When your steel bike gets dirty, you may be reluctant to clean it - you could be worried about harsh chemicals damaging the finish, or using the wrong equipment.
However, it’s relatively easy to polish your steel bike frame so it looks as good as new. It’s important that you regularly polish your metal bike in order to remove rust or prevent rust from occurring in the first place.
Read on to find out the best way to clean and polish your steel bike frame without inflicting any damage to the paint or finish.
Why Choose A Steel Bike Frame?
You may have heard the expression ‘steel is real’ - well, steel is the traditional material for bike frames, and was the staple of bike frame building for over a century until the ‘90s.
In modern times, you can find bike frames constructed of all kinds of materials - whether it be an aluminium alloy, titanium, or carbon fibre. Although titanium bike frames are considered a luxury as they can last a lifetime, steel bike frames are more affordable and still strong and durable.
As a metal, steel doesn’t fatigue, making it a great choice for a bike frame. Likewise, steel is used in many industries, so it’s not too difficult to get your steel bike frame repaired if it sustains structural damage.
Steel bike frames also make for a comfortable ride, offering a streamlined and bump-free experience, whether you’re cycling to work, along a gravel path, or cruising along the road. Read on to learn more about the properties of steel bike frames.
Steel Bike Frame Properties
Steel isn’t considered a lightweight metal - a steel bike frame will be heavier than aluminium, which is something that may put professional cyclists off.
However, steel is much denser than aluminium, making it a stronger and more durable option. Steel bike frames are likely to last much longer than aluminium bike frames, meaning you’ll save money on repairs and replacements in the long term.
When it comes to manufacturing steel bike frames, builders can use thinner-walled tubes in a smaller diameter whilst maintaining the right level of stiffness. However, the frame will remain heavier than other metals such as titanium and aluminium.
It is a strong metal that, although it does have a fatigue limit, can withstand stress below its high fatigue limit without failing - unlike materials such as aluminium that weakens over time.
Steel can be more expensive to manufacture on a mass scale, making aluminium a more affordable option.
Despite its slightly higher price tag, steel frame bikes remain a top choice for cyclists all around the world, especially for boutique and custom bikes. It’s an excellent choice where weight is less of a concern - for example, for touring or backpacking frames.
Unless the frame is made of stainless steel, steel frames require painting and a quality finish to prevent corrosion.
For extra resistance to corrosion and general wear, the inside of the bike tube can be painted too. But how exactly are steel bike frames cleaned and polished when rust does occur? Read on to find out!
Tips For Cleaning Your Steel Bike Frame
Before you get started on cleaning or polishing your steel frame, you must gather the right supplies. You’ll need a polishing compound or bike cleaning product, a clean rag or two, a soft brush, and steel wool.
First of all, give your bike a quick wash with soap and water to clean the bike and get rid of any mud, dirt, or grime. Give it a quick dry with a towel or a dry cloth, and then begin getting rid of the rust.
To remove any rust from the frame, use the steel wool to scrub the spots until the rust has cleared and the frame is rust-free. It may take a few minutes to remove each spot - however if it’s taking too long, or the spots are particularly stubborn, then don’t hesitate to use a drop of the polishing compound to ease the process.
When there is no more rust on the frame, dust off the frame using the brush. Apply a drop of the polishing compound to the rag or cloth and rub it into the bike frame - usually, a circular motion works best.
Cover the entire frame with the compound using the cloth, and take extra care when polishing scuffs, scratches, and general signs of wear.
If you’re still not happy with the result, you can repeat the second stage a couple of times until your bike is shining. Use a clean cloth to remove any of the leftover polish, and check out your newly polished steel bike frame!
Lubricating The Chain
It’s important that you lubricate your chain when necessary - this can help to extend the life of your bike. However, you can’t just use any lube oil to clean your chain - you have to make sure that it’s bike specific. Before you lubricate the chain, check whether you need wet lube or dry lube.
Wet lube is ideal for riding in the rain and wet conditions - it’s designed to be less likely to be affected by wet conditions.
However, dirt and mud will likely stick to it, so ensure you wipe off any excess. Dry lube, however, is better suited to dry environments. However, this means that it will likely wash off when you ride your bike in the rain.
Reilly Cycleworks Steel Bike Frames
If you’re looking for a steel bike frameset or a steel bike, our expert team at Reilly Cycleworks can help you out. Check out the Reilly Gradient STL, our best-selling Gradient adventure bike. The Reilly Gradient STL benefits from Mark Reilly’s progressive geometry.
We understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to bikes - which is why we have an in-house frame builder available so you can customise your Reilly Bike to suit your personality: your ride, your way.
You can make personalised tweaks to the tube and stay length, and you’ll have the option to choose a bespoke paint finish to match your style.
The Gradient STL is the perfect bike to power you on your next adventure - whether you’re riding on the open road or cycling along a gravel trail or pathway.
Check out our steel frames here. For your peace of mind, at Reilly Cycleworks, we have a warranty on our steel road bicycle frames, starting from delivery for up to 10 years, covering all material defects.