November 9, 2008

How to take care of your frame!

Jorah asked me about this, and I realized that there’s nothing in the FAQ on the main site (which is being massively updated by my good friend Pete Roper, btw, and will look totally different soon) about caring for a steel frame. So here’s the scoop. This applies to any steel frame, really, not just one of mine.

-Steel rusts, albeit very slowly. If you live in Colorado, or Utah, or NM, or somewhere dry, you probably don’t have to spend much time worrying about this (I have ridden *unpainted* frames for multiple years at a time here in CO and all they got was some surface patina type rust). If, on the other hand, you live in San Diego next to the bay, and you leave your frame out on the porch in the salt mist…

-So that said, I put some rust preventing goop in the frame before I ship it out (note that this isn’t always the case with other steel bikes – and it’s possible for me to forget, so inspect the frame to make sure it’s got rustproofing in it). I don’t go totally crazy with it, but I do hit the major spots (seat tube/BB shell/chainstays) that are the most susceptible to rusting. The product I use is “Boeshield T-9”, which was used for preventing rust on steel aircraft way back around the second world war. Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about:

Note that their “odorless” claim is, er, a bit dubious, IMO.

You can get Boeshield at any decent hardware store. If you want to spend a bit more money, you can also use Weigle “Framesaver” (generally only available at bike shops or online) which is pretty close to the same thing but a bit more expensive. Here’s a picture:

-To apply the chosen rustproofing, remove the seatpost and fork (the headset can stay). Spray liberal amounts of the goop into the vent holes from the head tube into the downtube and toptube, as well as into the seat tube. Move the frame all around to slosh the goop everywhere it needs to go. Note that you’re going to get the stuff *everywhere* as part of this process, so do it outside or at least away from anything you want to stay clean. Do the same for the seatstays and chainstays, if they have vent holes (mine are generally sealed at the BB end, on most frames they vent into the BB shell). Swish, swirl, repeat. Leave the bike to drain or put it back together and live with small amounts of rustproofing getting everywhere for the next few days.

-Boeshield or Framesaver is good stuff, but it’s not a magic bullet. If the frame gets wet and stays wet for too long, nothing will prevent it from rusting. So there are a few more steps you can take – keep bolts in the water bottle bosses, make sure you dry the frame off after washing it, and periodically remove the fork and seatpost (and, if you have the tools, the bottom bracket) to inspect for rust. If the bike gets *really* wet, allow the frame to drain and dry (often this just means pulling out the seatpost and leaving the bike upside down for a while, which will allow the seat tube, downtube, and stays to drain any water that has entered), then spray in some more of your chosen rustproofing.

-It’s always a good idea to inspect the frame and fork (as well as other components) for damage every so often as well. Steel generally will give you a lot of both visual, auditory, and even tactile feedback that something is wrong, and it’s much better to find out in the garage than on the trail.