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Steel frames, winter glop, & salt...... or how quickly will I destroy my bike?

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Steel frames, winter glop, & salt...... or how quickly will I destroy my bike?

Old 02-03-11, 10:14 AM
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Steely Dan
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Steel frames, winter glop, & salt...... or how quickly will I destroy my bike?

so this is my first winter of bike commuting and i'm using my 15 year cro-mo mountain bike because it seemed like a better idea than shelling out a bunch of money on a new dedicated winter bike that i don't have room for anyway. the problem of course is that it's steel, and steel doesn't play nice with water & salt (or rather water & salt don't play nice with steel).

also, i ride in the city of chicago, which i think might use more road salt each winter than the rest of the western hemisphere combined. i'm mean, it's absurd how much salt streets & san lays down on the streets here. sometimes i'm even biking on a pure salt crust layer on top of the asphalt.

after wet, salty rides, i try to wipe down the exterior as much as i can, and to my credit, the exterior of the frame is still in great shape, no rust spots anywhere. but who knows what's going on inside the tubes. am i destroying my steel bike from the inside out by riding it in such conditions? how many seasons of winter bike commuting can one expect to get out of steel frame ridden in such salty conditions? i know the easy answer is to just get a new non-steel bike, but i really love my cro-mo mountian bike.
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Old 02-03-11, 10:19 AM
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You can treat the inside of the frame with something like "Frame Saver". I was able to get it at my LBS. It works best if you take everything off down to the bare frame.

So far salt has wreaked more havoc on the components than on the frame itself. I try to wipe it off now and then too. The most likely spots for rust to gain a foothold is any place the paint has chipped, near lugs, or any other weld/seam.

I don't expect it to crumble underneath me anytime soon but I'd rather have an aluminum frame for winter.
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Old 02-03-11, 10:20 AM
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The frame will last some years but some of the parts will most likely not. Especially front derailleurs are prone to die from salt exposure. Everything on a bike gets hurt by the salt (maybe not the tires) so my take is to use bikes I don,t mind throwing out when they are done. My winter beater now was found in a dumpster.
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Old 02-03-11, 10:23 AM
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I wouldn't worry about it , that raleigh of mine spent 5 years sitting outside and you can't even tell. Plus i rode it four winters in a row with little to no affect. I did have really really small surface rust around the ventholes but I haven't had the factory paint on that frame for nearly a decade so that's expected.
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Old 02-03-11, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
You can treat the inside of the frame with something like "Frame Saver". I was able to get it at my LBS. It works best if you take everything off down to the bare frame.
does the frame saver stuff work? it seems like a lot of work to strip the whole bike down to a bare bones frame, do even things like the head set cups need to come off? and i don't have that luxury of doing that right now anyway seeing as how my bike is my main mode of transport. perhaps in the summer when i'm back on my road bike full time i can try some of this frame saver stuff. is it something that you should put in your bike prior to every winter season?



Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
So far salt has wreaked more havoc on the components than on the frame itself.
i'm not terribly worried about components, it's all mid-level stuff at best anyway, so nothing to be terribly attached to, but the frame is the heart and soul of any bike, that's what i'm interested in protecting; components will come and go, as they always do.
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Old 02-03-11, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
So far salt has wreaked more havoc on the components than on the frame itself.
I used to live and commute (year round) in Maine, on a steel frame bike. Never had issues with the frame, but did have issues with components rotting away. One particular issue is when you have an aluminium component next to steel - such as a steel bolt going through an aluminium part - with the salt the two will fuse and become one, and you will never get that bolt out again.

From time to time, when I had chips on the paint on the frame, I would fill them in with nail polish.
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Old 02-03-11, 12:10 PM
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Frame saver is good stuff , it runs , when applied , so you need to rotate the whole frame
to coat it entirely.. . Wee hose needed to shoot it in the brazing vent holes.

Boiled linseed oil would be a generic material to use , but its not in a spray can.
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Old 02-03-11, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
does the frame saver stuff work? it seems like a lot of work to strip the whole bike down to a bare bones frame, do even things like the head set cups need to come off? and i don't have that luxury of doing that right now anyway seeing as how my bike is my main mode of transport. perhaps in the summer when i'm back on my road bike full time i can try some of this frame saver stuff. is it something that you should put in your bike prior to every winter season?
If you take the seat post out and the BB off you can access most of the frame. Taking the fork off makes the inside of the head tube more easily accessible and also lets you easily spray the inside of the top tubes and down tubes.

The treatment is in an aerosol can with a spray tube that allows you direct the stuff where it needs to go. From the bottom bracket you can usually spray into the down tube and chain stays.

That reason for taking stuff off is to give you access to the areas inside your frame. It's probably not necessary to remove absolutely everything but I liked the idea of having all the threaded holes in the frame coated too so I took off everything including water bottle cages and taped over the holes. There's no real reason to pull off the derailleurs but I did it anyway 'cause I figured I might as well give them a good cleaning while I was at it.

I'm not sure how long it lasts but I don't think you need to do it every year.

Last edited by tjspiel; 02-03-11 at 12:18 PM.
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Old 02-03-11, 12:38 PM
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I have had two bikes treated with frame saver, but my oldest i have done nothing to. So far I haven't been able to tell the difference if its been treated or not. But better safe than sorry.

Basically after a very wet and salty ride I wipe down the whole bike when I get home. I use a rag and a spray bottle filled with water. Usually I will apply lube to the chain and components.

Basically I wouldn't worry about the frame disintegrating on you. I would though make sure the frame and components are free from salt and water.
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Old 02-03-11, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by exile View Post
I have had two bikes treated with frame saver, but my oldest i have done nothing to. So far I haven't been able to tell the difference if its been treated or not. But better safe than sorry.

Basically after a very wet and salty ride I wipe down the whole bike when I get home. I use a rag and a spray bottle filled with water. Usually I will apply lube to the chain and components.

Basically I wouldn't worry about the frame disintegrating on you. I would though make sure the frame and components are free from salt and water.
If I sprayed down my bike with water when I got home I'd have a bicycle shaped icicle that I couldn't shift. It's normally too cold for that unless I drag the bike inside which is a PITA and does not boost marital relations.
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Old 02-03-11, 01:03 PM
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We don't have the salt issue around here, but we do get rain nearly every day in the winter. My winter bike for the last three years has a steel frame, and I leave it out uncovered all day while I'm at work. I have not used any sort of frame saver. I've got a bit of surface rust on a lot of bolts, but the frame itself seems to be rust free. I recently changed the crankset and expected to see a lot of rust in the bottom bracket area, but there was nothing.

I've got another bike that was sitting in a barn for something like 30 years before I got it. The chain was so rusty that I was able to snap it with my bare hands. All the components had a lot of surface rust. The frame was in good shape. I found some tiny, loose pieces of rust in the bottom bracket area and there were a few spots of surface rust where the paint had been rubbed away, but it cleaned up very nicely. Surface rust, BTW, provides some degree of protection against further corrosion.

In short, for a 15 year old mountain bike, I wouldn't worry about it. Like someone else said, cover up any bare metal that gets exposed by chipped or scratched paint and it will be fine.
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Old 02-03-11, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
If I sprayed down my bike with water when I got home I'd have a bicycle shaped icicle that I couldn't shift. It's normally too cold for that unless I drag the bike inside which is a PITA and does not boost marital relations.
I should of mentioned I keep my bikes inside in the basement.

And tjspeil, you have to decide what's more important, your wife or your bike? I know, its such an ethical quagmire. At least for me ;-). Oh wait, i'm not married.
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Old 02-03-11, 02:56 PM
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so there seems to be some consensus that the most immediate damage that winter snow and salt are gonna do is to external things like components and exterior frame scratches. it sounds to me like you guys think that riding one winter season in all of this snow and salt probably won't destroy the inside of my frame, so i have some time to explore using some frame saver come spring or summer when i'm back on my road bike more full time. thanks for the input everbody. i'll be sure to keep the bike wiped down and as salt free as is reasonable for now and look towards stripping the frame down for some frame saver a couple of months on down the road. externally my frame is still in great shape with no visible rust spots what-so-ever, so that's already a pretty good starting point for a 15 year old steel frame.

and my bikes all live indoors with me, and they come inside with me when i'm at the office, i pamper them as though they were my babies; no getting left out in the cold for my two-wheeled children.

Last edited by Steely Dan; 02-03-11 at 03:12 PM.
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Old 02-03-11, 05:29 PM
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Well, I've got a 72 Schwinn that I've did winter riding on when I was in high school. When I started riding again a couple of years ago I had to replace the dérailleurs and brakes. But somehow I thing that was due to the fact that when I dug it out of my parent's garage it had spent 10 years buried under a lumber pile.
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Old 02-03-11, 08:12 PM
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I really don't think it's that big of a deal. I've gotten much worse damage on steel frames from sweating on them on the trainer than I have from salt. Our roads are white all winter long, and the dust cloud of salt when a car passes you is enough to promote hypertension. I've been riding my steel touring bike for 3 years and the components have suffered while the frame really hasn't. Frame saver is good insurance for hidden rust, but you don't need to apply it very often.
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Old 02-04-11, 02:22 PM
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Since you are in Chicago Steely Dan, just take a look at bikes locked up on college campuses. When I lock my bike up I always see a few bikes that have been left out all year. Usually the tires are flat, the chains rusty, and the components look frozen up. However, the frames look perfectly fine.
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Old 02-04-11, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
I used to live and commute (year round) in Maine, on a steel frame bike. Never had issues with the frame, but did have issues with components rotting away. One particular issue is when you have an aluminium component next to steel - such as a steel bolt going through an aluminium part - with the salt the two will fuse and become one, and you will never get that bolt out again.

From time to time, when I had chips on the paint on the frame, I would fill them in with nail polish.
How about using Anti-Seize to avoid this? Anti-Seize seems more durable than grease. It was designed so threaded parts of dissimilar metals don't seize up from corrosion.
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Old 02-06-11, 06:28 PM
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How about just making sure the frame is dry and keeping it properly closed up? See https://yarchive.net/bike/frame_rust.html for Jobst Brandt's explanation.

Short version: A properly made frame has no holes of note - except for the top of the seat tube. This should have enough grease to stop water from getting inside. At this point, there is no water to cause rust, so there can be no rusting on the inside of the frame. The head tube may be in danger from sweat, but that is summer, not winter.

As for rust on the outside of the frame, I would be inclined to make sure to keep up with the touch-up paint if you scratch your frame.

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Old 02-07-11, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Tor View Post
Short version: A properly made frame has no holes of note -
well, that's not how my frame was made. i've got holes in the down tube for a water bottle cage, holes on the seat tbe for a water bottle cage, vent holes on the chain & seat stays, & holes for a front rack on the fork.
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Old 02-07-11, 10:27 AM
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I couldn't find the Frame Saver anywhere so I used Rust-Oleum Rust Inhibitor spray on my new frame. It stinks like $#@! so it must be good. I had to use a mask and rubber gloves

I'm also going to use the Nashua Strech & Seal tape to seal whatever I can on my new frame to prevent water from coming in.
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Old 02-07-11, 10:29 AM
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I commuted two winters with a steel frame, and it showed no corrosion other than a few rust spots where the paint chipped. Brake pad and rim rear wear was horrendous, due to abrasive sand, but that's another issue. Yes, I switched to another bike after two years, but it was for reasons unrelated to frame corrosion.

In any case, your bike frame will be very little affected by road salt, unklike your car, which has lots of little compartments for the brine to accumulate in.

Paul
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Old 02-07-11, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
I commuted two winters with a steel frame, and it showed no corrosion other than a few rust spots where the paint chipped. Brake pad and rim rear wear was horrendous, due to abrasive sand, but that's another issue. Yes, I switched to another bike after two years, but it was for reasons unrelated to frame corrosion.

In any case, your bike frame will be very little affected by road salt, unklike your car, which has lots of little compartments for the brine to accumulate in.

Paul
But I figured at for $4 per can it can't hurt either. Particularly that my frame just came out of the box so it was easy. My steel Kona Sutra frame isn't showing any signs of rust either and it didn't get any treatment.
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Old 02-07-11, 11:00 AM
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This thread should help https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ight=corrosion
Corrosion Block works better than Frame Saver.
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Old 02-07-11, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
I couldn't find the Frame Saver
If you can't find Frame Saver, then you can just use automotive rustproofing oil. They come in little spray cans and can be found in automotive parts supply stores. That's what I did, I just sprayed the inside of my frames with RustCheck.
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Old 02-07-11, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
If you can't find Frame Saver, then you can just use automotive rustproofing oil. They come in little spray cans and can be found in automotive parts supply stores. That's what I did, I just sprayed the inside of my frames with RustCheck.
That was going to be my next choice, but since I was at Home Depot anyway I bough some of that Rust-Oleum stuff.

Tree Fort Bikes, whom I ordered the JP Wiggle's from originally, said in a later email (after alerting me that the JPW was not in stock) that they had another product called Boeshield T9 that works the same way, but they emailed me back after I came back from Home Depot.
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