It's not uncommon for bikes to develop a rust problem.
You might be restoring an old bike, or even working on a fairly modern bike, and encounter rust. Therefore, knowing how to remove rust from a bike is important.
It's a natural process that happens to metal if it's not properly protected. We often see bikes that are only a few years old and are already starting to rust.
At BikeTips we are often asked about rust and what you can do to prevent and remove it. In this article we cover:
- What types of bikes are prone to rust?
- actually whatIsRust - and why should I avoid it?
- How to remove rust from a bike in 5 steps
- How to prevent rust from returning
- Robbie's video walk-through: How to remove rust from a bike
Let's dive in!
What types of bikes are prone to rust?
The usualMaterials for bicycle framesYou'll come across steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, and (less commonly) titanium.
Aluminum does not generally rust, but is susceptible to corrosion if not properly cared for.
Titanium you don't have to worry about. It can rust, but it will take more than 100 years of immersion in seawater to do so.
Carbon fiber will not rust as it is not metal.
However, steel is veryprone to rust.That is why you will see many older onesclassic bikesrust, since these are usually all made of steel.
actually whatIsRust - and why should I avoid it?
Rust occurs when iron reacts with oxygen and water.It is a brown flaky substance. It is very common on the surface of metals that are left unprotected.
Leaving your bike indoors makes it less likely to rust. If you leave it outside, rest assured it's only a matter of time before you see some.
In mild to moderate cases of rust on a bike, the rust is likely only superficial, which means you can remove it and the bike is still perfectly safe to ride.
However, in severe cases, rust can compromise the structural integrity of the frame and make it unsafe to ride.Ultimately, as the metal corrodes, rust remains - so significant rust means a significant amount of frame material has been lost.
How to remove rust from a bike in 5 steps
This is our trusted step-by-step rust removal guide.
In this article we're working on a 1980's Murray Sebring that has definitely seen better days. Let's bring it back to its former glory!
Step 1. Preparation
Before we begin, find a secure place to work.Outside is probably better than inside as it could get a little chaotic. Here is what you will need:
- aluminum foil
- Small tub
- rust remover
- water and a sponge
- Bicycle stand(Optional)
Here we mentioned rust removers, and you're probably wondering what that is. Lots of things can get the job done. Here's what we personally use when it comes to rust removers:
- white wine vinegar
- WD40(Be careful not to put it near your brakes though!)
- Coca Cola
- lemon and salt
We chose white vinegar as it's very cheap to buy, something people usually have around the house, and also a lot less aggressive than some specially formulated rust removers.
Step 2. Clean the bike
It's time to wash the bike down and get rid of dirt and grime.
We do this so we can see all the rust spots properly and not scratch the frame with dirt. Put on your gloves and give them a good scrub, and if you want to use bike shampoo for a better clean, don't be shy.
After cleaning, let it dry or use a cleaning rag to speed up the process. When you're done, it's worth spending some time identifying the rusty parts of the bike you want to work on.
Step 3. Scrub the main grate
It's time to get the little tub and pour in some of your white vinegar.
Then put that on the side and get some aluminum foil. Tear off a square about 10cm x 10cm. Fold it once, making sure the shiny side is out, then crumple it up slightly.
Dip it in the rust remover (vinegar) and then start scrubbing the part of the bike you want to clean. It will take some muscle power and time, but you should see improvement after about 20 seconds.
We recommend starting with the larger rust spots first.
Step 4. Scrub the smaller pieces
Now for the smaller pieces.
These are the hard-to-reach screws and troublesome parts that are more complex than a flat surface. If you don't want to remove them from the bike, we recommend spreading rust remover liberally and letting it work.
However, the better way to do this is to remove any rusty components and place them in the tub filled with your rust remover.This gives you the best possible chance of removing all of the rust.
After 5-10 minutes, come back and start scrubbing the parts with a toothbrush and you should see some rust come off fairly easily.
When finished, reinstall the screws with the correct torque settings. Doing it this way will take some time, but it should make a noticeable difference.
Step #5. Clean the bike again
Finally, give your bike a thorough cleaning.Unless you like the smell of white vinegar, rinse off the bike and spend some time in the areas where you worked.
When everything is clean, dry it with an old towel,Clean and oil your chain, and then get your bike gear ready to go for a bike ride!
How to prevent rust from returning
By now your bike should look fairly rust free- so that it stays that way!
Here are our top tips for keeping your bike rust-free.
#1.Store your bike properly
Rust occurs when water and oxygen mix with unprotected iron.We strongly recommend storing your bike indoors or if you must leave it outside use a waterproof bike cover to protect it.
#2.keep it dry
Getting on from a wet ride and leaving your bike covered in water will do you a disservice.
That's why you see many bikes with rust on the chain just a few days after the bike was last used.
We recommend keeping a towel in your garage or where you store your bike to dry if you've ridden in poor conditions. Although it may seem tedious, it saves your bike in the long run.
#3.Keep your bike clean
A clean bike is a happy bike.
When you're out and about, you pick up mud, salt, and all kinds of dirt. Regular cleaning of your bike can help prevent rust from taking hold.
We recommend a quick clean after every ride and a deep clean every few weeks. Investing in quality cleaning products will also make cleaning more effective.
When certain parts of your bike frame rust but others don't, it's usually because they've lost their protection - the paint.Once your bike gets scratched and loses its paintwork, it is prone to rust.
If you get a scratch on your bike we recommend covering it with some paint or even electrical tape to ensure it doesn't start to rust. This mainly applies to steel wheels, but aluminum wheels can also corrode.
Robbie's video maintenance guide: How to remove rust from a bike
Visit theBikeTipps YouTube Channelhere for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!