It’s a true story, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent: A well-known mountain biker made a two-hour trip to an indoor MTB park last winter. He had his enduro bike on a hitch-mounted rack behind his car. It was snowing, and the roads were heavily salted, but he didn’t think too much about it. By the time he got unpacked at the indoor park, his chain was flash-rusted to the point where it wouldn’t shift.
For those of us who grew up leaving our BMX bikes or fixies out in the weather, or chained to a dorm-room rack, the concept of a bike cover seems a bit… precious. Yet there’s a big difference between the corrosion resistance of a chrome-plated thirty-pound singlespeed and that of a ten-thousand-dollar ultra-lightweight, narrow-chain Strava weapon with enough exotic materials to require an export license. There’s a reason all the major teams transport their bikes inside vans and store them inside tents, even on race day.
To Store or to Travel?
You can use a travel-oriented bike cover for static storage, but the reverse isn’t true—not unless you want to take some serious risks. Storage covers tend to be optimized for quick removal, and they rarely feature any way to close up the bottom opening. Travel covers cost more, but they are also built for the stresses of high-speed travel on a hitch rack.
A Few Cautions
Don’t buy a new cover and take it on a long trip without driving it around your neighborhood a few times to make sure you understand how to secure and adjust it. Be aware that at higher speeds, the vibration of a fabric or vinyl cover can actually have a visible impact on certain finishes and polishes. This is particularly true for anodized or bare-metal bicycles. Last but not least, your hitch-rack manufacturer may void your warranty if you use a cover, because it increases the aerodynamic load on your rack. Make sure you check before you purchase.
How We Chose
We considered the two primary uses to which people put bike covers—static storage and on hitch racks—and looked at the features required for each task. For static-storage covers, we prioritized strength and weather resistance of material, ease of use, and compatibility with cable locks. For mobile covers, we gave preference to low wind resistance, adjustable fit, security on the rack, and the availability of reflective or active safety lighting. In all cases, we were looking for covers that offered some protection against light impacts as well as weather and dirt.
―Best for Transporting Road Bikes―
Zeal Pro Road Bike Bag
At $349, the Zeal Pro isn’t cheap—but have you priced a first-rate road bike lately? Meant to protect drop-bar bikes on hitch-mounted racks, this cover stretches and adjusts to fit bikes from 48cm to 63cm. The fitted shape cuts down on wind resistance and noise during the drive. This is very much a cover for a specific purpose, so don’t expect to put it on your enduro or DH rigs. Pouches on the right side will fit aftermarket brake lights if your bike blocks your existing ones.
―Fits up to Four Bikes for Traveling―
Skinz Protective Gear Rear Transport Bike Cover
The boutique features and tight contours of the Zeal covers won’t be found here, but the Skinz is less expensive and can cover up to four bikes in certain conditions. This travel-centric rig is large enough for some e-bikes and DH bikes, but be aware that you are placing what amounts to a parachute behind your car. Some judicious use of bungee cords can significantly reduce the aerodynamic profile of the Skinz, while maintaining the protection.
―Best for Casual Use and Keeping Your Car Clean―
Velo Sock Unisex’s Bike Cover
Not intended for long-term or foul-weather use, the Velo Sock can protect vulnerable parts of your road bike while also preserving your oils and grease on the chain, bottom bracket, derailleur, and brakes. Used inside a vehicle, it can keep those same materials off your leather upholstery or vehicle headliner. Available in dozens of designs including most European flags and several camo patterns, the Velo Sock is a good solution for casual, short-term use both inside and outside your car.
―Best for Transporting Fat and Mountain Bikes―
Zeal Pro MTB Bike Cover
Like Zeal’s road-bike cover, this is meant to provide no-excuses protection for a particular kind of cycle—in this case, MTB and fat bikes. With brake-light pockets and a zipper arrangement specifically suited to modern frame designs, this is a great choice for long-distance hitch-rack usage. While this cover is designed to accommodate fat bikes as well, anyone with a particularly large DH rig (Trek Session 29, anyone?) should make sure they check the fit before planning a trip.
―Outside Storage With U-Lock Opening―
Puroma Outdoor Waterproof Bike Cover
This isn’t meant to protect your Trek Project One during a long trip to Colorado; rather, it’s intended to keep the rain and snow off commuter and everyday bikes that have to be stored outside. With steel grommets surrounding a U-lock hole, the Puroma should also help protect against theft. On a BMX bike or small fixie, this will be a bit loose; larger road and MTB bikes will fill it out better, which is important because the cover secures via an elastic lower opening. Available in several colors.
―Different Sizes for Different Scenarios―
PRO Bike Tool Bike Cover
PRO offers both stationary and travel covers; the travel cover is available in three sizes to minimize the “sail factor” that can happen with smaller bikes. Another useful feature: Adjustable cinches mold the cover to the shape of your bicycle, further reducing wind resistance and noise. Ripstop fabric and reflective loops to locate the handlebar make this easy to use and re-use in a hurry, while a steel-reinforced lock loop allows the bike to be locked to the rack.
―Comes With a Carry Handle―
TeamObsidian Waterproof Outdoor Bike Cover
The covers from Team Obsidian, which are available in three sizes in variants for both storage (shown) and travel, are distinguished by two unusual features: a heavy amount of reflective silver striping, and a carry handle. This won’t be of much use if your daily ride is a Specialized Demo, but smaller and lighter bikes will be easier to carry. In any event, the handle allows easy repositioning on the hitch rack prior to strapping down. All covers are made from waterproof material.
―Convenient Outdoor Storage Solution―
BikeParka Urban Bike Cover
The last cover in this roundup is for people who commute to school or work via bicycle and would like to protect from corrosion on the ends of said commute. The BikeParka offers similar protection to other stationary covers, but it also folds up into a small “Stuff Sac” pouch that can be easily carried in your backpack or attached to your bike itself. With elastic fitting, a bike lock grommet, and several color options, the BikeParka is a good way to reduce the impact of the elements on a daily-use cycle.
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