Your mountain bike has served you well all summer – making you more fit, taking you on grand adventures, and overall making you feel great. Now, it’s time to return the favor and prepare your cycling buddy for a long winter’s rest. Storing your mountain bike in the off season, for the most part, requires low maintenance. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect it from damage and ensure it’ll be in great shape for riding next season.
Our professional, friendly bike techs at Christy Sports recommend the following:
Storing Your Mountain Bike
First and foremost, definitely DO NOT let your mountain bike sit outside all winter. Rather, store your bike in a space that is either dry or low-humidity. All bikes – mountain, all-terrain, and street bikes alike – are vulnerable to direct moisture and humidity, so it’s important they are stored in a low humidity environment. Even when stored in outdoor sheds or on balconies, bikes are susceptible to moisture, leading to moving parts rusting out and tire rubber deteriorating more quickly.
We recommend storing mountain bikes either indoors, or in a dry concrete garage, basement, gear shed, or storage unit. If you live in an apartment or condo, where prime living space is limited, you can hang your bike by using bicycle hooks, elevating it by the frame.
TIP: If you are hanging a bike at home, be sure to account for the bike’s weight and your home’s wall quality, and buy the appropriate hooks. You don’t want your bike to come crashing down!! Also, purchase hooks coated in rubber so you don’t scratch your bike or the wall.
Winterizing Your Mountain Bike
Once you have decided on the perfect storage space, now it’s time to prepare your mountain bike for winter storage.
- Remove Water Bottles, Electronics, Etc.: Remove and empty water bottles and hydration packs, as well as remove electronic devices and any other items you may have been using on your bike. Store these items in a warm, dry place through the winter.
- Inflate Tires: This is especially important if you plan to store your bike resting on its tires, rather than hanging it. If your tires are low or flat at the end of the season, the weight of the bike presses down through the rims on the rubber and will likely deteriorate your tires over time. The rubber can become distorted or develop a weak spot in the side wall. Also, check tires periodically as they may lose pressure over the long winter months. If the tires should deflate in cold conditions, the sidewalls of the tires are likely to crack when you pump them back up in the spring.
TIP: The proper air pressure or PSI (pounds per square inch) for your tires can be found printed on the sidewall of the tire.
- Give Your Bike a Proper Cleaning: Before you put your bike away for the winter, thoroughly clean it using these simple items: a bucket of warm water, bike cleaner (or a tough dishwashing liquid) and bike lubricant, degreaser, a sponge or bike cleaning brushes, and some old towels.
Apply the bike cleaner or dishwashing liquid to the sponge and wipe everything down, including the frame, tires, handgrips, and saddle. Dip a chain brush into the degreaser and scrub the gear cassette, jockey wheels, chain rings and chain itself. Next, brush the rims, including the breaking area of the rims, making sure no bike cleaner is left behind. Rinse the entire bike with clean, warm water and wipe down with sponge. Finally, dry your bike thoroughly with towels.
TIP: Don’t use a pressure washer or spray with a water hose as both can force water where it shouldn’t go and damage and/or rust the components of your bike.
- Inspect Your Bike for Damage: As you clean your bike, this is the perfect opportunity to inspect it for damage. Start by checking for overall soundness and structural integrity. Inspect the frame for any signs of cracks or metal fatigue, especially around weld spots and on the bottom bracket. This part of your bike supports a lot of weight and, depending on the type of riding you do, can cause great stress.
Next, inspect the wheels, tires, and brake pads, keeping an eye out for loose or broken spokes on the wheels. Spin the wheels to see if they turn straight with no sharp veering from side to side, and no rubbing against the brake pads. If your wheels don’t spin true, it’s probably time to take your bike in for a tune up.
- Lubricate Cables and Chain
Off-season is also an ideal time to clean your cables and chain to get rid of all the dirt and grime accumulated over the summer. Plus, lubricating these will help protect against rust and corrosion, and will have you ready to go when it’s time to ride again in the spring.
Pour a few drops of light lubricant onto an old towel, then rub on exposed cable and lightly work through the cable housing. To avoid your brakes from popping when you take your bike out in the spring, lubricate the cables that control the brakes and shifting mechanisms.
When choosing a lubricant, keep in mind a light bike lubricant is preferred. Oil that is too thick will attract excess dirt. On the other hand, oil that is too thin will dissipate quickly and won’t hold.
TIP: Don’t over-lubricate – this can lead to poor performance and damage bike components.
- Cover Your Bike
Once you have completely winterized your mountain bike for storage, it’s time to say goodbye and cover up your trusty ‘ol friend for the off season. If you are storing your bike in the garage, or concrete gear shed or storage unit, it’s best to use a canvas cover. Even if you store your bike indoors – in your condo or apartment, or in your basement – where it seems safe and nothing can harm it, it’s beneficial to cover your bike to avoid small particles of dust that may compromise any moving parts.
TIP: Mountain bike covers are also a convenient choice for transporting your ride in/on the car to protect it from dirt, mud, sand, road salt, and any other elements.
Follow these tips, and you will have both a happy bike and rider ready to go that much quicker next biking season!