Long live the Covered Bicycle…

I truly love my bicycle and I treasure the times we spend together pushing each other to the limit and beyond, exploring the edges or just relaxing on a sunny afternoon. I take care of my bike and my bike takes care of me, as it should be for any quality friendship. But what of those moments in time when I am not sitting proudly atop my two wheeled chariot or faithfully de-greasing and re-greasing the simple inner and outer workings?  What of the times when I must park my bike overnight outside or store it for a extended duration inside of my old dusty barn?

My Machine

If I truly want this incredible machine to last a lifetime or at least to look good and work well for years to come then I must wrap it in love as much as possible. What I mean is that I must protect my bicycle from the elements when I’m not riding it. The best way to protect a bike or any vehicle for that matter from elements when not in use is to put a cover over it. This will add years to the life of a bicycle, guaranteed.

I recently was contacted  by Empire Covers in response to my “Adventures of the Bicycle Life” blog and was offered an opportunity to review the company’s bicycle covers. I checked out their website (empirecovers.com) and was impressed with the materials and wide selection of covers they make, from R.V. covers to bicycle covers and everything in between.

About the size of a football rolled up in its storage sack

I am always in need of a quality bike cover when I am camping during a bicycle tour or even just when I have my human powered machine parked in the dusty old barn between regular rides. For years I have used military rain ponchos as my bike covers. They work pretty well as they are camouflage (for when I camp) and waterproof, but they are not a perfect fit, especially when my bike is tour loaded with panniers. Then the poncho gets blown out of place easily by the wind.

Empire Covers make 3 well-designed bicycle covers: the standard, sun-proof, and waterproof covers.  I have utilized and am in the process of long-term testing all three. For the bicycle cover testing I’m using a 58cm Surly Long Haul truck with 700c wheels and Surly Nice Racks , and 22.5  inch Marin Larkspur with 26″ wheels and a rear Surly nice with a Jandd Extreme front rack.

"TaDaaa! Bicycle!" Standard bicycle cover.

The standard cover priced at $25 with a 2-year warranty is made of a silver, lightweight, high quality, breathable polyester material, that folds up to about the size of a football when stowed in its (included) storage sack. According to the Empire Covers website this cover has high protection ratings against dust, rain, sun and mid-range protection against snow.  It is very simple and quick to use. I pulled it out of the stow sack, unrolled it, located and positioned the “front” labeled side and slid it down over my bike, snugging the elastic band at the bottom of the cover around my wheels and drive train. Total installation time, 30 seconds. Now my bicycle looks happy, all sealed up, impermeable to dust, moisture and sun. I think it will be my perfect long-term indoor storage bike cover, as I always store my bicycles indoors at home.

Sunproof cover

The sun-proof cover priced at $35 with a 3-year warranty is made of a high quality lightweight, breathable Du-pont Tyvek material. It is a very nice and well-engineered cover as well, with the same elastic band at the bottom that keeps it snug around the bike. It installs over the bike with the same process as the standard cover. This cover boasts a 100% sun protection rating, with rain and dust ratings not far behind and a mid-range snow protection rating also. This cover would be ideal for the bicycle owner that stores their bike outside exposed to the hot sun.

Waterproof cover.

Then there is the top-of-the-line waterproof cover. This cover is by far my favorite  cover for outdoor expeditionary  type use (i.e. tour camping) because it is made of a heavy duty nylon material with an extra tough elastic band around the bottom and it is an easily concealable black color, requiring the same installation process and time as the other two covers. This cover boasts a 100% rain, snow, dust proof rating and a sun proof rating of at least 75%. I would say if  I was to buy just one of these three covers then the most versatile, long lasting and weather proof  option for me would be the waterproof cover.

I also had the opportunity to test a set of Gust Guards. These handy little items are located in the automotive accessories department of the Empire Covers website, but alas they are just as practical for use on bicycles and I was glad to give them a test run on my bike.

Gust Guard in action

Essentially the Gust Guard is a set of short black bungees and four clips that attach to anywhere on the bike cover. You attach the clips at the base of the cover on opposite sides of the wheels and then hook the bungees onto the clips, which pulls it all snugly together so no wind gust will blow through and blow the cover off the bike. I think the covers are super snug and secure on my bikes on their own because of the form fitting design and tight elastic hem around the bottom, but the Gust Guard will give added security for the person that feels they would like it.

All three covers where large enough to put over my bicycle and racks when it was tour loaded with four large front and rear panniers.

These covers are great for protecting during storage all kinds of bicycles  in the garage (or barn in my case) because they protect against standard dust or sawdust and protect the bike frame from the occasional bump when I am working in close proximity.

These covers are great for the person that stores their bikes outside whether at home or during a tour because of their sun/water/snow protection, which is crucial to maintaining  the long term integrity of the bike frame and components.

These covers are well designed and made, well worth the $25 to $40 investment in protecting the beloved bicycles for a lifetime of riding, one pedal stroke at a time.

A bow and a solid hand shake to Empire Covers, well done.

– H.W.

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