnChap Sep 15 '20 at 9:04
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    @abdnChap thnx that is just the sort of thing I am looking for. I love biking, but mechanically I am a moron. – emory Sep 15 '20 at 14:22
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I would periodically spin the tires round, run the pedals round a bit and wiggle the deraillurs back and forth, to prevent them from getting seized up (my rear gear cable snapped when I went out for my first ride in 6 months recently). Some WD40 on the deraillur mechanisms would probably be a good idea too - you don't need to do this once a week.

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    WD40 is great when you need to get things moving, fast. In most long-term solutions it is quite awful. – Mołot Sep 14 '20 at 13:47
  • @Mołot would you just use chain lube instead, for storage? Or something else? – Max Williams Sep 14 '20 at 13:58
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    Chain lube is at least made to last. WD40 is mostly made to evaporate, and take water with it. – Mołot Sep 14 '20 at 14:03
  • @Mołot i see, thanks – Max Williams Sep 14 '20 at 14:07
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    @Mołot from that POV it would still be worth spraying on moving parts to stop them rusting i guess? – Max Williams Sep 14 '20 at 14:07
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This answer focuses just on tires. I read the OP's question ask potentially asking if there is a way to have the tires not lose pressure over time.

I believe the answer is no. All tires lose pressure over time because the air molecules seep through the rubber of your inner tubes or the walls of tires themselves. As far as I know, this is a matter of physics. Consider that this happens to car tires as well, only car tires are much thicker than bicycle inner tubes, and they are run at much lower pressure. This is why car tires lose pressure much more slowly than bicycle tires, but they still do lose pressure (and drivers should periodically check their tire pressure, as running too low a pressure here can increase rolling resistance and fuel consumption).

It's possible that bicycle tubes could be made much thicker to slow their air loss rates. However, humans have much lower power to weight ratios than automobiles. Increasing the tube thickness would also increase rolling resistance (a thicker tube would have greater energy loss through hysteresis as it goes over bumps in the road). This would impair riding experience.

The only alternative is indeed to pump your tires up before you go for a ride. With practice, this does not take long. I agree that there are a lot of little things to worry about with cycling, and it can seem cognitively demanding to have to pump your tires up. I can only say that this is a skill that we learn with time. After a while, it becomes second nature. Also, with butyl tubes, I have often been able to go at least a week without checking pressure. If you ride several times a week, you do not have to inflate your tires every time.

It seems possible that tubeless tires might leak air more slowly than tubed clinchers. These have no inner tube, their sidewalls are thicker than standard clinchers, and they rely on a layer of latex sealant to attain full air-tightness as well. However, I am not aware of any testing in this regard. In any case, entry-level bikes most likely won't have tubeless-compatible rims or tires, and tubeless compatibility has a number of significant hassles on drop bar bikes.

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  • You say "pump your tires up before I go for a ride" but I am not ready to go for a ride yet. I think others are saying I should pump up my tires regularly and that would prevent problems in the future. I am just looking for advice on something I could do every week so that when I do decide to go for a ride the bike is ready for me. – emory Sep 14 '20 at 13:04
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    Car tires are thicker (2x to 5x, I guess), lower pressure (2x to 3x), and have a huge volume (roughly 20x). (Just a nitpick, your answer is good :-) ) – cmaster - reinstate monica Sep 14 '20 at 14:21
  • The follow-up question is: Does it hurt your bike to have it sit on flat tires for some length of time? – AShelly Sep 14 '20 at 18:48
  • There are those display stands that fit under the bottom bracket and lift both wheels off the ground, if the bike is not overly nose- or tail-heavy. – Carel Sep 14 '20 at 19:06
  • @AShelly I think it's probably OK for the average clincher tire. For tubeless tires, you don't want the tire beads to get unseated. For tubular tires, the tire might similarly shift on the rim if you let it sit on the ground unpressurized. It's exceedingly unlikely the OP has those types of tire. – Weiwen Ng Sep 14 '20 at 19:30

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