Summary: To minimize weather and dirt damage, keep your bike indoors or under cover, dry it when not in use, clean the moving parts regularly and ride it often. See below for the full list of steps you can take to protect your bike and maximise its lifespan and condition.
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by David Spinks
1. Adopt simple, regular habits
- Bicycles are a lot simpler than cars to maintain but still have critical parts that you'll need to keep in good condition if you want to have a safe, reliable and enjoyable ride. There are simple steps or habits you can adopt to protect your bike and keep it low maintenance.
2. Park it inside or in protected areas
- The greatest damage done to bikes comes from leaving them exposed for long periods to harsh weather, particularly moisture, which leads to rust. Keep your bike inside a building or closed garage if feasible. If not, park it in a location with maximum cover. However, occasional rain is no big deal and can even help (see #6).
3. Use it or spin it regularly
- Moisture damage (especially rust) occurs when the affected surfaces are stationary. If you use your bike frequently you will naturally inhibit this damage to moving parts. If you don't, even a quick spin of the wheels/chain is worthwhile.
4. Wipe down moisture regularly
- If the key areas (e.g. moving parts) got wet and you won't be riding the bike again for several hours, try and make a habit to wipe down the areas most subject to rust (chain, cogs, axle nuts, etc.). E.g. A fine rust layer on the chain can appear overnight if the chain is left wet. But if you give it a quick wipe dry, there'll be no rust.
5. Wipe off dirt/grit from moving parts/areas
- Dirt and grit wears down moving parts (primarily chains and cogs) much faster than if they are clean. Use a rag to wipe down the chain, cogs and other areas where dirt comes into contact with moving parts. E.g. Brake pads wear down quicker if the pads and rims have dirt on them.
6. Don't be scared of rain and clean water!
- Just as rinsing boats and cars with fresh water helps protect them from rust, so too with bikes - particularly the hard to get to nooks. Salts (from perspiration) can get trapped in these nooks. So riding in the rain or rinsing with water can help. Just dry it after and ride it often.
7. Don't worry excessively about non-functional wear/rust
- Those who love their bike can get obsessive about cleaning it or, even worse, not using it if it means . But a little rust on the frame or non-functional areas is no big deal. Cycling is meant to be low maintenance not high maintenance.
8. Buy a quality bike that isn't too expensive
- The lowest quality bikes (from eBay or cheap Department stores) are incredibly susceptible to rust and damage due to poor quality parts and treatment. Buy a quality bike but don't spend too much so that you don't use it as often as you could. See > What type of bike should I buy?
9. Install fenders/mudguards on your bike
- These help prevent dirt getting sprayed all over your bike in wet conditions.
10. Use anti-rust products if needed
- For particularly susceptible parts use a rust protection or removal product.