Author Topic: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?  (Read 7333 times)

fallstoclimb

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Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« on: August 27, 2014, 07:30:53 AM »
I'm looking to buy a commuter/light touring bike and am leaning towards steel.  (Bikes are justified splurges in my worldview!).  I wish I could find one used but unfortunately I am a petite lady and the supply just isn't there -- I've been keeping an eye out for months on craigslist for something in my size with no luck.  I'm concerned about my ability to even test ride anything before preordering but I'm going to start doing the bike shop rounds soon.

HOWEVER, when I commute to work I have to lock my bike up outside -- security guards won't let me bring it in.  I'm not too worried about security, I use a heavy u-lock and there's cameras and often guards outside (federal building), but there's no protection from the rain.  I won't bike in when its pouring out but the bike will definitely get rained on sometimes and then have to sit out for 8-9 hours before I can get it home and deal with it.

Under these circumstances, should I not go with a steel bike?  Or will it be fine as long as I wipe it down when I get home?  I've never had steel before but it seems to be the most popular type of touring bike (which also makes me feel like it must be OK in the rain, because of course you'll be rained on when touring!).

sheepstache

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2014, 07:37:07 AM »
Steel bike club here!

The paint enamel should protect the frame but your gears and chain will still get rusted from the rain eventually.

In Japan I saw, I'm not sure what they're called, but they could be called bike ponchos.  Like a thin plastic tarp tailored to bike shape.  I bet you could make one out of garbage bags or plastic shopping bags if you were really interested and wanted to be crafty.

Update: Here are some: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3ABicycle%20Covers
              Honestly it's not disastrous to leave it outside but if you're interested, it should preserve the life of the bike a bit.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2014, 07:41:26 AM by sheepstache »

fallstoclimb

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2014, 07:48:28 AM »
You know, I would feel slightly ridiculous putting that on but it might be worth it!!  The way the stand is set up some would be exposed but I could probably just drape it over most of the bike...

But you say the frame will be okay and its just the chain and gears -- so then its just as much of a problem as it is with any bike, right?  Not a bigger problem with steel?

sol

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2014, 07:56:32 AM »
As long as you have a decent quality frame and the paint is in good shape, I wouldn't worry too much about it.  Bicycles are essentially consumable devices, and a bike left in the rain but otherwise well maintained will last 15 years instead of 40 but it won't fall apart on you this season.

Water might seep into the frame and rust the inside in ways you can't see.  All of your bolts that collect standing water in the rain (like the headset) will rust.  Your chain and gears and brakes will rust.  Wiping it down at night will help a little, and I'd still do it, but it won't preserve your components.

As long as you're spending $300 or less on it, I wouldn't worry about it.  If your drop a grand on a fancy bike I'd agitate for covered bike parking, but for a daily commuter a few hundred bucks will get you a decent ride that won't give you palpitations when it rains.

James

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2014, 08:01:39 AM »
I agree, the frame material isn't the biggest factor in the rain issue. I would just keep your bike well lubed and wipe it down if wet.


One aspect is the little areas that will hold water if it gets rained on. On my son's bike, which also sits in the rain during school or while he is at the library at times, developed rust in the little bolts on the top of the stem since they would fill up with sitting water. The bolts of the water cage also developed a little rust, etc. If you can find those possible trouble spots, then you could prevent that problem with a drop of oil on those spots occasionally. You could also look for stainless chainring and cassette if you wish, but as long as it is kept well oiled there shouldn't be a problem anyway.


Having said that, if you are buying the bike new anyway, when you order the bike ask about coating the inside of the frame for rust. If it doesn't add much cost it might be worth it for peace of mind, but frankly I don't think it is a major concern. The outside of the bike isn't going to rust, it is only the inside you would be worried about, but an occasional rain shouldn't cause a big problem there.

forward

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2014, 08:07:19 AM »
The short version is no, you don't have to worry about a steel bike frame getting rained on or riding it in the rain.  No worries at all.  If your bike is exposed to the elements it will start to show in the gears, the cables, the little bolts, those sorts of things - just like any bike.  Even that is okay and everything will last years if you just do a good wipe down and lube about once a month.  Once every year or two make sure your seat post, head tube etc. are greased. 

People who have very high quality steel frames will coat the inside with an anti rust spray.  This is if they want the frame to last 30 or 40 years or more.  Whenever you put a screw into a hole on a bike, its a good idea to put a touch of grease on the threads, it keeps any corrosion from forming.  That said, there are a lot of 30 year old steel frames riding around cities that haven't receive any special care, as long as they are not abused they are fine.   

Steel is a great frame material, it is the most durable.  Just ride it and you will be happy.   

fallstoclimb

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2014, 08:15:17 AM »
As long as you have a decent quality frame and the paint is in good shape, I wouldn't worry too much about it.  As long as you're spending $300 or less on it, I wouldn't worry about it.  If your drop a grand on a fancy bike I'd agitate for covered bike parking, but for a daily commuter a few hundred bucks will get you a decent ride that won't give you palpitations when it rains.

See, the thing is.......I've been eyeing up Surlys.  So no, definitely not near $300.  Can you really get a decent bike (new) for so little?  Like I said, I'd rather buy used just to have fewer palpitations -- I don't like worrying about nice things -- but I can't find anything as small as I need.  This bike will be used for both commuting and, hopefully, some pretty long distance bike touring, which is why I want steel and new steel=expensive as far as I can tell?   

James

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2014, 09:33:39 AM »
See, the thing is.......I've been eyeing up Surlys.  So no, definitely not near $300.  Can you really get a decent bike (new) for so little?  Like I said, I'd rather buy used just to have fewer palpitations -- I don't like worrying about nice things -- but I can't find anything as small as I need.  This bike will be used for both commuting and, hopefully, some pretty long distance bike touring, which is why I want steel and new steel=expensive as far as I can tell?   

"Expensive" is relative, we don't know your finances, hard to give an opinion without being in your exact position, and even then it would vary based on goals and priorities.

The short answer is yes, you can get a decent bike for $300 or a little more. But you aren't wanting a "decent" bike (by my definition), you are wanting a nice steel bike, which is going to cost more. Nothing wrong with that, just a personal choice. But it is fair to point out for general information that a general commuting bike, even brand new, can be had pretty cheap for those with debt or on a tight budget.

But I find no problem in spending more on my bikes, and I have three... but I can easily afford them, they bring me exercise and joy, and no single (or even two) bikes could do what all three provide.

You could easily expand your search for a used bike, the advantage being a higher quality steel bike for the money you spend. If there are other cities or a bigger city within driving range, you could check used listings there. You can also look on ebay or other online places for used bikes. But without seeing them in person you could possibly be burned. But if you know the size and brand name, I would certainly look for something that might be out there. I purchased both of my "expensive" bikes used, and have been very happy with them. I paid about half the retail price for bikes just 2 years old, spending $1100 for my main mountain bike and $1000 for my Surly fat bike. But I spent some time looking and keeping my eyes out in order to do so.

If I were unable to find a used deal, I probably would have dropped down in quality in order to spend less on new bikes. I got these deals by purchasing in the off season, and purchasing new in the off season might also be a good option for you, but if you are ordering the bike special it might not matter at all when you purchase.

So depending on your finances I see nothing wrong with ordering a quality steel bike that fits you well, especially given your desire to tour. Just don't get into gear envy and talk yourself into something top of the line, you will likely refine your bike needs over time, the first bike you buy is seldom perfect. Just get something mid range that will provide what you need in a bike, and if you really find yourself touring a lot then you might upgrade to the perfect choice in a few years.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2014, 10:04:02 AM »
"Expensive" is relative, we don't know your finances, hard to give an opinion without being in your exact position, and even then it would vary based on goals and priorities.

The short answer is yes, you can get a decent bike for $300 or a little more. But you aren't wanting a "decent" bike (by my definition), you are wanting a nice steel bike, which is going to cost more. Nothing wrong with that, just a personal choice. But it is fair to point out for general information that a general commuting bike, even brand new, can be had pretty cheap for those with debt or on a tight budget.

But I find no problem in spending more on my bikes, and I have three... but I can easily afford them, they bring me exercise and joy, and no single (or even two) bikes could do what all three provide.

You could easily expand your search for a used bike, the advantage being a higher quality steel bike for the money you spend. If there are other cities or a bigger city within driving range, you could check used listings there. You can also look on ebay or other online places for used bikes. But without seeing them in person you could possibly be burned. But if you know the size and brand name, I would certainly look for something that might be out there. I purchased both of my "expensive" bikes used, and have been very happy with them. I paid about half the retail price for bikes just 2 years old, spending $1100 for my main mountain bike and $1000 for my Surly fat bike. But I spent some time looking and keeping my eyes out in order to do so.

If I were unable to find a used deal, I probably would have dropped down in quality in order to spend less on new bikes. I got these deals by purchasing in the off season, and purchasing new in the off season might also be a good option for you, but if you are ordering the bike special it might not matter at all when you purchase.

So depending on your finances I see nothing wrong with ordering a quality steel bike that fits you well, especially given your desire to tour. Just don't get into gear envy and talk yourself into something top of the line, you will likely refine your bike needs over time, the first bike you buy is seldom perfect. Just get something mid range that will provide what you need in a bike, and if you really find yourself touring a lot then you might upgrade to the perfect choice in a few years.

Yeah I didn't go into all those details because I'm just trying to figure out if I'll quickly trash a nice steel bike with my intended use.  But you are correct, when I said decent I really meant nice.  I just paid off 70K in student loan debt and this bike is my reward.  I've got an entry-level road bike and a (decent!) Trek hybrid that I currently commute on, but I've never loved the hybrid and I'm looking to upgrade it to something that will be more fun to commute on and also appropriate for touring.  I can afford to spend ~1K on the new bike, and am comfortable doing so, unless leaving it out in the rain will dramatically shorten the lifespan (which is what I was concerned about). 

I am regularly checking Craigslist of the two local (and big) cities, but I'm only 5'2" - there's just not much out there in the used market for ladies, much less shorties.  That's why I'm mostly resigned to buying new, although I will look for deals.  Luckily I don't know enough about gear to fall prey to gear envy!

James

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2014, 10:13:57 AM »
Yeah I didn't go into all those details because I'm just trying to figure out if I'll quickly trash a nice steel bike with my intended use.  But you are correct, when I said decent I really meant nice.  I just paid off 70K in student loan debt and this bike is my reward.  I've got an entry-level road bike and a (decent!) Trek hybrid that I currently commute on, but I've never loved the hybrid and I'm looking to upgrade it to something that will be more fun to commute on and also appropriate for touring.  I can afford to spend ~1K on the new bike, and am comfortable doing so, unless leaving it out in the rain will dramatically shorten the lifespan (which is what I was concerned about). 

I am regularly checking Craigslist of the two local (and big) cities, but I'm only 5'2" - there's just not much out there in the used market for ladies, much less shorties.  That's why I'm mostly resigned to buying new, although I will look for deals.  Luckily I don't know enough about gear to fall prey to gear envy!

Sounds like you are in a good position to know what you want and go find it. My only bike regrets come from buying something that wasn't as suitable to what I wanted it for. My commuting bike is a hybrid of sorts, and does nothing very well...  I would like to sell it and get a commuting bike myself, but with a 1 mile commute I can't justify it... :D

Best of luck picking the bike, I have been happy with my Surly and they make some good steel bikes. But then there are lots of great bike makers out there right now, it's a great time to be buying a bike, used or new.

marblejane

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2014, 10:17:31 AM »
Have you tried ebay? They will have a better selection than craigslist, and it would be cheaper than buying new. What size bike are you looking for? 50 or 48cm?

fallstoclimb

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2014, 10:43:25 AM »
Sounds like you are in a good position to know what you want and go find it. My only bike regrets come from buying something that wasn't as suitable to what I wanted it for. My commuting bike is a hybrid of sorts, and does nothing very well...  I would like to sell it and get a commuting bike myself, but with a 1 mile commute I can't justify it... :D

Yeah that's my general opinion on hybrids - they're passable for everything but not great at anything.  I hope looking for a commuter/touring bike will be specific enough to get past some of that issue.  My commute is 6 miles but goes off-road for a short bit and has a lot of hills, stoplights, hopping onto the sidewalk, etc - so I hate doing it in an upright position.

Have you tried ebay? They will have a better selection than craigslist, and it would be cheaper than buying new. What size bike are you looking for? 50 or 48cm?

I haven't tried ebay, I'm just nervous about not test riding - especially since I've never been on a steel bike before.  Maybe if I'm able to test ride in stores I'll check ebay for a deal.  I can't remember if my road bike is a 46 or a 48 but it has a sloping top tube (it's a Specialized Dolce Sport) -- so I wonder if the true top tube measurement is shorter.  Although I also have heard that you might want to go slightly bigger with a touring bike vs. a road bike.

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2014, 11:28:36 AM »
I'm used to hybrid measurements versus road bike measurements, but my wife is 5'0" and comfortably fits on a men's 15" Giant hybrid. It did take ages for one to pop up used, and hybrids are more common than straight up touring bikes (unless you want a vintage one).

I wouldn't worry about the frame too much. Just check the paint for damage occasionally, especially if you're mounting racks or attaching a trailer. Apply framesaver at whatever the recommended intervals are, but like others have said it's the hardware that corrodes.

I haven't done this long enough to know if it's better than other methods, but I apply a lightweight waterproof silicone lube to all of my rain collecting bolts. I also do the same for cables. If you ride in winter, once a week or so take an air compressor with a small nozzle or air duster can and blow through the rear derailer and rear brake cable shrouds. Those love to fill up with crap and rust shut.

If any of the bolts get super corroded, replace them preemptively rather than risk needed to do a repair roadside and they are frozen on.

hyla

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2014, 08:05:01 PM »

[/quote]

I haven't tried ebay, I'm just nervous about not test riding - especially since I've never been on a steel bike before.  Maybe if I'm able to test ride in stores I'll check ebay for a deal.  I can't remember if my road bike is a 46 or a 48 but it has a sloping top tube (it's a Specialized Dolce Sport) -- so I wonder if the true top tube measurement is shorter.  Although I also have heard that you might want to go slightly bigger with a touring bike vs. a road bike.
[/quote]

I agree that test riding is worth it, even if buying locally increases the price - especially if you intend to tour on the bike - you don't want to be on a a bike that doesn't fit well all day long. 

Also, I have a surly cross check and I'm very happy with it.  It was also a splurge after a big overtime paycheck.  The excessive tire clearance and braze-ons on those bikes make them really versatile if your commuting or recreation situation changes.  Mine has been a commuter, a road bike, and a 29er mountain bike so far.  Also, mine lives in a garage at home, but does go riding in the rain and occasionally get locked up outside, and no rust issues after 3 years.  I would definitely spray the inside with whatever that frame protector stuff is though.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2014, 07:28:12 AM »
I agree that test riding is worth it, even if buying locally increases the price - especially if you intend to tour on the bike - you don't want to be on a a bike that doesn't fit well all day long. 

Also, I have a surly cross check and I'm very happy with it.  It was also a splurge after a big overtime paycheck.  The excessive tire clearance and braze-ons on those bikes make them really versatile if your commuting or recreation situation changes.  Mine has been a commuter, a road bike, and a 29er mountain bike so far.  Also, mine lives in a garage at home, but does go riding in the rain and occasionally get locked up outside, and no rust issues after 3 years.  I would definitely spray the inside with whatever that frame protector stuff is though.

The Surly Cross Check is specifically what I'm lusting after, although I'm open to other similar bikes.  Everyone seems to love their Cross Check though.  I do want a triple so I'd have to switch out some things but it seems like you can get that bike to do just about whatever you want. 

However I don't get what you guys are talking about with spraying the inside -- after its built??  How do you do that?

GuitarStv

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Re: Is it OK to leave a steel bike out in the rain?
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2014, 07:48:06 AM »
The best way to spray your bike frame with frame saver is to disassemble it completely.  Most bike shops will do this for you, but it'll cost you.