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There is still a lot of salt on the roads in Ottawa, Canada, but I am thinking about starting to use my road bike instead of my mountain bike because the snow is mostly gone. (At least temporarily).

My mountain bike is aluminum so I have not been worried about it rusting/disappearing.

My road bike that I want to start riding is made of steel so I am more concerned. What can I do to protect it from wet salty roads?

My steel road bike currently has a good paint job with few to no chips. I was thinking before I take it out the first time I might spray some greese onto a rag and give it a quick wipe down. I am not sure if this will be effective or a good idea so I would appreciate any feedback possible.

  1. Should I begin riding my steel bike now while the roads are still wet and salty or should I wait until summer and/or get a temporary winter/spring bike?
  2. If I am going to ride my steel bike what can I do to protect it from the wet salty streets?
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Steel will rust, given time. Riding a nice bike on salty roads will scratch it up, but you can minimize that.

Frame exterior:

Wiping a steel bike down with a greasy rag as a preventative measure certainly won't hurt, and it may help (particularly if you already have any scratches in the paint). I think you'd be better off concentrating on cleaning it frequently. If you can, clean the bike at least somewhat after each ride, concentrating on removing salt and sand from the drivetrain. I just let my bikes air-dry, but patting them dry when you're done makes sense.

There's a lot of good cleaning advice in this question's currently accepted answer, so I won't repeat it, but the important bit is to get rid of salty water as quickly as possible.

Frame interior:

Protecting the inside of a frame seems to come down to mostly preventative measures. Essentially, you can oil the inside of the frame, seal it off completely, or both.

There are frame saver sprays you can get, and I've heard of people using either fish oil or linseed oil to coat the inside. (Food-grade linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, can spoil if not refrigerated, and I suspect fish oil can as well, so I'd be wary or using either.) Sealing it off can cause condensation to evaporate much more slowly, so I'd avoid doing that in very humid climates. In most areas, this probably isn't a concern unless you live by the sea or ride through torrential downpours regularly; salty water, like you'd pick up from wet, salted roads is much more of a problem anyway. I don't live in a particularly humid area, so I've never worried about the insides of my steel frames.

In conclusion, a combination of preventative care coupled with frequent cleaning will keep your bike happy in the winter.

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What about the inside of the frame? Does salt water tend to get inside? –  freiheit Mar 16 '11 at 22:26
    
Good question, will edit my answer. –  Neil Fein Mar 17 '11 at 5:16
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The top end frame makers treat the inside of their frames with anti-rust stuff before shipping, so you shouldn't need to worry. But, if your frame hasn't been treated, I would argue against monkeying around with materials from the health food store -- there are superb specialized products made for the purpose. I think Boeshield is considered the standard (check with a reputable bike shop). The main thing is that it's a pretty elaborate and cumbersome process to get the treatment into every part of the inside of the frame; you don't want to have to do it often, not even every year. So get the good stuff that really works and do it once.

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