Today’s bicycle frames, mostly made of aluminum and carbon, are very unlikely to rust on their surfaces. But its metal parts and hardware (most of it steel) are delicate areas where rust does not take long to make its appearance if there is no proper cleaning or maintenance.
Rust appears on bicycles that have not been used for a long time and have been stored unprotected in damp spaces. If this is the case with your bicycle and you want to restore its original state, you should consider these cleaning tips.
Rust is not so easy to remove and requires more effort and the use of specific products. And keep in mind that if the rust has already invaded the inside of the tubes and welds or corroded the metal, that bike will be unusable.
How to remove rust from a bicycle: recommended steps and products
The cleaning process is similar, be it rust on the frame or on the components. We will need a degreasing product, as well as another acid (lemon or bicarbonate would do), and a brush with stiff bristles. For the transmission or chain, this type of stiffer filament is used to remove grease and rust more easily. Microfiber cloths will also be needed for drying.
1. Apply the product and let it act
Either using homemade products such as lemon or bicarbonate diluted in water or a specific anti-rust product, apply it to the oxidized area and leave it to act for several minutes (between 5 and 10) before rubbing with the brush.
2. Rub and rinse
If the oxide layer is somewhat thicker, it will be necessary to make several strokes with the brush to remove it. Once all traces of rust have been removed, it will be necessary to rinse the entire area with plenty of water since acidic products can continue to have their effect and damage the metal.
Rinsing and drying are very important for rust cleaning. The cleaning products used are stronger and more corrosive to the metal if they are not removed in time.
On the other hand, in greased parts such as the chain, sheaves, or cassette, the action of acidic products must be preceded by a good degreasing cleaning to remove any remaining lubricant.
How to avoid the appearance of rust on your bike
Without a doubt, prevention operations end up being much more effective and less expensive than cleaning operations when it comes to rust. A frequent cleaning of the bike and its greased components avoid, almost certainly, its appearance.
Where you store, your bike is also very important. Ideally, a cool, dry room or garage is ideal. In the event that you live in areas with high humidity and the bicycle remains idle for a while, we recommend that you cover it with a cover without leaving any part exposed. There are specific covers for all types and sizes of bicycle on the market, made with moisture-repellent insulating materials.
Water and mud are the best breeding grounds for rust. If you have ridden your bike and it has rained, you should thoroughly clean the bike just after finishing, dry it and grease the chain, the pedal springs (without them are automatic), and other moving parts such as the steering.
Do not leave the dirt bike in the garage for several days, as rust can quickly start to appear on chains, crowns, etc. Cleaning and greasing should always be done right at the end of the route.
Problems and breakdowns derived from rust
The oxide in current aluminum frames is very difficult to appear due to the properties of the material and the treatments of its surface. Steel frames, however, are more exposed, so their conservation must be more rigorous.
A rusted frame or components cause many problems for the operation of the bicycle and accelerate its wear. Surface rust, if not dealt with cleaning like the one we have explained above, ends up corroding the inner layers of the metal, increasing the risk of fracture.
In addition, components essential for the movement of the bicycle, such as the transmission, will not work properly if they are rusted and will accelerate their wear and that of other parts with which they come in contact. Pedaling will squeak, will not be smooth and fluid, and will in no way contribute to proper performance on the bike.
Same situation for hardware. If the thread has rust, its tightening will be uneven, and it will not fix the parts or components together as it should. This will cause looseness and premature wear of the entire part due to a bad assembly. For these reasons, it is advisable to prevent rust marks and, if they do occur, to remove them properly before major corrosion damage occurs.