Leaving your bike outside uncovered for extended periods can lead to damage from exposure to the elements. However, you may be able to leave your bike outside if you take steps to properly cover and protect it.
Here are quick answers to common questions about leaving a bike covered outside:
- Yes, you can leave your bike covered outside if you use a waterproof bike cover or tarp specifically designed for outdoor use.
- The cover should be made of durable, UV-resistant material to protect against sun damage and should allow ventilation to prevent condensation buildup.
- Park the bike in a sheltered area if possible and check on it periodically to ensure the cover remains secure.
- Avoid leaving the bike covered outside for more than a few days at a time, if possible, to minimize exposure.
- Use additional measures like bike locks and theft deterrents since the covered bike may draw more attention from thieves.
Selecting an Effective Bike Cover
The most important consideration when leaving a bike outside is using a high quality, weatherproof bike cover. Standard cloth or plastic sheeting won’t provide adequate protection over time.
Look for a cover made from the following materials:
- Polyester – Polyester covers provide good water resistance and durability. Make sure the cover has waterproof polyurethane (PU) coatings.
- Vinyl – Covers made of durable vinyl material are fully waterproof and tend to hold up well over time outdoors.
- Nylon – Nylon covers offer abrasion resistance and are rip-resistant while still being lightweight.
The cover should also have the following features:
- UV protection to prevent sun damage
- Ventilation panels to discourage condensation and corrosion
- Reflective strips to make the covered bike more visible
- Lock holes so you can secure the cover
- Elastic hem or cinch cords for a tight, custom fit
Bike Cover Sizing
Be sure to get a cover sized for your specific bike to ensure the proper fit:
- XXS – For bikes under 126 cm (50 inches)
- XS – For bikes 126-142 cm (50-56 inches)
- S – For bikes 142-162 cm (56-64 inches)
- M – For bikes 162-182 cm (64-72 inches)
- L – For bikes over 182 cm (72 inches)
The cover should be roomy enough for any accessories mounted on the bike as well.
Custom vs. Universal Fit Covers
Custom fit bike covers conform closely to the unique shape and dimensions of your specific bike model. Custom covers provide the most secure protection.
Universal covers have a more general fit and are better suited for covering different types of bikes. However they may not offer as snug and tight of a fit.
Where to Park a Covered Bike Outside
Even with a high quality cover, your bike will be better protected if you can park it in a covered location:
- Under an overhang or eve
- Inside a bike storage shed
- In a covered parking garage
- On a covered balcony or patio
Avoid parking in areas that are:
- Directly exposed to the rain and elements
- Against surfaces that collect moisture
- Under trees with sap, leaves, branches, etc.
Position the bike so water will run off the cover and not pool on top of it. Face the front of the bike into the prevailing wind so wind gets directed over the cover instead of under it.
How to Secure the Bike Cover
Take steps to properly secure the cover so it stays in place when you leave your bike outside:
- Thread a lock through the hem or lock holes and secure it around bike frame
- Attach hooks or elastic loops to the handlebars and seat post
- Insert a weighted bungee cord underneath the bottom edge
- Tie the cover drawstring or cord for a tight fit
- Attach the buckled straps securely around the wheels
Check your bike cover frequently to ensure the securing measures remain tight and readjust as needed.
Using Locks to Deter Theft
Since the covered bike may draw attention from thieves, use the following additional locks:
- U-lock through the rear wheel rim and frame
- Cable lock threaded through both wheels
- Lock anchor bolts to secure bike to ground
Use locks made of cut, pick, bump, and drill resistant materials. Avoid cheap combination locks which can easily be compromised.
Maintenance Tips for a Covered Bike
To keep your covered bike in top shape:
- Inspect the bike before and after covering for any existing damage
- Periodically clean and dry the bike if moisture gets under cover
- Apply lubricant to components like the chain, cables, etc. to prevent corrosion
- Inflate tires to recommended pressure since underinflated tires deform easier
- Turn handlebars to distribute weight evenly and prevent buckling
- Consider removing battery and accessories if left for extended periods
Preventing Internal Condensation
Condensation can build up inside the cover causing issues like:
- Corroded and rusted components
- Faded paint and graphics
- Deformed saddle and handlebar grips
To reduce condensation:
- Use breathable covers with ventilation
- Crack cover open to allow airflow after rain
- Place absorbent cloth under cover to soak up moisture
- Use silica moisture absorbing packs
How Long Can a Bike Be Left Outside Covered?
In general, limit the time a bike is left continuously covered outside to:
|Maximum Recommended Time Covered
|Up to 1 week
|Hot weather above 85°F/29°C
|Cold weather below 32°F/0°C
|1 week if no precipitation
Check on the bike daily and uncover periodically to inspect, dry out any moisture, and air out the cover.
Signs of Damage from Covered Outdoor Storage
Check under the cover frequently for any signs of damage including:
- Rust spots on metal parts like the chain, bolts, brakes
- Corrosion on electronic components
- Fading, cracking, or peeling paint and decals
- Torn handlebar grips or saddle
- Warped wheels or buckled frames
Any moisture or standing water under the cover is a warning sign to uncover and dry out the bike immediately.
Alternative Outdoor Storage Options
If you need to store your bike outside for extended periods, some alternate options include:
Bike Storage Shed
A weatherproof shed provides enclosed protection. Look for:
- Sheds made of resin, metal, or wood with weather treated exterior
- Ventilated design to prevent condensation build up
- Raised floors to keep bike off the ground
- Lockable doors, windows, and panels
Bike Garage or Shelter
Freestanding covered structures provide sheltered parking spaces for multiple bikes including:
- Metal carports with waterproof fabric roof
- Plastic shelters with UV protection
- Wood lean-to or slat covered shelters
Bike Storage Locker
Lockable bike lockers are constructed of solid panels and offer secure indoor storage. Look for lockers with:
- Durable, weatherproof materials
- Vented panels to prevent condensation
- Individual locks for each compartment
- Anchors to secure locker in place
Leaving your bike covered outside comes with some risks of sun, moisture, and pollutant damage. Limit time covered continuously to 1-7 days at most before uncovering and inspecting the bike. Always use a high quality bike cover designed for outdoor use. Park in a sheltered spot and secure the cover properly. Check frequently for any signs of damage and take steps to prevent internal condensation. For longer term storage, consider alternative options like bike sheds, shelters, or lockers to provide more complete protection from the elements.