So if you are anything like me, you have multiple bikes which in turn can often lead to storage issues. Over the years there have been times where I have had the need to store one or more of my bikes in the house, in the garage or outside for certain periods of time.
When I have attempted to store a bike outside, my frustration has been that it has been hard to find a cover that can stand up over time to the various elements. Sun damage and exposure, persistent wind, rain or snow, for example, can lead to a bicycle cover being worn down and degraded over a period of time. They always seem to rip, tear, go brittle or go flying off in the wind due to bad (insufficient) fit or lacking in ways of securing the bike cover to the bike. I have now tried at least 3 different bicycle covers over the years and not one of these covers has survived for any decent length of time.
My thoughts on this have always been, ‘Why is the cover for my outdoor grill much more suitable than any of the bicycle covers I have tried?’ ‘Why are all of the bicycle covers out there made of light, insufficient materials and also lacking in functionality?’
Various Types of Covers
Before we start diving into the details, I’m going to classify the various types of bicycle covers and in which situations they could possibly be needed;
- Bicycle being stored outside for long term.
- Bicycle being stored outside for short periods of time. (Think commuting purposes)
- Bicycle being stored inside the house.
- Bicycle being stored inside the garage.
- Bicycle being stored while in transit. (Think bike rack on back of car or RV)
As you can see from the above list, consideration needs to be given to the different scenarios and what your individual requirements are. A cover for outside storage could or should be designed very differently than one that just needs to be used indoors to offer simple dust protection.
So, having some experience and being somebody who has purchased and compared multiple bike covers and now has an interest in bike storage, I ask the question ‘What should somebody look for when they set out to purchase a cover for their bike that has possibly cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars?’ I thought it best to write a comprehensive buyers guide of what you should look for and why certain features/functionality work and why some do not.
You may be thinking, ‘Isn’t a bike cover pretty straightforward and it’s just a cover – how complicated can that be?’ My answer to that is ‘Actually, there are plenty of things you may want to consider.’ Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will know what to look for and avoid some of the mistakes I have made.
This guide is going to mainly concentrate solely on bicycle covers for long-term outdoor and garage use. Indoor bicycle covers are fairly straightforward and do not require the consideration you need to give outdoor covers.
This is a big one and probably the most important consideration. All of the bicycle covers I have purchased have not had material that has been thick enough to last over time or not tear when taking it on and off the bike. Why is that? Does it not make sense to use a material that lasts over time and can survive the elements – just like your grill cover does?
I’m assuming that due to manufacturing costs, nobody seems to want to make a cover that is more expensive than a competitor’s version and ends up scrimping on the quality of the material? I’ve searched around and looked at certain materials and there is not one out there made with sufficient thickness. It looks like you need a thick polyester material – 600D for example. (There are a few covers out there that seem to be partly made of 600D Polyester at the top or bottom, but what about the whole cover? Those do not seem to exist for some reason.
Let’s look into materials and the term ‘D’ a little more closely and why the ‘denier’ of the polyester (which is the most common material used for bicycle covers), is important and can determine whether a particular cover is going to be suitable over the long term or not.
I won’t go into too many details on the specifics of denier as it’s not the most exciting topic, but there are some basic things you need to know and will help you know what to look for when choosing your next cover.
Denier is the best test of strength and durability, especially when comparing two deniers of same polyester material. A 600D material is much strong than a 400D or 240D for example. Larger denier numbers have heavier/thicker threads.
If you go over to Amazon and check out the covers there, you will see most of the seller’s list waterproof/outdoor/durable, etc, but on closer inspection, you will see 190T, 240D or ‘ripcord/parachute’ type material mentioned which is *not* that thick. The only time I have seen a cover mention using the heavier/thicker 600D material (which is used for grill covers or backpacks,etc) it was only for the ‘top’ part of the cover – not the bottom. Looking at the reviews for these covers, they look to have stitched seams (see pic above) to join the materials together as some people have been complaining of water getting inside and onto the bike.
Suggestion: Ideally make sure the bike cover you purchase is 600D polyester ‘all over’. This will ensure your cover will last and you will not be shopping every year or less for a new cover over at Amazon like a lot of reviewers seem to be.
Now that we’ve looked into the material side of things and seen how super important this is for a bike cover to be durable and sustainable over the long term, let’s take a look at some of the ‘features’ that these covers come with to determine if a particular bicycle cover is going to be adequate for somebody storing their pride and joy in an outside environment.
Another very important feature of all of the covers I have looked at – and one which is puzzling – is making sure the cover actually covers *all* of the bike! It’s amazing the amount of covers I have seen (and ordered) where the bottom of the cover does not even touch or go to the floor. Surely this should be a prerequisite for a bike cover to actually cover the bike? Is this because manufacturers are scrimping on the amount of materials used? Not sure, all I do know, and a recommendation for you the reader, is to ensure that any cover you purchase for outside use actually covers the whole bike and goes fully to the ground where you can no longer see the wheels.
(The cover shown here is a good example of what I am talking about). This one BTW measure 40 inches in height. The advantages to getting a larger or XL cover instead of a regular/smaller size is that it ensures your bike will be fully covered and if the need ever arises, you could even cover two of your bikes together or use it on an oversized bike like a beach cruiser or even a recumbent bicycle.
Suggestion: Unless you are shopping for a kids or smaller sized bike, don’t purchase a single/regular (78” x 30” x 40”) cover, go for a larger/XL/oversized cover (look for 82 L x 44 H x 30 W inches for example). There may be some excess material at the bottom/sides, but who cares if there is some extra material – you want to cover *all* of your bike. The larger covers will also give you some flexibility and let you possibly cover x2 road/mountain type bikes or maybe a larger bike like a beach cruiser or bike with a basket at the front.
This one is not essential, but a nice feature to have if you go out into your backyard or deck at night where there is not much light. It’s also not uncommon for people to travel by car with their bikes and then cover them on the back of a bike rack carrier – either while on the road in transit or when the car is parked at night. Having the reflective strips either on the top handles or on the body of the cover helps to keep things visible and a little bit safer.
Suggestion: Try and find a cover with some reflective material – either on the body of cover or on the grab handles.
Lock holes and Accessibility
If you are going to be leaving your bike outside for a certain period of time, you don’t just want to leave the bike sitting out there without some kind of security mechanism in place. One of the bike covers that I purchased had metal holes at the very front so that the front wheel could be accessible and then locked to a post or railing. Having this ‘hole’ at the front is, of course, a good idea, but there were two issues with this method on the particular bicycle covers I purchased;
- Having a hole at the front means that only the front wheel can be locked as a security mechanism. What’s stopping a would-be thief from just unlocking the front wheel and walking off with the bike? This is a major flaw and I am surprised nobody has considered this and has come up with a cover that has a slot with a velcro flap in the middle on each side to be able to secure the lock to the actual bike/frame instead of the wheel. I have not found or seen one bike cover out there that offers this feature.
- As mentioned above, the metal hole that this particular cover came with must have been aluminum as it eventually started to rust. (See below) I have seen some covers use a stitched hole at the front, and this is probably a better method than using some form of metal that could rust after spending time out in rain, snow, and ice.
Suggestion: Try to find a cover with the stitched hole and not the metal variety ideally which could rust.
These are a good idea and have three uses.
- They can help you when putting the cover on and taking it off. If you get one of the larger types of covers, it’s sometimes not the easiest thing in the world to maneuver, so having a handle is useful and also a good reference point for positioning the cover into the correct position.
- It’s nice to be able to hang the cover to dry by the handle/s if you ever need/want to do that.
- This is a good place to add some reflective strips for additional night time visibility.
Most of the covers I tried had this feature and seems standard on all but the cheaper models.
Suggestion: Definitely find a cover with handles as they serve multiple purposes.
Straps for securing Cover
Three of the covers I have tried had straps with plastic buckles for securing the cover to the bike and this is definitely something I like to see. The strap is normally positioned in the middle of the bike/frame and is designed to go under the bottom bracket. This really is something I recommend and it will help when you are storing the bike outside in heavy wind and will ensure the cover does not go flying off like a kite. (Which could also possible knock your bike over in the process)
I have not seen any cover yet that has ‘two’ straps for maximum security, or to use one for each bike if you purchase a large cover and plan to store two bicycles.
One of the covers I tried had metal buckles which in theory is a good idea for durability purposes, but it ended up making a horrible banging/clinking sound against my bike frame when I was trying to secure the cover to the bike. (The poor paint!) The optimum design here would be for two straps and ‘large’ plastic buckles. (I have seen these buckles vary in size)
Suggestion: Get a cover with at least one strap and ideally two if possible. Also stay away from metal buckles and stick to plastic ones – the larger the better.
Securing the bottom
If you decide to go with my recommendation of purchasing a larger cover, then you need a way of reducing the excess material and ensure the cover fits at the bottom and is tight/secured around both wheels. There are two ways to do this and I have tried both;
- Elastic at the hem – either in the corners or completely around the bottom. I have tried both of them and while the fully elasticated hem secures the bike very nicely, it can be a nightmare to take on and off. I would only consider this if I were leaving it on the bike for looong periods of time. (It also made the cover seem much smaller)
- Drawstring. This is a much easier way of getting the cover on and off and is definitely the way to go. The idea is you have a secured cord and a little plastic bungee type clip. You pull the string tight around the bottom and secure with a clip.
Suggestion: Go for the drawstring option for ease of use. If you do go with the elastic hem, make sure it is only elastic at the ends – not whole hem.
This is one of the ones you may not have even considered and most of the bicycle covers I have tried do not have them. It’s important for the bike to get some air while it is under the cover to reduce sweat and avoid moisture/mildew – especially if you are using a thicker material like I suggest. These holes are normally at the top in the corners where the handlebars are positioned. You would probably not even know they are there without looking for them, so ensure your next cover has them.
The other place you could get some ventilation would be at the lock flap – a suggestion I mentioned above which unfortunately does not exist. If there were a horizontal flap in the middle secured by velcro, you could leave some of the flap slightly open to allow air to pass through. (If you find a cover with the air holes at the top corners though, this will be sufficient)
Suggestion: Make sure any cover you buy has some covered ventilation holes
I don’t think the color makes too much difference, but there could be an argument that a black cover could get super hot out in the midday sun, but I’m not sure there would be that much difference than a blue or green one for example. The reason I personally like and suggest black is that it is more discreet and does not shout ‘bike over here’. A large black bike cover with 600DF material is more likely to blend in with some other outdoor items like a grill or chair cover for example.
Just on a side note, there is actually a cover over at Amazon that looks to be one of their ‘best sellers’ but it says ‘Bike’ in big letters on *both sides*!? It may look cool, but I really don’t want anybody to know I am storing a bike. (If you actually look at the reviews you will see that mentioned) I’m sure most manufacturers want to display their logo, but try and get a cover with no logo or a logo only on one side if possible. (Then you can have the side without the logo facing outwards)
Suggestion: Go with black to be discreet and so that it blends in and does not catch the eye. Go with a cover that has no logo or logo only on one side.
If you have seen or are looking at a cover that is under $20 and your intention is for outdoor use – stay away! They won’t last and won’t have right features and will probably be too small. In fact, I should change that and say any cover that is under $30 is probably not going to get you all of the features you should be looking for.
Suggestion: If you want a cover to last for any period of time, only purchase something with good, material, good size and a good warranty. This means it will cost at least $30 – more likely $35 if you go for a larger quality cover.
If you have read this far and are now considering making a purchase on a particular cover, make sure it has a 3 year or even lifetime warranty. Anybody making a bike cover with an intent of manufacturing and producing a quality product they stand behind should offer a good warranty. I know through my own research that some do and some do not, so just make sure there is at least a 2-year warranty offered.
Suggestion: Purchase a cover with a 2 or 3-year warranty or ideally a lifetime warranty.
Bicycle covers on the move
I’m listing this here as some people seem to have a requirement for covering their bike up when in transit. I have seen some folks using a regular hitch mounted bike carrier on the rear of their car or on the back of an RV and then with a regular bike cover attached. While in theory this seems like a straightforward thing to do, there are not many covers out there specifically designed to do this function and there are 3 main reasons why;
- The cover will block the rear brake/taillights. Not good for safety, especially at night
- Most covers lack any kind of reflective materials – let alone some form of lighting.
- Most covers lack sufficient straps to stop the wind bellowing. You could possibly think about using bungee cords, but this is not the most elegant solution. Heavy wind bellowing against any kind of polyester material over time will probably lead to it breaking down and cracking/tearing.
Suggestion: Don’t use a cover when in transit. If you absolutely must, make sure it is secured very tightly with multiple bungee cords and has at least some reflective material.
Where to purchase your bicycle cover
The strange thing about bike covers is that they are not the kind of thing you will see on the shelves at your local bike store. You are more inclined to find them at an outdoor yard/garden storage type company. Of course like most things these days, you will find them online and Amazon seems to have the best selection. Walmart also seems to have a good selection, although not as many as Amazon. eBay also has some, but be careful of the cheaper covers that normally show up on there.
Suggestion: Purchase your cover from Amazon or direct from a manufacturer’s website. If you do use Amazon, assess each cover on its material, features, and warranty rather than how many 5 stars it has.
So hopefully by now and if you have read all of this guide, you will realize that there are quite a few things to consider when looking for a new bicycle cover. At the end of the day, you don’t want to scrimp on your bicycle storage. Bikes normally cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars and are highly desirable for would-be thieves. Spend the money on a quality cover with the right features and hopefully, all of your needs will be met.
The other consideration you need to make is do you *really* need to keep your bike outside at all – especially if it is a relatively expensive bike? If at all possible, then you want to at least keep it in a garage with a cover that will protect from dust, dirt, cobwebs, etc. Storing outdoors for any length of time could increase the chances of corrosion, damage or theft. If you absolutely must keep the bike outside, then another option you may want to consider is this Glidetop slide shed which has excellent reviews over at Amazon and can store multiple bikes. (We intend to purchase this shed in the not too distant futue and write a detailed review)
Ideally, I would like to finish up by telling you I know what the best bicycle cover is and provide you with a link. However, I don’t believe that there is at this time the perfect cover meeting all needs and requirements. (Maybe we here at Bicycle Universe should make our own cover to fill the gap in the market!)
If you had to twist my arm and wanted a suggestion, then I would suggest going with this cover from Pro Bike Tool. I’ve tested it out and although I have not used it for long periods of time exposed to the various elements, initially it seems to be the one with most of the features I look for, has great reviews and I love the fact that it comes with a lifetime warranty!
If the Pro Bike cover is not for you, then before you head over to Amazon with your new found knowledge, keep in mind our following suggestions;
-600D material ideally. (Not 180, 190 or 210) Avoid the covers that have a mixture of materials or thickness as they scrimp on quality and also then need to be stitched together – adding a possible element of weakness. (And subsequently exposure to water/moisture)
-No logo or logo on only one side
-XL/Oversized rather than standard – think 82 L x 44 H x 30 W inches (208 x 111 x 76 cm)
-Reflective strips or material
-Stitched lock holes – not metal
-Lock flap in the middle of cover with velcro
-Long or ideally a lifetime warranty
-At least one strap at the bottom – two ideally on the larger/XL covers
-Drawstring at the hem/bottom ideally or elastic sides – not elastic all the way around
-Spend over $20 and ideally over $30 if you are going for a quality oversized/XL version.