Like any other mechanical devices, a bicycle can also become rusty upon contact with moisture. Although most modern bike frames are made out of rust proof alloys, there are still other parts like the chain, sprockets and bearings that can get rusty. And as vital components of your ride, rust build up can ultimately cause permanent damage to it if left unattended. So in this article we shall look at a few ways that can be used to deal with rust on different parts of your bike.
Rust & The Damage To Your Ride
Rust is basically iron oxide formed on the surface of iron or its alloys. Due to the resilience and toughness of iron and its alloys it has been used since ancient times to make tools, weapons and mechanical devices. And it’s since those ancient times that people have been dealing with rust and the damage it causes to the objects made of this metal and its alloys.
A bicycle is also made up of parts made of steel (an alloy principally composed of iron). These include the whole drivetrain which includes the Chain, Sprocket wheels, bearings etc. In most cases, the rims, spokes and most of the nuts and bolts are also made of steel. In some cases, even the whole frame and the fork is also made of steel.
Untreated rust formation on these parts, especially the moving ones will cause extensive damage. This ranges from breaking, jamming and ultimately failure of the parts. This may cost you quite a bit for repairs or switching out parts. So it is best to remove rust using the following methods which can be carried out at home using easy to obtain materials and a minimum amount of elbow grease.
1. Getting Rust Off The Frame, Seatpost and Handlebars
The frame and handlebars make up the skeleton of your ride along with the fork. If the frame and handlebars are made of iron alloys, then they are bound to get rusty after sometime. So in this section we will discuss an easy method for getting rust off these very important parts of your ride.
Things You’ll Need
- Baking Soda
- White Vinegar
- Steel Wool or High grit sandpaper (1000 grits or higher)
- Sponge or rag
- Old Toothbrush
- Two bowls or containers.
- Wrenches. (To remove wheels, seat and handlebars)
- Start by removing the wheels, seat and handlebars.
- Remove the grips, brake levers, shifters and other components from the rusty handlebar.
- In a bowl mix six parts of salt with two parts of vinegar or lime juice to make a paste.
- In another bowl make a paste mixing equal parts of water and baking soda.
- Using a spoon, apply the vinegar and salt paste onto the rusty portions of the frame, seatpost and handlebar and let it sit for about 20 minutes.
- Using a toothbrush, Rub the paste off along with the rust off the portions. Use a steel wool or high grit sandpaper for the heavily rusted areas.
- Rinse off the residues with water and apply adequate amounts of the baking soda paste.
- Let it sit for about 15 minutes so that the soda can work its way into the remaining rust.
- Scrape away the paste and repeat until satisfactory results are achieved.
- Wipe the frame and handlebar down with a clean rag or sponge and reassemble your bike.
- Do not use the two pastes together as they are of different ph levels and will render each other ineffective.
- Be gentle with sandpaper so that you do not damage the surface of the metal. Be especially careful while working on the welded joints.
2. Getting Rust off Bike Forks
Rust on regular bike forks can be dealt with the same way as the frame, seatpost or handlebar. However, bikes that have a suspension fork need a more gentle approach for rust removal due to its complicated build.
Although most of these forks are built to be rust resistant, extensive use and contact with the elements can cause rust formation. The two main components of such forks are the stanchions (The upper part) and the arched fork lowers (the tubes where the stanchions travel into.
While rust on the lowers can be dealt in the same way as the bike frame, rust formation on the stanchions need to be dealt with a bit of care. So let’s get down to it!
Things You’ll Need
- WD-40 (Available at your nearest hardware store or supermarket)
- High grit sandpaper. (1500 grits)
- Clean Rag
- Wrench for removing front wheel.
- Spoon (optional)
- Start by removing the front wheel.
- Wipe dust and dirt off the fork with a clean rag.
- Spray a generous amount of WD-40 onto the stanchions and your sandpaper and rub across the length of the stanchions.
- In case of areas with heavier rust formations, spray WD-40 directly on it and scrape it off with your nails or a spoon placed under a rag.
- Repeat until rust is completely removed from both stanchions.
- Do not use a low grit sandpaper to avoid excessive material removal.
- Do not run the sandpaper along the length of the stanchions as doing so may permanently damage your fork by causing excessive material removal.
3. Getting Rust Off the Chain, Cassette and Crankset
The chain, cassette and the crankset are like the guts of the bicycle. They are almost always made of steel or iron based alloys which can handle a good amount of force. These parts are more susceptible to rusting as they frequently come in contact with moisture and dirt. Excessive rust build up on these parts may cause failure which requires costly repairs. But rust removal can easily be done from these parts with minimum effort.
Things You’ll Need
- WD-40 (Available at any hardware store)
- Degreasing agent, Kerosene or Gasoline
- Store bought Rust Removing Agent or White Vinegar.
- Clean Rag
- Brush or Steel Wool
- Wrenches of required sizes. (For disassembly and reassembly)
- Chain link Removing Tool.
- Remove the chain using a chain link removing tool.
- Then using the proper sized wrenches, remove the crankset and cassette. Use WD-40 if the nuts and bolts are jammed up.
- After removing the rusty chain, cassette and crankset, remove the accumulated grease by running a rag soaked in degreasing agent, kerosene or gasoline over them. Keep the parts soaking for a few hours if grease buildup is high. Wear gloves at this stage to avoid skin irritation.
- Pour some derusting agent into a bucket and soak the parts in them for 2-3 hours. If you are using white vinegar, keep the parts soaking for at least 24 hours.
- While the parts are soaking, clean the front cassette bearings in the frame with WD-40 using a brush.
- Clean the frame and derailleurs (if any).
- After the time has passed, you’ll notice that the derusting liquid has darkened considerably. At this point, give the parts a good scrub with a brush or steel wool. Continue scrubbing until rust is totally removed.
- Wipe the parts dry with a rag and give them a final clean with WD-40. Make sure you get a good amount of it in the cassette. This will clean any residues and ensure further rust protection.
- Reassemble the bike and properly lubricate the parts to avoid further rusting.
- Degreasing liquid may cause skin irritation. Wear gloves while handling it.
- Keep the parts well oiled to prevent rusting in the future.
5. Getting Rust Off the Rims and Spokes
The rims and spokes of your bike are very prone to getting rusty as they come in contact with moisture and dirt from the road very frequently. Spokes made from a chrome or zinc plating are more prone to getting rusty than stainless steel ones. On the other hand rims are bound to get rusty due to frequent contact with moisture and dirt.
The rust removal process is a bit tedious as you will have to work on each spokes individually. But a bit of elbow grease is worth it for keeping your ride shiny and smooth.
Things You’ll Need
- WD-40 or White Vinegar
- Steel wool or fine grit sandpaper. (1200 grits or above)
- Clean Rag
- Baking Soda
- Tire Removal Tool
- Wrench for removing wheels
- A large tub
- Start by removing the wheels from the frame.
- With a steel wool or fine grit sandpaper, start by rubbing each of the spokes rigorously. This should be enough for minimal rust infestation. Use WD-40 or white vinegar if rust buildup is high at places.
- Repeat step 2 for both wheels until each of the spokes are rust free. Do the same for rusty wheel hubs.
- In case of rusty rims, remove the tires and any other non-metallic sections of the wheel.
- Make a paste with equal parts of baking soda and water and apply it to the whole rim concentrating more on areas with greater rust buildup. Check both sides of the rims for rust.
- After letting the rims sit for a while, take a steel wool or sandpaper to scrub off the rust.
- Once all the rust comes off, use a clean rag to wipe the rims clean of rust and debris.
- If rust buildup is too high, soak the sections in a generous amount of vinegar or WD-40 for a few hours in a tub and scrub off with steel wool or sandpaper. Then follow with steps 5,6 and 7.
- Give the rim and wheels a final wipedown with WD-40 to minimize further rust formation.
- Reassemble the bike.
- Using a low grit sandpaper may damage the spokes.
- Use baking soda paste after the vinegar is properly washed off.
Preventive Measures To Keep Your Bike Rust Free
As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”, it is the same for rust formation on your bike. Just a few easy steps will go a long way in keeping your ride smooth and free from rust. They’ll also save you a lot of hassle and money in the long run. These steps are as follows.
1. Keep Your Ride Clean
Just wiping the dirt off your bike using a dry cloth every two days will drastically minimize the formation of rust on your bike. Add a weekly soap wash routine to that and your bike will be carrying you for a long time. While cleaning with water, make sure you get every nook and cranny of the bike, especially the moving parts. Make sure to give it a good wipedown after washing to keep moisture in check.
2. Keep Your Bike Well Oiled
Properly oiling your bike keeps it running smooth and minimizes wear. And since oil and water do not mix together, another thing that oil does is that it seals off moisture. Hence, a well oiled bike is definitely less prone to getting rusted.
Properly lubricating your bike once every week will protect it from moisture and minimize rust formation as well as keep it smooth and running for a long time.
3. Applying WD-40
WD-40 is excellent for getting rid of rust, grime or dirt from any metallic surface. Once applied, it also does a great job of sealing away moisture. It is available at any hardware store or high end supermarket.
Spray a coat of the stuff onto your bike’s chain, drivetrain and fork bearing before lubricating after a wash and your ride won’t be getting rusty any time soon. Wipe down the spokes and rims with WD-40 to keep them from getting rusty. It can also be applied on the suspension fork to keep it smooth and rust free.
Rust on your bike should be dealt with as soon as it’s noticed. Because excess rust formation can cause irreversible damage to your ride. Putting in a little bit of effort in the above mentioned methods will keep your ride rust free and smooth. You’ll be amazed to see how far your bike can take you with these minimum and easy to do maintenance efforts. Best wishes for you and your ride!