How you store your bike contributes a lot to how long it will last you. A well-cared for bike will last decades longer than one allowed to rust.
Rain, snow, road salt and mud are all hard on your bike. Wiping your bike down with a cloth at the end of a ride will preserve the lifespan of your bike. You can also run water from the garden hose over your bike, but be careful to not use any pressure. Bicycles don’t have the same heavy duty seals that automobiles have, so you can force
water into bearings, cables, and chain bushings causing more damage than you prevented. We find it best to use water only. Some soaps and solvents will damage your bike. Besides, it’s better environmentally to just rinse dirt and water down the drain.
Here on the Island, the worst threat to your bike is the evening dew. Because we’re so close to the ocean, our air is salty, and that combined with the nighttime dew will corrode the bike over time. Bicycle chains, bearings, bolts, gear and brake cables are all made of steel, which rusts easily when exposed to the elements over time.
The best way to avoid damage to your bike is to store it inside in a room heated and insulated against the weather.
Taking your bike inside to prop up in the mudroom or hang on a storage rack in the rec room is the ideal setup. We know, however, that the ideal situation isn’t always possible. A garage or shed is second best, preferably one that isn’t damp in the winter. If possible, you want one with a solid concrete floor: the more insulation from moisture the better.
Sometimes you have to be creative. One of our staff used to live in a small apartment; every morning he would lock his bikes up on his deck, and every night he would roll them into the living room when he went to bed (putting them on a floor covering to protect the carpet).
If you simply cannot store them indoors, you want to avoid covering your bike with a tarp or other kind of bike cover. A tarp, while protecting your bike from the rain, still allows the dew to accumulate (it will land on the ground, and will actually evaporate up into the tarp where it will be trapped) and will encourage and accelerate the rust. A carport or lean-to provides only slight protection because it still leaves the bicycle vulnerable to the salty air and the night dew.
Ultimately any bicycle left outside in our climate will unavoidably suffer corrosion over time. A lot of that corrosion is invisible, hidden inside cable housing and the bicycle’s bearings. Even though it’s invisible, this corrosion ends up significantly increasing maintenance and repair costs over the life of the bike.
Do the best you can and you will be rewarded with a better, longer lasting bicycle.