If you live in a state where you get very bad winters, then you might be lucky enough to have a dedicated bike for those elements. However, if you’ve bought a top of the line bicycle, you may not want to expose it to the wet snow. So “how do you winterize a bicycle” to make sure it’s ready for use when the warmer weather comes back around?
Before preparing your bike for storage, be sure to check out our bike storage page to help you find the right solution.
How Do You Winterize A Bicycle?
Wash the bike, give it a full tune-up, and lubricate the chain, cables, and seat post. We’ll discuss this in more detail below to help ensure your bike stays in tip-top shape throughout the off-season.
Preparation For Winter Storage
Many people ride their bicycles year-round, including the winter but if you’re planning on storing yours for the winter, follow these steps to ensure it stays in the best condition throughout the off-season.
Wash The Bike
What you’ll need:
- Bucket of soapy water
Before you begin washing your bicycle, you’ll want to spray or brush on a degreaser to the chain. Stand the bike up and lean it against the wall or have someone hold it so you can turn the pedals backward to ensure you coat the entire chain.
Leave the degreaser in place, and begin rinsing the rest of the bike using a sponge and the soapy water. Make sure you wipe it down really good to remove all the dirt.
Now, rinse the degreaser off the drivetrain. Hold the chain lightly between the sponge while pedaling backward, this will ensure you remove it from the whole chain.
Next spray on some bike cleaner and leave it for about a few minutes to ensure the bike is really clean. You can use any cleaner you have, but I recommend using one that is alkaline based and free from CFC’s, solvents, or acids to ensure you don’t harm your bike.
Finally, give the bike a final wash with clean water. Again, you’ll want to use a sponge to hand wash your bike and get every part of the bike, including the saddle, tires, pedals and handgrips.
Inspect the Brake Pads, Wheels And Tires
While you’re washing the bike, you’ll want to inspect it to ensure everything is in good condition.
Here’s what to look for:
- Wheels: Spin the wheels slowly and look for any loose or broken spokes that may need to be repaired. The wheels should spin straight and should not rub against the brake pads.
- Tires: Check for any cracks and ensure the tread is still good.
- Brake pads: Ensure your brakes have proper alignment and the pads don’t have any excess wear.
Dry The Bike
Now that the bike is completely clean, you want to ensure it is completely dry before storing it for the winter, so it doesn’t rust. You can leave the bike for a few hours to drip dry alone, however, I recommend towel drying the frame and spinning the cranks to remove any excess water from the drivetrain.
At this point, you should remove the seat post (don’t forget to mark the height), so you can remove any water that may have gotten inside the frame. If you have a light bike, lift the bike upside down to drain any excess water. You may need to bounce the bike up and down a couple of times to make sure you get it all.
Whatever you do, don’t rest it upside down on the levers, as this is not good for the bicycle.
If there is no more water coming out, flip the bike back over and stand it upright on the wheels.
Grease Up The Bike
Now it’s time to lubricate certain parts of your bicycle, because leaving your bike stored for several months without any lubrication is asking for trouble.
Before putting the seat back in, apply some full carbon bike fiber grip, especially, to prevent over-tightening of your seat that can cause internal fractures and fatigue of carbon fiber parts.
For bikes with metal posts or metal frames, you probably need to give it a good covering of grease instead.
To get to the bearings you’ll need to undo the top cap on the stem, then unscrew the bolt to remove the stem. Give the steer tube a short tap and that should loosen the centering sleeve allowing you to take the forks out, so you can access the bearings.
Remove the lower bearing from the bottom and wash it throughout to remove any dirt and grime. Dry the bearings and new grease and reassemble the bicycle.
The method you use will vary from bike to bike, but you’ve got to take the cranks off. Then clean them with soapy water. Inspect them while drying them completely to ensure they are in good condition. Lastly apply lubrication and reinstall them back on the bike.
Remove the pedals from the bike, it’ll be much easier to store the bike without pedals. You can grease the axel when you put the pedals back on the bike again.
Spray a really light aerosol lube to coat the drivetrain. Hold the aerosol can about an inch or two away from the drive train and pedal the bike backward to ensure you give it a good coating.
Avoid using any heavy lubrications, as there’s no point in it.
If your bike has barrel adjusters, which are small cups that are usually located by your brake calipers, gear levers, brake levers, and derailleurs. Now is the perfect time to clean and lubricate them.
To do that, you need to ensure your chain is in the biggest sprocket and with the wheel not moving, keep clicking the gear shift until all the cable tension is removed.
Then you can remove the cable from the barrel adjuster to clean and lubricate it.
Even though the bike won’t be ridden, it’s best to keep the recommended air pressure in your tires. This is the best way to keep them in the best condition.
Although, they will lose pressure overtime, so make sure you check air pressure before jumping on the bike in the spring.
If you don’t plan on storing your bike long term and you don’t know when you’ll ride again, then you may want to consider hanging your bike, to prevent any damage to the tires.
If your bike has a steel frame, you’ll want to use a rust inhibitor to prevent the bike from rusting from the inside out. This can happen whether the bike is in storage of if you’re riding it.
A rust inhibitor can easily prolong the life of frame. The process of applying the rust inhibitor is the same as greasing the bike. Make sure it’s completely clean, lightly lubed, and re-grease.
Inspect your bike and ensure all the bolts on your bike have been properly lubricated to prevent it from rusting while it is in storage. This is especially important if you’re going to be storing your bike outside where it’s cold and it will be exposed to moisture.
Let The Bike Inside
Leave the bike inside for a few hours to ensure that it is completely dry before moving it outside to somewhere where it’s unheated like a shed or garage.
How Do You Store Your Bike For The Winter?
Should you leave the bike inside or the cold shed or garage? Choosing where to store your bike can be a challenge, depending on where you live. Ideally, it’s best to store your bike indoors, however, if you don’t have the room or live in a college dorm, you don’t have any other option but to store your bike outside.
If you have to store your bicycle outside:
- Invest in a good quality bike cover to protect it from the harsh elements.
- Be sure it is safely locked up to prevent anyone from stealing it.
If you have the option of storing your bike in the house, basement, or garage, these are the best options to avoid theft and preserve the condition. Here’s how to store your bike in the garage.
You can also leave your bicycle in the shed, just make sure that your building has a window to avoid moisture from building up, which can cause damage to build up. Covering your bike with a bike cover can help protect it from dust and cobwebs while it’s stored in the backyard shed.
When the bike is stored in the cold, be sure to check the check the tire pressure and pump them up occasionally. This will prevent the tires from forming cracks and other weak spots to keep them in good shape until you’re ready to ride in the spring.
Is The Cold Bad For My Bike?
Cold temperatures are not damaging for the bike, however it can cause your tires to lose air pressure, can reduce the life of batteries in your bike light and other electronic devices.
What can have be damaging for a bicycle is exposing it to frequent shifts from cold to warm conditions. For example leaving the bike outside in the cold and then bringing it into the house, then taking it back outside.
This can cause moisture to condense in the frame, which will eventually lead to rust. If you’re going to be storing your bike in the garage or shed, ensure that you don’t bring it in the house where it’s nice and warm.
Leave it the garage or shed throughout the entire winter where it is won’t be exposed to any temperature changes.
Getting Ready To Ride In The Spring
Now the winter season ends, you’ll want to follow these steps to ensure your bike is ready to be ridden.
- Get a full tune-up: Unless, of course, you followed the steps above before putting your bike in storage for the winter.
- Check your tires: Your bike has likely lost some air pressure so make sure you top them off.
- Re-lubricate the chain: If the bicycle has become dry and the chain sounds noisy, you will want to re-lubricate the chain and drivetrain.
Hopefully, this article has helped understand what steps you need to winterize your bike for the winter before putting it away for the winter. As mentioned above, it’s totally fine to ride your bike in the winter, as long as you stay careful and dress warmly!