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I got four bikes and they fit nicely inside a cheap 3 person tent. Does it offer good protection?

The tent sits on grass. For some reason, after raining, I see water on the floor of the tent. Not sure whether it’s from condensation or leaking.

Maybe I should put some pavers under the tent. But is it generally OK to store bikes in a tent? How much different it makes compares to a $400 shed?

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    You'll get a lot of built-up dampness in a closed tent as you see from the water on the floor. It would be better to put up a tarp in the way of a car-port and let the air flow through. – Carel Jan 3 at 9:18
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    Is this for overnight storage while you're on a tour, or is this a permanent storage solution at home ? – Criggie Jan 3 at 9:51
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    The most important thing is to allow some ventillation. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 3 at 13:43
  • A well maintained bike won’t be harmed by some rain. Direct sunlight could be more of a problem for plastic components. – Michael Jan 4 at 11:53
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The main difference is that the tent gives almost no protection against thieves, where a shed gives a little more protection as it is.
And a shed can be improved a lot with a simple anchor ring which you fix to the ground or through a wall so it is very hard to remove, and to which you lock your bikes.

A well set up tent of a decent quality will keep the rain off your bikes as good as a cheap shed roof, but most tents are not made to do their work months at a time and many will let water through the fabric in heavy or consistent rain, while most sheds, even cheap ones, do a better job to keep the rain out.

Depending on the climate you have where you are, you may find damp inside both the tent and the shed, or more in one than the other, in which case I would expect the tent to be less protection, as most of those are meant for short term use.

A hard layer under or in your tent or even using a tent without build in ground sheet and adding a ground sheet on a hard underlayer will improve against raising damp and keeping water on the ground away from your bike.
But again, a shed will do better and it will be easier to build it up so ground water and rainwater collected on the ground will be kept out.

And a tent which is build good enough to compete with a shed will cost the same as a shed.

For short time storage, like the bikes of visiting friends who are only there for a week at a time, a tent makes sense. But so would any roof, even without the build up sides of a shed, and a well build bike should not get damaged getting rained on, as long as it can dry off properly after a rain shower. Within a tent the bikes may stay damp longer, depending on how the climate is where you are.

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  • That assumes that rain only comes occationally in the form of showers. In many places that is not the case. – Vladimir F Jan 4 at 16:04
  • I live in the Netherlands were we can have showers every day and they can be day long and repeated for many days. Some bikes can not withstand that, others have no problem. I prefer my bikes under a good roof, but I know they will not melt when they get wet, they have been out in the rain often enough. – Willeke Jan 4 at 16:12
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Another reason tents are a bad idea for long term storage is that very few will last long in the sun. Canvas is better than synthetic, but would cost more than a shed.

I've had caravan awnings up for months on end, and use groundsheets to cover garden toys, and all go brittle eventually, then tear and fall to bits. Even in my rather cool, damp climate, one summer will probably finish off a tent

For short term storage on a trip, of course you can use a tent, but compared to just leaving them outdoors with a tarp, it offers little, just conceals the bikes.

The one time I have used a tent was when painting the garage where I normally store my bikes. The whole contents had to stay in the garden for a week or two, and some needed the rain kept off

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You want to protect your bikes from:

  • elements;
  • thieves.

A tent offer no protection from thieves, but let's assume it is not an issue. Not all elements are equal.

SUN

A bike can stand UV (the sun) quite long, let's say up to 5 years (especially counting are summers). A tent will not stand that many years (i.e. summers) of UV rays.

WIND

Unless you are living close to the sea, where the air will be charged with salt, you need no protection from wind (ok, wind may carry rain, but then the issue is the rain). A tent would provide superior protection to wind, with respect to a tarp.

RAIN

Very important to protect your bikes from the rain, but a tent would do a job as good as a tarp or a cheap DIY shed

HUMIDITY

This is not the same as rain, humidity makes disaster on rubber and plastic parts, as well as accelerating rusting (usually not a strucutral issue, just an ugly patina ... ugly minus the years when such a patina is cool). You avoid humidity when having enough ventilation. A tent is very bad at this.

SNOW

Snow can do damages as providing water that infiltrates and then freezes (if in your location there is snow, there is cold and there are freezing conditions), breaking many things and displacing any grease you have in bottom brackets as well as in the wheel hubs. And derailleur and gears, poor guys! Tents may collapse and break under minimal snow weight.

WILDLIFE (here only for the sake of brevity, apologize for including them into the elements category...)

Ranging from mice to spiders to killer bees, a tent provide an ideal warm and humid shelter to many companions ... unless you enjoy taking out your bike and a wasp nest, they are not the companions you want for a bike ride start. A tent therefore is not a good idea. This apply as well as to a tarp, although it is way easier to clean it, as well to a shed, but it is easier to place traps and other wildlife repellers in a shed (all these repellers suffers from humidity, while wildilfe generally not, so see point above).

Final point: you can easily store 4 bikes in the tent, but how easy is to take a particular bike out of the tent? This question applies to tarp and to a shed as well, but you can be a bit "rough" with a shed or a tarp, while a tent is easy to be cut/rip, so after a couple of rushed bike extraction maybe your tent is not as effective as it was.

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  • Thanks for all the answers. For me, theft is not a major issue as the tent is in the backyard. I think the tent offers good protection against the sun and rain, but the humidity and temperature does fluctuate much more in a tent. If I leave back outside, next morning, I would see dew on the bike, but I don't see it if I leave the bike in the tent. Also I think tent should have good ventilation as there's mesh on the roof of the tent under the rain fly. If the life of the tent is not an issue (I have 2 old tents to get rid of), does it offer good protection for a bike? – George Liu Jan 5 at 17:40
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    "You avoid humidity when having enough ventilation. A tent is very bad at this." You also avoid condensation when you do not add humidity to the air inside the tent. Usually when sleeping in a tent, quite a bit of humidity results from breathing and perspiration. Both not relevant for bikes, so humidity/condensation inside the tent might be a small issue. Under such circumstances, bad ventilation might actually be the best way to avoid condensation, especially when also using a footprint/ground sheet. – Snijderfrey Jan 6 at 18:45
  • @Snijderfrey I have limited experience with a tent lying outside without anyone inside. You made some good points, you may be right in general. My (single) experience was that there was a lot of condensation inside an empty closed tent (late spring, low altitude, humid climate but no rain). Maybe the tent was getting warmer during the day, air was slowly exchanged (---> bad ventilation being good to avoid condensation ... can we have selectively bad ventilation during day only :D ?) and then the rapid cooling of the ground/air was enough to make condensation? – EarlGrey Jan 7 at 11:23
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    Yes, it is complicated. The idea with bad ventilation is to use the tent as a giant plastic bag. This can only be successful in certain circumstances and depends on the ground (grassy ground probably especially difficult as it stores and releases a lot of moisture), ground sheet size (does it cover the entire tent floor?), tent construction (gap between ground and tent walls?), tent volume, temperature variations between day and night, etc... See outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/7442/… for a somewhat related discussion. – Snijderfrey Jan 7 at 14:46

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