Bikes, just like any other means of transportation, are subject to wear and tear. If you want your bike to break less and last longer, you need to give it some good old TLC — Tender Loving Care.
One of the most common concerns among bike owners is whether or not their bikes will rust in the rain. This concern is particularly common for those who live in northern climates where rain, and sometimes snow, are a reality of daily cycling.
The short answer is yes, bikes can rust in the rain. Bikes are meant to be used outside and they can get rained on. But if you don’t dry yours after riding in the rain, its parts may corrode and rust faster.
Let’s go over exactly how rain affects your bike, and look at some of the best ways to minimize rain-related damage.
Why Bikes and Rain Don’t Get Along
Before we discuss how rain affects your bike, you need to know two things:
The first is that bikes with metal parts are prone to corrosion and rust. Corrosion happens to all metals, and it’s the result of the metal oxidizing on the surface due to exposure to the oxygen in the air. Rust is oxidation that only occurs with iron and its alloys. It requires air and water to take place.
Alluminum has almost no iron, so it can corrode, but it won’t rust. Steel is an iron alloy, so it can corrode and rust. Stainless steel is a special type of alloy resistant to corrosion, but not fully immune to rust.
The second is that all bikes have metal parts to one extent or another. Yes, if your bike has a carbon fiber frame, it will nary corrode nor rust because carbon fiber isn’t even a metal. But think of all the other parts on your bike that do have metal, and you’ll understand why every bike eventually falls victim to corrosion and rust.
- Bikes with metal parts tend to corrode and rust.
- Corrosion affects aluminum and rust affects steel (and iron alloys as a whole).
- All bikes, even those with a carbon fiber frame, have metal parts.
How Rain Affects Your Bike
Rainwater isn’t pure water. It’s vapor that turns into water droplets that fall to the ground.
The water droplets contain water, minerals, and all sorts of dissolved acids and chemical pollutants in the air. In other words, rain has everything you don’t want on your bike, especially in liquid form.
The likelihood of your bike rusting in the rain depends on several factors, such as the type of metal the bike is made of, the type of finish on the bike, and the amount of exposure to water and oxygen. As a bike owner, you want to minimize the effects of all of these.
For example, bikes made of steel are more likely to rust than those made of aluminum. And bikes with a protective finish are less likely to rust than those without a finish. Scratched paint is the easiest way to invite corrosion to an aluminum, steel, or even titanium frame.
- Rain contains water, acids, and chemical pollutants.
- Systematically exposing a bike to rain promotes corrosion and rust.
- If you want your bike to last longer, you need to minimize the effects of rain.
How to Protect Your Bike From Rain
By taking these steps, you can help prevent rust and extend the life of your bike:
Keep your bike dry, greased, and lubricated:
When it’s raining, take two clean rags with you — one for your way to wherever you’re going and one for when you’re back home — and use them to dry the bike. Keep the chain lubricated and the bearings and bushings greased so there’s a barrier between them and the rainwater.
Store it in a dry and sheltered location if you can:
It’s also a good idea to store the bike in a dry and sheltered location whenever it isn’t in use. Find a spot with a roof and, preferably, a wall to keep the wind from blowing rainwater onto your bike. And lock it inside a shed, building, sheltered garage, or underground parking if you can.
Get a bike cover and cover the bike with it whenever it’s raining:
Use a bike cover or rainproof bike bag to protect your bike when it is being transported or stored outside. These are inexpensive and don’t take up much space when they aren’t in use. They’re absolutely worth it when you consider the sheer amount of damage they protect your bike’s metal parts from.
Remove rust before it spreads and weakens the metal:
Use a rust dissolver or rust removal product to remove any rust that has already formed on your bike. These products can help remove rust and restore the metal to its original condition, or at least close.
Don’t let rust stay. It makes the metal bubble up and weakens it from the inside. This can be dangerous for parts that carry weight or are subject to force, like your bike’s frame.
- Store your bike in a dry and sheltered place
- Keep the exterior parts dry and the interior parts greased or lubricated
- Use a bike cover if you need to transport the bike or store it outside
- Get rid of rust early so it doesn’t spread and weaken the metal