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What Happens if a Bike is Left Out in the Rain for a Long Time?

A bike left out in the rain in a park.

Your bicycle is a steely and sturdy vehicle. It gets you from one place to another without any problems. So, it may seem as though it can take a bit of rough weather. This is simply not the case. Prolonged exposure to rain can do serious damage to your bike.

If you live in a house without a garage or an apartment that has no parking space for bikes and you are unable to take it upstairs, then the next best thing may be for you to lock it to some secure object outdoors. Unfortunately, the rain eventually comes to even the sunniest of places; and if the rain is especially relentless over a long period of time, it may cause problems with your bike.

What Happens if a Bike is Left in the Rain for a Long Time?

Bikes park in the bridge in the middle of the rain.

Rain water is one of the most corrosive elements in existence. It degrades, weakens, and destroys any object that it comes into contact with for a long period of time. Here are some of the things that can happen to your bike if you leave it out in the rain for too long.

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1. Moving Parts Become Less Efficient

The bike chain, derailleur, and gears on your bike may become clogged with mud and dirt blown into them from a rain storm. If this happens, these parts will become less efficient in their performance and will wear down faster.

2. Damage to Electronics

Most electronics on your bike are waterproof to a certain degree. However, the lights and computers on your bike are not designed to withstand pounding rain water indefinitely. To figure out how waterproof your bike is, look at its Ingress Protection (IP) Rating. You may have to do some digging to get this information, as most manufacturers don’t put this rating on the bike.

3. Your Bike Frame Will Rust

An old bike with rusted frame.

One of the biggest blows to your bike will be the development of rust. Rain water will cause a steel frame to corrode, and can even cause rust in an aluminium frame that is not rust proof. Even if the steel has rust-resistant paint, the latter may begin to peel off after prolonged exposure to rain and leave the bike unprotected.

4. Your Brakes Will Become Less Efficient

Your bike’s braking system is another component that is sensitive to rain water. You will recall that brakes work by pressing the brake pads against the wheel. But if rain water or mud gets between them, the brakes will not work the way that they should. This problem is especially bad with rim brakes.

If you have disc brakes, things may be a little better. However, you should not take a chance.

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5. The Seat Will Wear Out

A bike left outside in the rain, and a wet bike seat.

Rain water can do serious damage to your bicycle seat, especially if it is without a waterproof cover. A sagging seat is uncomfortable. A bike seat that begins to fall apart after being saturated with rain water is simply unsightly.

6. Your Chain Will Rust

In addition to rusting the bike’s frame, rain water will also rust your chain. The breakdown of bearings and bolts attached to your pedal chain is also a distinct possibility.

What is the Difference Between Riding and Storing a Bike in the Rain?

Bikes park outside the street with plastic as cover.

It is important not to confuse the two. Bicycles are designed to be ridden in the rain. The assumption is that such a commute would be limited, and the various parts and equipment on your bike are designed to withstand a brief period of showers. Indeed, you can even leave your bike in the rain for a day without causing irreparable damage.

The above situations differ significantly from leaving your bike to marinate in the rain for days on in. Doing so not only exposes your bike directly to the rain coming from the sky; it also leaves it vulnerable to standing rain water that may accumulate around it. Indeed, the latter is probably the most pernicious in that it will slowly eat away at the all the metal parts on your bike.

If You Must Leave Your Bicycle in the Rain

There may be any number of reasons why you must leave your bike exposed to the elements, including rain water. If this is the case, then you should ensure it is well-protected.

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There is an entire industry now dedicated to the production of bike covers. No matter the size and shape of your bike, it is possible to find a cover that will fit it. When you cover the bike, make sure you secure it tightly. You should also keep in mind that the cover can turn your bicycle into a wind sock, so try to park and lock your bike in a space that is at least somewhat protected. Firsttour Heavy Duty Ripstop Material Bike Covers Outdoor Storage Waterproof for 2 Bikes, Dust-Proof, Anti-UV, Ripstop Material, Heavy Duty Bicycle Cover, Black

Another option is to see if you can locate a local bicycle shelter. More and more people have made bicycles their primary means of travel. Unfortunately, the number of public facilities for sheltering bikes has not kept up.

Bicycle enthusiasts have taken matters into their own hands, and have built or claimed and repurposed spaces for storing bikes. Trendy, upscale, urban neighborhood tend to be the places where you find these kinds of shelters.

The bottom line is that it is a bad idea to leave your bicycle in the rain for a long time. It can do permanent damage the vehicle.