Bicycle Maintenance: Getting Rid of Rust

Rust has been a problem since the first bicycles. It works it way into hard-to-reach places and can be the death of a bicycle. If you regularly clean your bike, or have non-steel based components, then you can easily keep this to a minimum. However when I was recently restoring a 1986 Raleigh Equipe bicycle I ran into a lot of rust and parts of the bicycle which at first seemed like junk. However I was amazed that with just some simple tools and a bit of elbow grease large improvements could be made and I was able to salvage many parts, which had previously been confined to dark areas of the garage.

What you will need:
• Steel wool (a fine grade, cheap at most hardware stores)
• Brasso (or metal polish equivalent)
• All-purpose cleaning cloths

This technique works particularly well on steel and restoring a chrome finish to wheels. I began by removing the tyre and inner tube then rubbing the steel wool around the rim between spokes, in circular and back-and-forth rhythms. The longer you spend doing this the better your wheels will turn out. It got rid of loads of rust, corrosion, and pitting on my wheels and made them look almost new again. Once you have gone round the whole rim, from facing one side go round again but with the wheel flipped over so the other side of the hub faces you. This is faster than the initial rubbing and ensures you have covered the whole rim. I then move onto the hub, this is slow due to big hands and small gaps between spokes. Once the hub is looking good I then move onto the spokes.

Back and forth rubbing with the steel wool in-between spokes working your way around the rim.

Back and forth rubbing with the steel wool in-between spokes working your way around the rim.

All-in-all this entire process took me the best part of two hours for one wheel, obviously you can spend as much or as little time as you want but the longer you spend the better they will look and the longer they will stay looking good. After all these steps the wheel will be looking pretty shiny and clean. In order to give it a real gleam though apply some Brasso (follow the steps on the bottle) and cover the whole wheel with it rubbing it around using your all-purpose cleaning cloth. The Brasso goes a long way so just a small tin should last you quite a long time. Once the Brasso has dried then rub it off with a dry clean cloth. This reveals the transformation. Voila! Your once rusted wheel, which was fit for nothing except the tip, is now ready to build up your new vintage build.

photo 2 photo 4

I used these steps on almost all the steel parts on the Raleigh when I was building it up, from crankset to handlebars it ensures a long-lasting shine which restores your bike to its former glory. Although it does take a while and at sometimes feels pointless, take a photo before you begin so that you can see your results more clearly once you have finished. It gives your bike parts a new lease of life and definitely makes them look better. For old derailleurs and freewheels I put these in a tub of degreaser for a few hours and moved them around a bit before carrying out the above steps, this helped remove excess gunk and free up moving parts before I started polishing. If you have any old parts lying around your house or garage which you were considering throwing away, this treatment might save them for future use!

The finished products!

The finished products!

3 responses to “Bicycle Maintenance: Getting Rid of Rust

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