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How to Prepare Your Bike for Storage

A lone red bicycle parked outside at a bike rack in front of a bush.

For college students, bikes are a great way to get around campus. They are inexpensive, sustainable, and quicker than walking from class to class. But there will come a time when you’ll need to put it away for a few months. Maybe you live somewhere that gets heavy snow during the winter, or you’re getting ready to go home for the summer. Or maybe you’re even preparing for an exciting semester abroad. No matter the reason, we have some tips to help you get your bike stored away and keep it in good condition for when you come back.

Clean Up and Tune-Up

Before you stow your bike away for a few months, it’s important to clean it up and do some maintenance first. This will help preserve your bike and prevent any wear and tear from happening while you’re gone. If you use your bike frequently, it has probably gathered some dirt and grime, so giving it a little cleaning won’t hurt!

If you aren’t interested in cleaning up your bike yourself, you can always take it to a bike shop for maintenance. You will usually be charged somewhere around $150 for the service. But if you are in the DIY mood and ready to get scrubbing, read ahead for some tips on how to perform a tune-up of your own.

How to Clean Your Bike

You don’t have to be an expert in order to clean your bike. The entire process is pretty easy, but it comes with quite a few steps. Here’s a quick little guide to help you through it.

Materials You’ll Need

  • Rags
  • Cleaning brushes
  • Soapy water
  • Degreaser
  • Bike Lubricant
  • Rubbing alcohol

Start with the Frame

Try to knock off any hard pieces of dirt and mud from the frame before you go to wipe it down. Once you get the bigger pieces of debris off, it should be easy to clean your bike with a rag and some warm, soapy water. If your bike is feeling a little greasy or grimy, take a few drops of degreaser to it with a clean rag.

Washing the frame of your bike also gives you a chance to inspect it. While wiping it down, keep an eye out for any metal fatigue or cracks. Double check the bottom bracket of your bike, since this is the part that holds the bulk of your body weight.

Cleaning Your Drivetrain

A drivetrain is the area on your bike where the chain, cassette, and crank work together to get the wheels moving. This area will need a little extra love and care.

A great way to get effective results without tarnishing the metal is by using rubbing alcohol. But in most cases, a little degreaser and a rag is good enough to clean up the chain. If the chain is too heavily used, it might be time for a replacement.

The important thing to remember is that the bike chain needs to be lubricated. This helps with the overall performance of your bike, as well as preserving its condition. Once you get your chain cleaned and degreased, apply a few drops of lubricant onto the chain. Be sure to wipe off any excess lubricant so your bike doesn’t attract any extra dirt.

Lubricating Your Cables

The break and shift cables in your bike impact your braking and chain movement. It is important to keep these cables lubricated so that your bike can function as normal. Lubricating these cables also helps prevent rust.

These cables are easily accessible through the quick release on the brakes and frame attachments. With a little pulling you should be able to get some of the cable exposed. Once you some get the cable out, you can use a few drops of lubricant and work it through the cable housing.

If you keep the cable vertical, the oil will coat the housing on its own. Once you apply some lubricant, go ahead and slide the cable back into its housing and reconnect it to the bike.

Tire Care

Turn your bike upside down and wipe your tires, then do a quick search for any broken spokes. Now give the tires a spin. The wheel should spin straight, without wobbling or moving side-to-side. They also shouldn’t be rubbing against the brake pads. If you notice your tires doing either of these things, it may be time to take your bike in for some maintenance.

Once you get all that out of the way, it’s time to fill your tires. This is especially important if you plan on having your bike rest on its wheels. The weight of the bike can lead to long term wear and tear to your tires, which can create weak spots and cracks. Ideally, if you can hang your bike up, this is the best way to protect your wheels.

Remove All Batteries and Water Bottles

Before you store your bike, be mindful of removing all lights and water bottles. Both have the potential to leak. Battery acid can cause some serious damage, so be diligent and remove any lights before storage. Water can also lead to rust, as well as the potential to get a little funky when left alone for an extended period. Basically, nothing should be left on your bike if it has the potential to leak.

Figure Out Where to Store It

Okay, so you got the hard part out of the way. Now, your bike is ready for storage! But as a college student, you have limited options. Don’t worry, we got you covered no matter what your options are.

Outdoor Storage

Storing your bike outdoors isn’t ideal, but sometimes it’s the only choice you have, especially if you live in a dorm. Whatever you do, try to avoid just allowing your bike to sit outside with no protection. With a good lock, it’s okay to leave your bike outside for a few days, but for extended periods of time you are going to need additional ways to protect it.

Bike covers are a great way to give your bike shelter from rain, heat, and other potentially harmful conditions. These covers come with stretchy straps that make it easier to secure your bike.

If you are looking for a cheaper version of a bike cover, a tarp is a great alternative. You need to make sure that it is capable of withstanding harsh winds. It is also a good idea to get something to tie it down with, like an elastic rope of some kind. And don’t forget to lock up!

Indoor Storage

It is possible to store a bike in a small apartment. If you are looking for ways to keep your bike indoors, hanging it up is a great way to save floorspace. If you are looking for renter-friendly ways to keep your bike hung up, a bike bunk or bike tree are some great options.

The size of your wheels may not be compatible with standard sizes of bike racks. If you find that your wheels are larger than normal, be sure to find racks that can accommodate the larger size.

Be mindful of where you attempt to mount your bike. Handlebars and wheels both could block a door, or even mark up your walls. When selecting the area for storage, make sure you see if your bike can fit comfortably without making it hard for you to open doors or move around.

If you are looking for a way to have more freedom on how your bike is hung up, hooks and hangers are the most versatile option. They aren’t very pretty, but hooks and hangers can help you hang a bike anywhere, like under the stairs, from the ceiling, or even in a closet. Be aware that these will also require you to drill some holes in your wall.

Storage Facilities

As a college student, sometimes you just don’t have the space for everything, especially when you are trying to pack everything up for the summer. In situations like this, storing your extra items in a self-storage unit just makes sense. Bikes aren’t the only thing you can store for the summer, and many college students opt to utilize storage facilities to hold their belongings for a few months.

Collegeboxes can store your bike for as low as $20 a month, and that even includes pickup and delivery! It’s kept in a clean, dry, and secure U-Haul facility until you are ready to come pick it up. Depending on how many things you want to store with us, we can also swing by and pick up your belongings for you. Save yourself from the heavy lifting and let us share the load.

Storing your items is also a sustainable option. Storing your items in a local storage facility will cut down on carbon emissions and fossil fuels. Did you know that Collegeboxes also offers eco-friendly moving supplies? We have a wide range of supplies for you to choose from, so moving sustainably has never been easier.

No matter how you choose to store your bike, try to make sure you are taking care of it before you lock it up. The most important part of bike storage is doing the maintenance in order to keep it looking and running its best. And while we might not be bike experts, Collegeboxes is here to help you with all your shipping, packing, and storing needs, 24/7!