I get it – you spent good $$ on a decent bike and get to college or your apartment in the city and discover you’ve got to store your bike – outside in the rain. 

Will the rain screw up your bike? Overtime – yes, but with some care and creativity the damage won’t be so bad. 

Luckily I’ve got you covered (get it “Covered”)

The Impact of Rain on Bikes

From my experience, rain can be a bike’s worst enemy. I remember leaving my bike out in a downpour once, and the results weren’t pretty. The rims got wet, which messed with the braking efficiency.

The bike computer, lights, batteries, and other electronic components suffered too. The rain didn’t cause immediate damage, but I noticed rust on the mechanical parts a while later.

DIY MTB Pro Tip: Learn how to grease and lube your bike.  I’ve got a complete article that guides you through all the nitty gritty details 👉 Greasing and Lubricating Your Bike a Complete Guide

Factors Influencing the Impact of Rain

The damage rain can cause to your bike depends on several factors. I’ve found that the duration of exposure, the type of bike, and the quality of bike parts can all influence the extent of the damage.

For instance, if your bike is left unprotected for long periods, rain can significantly damage a bicycle’s chain, cassette, and derailleur through rust and corrosion. I’ve seen bikes with uncoated steel parts and cheap cables get damaged more than those with rustproof stainless steel or chrome parts.

Preventive Rain Damage and Proper Storage

If you must leave your bike exposed to the elements, including rainwater, make sure it is well-protected. I’ve found some great bike covers on the market that fit my bike perfectly. When you cover the bike, make sure you secure it tightly. I also try to park and lock my bike in a space that is at least somewhat protected.

Bike Storage Options

With your bike clean lubed locked and covered your ready for the elements
With your bike clean lubed locked and covered your ready for the elements

I’ve found a few bike storage solutions that have worked wonders for me. Here are three storage options that can help protect your bike from the elements and keep it in great shape for your next ride. Trust me, your bike will thank you!

If you need to store your bike for extended times, read this article 👉 How to Store Your Bike Outside

  1. Bike Cover: A good quality bike cover can protect your bike from the elements and help prevent rust and corrosion. It’s a cost-effective solution if you don’t have a lot of space. For the money the 👉 Puroma Bike Cover works amazing.
  2. Bike Storage Shed: If you have enough space, a bike storage shed can provide excellent protection from the elements. It’s a more permanent solution than a bike cover and can also provide additional storage space for other items.
  3. Creative Storage Solutions: If traditional storage options aren’t feasible, you might need to get creative. The article suggests several ideas, including storing your bike under a bed or in a closet, disassembling the bike to reduce its size, storing it in the trunk of your car, using a bike hanger to store it on a wall or ceiling, or even asking a friend or your landlord if they have any extra storage space.
Clean your bike after a rain, then lubricate chain, cassette and derailleur
Clean your bike after a rain, then lubricate chain, cassette and derailleur

Maintenance Tips for Bikes Exposed to Rain

After your bike has been exposed to rain, it’s important to clean it properly. I’ve learned that dirt, dust, moisture, and slush can contribute to chain wear and rusting.

Get a Free Maintenance Checklist 👉 Bike Maintenance Checklist PDF

I always clean my bike and lubricate the drivetrains regularly. If I notice that the paint on my frames is starting to wear off, I consider recoating them.

  1. Pre-Ride Check: Before every ride, perform a quick 4-point check: lubricate the chain, check tire pressure, test brakes, and adjust quick-release skewers. If you have more time, also check the brake pads for wear, ensure the wheels spin freely without brake rub or a bent rim, test the drivetrain by shifting through the gears, and inspect the tire surface for rips or cracks.
  2. Post-Ride Maintenance: After every ride, wash and dry your bike, tighten any loose bolts, degrease components using a biodegradable degreaser, and lubricate the chain, bushings, pulleys, and pivot points. Also, perform a drop check to listen for any abnormal sounds that might indicate issues.
  3. Regular Chain Check: The bike chain is under tremendous pressure and over time it will wear especially if rain and rust occur. This can lead to poor shifting and other chain problems.
    The easiest method to measure a chain is with a chain gauge.  If the gauge drops in, you know it’s bad and you should replace your chain.
  4. Brake Pad Inspection: For rim brakes, the pads have grooves in them. When these grooves disappear, it is time to change the pads. Disc brakes pads should have at least a dime’s width pad thickness. Replace them when they are just under that width.
  5. Long-Term Maintenance: Every 4-6 months, check your cables and housing, inspect the rear wheel cassette for looseness or play, check the derailleur hanger for damage, inspect tire tread depth and signs of damage, and dismantle and re-grease wheel, headset, and bottom bracket bearings.

MTB Tools I Love and Recommend

Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure

I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.

  • Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand.  Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential.  I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it.  This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur.  Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
  • A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit.  Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained.  The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider.  Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
  • Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure.  A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not.  Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use.  An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
  • Carry a multitool with you on every ride.  I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool.  I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works.   Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19

FAQs for Bikes in the Rain

How Long Can You Leave Your Bike in the Rain?

Bicycles are designed to be ridden in the rain. I’ve ridden in the rain countless times, and my bike has always held up well. However, leaving your bike to marinate in the rain for days on end exposes your bike directly to the rain coming from the sky; it also leaves it vulnerable to standing rainwater that may accumulate around it.

Lube for your bike chain
Lube for your bike chain

Are Bikes Waterproof?

From my experience, fully mechanical bikes are reasonably water-resistant. This means you won’t have any trouble from just riding in the rain for a while, as long as you dry off and store your bike properly afterwards.

Do Bike Brakes Work in the Rain?

Your bike’s braking system is another component that is sensitive to rainwater. I’ve found that brakes work by pressing the brake pads against the wheel. But if rainwater or mud gets between them, the brakes will not work the way that they should. This problem is especially bad with rim brakes. Learn how to clean your brakes 👉 Cleaning Your Disc Brakes

What Wears Out in the Rain?

Rainwater can do serious damage to your bicycle seat, especially if it is without a waterproof cover. I’ve had a bike seat that began to fall apart after being saturated with rainwater, and it was simply unsightly

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

How to Store a Bike Outside

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.

Storing a bike outside on a patio
Storing a bike outside on a patio

Keep Your Bike Dry for Longer Life

While a bike can technically be left in the rain for a short period, it’s not an ideal situation. Prolonged exposure to rain can cause significant damage, including rusting and degradation of the bike’s mechanical parts. Even the bike’s seat and electronic components are not immune to the damaging effects of rain.

However, it’s important to remember that with the right precautions and care, these risks can be mitigated. Using a bike cover, storing your bike in a dry and secure location, and performing regular maintenance are all crucial steps in preserving the longevity of your bike.

In essence, the answer to the question “Can a bike be left in the rain?” is yes, but it’s not recommended without taking proper precautions. As a bike owner, it’s my responsibility to ensure that my bike is well-protected and maintained, rain or shine. By doing so, I ensure that my bike remains a reliable mode of transportation for years to come.


David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE.