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  1. #1
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    Clear Nail Polish on Spokes to Prevent Rust?

    Hi everyone, I have a 1984 Trek 420 and a few of the spokes on the front wheel are starting to rust. The bike is left outside under a cover all of the time. I know, I know, nobody on these forums keeps bikes, especially a steel one, outside. But I'm a poor student and live in a small apartment building with no landings to keep the bike inside and insanely tall steps make it impossible to carry the bike upstairs. (old, crappy building)

    Anyways, I was thinking about taking the surface rust that's accumulating on a few of these spokes off with some steel wool and using clear nail polish to coat the spokes to prevent more rust from forming. Can anything bad happen by doing this? The wheels are the original 27 inch Weinmann alloy wheels made in Belgium (or so it says).

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. #2
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    Worth a try to see how it works out ? My only concern would be overspray of clear coat, that and seizing up the spokes with the dry paint that might make spoke adjustments and wheel alignments difficult later on.

  3. #3
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    A Trek with mild steel spokes? Who'd have thought that. The utterly dominating material for spokes is stainless steel.
    But sure, keep the lacquer/paint/clearcoat away from the nipples and rim and you should be OK.

    Or use some car wax, reapplied every now and then.

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    I've used wax on spokes to prevent rust. Dont spray, wipe it one.
    car wax or bees wax is good. If you just have furniture polish, spray it onto a rag.
    Keep away from the rim.

  5. #5
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Sounds like a lotta work to me! After doing the steel wool thing I`d just spray it with a silver automotive anti-rust can myself.

  6. #6
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dabac View Post
    A Trek with mild steel spokes? Who'd have thought that. The utterly dominating material for spokes is stainless steel.
    The wheels might not be original.

    Then again, until the late 70s, stainless steel was not well-regarded as a material for spokes.

  7. #7
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    The problem with nail polish or any other sealing coat is that it can seal IN the problem as well as keeping water out.

    You're better off to clean the spokes off and use a good paste car wax on them. The wax will last quite a while actually.

    In the end it's a poor way to store the bike so a lot of other stuff is going to suffer in various ways as well as the spokes. I know you don't want to hear this about your pride and joy transportation bike but it may be a lot easier to just consider it as a consumable and allow it to erode back to the elements over time and get another bike when it's too far gone to revive any more. For example, if you're worried about a bit of rust on the spokes what about the inside of the frame? A steel framed bike living outdoors in the elements with just a tarp over it is going to rust badly in short order. Yet I don't see you asking about stripping the whole bike down to allow coating the inside with a frame saver concoction.

    Consider too that rims used for braking in sloppy weather are a consumable as well. By the time the rust on the spokes is an issue the rims will likely be ground down by the brake pads and the grit they pick up in bad weather. At that point you could "fix" the rusty spokes issue with a new set of wheels that'll have stainless spokes. Or rebuild your old wheels with stainless spokes and new rims.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    The wheels might not be original.

    Then again, until the late 70s, stainless steel was not well-regarded as a material for spokes.
    My '85 Bridgestone 400 came with 27" 36H Araya rims laced 3X to Sansin hubs (6-speed freewheel rear) with plain 14 gauge Cd or Zn plated mild steel spokes. the spokes never rusted since the bike was stored indoors but I broke three rear spokes (drive side of course) by 9000 miles.

    I replace the wheels with a Nashbar house branded set using DT stainless steel spokes and never broke another.

  9. #9
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    For a little spot rust, the wax sounds good.

    For more rust, a much better solution is rust converter. It chemically reacts with rust, and protects against further rusting. The rust turns black, so it won't look great, but it'll be functional. It's way easier than sanding down to bright metal, priming and painting.

    For instance: Rustoleum Rust Reformer. Most big hardware stores should have something similar. Spray into a disposable cup and use a small brush.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 07-03-11 at 12:30 PM.

  10. #10
    Cyclist storckm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
    The problem with nail polish or any other sealing coat is that it can seal IN the problem as well as keeping water out.
    But unless you're sealing water in too, why would it be a problem even if you do seal in the rust? Also, am I right in thinking that the rust itself provides some protection from further corrosion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by storckm View Post
    But unless you're sealing water in too, why would it be a problem even if you do seal in the rust?
    The problem is that cracks or thin spots in the coating will allow water to enter and then trap it after it does.
    Quote Originally Posted by storckm View Post
    Also, am I right in thinking that the rust itself provides some protection from further corrosion?
    No, not on steel. Rust on steel is actually autocatalytic, that is its presence increases the tendency to rust even further.

    "Rust" (actually an oxide layer) on aluminum, titanium and stainless steels does indeed act as a protective, corrosion preventative but not on plain carbon steels or typical Cr-Mo alloys.

  12. #12
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hurley81388 View Post
    insanely tall steps make it impossible to carry the bike upstairs.
    O_o

    I find that hard to believe; I can take my bike pretty much anywhere I can walk.

    Are you using the right technique?

    Portage.jpg

  13. #13
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    My wife's 1997 Giant Farrago hybrid came with non-stainless spokes, which became funky over the years. Replaced the wheels.
    My brother's Specialized Crossroads (15 years old?) has non-SS spokes. A little bit funky.
    The 1994 C-Dale H300 I used to have (their cheapest hybrid that year) came with SS spokes.
    Go figure. SS spokes now pretty much standard but it's taken a while for that to happen.
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  14. #14
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I play with a lot of vintage bikes and although I build new wheels and always use stainless, these older bikes have nice original wheels and unless they need to be rebuilt just use car wax to protect them from moisture / rust.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
    O_o

    I find that hard to believe; I can take my bike pretty much anywhere I can walk.

    Are you using the right technique?

    Portage.jpg
    Yep, I use that technique to carry my bike but when I do that the front wheel hits the next step and the back wheel hits the top of the wall. Each step is at least a foot tall, the stairway is less than 3 feet wide and the staircase has two very sharp 90 degree turns. So the bike can't make the 90 degree turn due to the narrow width plus the steepness each individual stair causes the front wheel to hit. Again, I live in the Northeast and the building is at my guess, around 75-100 years old.

    Thanks guys for all the solutions. I think I'm going to just clean it off with some very fine steel wool and then use some car wax on the spokes to prevent further rusting. I appreciate all the help!

  16. #16
    Member boazmoss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hurley81388 View Post
    Yep, I use that technique to carry my bike but when I do that the front wheel hits the next step and the back wheel hits the top of the wall. Each step is at least a foot tall, the stairway is less than 3 feet wide and the staircase has two very sharp 90 degree turns. So the bike can't make the 90 degree turn due to the narrow width plus the steepness each individual stair causes the front wheel to hit. Again, I live in the Northeast and the building is at my guess, around 75-100 years old.

    Thanks guys for all the solutions. I think I'm going to just clean it off with some very fine steel wool and then use some car wax on the spokes to prevent further rusting. I appreciate all the help!
    If you have a quick-release on the front wheel, drop the wheel out .

  17. #17
    Senior Member CliffordK's Avatar
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    Just install one of these gable hoists like is common in Amsterdam



    Oddly, I didn't find any photos of bicycles hanging by them.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Kopsis's Avatar
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    The problem with nail polish or rattle-can clear lacquer is that without an etching primer to passivate the metal surface and provide a good bonding surface for paint, the clear will start flaking off in no time and look really bad. In places where it does stay on, sealing in moisture and other oxidizing agents will let the spokes continue to rust under the clear.

    The wax suggestions are the optimal solution. Relatively cheap, easy to apply, easy to maintain, and won't degrade the appearance. As surface rust continues to pop up (and it will, but more gradually) you can just scrub it off with some steel wool and re-apply the wax.

  19. #19
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    Four years.
    This content provided without advertising, for your enjoyment.

  20. #20
    Junior Member El Aurens's Avatar
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    Boiled Linseed Oil

    Quote Originally Posted by hurley81388 View Post
    I was thinking about taking the surface rust that's accumulating on a few of these spokes off with some steel wool and using clear nail polish
    I use boiled linseed oil (a drying oil available from hardware store) on all rusty iron implements and old unfinished wood (like tool handles). Hand brush with a steel brush first to remove major flakes of rust (NOT a motor driven rotary steel brush; that will take you down to bare metal).

    Apply the oil with an old rag. It penetrates the rust crystals and forms a (relatively) hard composite structure. Don't worry about getting it down into the spoke nipples, it is pliable enough it will not interfere with adjusting spoke tension.

    It forms a black oxide finish. It doesn't look great on a bike, but it resists further oxidation. Here is what an old hand pruner looks like when coated with linseed oil:

    IMAG1472-1-1.jpg

  21. #21
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Aurens View Post
    Apply the oil with an old rag. It penetrates the rust crystals and forms a (relatively) hard composite structure.
    Just be careful with that rag when you're done:


  22. #22
    Junior Member El Aurens's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
    Just be careful with that rag when you're done:
    Yes, good point! But I have never had a single rag spontaneously ignite. Generally, that applies to a pile of rags.

    However, I have since posting that switched to using RAW COLD PRESSED HEMPSEED OIL, because not only does it produce a much nicer finish on rusty metal (it is also a drying oil), you can use whatever you have left over in salad dressing.

    http://www.tcforensic.com.au/docs/uts/essay6.pdf:
    "The potential for linseed oil to self-heat is quantified by the iodine number, which increases with an increasing concentration of linolenic acid. The iodine number is a measure of the amount of iodine that is taken up in the reaction with the C=C unsaturated bonds to form C-I-C and iodide. The average iodine values of some drying oils are listed below:
    Perilla oil 194
    Linseed 188
    Tung 162
    Hempseed 153"

    Due to the fact that boiling of linseed oil concentrates drying agents, I would expect raw hempseed oil to be quite a bit safer.
    Last edited by El Aurens; 07-28-15 at 07:48 PM.

  23. #23
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    Wow. Really complicated answers at times. Just use the bike and as long as the spokes don't start breaking - don't even worry bout it.

    When you graduate - get a new bike or a new front wheel and celebrate !

  24. #24
    "Fred"--is that bad? DTSCDS's Avatar
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    Well, since the original post was done over 4 years ago, I figure either he found a solution, gave up on the bike, or just moved on with his life.
    Might have even graduated by now. But, if by "poor student" he meant that he does not do well in school, he may have had to drop out and find a career that doesn't require higher education.
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