Cold weather bike storage: Indoor or out?

For those continuing to commute in the cold weather we’re having in the USA right now, do you bring your bike inside or keep it outside?

A potential problem with bringing your bike in to warm: The snow and slush thaws, then the following morning the dampness refreezes, rendering your brake and shifter cables potentially useless. Bringing a cold bike into a warm house also results in condensation inside the tubes, which may hasten corrosion in steel bikes.

(It was partly frustration over cold weather mechanical problems that prompted me to strip the cables from my old Centurion and convert it to fixed gear several years ago.)

If you do bring your bike indoors, how do you protect your floor? If you normally bring your bike into your work place, have you changed your routine for the cold and wet weather? I’m fortunate enough to have secure, outdoor bike parking, but I know some people park their bikes over a rug or plastic door mat.

What are some cold weather bike parking and storage tips you’d like to share?

Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

0 thoughts on “Cold weather bike storage: Indoor or out?”

  1. getinlost says:

    At home the bikes go in the garage. (cars outside) At work they come in. I have arranged a rack over a janitors slop sink for the run off.

  2. Arleigh says:

    Inside, depending on the level of bike it’s either in the dining room, or in the garage.

  3. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    What dictates where I park my bike is the fear of theft. I have heard about too many bikes stolen from garages, some with a lock on the bike. At home it is parked inside the back door where it is colder, close to freezing. At work, I have plastic on the floor where I park it. It was -10f riding to the bus stop two miles away this morning, my internal gears shifted fine and the rear drum brake stopped the bike. Some time the front V-brake will start to freeze-up, but that is more from snow being packed at the brake as I ride. I know it is hard on my bike, I hope that because it is aluminum all the salt, slush and thaw-freeze-thaw won’t kill it too fast.

  4. jason (sd) says:

    In South Dakota (6 below this morning) the wife and my commuters are aluminum. At home the bikes get put in an un-heated porch year round. We have a vinyl remnant for the drips. At work nothing changes either. They are locked up outside the back door. Unless there is freezing rain, then I will find a spot under a stairway.
    When the cables start to freeze up, I know it is time to do some maintenance I never want to do.

  5. Andrew says:

    I live in Washington State, 15 degrees this morning when I stepped off the front porch. I bring my bike inside at work and at home. At work I have a warehouse that is not heated other then to protect the roof. So the bike does not warm up that much. And at home I keep my bike in the basement. It is a mostly finished basement but there is no heat. In both places I have the luck to have concrete so I do not worry too much about the water dripping on the floor. I do keep some rags on the floor at home so the water does not sit on the concrete. I also try to dry most of the water off the bike at home. This being my first winter commuting I have not had to fight any hard problems yet, so I have very little info to share other then I love having my disc brakes. They have not failed in 821 mile of commuting so far, no matter what the weather is doing.

  6. Rick S. says:

    More than what you do to park your bikes, I’m so impressed that you ride your bikes in such cold weather. What about snow and Ice on the road?

  7. GL Belyea says:

    I’ve found problems either way. Here in Bowmanville, Ontario (east of Toronto) the winter temperatures generally stay below freezing. I store my bike in a shed outside overnight and lock it outside of work during the day if the weather’s not wet. I also try to brush off slush & dirt with an old whisk broom before it freezes up. This, along with regular anointing with White Lightning, I hope will retard the progress corrosion has been making on my chain and derailleurs. However, on a couple of occasions when it’s been wet or slushy on the way home in the evening and the temperature has plunged over night, I’ve found my cables and chain frozen solid in the morning. It would seem to make sense, however, to take one’s batteries or lights inside in order to give them more uumph for the trip home in the dark.

  8. Joel says:

    Currently the bikes are outside at home, locked up outside at BART (the commuter). When I move this weekend the bikes will be almost inside (utility room off the basement, similar insulation to a garage) and will be stored at a bike station at BART.

    Then again, the Bay Area (other than this week when it’s been in the 20s with snow on the peaks) doesn’t get so cold that it leads to mechanical issues.

  9. Joel says:

    re: jason (sd) above –

    On first read I thought you said your wife was aluminum, must be time to head home…

  10. At home, it goes into the garage (to melt and dry overnight). At work, it goes into my office. If it’s slushy, I let it melt and drip mostly dry in the loading dock first. The last thing I want is the caretaking staff complaining about the messy bikes in the building. Luckily, the loading dock staff are bike-friendly, and they even provided me with some short boxes to put in my office to catch drips during the day.

    but the bike’s been at home for a week now. It’s been far too cold to ride (was -46ËšC with windchill yesterday – I don’t ride in that…)

  11. WheelDancer says:

    Ha, I thought Jason(sd) said his wife was aluminum as well.

    I keep my bike in the garage but have a spot in the basement to hose it down if it gets really salty but generally prefer to let the salt stay frozen and not risk the cable seize folks have mentioned. My commute takes me many places since I am a contractor, some indoors where I rinse the salt off with my water bottle as long as it didn’t freeze. Other companies have a spot in the parking ramp and I am discussing a contract where there is no ramp and no where for bikes so they all get locked to trees, signs etc. Pretty tough in the winter here in MN.

  12. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    @ Rick S, I ride every single day, if not 8 miles, one way, to work then 2 mile to the bus stop and then to the grocery store after work and on weekends. Yesterday the roads were much better as most of the snow had melted, but last night and to day we got ~3″. I have a generator hub so I always have lights, a full chaincase so my chain is protected, an internal 8 speed hub, a rear drum brake and studded snow tires. Then I tend to over dress as I did this morning in the -10f. Comming home this evening the roads were very bad, still I out ran cars : ) still on the snow cars churn up my bike did do a little dancing, but no falls. Oh, I also ride on the road so my bike picks up lots of salt : (

  13. Mike in Mpls says:

    This is off topic, but I’m wondering what Paul in Minneapolis wears at -10F. I always have trouble with my nose, cheeks, eyes in temps lower than 0. What is the trick?

  14. Phil says:

    I park the bike outside in a garage at home. At work, there’s a well-covered shed for bikes and, really, horse drawn buggies. I park on the buggy side since my Xtracycle outfitted bike is too long to conveniently park on the bike side of the shed.

    Here’s a bit more of an explanation:

    I don’t ride below 15 F. My commute is only 2.5 miles one way, but much of it is uphill and to the North from my home. This often means biking into the wind at 6:00 a.m. – the coldest time of the day. The combination of low temps, stiff headwinds, and uphill is simply too much for this late 40’s biker.

  15. welshcyclist says:

    Well, I don’t have to suffer the weather most of you fellow cyclists have to face on your commute, I’d like to congratulate you all on the way you keep going. Here in Wales, as I said we don’t face the cold weather, days on end, just the occasional couple of days. I’ve been commuting on my bike for best part of 3 years now, I try to keep it going no matter what the weather throws at me. But I’ve had 2 nasty falls on ice in the las fortnight, and had to stay off work for a week. Quite frankly I’m apprehensive about riding my bike now, even at the least sign of a frost.

  16. WheelDancer says:

    welshcyclist lays out why I put on studs early and leave them on late. I was terrified to ride when ice was a possibility and now I look forward to riding and don’t have any fear of ice wipe outs (and don’t have any either!)

  17. xcskimt (Robert) says:

    More snow today in Green Bay WI and 2 degrees F. I park my bike in the unheated garage and park it in the bike rack at work. I try to brush and frozen debris away at the end of the ride. At the end of the week the bike comes in for a wipe down of the frame from all the salt and grit.

  18. Scott R. says:

    This is my first winter commuting. My employer provides outdoor, but covered wave bike racks with a security camera nearby. At home I park the bike in my unheated garage. So far, my bike’s never been rained on unless I was riding it, and will never get covered with falling snow.

    I got to use my studded tired this morning in Omaha with a few inches of snow on the streets. It’s amazing how well those work. It was well worth the investment.

  19. dan says:

    first off, i store my bikes in the barn, they stay cold all the time.

    another negative of storing bikes warm, then riding outside:
    if your bike is warm, and its snowy out its really common for the snow to stick to the rims, then melt on the rims, then freeze when the bike chills. then you have a nice layer of ice on your braking surface rendering yer brakes useless! another reason to ride fixed gear in the winter.

  20. Nicole says:

    At home my commuter lives in an outdoor unheated bike shed. At work it sits outside.

    The only problem I’ve had with the recent cold temps (around -10F Mon. and Tues. of this week) is the lock on the shed freezing up. The bike itself continues to tick along fantastically.

  21. Demetri says:

    My wife & I in Brooklyn New York keep our bikes under the stone entry steps in front of our townhouse. It is unheated but totally protected from precipitation. It also has a strong steel gate which makes it well protected. It is also on ground level so we don’t have to carry the bike up stairs; we are lucky.
    We don’t get as much snow here in NYC as you MN folks and occasional thaws usually melt accumulations within a few weeks. The winter here has temperatures varying from comfortable (45-35) to very cold (0-15 degrees) with occasional warm days (50 and up). My wife is a MN native and my understanding is that once it gets cold there, it stays cold all year.

  22. Fritz says:

    Mike in MPLS — I’ve gone as low as -20, but not on a regular basis and only for very short distances. I’m comfortable for moderate distances with my gear down to about zero degrees F / -20C

  23. Chris says:

    I’m in Chicago, and the bike goes in a semi-heated condo building garage at home but unfortunately stays outside all day at work. Like Nicole wrote, the main problem I’ve had with temperature is my lock becomes temperamental. Otherwise, just watch out for ice, and winter riding is fine.

  24. David says:

    I live in the Washington DC Metro Area (Alexandria, VA). Right now, I toss by Schwinn commuter in the back of my Ford Explorer when I arrive home. At work, I lock it up in a standard unheated underground office parking garage.

    So, is there a consensus on this issue? Would it be better to leave my bike outside all the time, rather than having the bike exposed to alternating inside/outside elements? It would seem that with a steel bike, in particular, you would not want to leave that outside.

  25. siouxgeonz says:

    My garage is a reasonable compromise (it’s unheated, tho’ seems a bit insulated since that water bottle was still rolling the first really frigid day… and still frozen when things outside had thawed). Still, if I have to do something like ductape a headlight on, I pull it in and stick it in the kitchen, and cry about the crap all over the vinyl and toss that sheet I was going to make a rag out of anyway underneath and laugh at what the guy coming to paint my ceiling will think when the bike is gone and the floor has those odd stains and there’s a completely nastified sheet in the kitchen corner.
    Tonight it’s back to the garage… tomorrow it’s down to the bike co-op where I”ll clean it up a bit.

  26. kelpy bikist says:

    The cold weather here in northern NH (-5F-20F) causes derailleur problems, incomplete shifting, de-chaining, I now realize from reading this and other cold weather biking forums.

    Whether the frame, the cable and the derailleur all contract, or what … all four of the mountain bikes I use have difficulties. I commute over icy, snowy, sandy, gravelly streets and sidewalks, flat-terrain thankfully in this mountain valley. I thought I was losing my mind or my mechanical ability after carefully adjusting the derailleurs in my 70F kitchen at night, only to then have a de-chaining less than a block from the house the next morning.

    I keep my bikes in the kitchen on thick coconut mats, to drain the snow and salt, and catch the sand and gravel. The whole process of taking the bikes out to the verandah in freezing weather to tune up the derailleurs to the cold temps I ride in seems too much for me at this point, so I have reached a compromise tuning, where each bike works in the two or three gears I need to get there and back, but then slips or de-chains if I attempt more gear access.

    The auto-bike (autmatic transmission) I can use only when the temps are above 27F, otherwise she throws herself into neutral, and you have to walk home once she gets cold. Pity, since hers are the most agressive tires.

    Sometimes, on the 29 Mantis Colosus I can hold the cable tension to a point where it shifts without slipping, put that is a hassle.

    Thanks for this forum!

  27. Mark says:

    I’ve tried a number of different options over the years. My favourite choice is an outdoor metal store. When I lived in a second floor flat there really wasn’t an option to bring my bike in every day. The landlord was happy for my to fit one of the metal stores outside. One problem I did encounter was that there was a build up of condensation inside the store. Some mornings I’d come down and it would literally be dripping wet!

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


40% Off Croozer Trailers while supplies last Buy Now

Scroll to Top