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Cleaning rims for braking -- when, how and how often?

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Cleaning rims for braking -- when, how and how often?

Old 05-20-20, 09:29 AM
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elcyc
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Cleaning rims for braking -- when, how and how often?

I have center caliper brakes on my Gary Fisher, and use Kool-Stop Eagle 2 pads. All my riding is commuting/city here in LA county, Southern California.
I've heard various suggestions on when, how and how often to clean/maintain the rims. Everything from once a ride to "as needed".
How do I "litmus test" for a dirty rim? E.g., paper towel with 90% isop. alcohol, rubbed across the rim, and it turns black. I do this, and this is indeed what happens even though the rims look "clean" from a loose glance.

Also, what is the best/quickest cleaning method? Say, Scotch-brite with 90% isop. alcohol, etc.

Lastly, should I use non-petroleum chrome/metal polish (e.g. car buffing compound; Bass polish) to keep the rims smooth?

Thx!
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Old 05-20-20, 09:33 AM
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I just clean mine with alcohol, after washing the bike (just a wipe with an alcohol wetted cloth) - about every month or so! If I do a lot of miles, and am cleaning/oiling the chain, it may get an extra wipe!
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Old 05-20-20, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Wanderer View Post
I just clean mine with alcohol, after washing the bike (just a wipe with an alcohol wetted cloth) - about every month or so! If I do a lot of miles, and am cleaning/oiling the chain, it may get an extra wipe!
Thx!
I should've asked earlier ... how much difference does a cleaning like that make in braking performance. A little, a lot, or enough to matter?
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Old 05-20-20, 12:48 PM
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Okay, I just cleaned both rims quite thoroughly. With towel and 90% alch. I also followed with Scotch-brite scrub and toweled/alcohol'd again.
It made almost NO difference.

On a related note, front braking (despite having brand new pads) are the problematic ones of the two.
The rear pads are nearly 10 years old (but still have ample tread) -- but rear braking is decent on this Fisher.

IIRC, front braking used be much more effective (i.e., "grabby")

(BTW: The cables were replaced concurrently on both front and rear, and are in good shape I think)

Any suggestions for better pads, mounting / aligning techniques, resurfacing rims, etc. are appreciated.
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Old 05-20-20, 12:58 PM
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Aluminum or carbon wheels?

I have Zipps and they recommend acetone.... it works great.
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Old 05-20-20, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by elcyc View Post
I have center caliper brakes on my Gary Fisher, and use Kool-Stop Eagle 2 pads. All my riding is commuting/city here in LA county, Southern California.
I've heard various suggestions on when, how and how often to clean/maintain the rims. Everything from once a ride to "as needed".
How do I "litmus test" for a dirty rim? E.g., paper towel with 90% isop. alcohol, rubbed across the rim, and it turns black. I do this, and this is indeed what happens even though the rims look "clean" from a loose glance.

Also, what is the best/quickest cleaning method? Say, Scotch-brite with 90% isop. alcohol, etc.

Lastly, should I use non-petroleum chrome/metal polish (e.g. car buffing compound; Bass polish) to keep the rims smooth?

Thx!
I would say go for it and try the thing you asked about last. If your rims are machined sidewall I think they might benefit periodically from several passes with clean paper towels and Mother's Mag Wheel Polish. This stuff removes a lot of metal thus the paper towels will be very black. Do at least 2 applications of the full machined sidewall, 1 side at a time. You will see it take a bit of polish and some of the score lines might smooth out a bit. I finish with one last treatment with Meguiar's Cleaner Wax to get the excess mag polish off and to seal the aluminum pores a bit more. Test ride the bike around the block and see if it is any better. Your pads may be hardened. There is a cheap Chinese brand of Shimano compatible pads sold on eBay that comes in different colors that has a good mix of durability, softness and excellent stopping power. Not as long lasting as stock Shimano pads, but not as fast wearing as the reddish colored Kool Stops that everybody always recommend.
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Old 05-20-20, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
Aluminum or carbon wheels?
I have Zipps and they recommend acetone.... it works great.
I have Sun Rhyno Lite (aluminum I think).
Acetone? Really? You/Zipp must be thinking of use with tires removed.
From Google: "Acetone will not dissolve rubber, but prolonged exposure will degrade it. "
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Old 05-20-20, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by elcyc View Post
I have Sun Rhyno Lite (aluminum I think).
Acetone? Really? You/Zipp must be thinking of use with tires removed.
From Google: "Acetone will not dissolve rubber, but prolonged exposure will degrade it. "
Or as a last resort, there is always 1,1,1-trichloroetheyne. It'll clean up anything.... But it might give you cancer.
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Old 05-20-20, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by elcyc View Post
I have Sun Rhyno Lite (aluminum I think).
Acetone? Really? You/Zipp must be thinking of use with tires removed.
From Google: "Acetone will not dissolve rubber, but prolonged exposure will degrade it. "
Been doing it for years and never had a problem.
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Old 05-20-20, 02:30 PM
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I keep all the socks (so many!) that develop holes in the heels for rags. I usually hold a plain dry rag up to the braking surface and walk the bike backwards one rotation. If they are really nasty, I'll do it twice each side. Depending on the weather, I usually do this procedure once a week. I also will release the calipers (canti) and manually wire brush the surfaces of the pads if the weather has been lousy (i.e. wet or sloppy).
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Old 05-20-20, 02:34 PM
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I'll wipe down the rims with a clean, dry (to start with!) paper towel after a rainy commute, if it's not also too cold. Hard for OP to relate, from LA, I suppose.

I'll also wash the rims when I wash the bike, 3-4 times a year.

Difference? Fewer squeaks and less grinding noise if there's enough black to see a difference after cleaning. Haven't seen any change in brake effectiveness, except for the back wheel the time or two I over-oiled the chain.
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Old 05-20-20, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by prairiepedaler View Post
I keep all the socks (so many!) that develop holes in the heels for rags. I usually hold a plain dry rag up to the braking surface and walk the bike backwards one rotation. If they are really nasty, I'll do it twice each side. Depending on the weather, I usually do this procedure once a week. I also will release the calipers (canti) and manually wire brush the surfaces of the pads if the weather has been lousy (i.e. wet or sloppy).

Yep, don't forget the pads!
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Old 05-20-20, 03:30 PM
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I just use a damp cloth or Lysol wipes. Seems to work well removing dirt and not causing discoloration. I also clean the rims and spokes with Lysol wipes after every ride as a way to check spoke tension while cleaning. Occasionally I'll find a loose spoke.
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Old 05-20-20, 03:41 PM
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And just as important as rims, don't forget to polish the spokes for a snappy look.
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Old 05-20-20, 03:46 PM
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Getting grit out of the pads is a good idea. That tends to be more of an issue on my winter bike. I usually hear it if it's there.

Otherwise, I'm probably like most cyclists, in that I clean things more often than necessary, and not for any functional reason.
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Old 05-20-20, 04:20 PM
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Actually, now that I think about it, I do clean the rims about 1-2x week, usually with a clean, dry towel. But every other week with Windex. I do this mostly for cosmetics-- i.e.,spokes, wheels, but the braking-rim surface does get some love in this ritual.
Still, with my recent deliberate cleaning of rim (brake-pad mating area), I did pull off black stuff. May've been partly the 90% alch. towel rubbing the tire???
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Old 05-20-20, 04:29 PM
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BTW.. i clean my wheels at the same time I clean the bike... about once a week or 150 miles.
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Old 05-20-20, 06:37 PM
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The following image is from Sept. 2004. I'm still using the SAME bike, calipers, brake pads (!!), rims/wheels, tires, maybe 12k miles later (only changed brake cable once)...


I think that toe-in geometry on the Kool-Stop Eagle "Claw" is correct?
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Old 05-21-20, 09:23 AM
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Once in a while, maybe every 200 miles or so. I use degreaser on a paper towel, with bike on work-stand. Hold moistened towel against rim, careful not to contact tire, and spin wheel by hand. Turn towel to put clean surface on rim, and repeat until no more clean, moist surfaces left on towel. Done!
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Old 05-21-20, 11:20 AM
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I only do it after rainy rides. Bucket of water and a rag is enough.
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Old 05-21-20, 11:50 AM
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Every time I ride in the wet/rain I hose the rims off when I finish. The black, oily, gritty runoff is amazing. Then I use brake clean on a paper towel when they have dried.
I'll usually also clean them with brake cleaner when I clean the chain or when I do a general cleaning.
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Old 05-21-20, 12:14 PM
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My commuter bike has disc brakes, so...unrelated to this thread.

But for my other bikes, it's whenever I feel like it. For example, if I have the bike up on the stand for a chain measurement or lube and wipe, then I am also likely to give the rims a wipe also. I use the ammonia-based spray "Dirtex" as an all-purpose cleaner. Spin the wheel and spray. Wipe with clean cloth. Walk around to the other side of the bike, spin and spray. Wipe. This keeps most rims acceptably clean.

But my bikes aren't immaculate. They're clean and work very, very well. But they're not showroom clean.
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Old 05-21-20, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by elcyc View Post
The following image is from Sept. 2004. I'm still using the SAME bike, calipers, brake pads (!!), rims/wheels, tires, maybe 12k miles later (only changed brake cable once)...


I think that toe-in geometry on the Kool-Stop Eagle "Claw" is correct?
The toe-in looks like it could be a litle excessive, but not bad. I'm a little curious about the anlgle of your straddle cable and the poisition of your brake arms. Could you post a head-on picture of your brakes?

Last edited by Doug64; 05-21-20 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 05-21-20, 01:13 PM
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Unless you get oil on your rims, there is little you 'have" to do except road grit is destructive to the braking surface. When I hose my bikes off post-ride with a light spray, I blast through the rim and brake pad with the jet. I wipe my rims periodically, mostly for appearance, with either a clean rag (old socks and T-shirts like above) or paper towel but rarely has this been to cure a problem or have I noticed a change in braking from those wipes. I don't see the black braking dust as a braking problem, just appearance, Now the road grit, especially the local northwest volcanic grit can be very destructive and is the biggest limiting factor on how long my rims last.

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Old 05-21-20, 01:23 PM
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I don't do it, but I would if I got some mud on there.
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