Bicycles made of steel are currently back in fashion. And that’s no wonder because steel is extremely durable, robust and can be produced regionally. While steel bikes were mainly ridden by enthusiasts recently, they are now becoming more and more popular among the masses. Especially mountain bikes or gravel bikes made of steel are the absolute rage. And so more and more cyclists are asking themselves how to spotless and care for a steel bike.
In this article, you will learn what is important when cleaning and maintaining a steel bicycle and what you can do to prevent rust. Because rust is the arch enemy of every steel frame.
(The following tips of course also apply to steel rims and other steel components)
How does rust form on a steel bicycle?
Rust is also known as “the red plague” and is caused by the reaction of oxygen and iron. When oxygen and iron come into contact, an oxidized layer known as rust forms and can lead to corrosion if not prevented early. Rust can be accelerated by many factors, including climatic influences or moisture. It is therefore important to take the right protective measures to prevent rust and ensure a longer life for materials and equipment.
Specifically, regular cleaning and maintenance can better protect the bicycle from rust because it allows you to identify weak spots on the paintwork more quickly and give the frame a new layer of protection.
How to clean your steel bike in 5 steps
Step 1: Basic cleaning
Grab a bucket of water, a brush or sponge and a bicycle cleaner. Alternatively, you can use a pressure washer, but be careful not to aim directly at the bearings (bottom bracket, headset).
However, we recommend a gentle hand wash for your steel bike, as this will also help you to identify wear and problem areas. Our Badass Bubbles bike cleaner concentrate is ideal for this because it is very effective and environmentally friendly. You can also use it to remove dirt from all parts of your bike: handlebars, saddle, rims, crank, tyres, pedals ….
You can also clamp the bike in an assembly stand and remove the wheels. This gives you better access to all parts of the frame. In this case, we also have a useful tool that allows you to use the gears with the chain even though the rear wheel has been removed.
Step 2: Clean your drivetrain
Step 3: Dry and check
This step is especially important for a steel frame: Take a microfibre cloth and dry the frame and components properly. You should never put your wet steel bike in the garage!
If you are already drying your bike thoroughly, you can also check a few important places at the same time. Now everything is clean and visible.
For example, check the screws to see if they are already starting to rust. Or possible defects on your frame and the paintwork.
Paint damage discovered on steel frame?
You can touch up the area with a touch-up pencil or nail varnish to protect the frame from rust. If you can’t find the right colour anywhere, simply use transparent nail varnish. It goes with any paint job 😉
Step 4: Lubricate
When your bike is dry, it needs to be lubricated again. Lubricate the chain with either chain oil or chain wax. If you have had wax on the chain before, you can apply wax or oil. If you have had oil on the chain before, you should also stick to oil or degrease the chain completely so that you can switch to wax.
You should also regularly rub a thin layer of assembly paste into the connection between the frame and the seat post. A tight seat post is no fun! If you have a carbon seat post in a steel frame, you should use carbon assembly paste.
Seat post slips and cracks?
We have summarized a few tips for your seat post so that it only moves deliberately and does not make any annoying noises.
Step 5: Apply protective coating
Finally, you need a new protective coating for your frame. Here we recommend our Fabulous Finish silicone spray. It is water and dirt repellent and effectively protects your frame from rust and dirt.
Sealing steel frames from the inside: Cavity sealing
A steel bicycle frame can rust not only from the outside, but also from the inside. If at some point, reddish water leaks out of your frame, it is definitely too late.
It is best to check with the manufacturer of the bicycle frame whether the frame has already been sealed on the inside and when you need to renew the seal. If your frame is already sealed, you don’t need to worry about it. However, if you are restoring an old steel bike, a new cavity sealant would not be a bad idea.
There are many DIY solutions, such as sealing with linseed oil. However, we recommend that you contact your local paint or body shop. The professionals know what is important when sealing cavities and can possibly do it for you.