I have a 2015 Giant Trance that is about 3 weeks old. Used pretty much every weekend. It's kept in a shed (fully covered, no insulation just a regular shed), after every ride I give it a nice clean with a hose lightly over top, use an air compressor then use a micro fiber cloth to dry down and tidy up. My bolts, chain and discs for my brakes seem to have a lot of rust on them for 3 weeks old.

I have 2 questions:

  • Is this rust bad for my bike and if so, how do I remove it?

  • Is cleaning it with a hose, using the air compressor then the cloth bad for the bike and maybe making it rust?

Sorry if this is hard to understand, feel free to ask questions to know more.

P.S. Where I am from there is a lot of sulphur in the air (it's bad enough people visiting smell it very easily) so maybe that could be apart of it? It's also summer (southern hemisphere) and our trails are mainly in the trees, with the occasional tracks where trees have been cut down. Hope this helps.

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    Have you been out in snow? That can harm stuff in no time at all. Aside from that you're doing nothing wrong. That sounds strange as this is a $2500 bike and Giant are a good brand.
    – PeteH
    Feb 2, 2015 at 10:54
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    Sounds to me like you're over-cleaning it. Unless you're riding in mud or slush, once a week is plenty. Feb 2, 2015 at 12:17
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    Did you buy the bike from a shop? If so it's worth asking them. If the corrosion is due your environment, they will know because it is something they will see all the time. Even if you bought off the web, it is still probably worthwhile contacting a local bike shop for the same reason, although obviously under those circumstances they're not going to feel obliged to do anything to help you. But they'll be happy to talk to you I'm sure.
    – PeteH
    Feb 2, 2015 at 12:58
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    It's very odd to see any rust on the rotors for a disk brake. They are made of stainless steel and are very rust resistant. Feb 2, 2015 at 16:50
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    @Mitch - I wouldn't wash the bike after every ride, especially in this dusty dry weather we've had over the past few weeks. Wipe clean the fork stanchions and shock and ensure the chain doesn't dry too much with regular lube Chain, bolts and rotors will always rust between rides. The rotors will clear up when you ride (don't put anything on them). There's no issue with Vegas's air, everyone has a bike there and no one complains.
    – DWGKNZ
    Feb 2, 2015 at 18:44

7 Answers 7


I read Chris Cleeland's answer and was appalled that his was the accepted answer. Let me first state that I used to be a bike mechanic, and I ride through inclement weather year round.

As another already stated, WD40 is useful for cleaning, but you should never use it on your drive-train (chain, freewheel, front cogs).

You wrote that you are concerned that: " My bolts, chain and discs for my brakes " are getting rusty.

  • Chain rust is terrible for your bike and should be guarded against carefully. If your chain is already rusted, I recommend you go ahead and replace it immeidately. Rust on your chain will wear your casset and chainring, so it's not worth saving the money on replacing the chain only to have to replace the cassette later. I'll tell you how to care for you chain below.
  • The bolts rusting is not really a big deal, although it's ugly, and will make maintenance harder. You can buy stainless-steel rust-free bolts and replace these for a minimal cost, which I do on all my bikes as soon as I see a bit of rust. You can also buy expensive titanium bling, but I consider that a waste of money. When you replace the bolts, pay attention to the torque (rotational force) and don't overtighten them. Do one at a time, especially on the headset, so you don't have to worry about changing the settings (if you loosen all the headset bolts at once, for example, you'll have to adjust the headset).
  • I was surprised to hear you have rust on your disk brakes since I've never seen that before (I worked as a mechanic pre-disc brakes, and I never see rust on the bikes I currently maintain). I did a bit of googling around, and it seems to be a common problem. It's only cosmetic so you can safely ignore it -- any rust on the braking surface will quickly be scraped away when you brake. But since I hate rust, I would suggest rubbing it off with a scotch-brite pad -- but nothing which might leave an oily residue.

Okay -- now how to keep care of your bike:

  1. This is just opinion, but I suggest lightening up on the cleaning. A little dirt on an mtb just shows you actually ride. I generally just knock the mud off with a brush and water, so it's not a chore to do maintenance. I do try to keep the deraillers, pedals, chainring and cassette reasonably tidy (Brush and low-pressure hose is plenty). Keeping your brakes and drive train clean and well maintained is important however.
  2. I would never ever ever use a pressure washer or compressed air to clean a bike. Your components have well engineered seals to keep out water and dirt, but they are not designed to protect against a pressure washer or compressed air. You might make your bike look pretty, but degrade the mechanics. It can also drive dirt hard across your paint job scratching it up, so even on the static parts I wouldn't use it. A good scrub brush is much safer, and works just as well.
  3. How to maintain your drive train This is surprisingly easy, but few people do it right. First buy a lube that is appropriate to the weather you have. Your local bike shop can help you out there. Then always ensure that your chain has a light coat of oil. A light coat of lube means enough to lube it, but not enough to retain dirt. If you get black print of oil on your hand when you touch it -- you've oiled too much. Too much oil is as bad as too little, since oil grabs dirt, and dirt wears down your drive train. To oil your chain, just to the following: 1. put some oil on the chain. 2. hold a rag against the chain and cycle the chain through the rag until no more oil ends up on the chain. If you have a really dirty chain, and you get black ugly muck on the rag, you can repeat this process a few times. Do this regularly and it's super quick process. I suggest you never oil your chain without wiping it with a rag afterwards.

I generally oil and wipe my chain once every couple of weeks, and whenever I've done a really wet or muddy ride. Once in a while I'll pop the rear wheel off and clean the cassete if I notice it's getting gunky, but if you keep the chain well maintained this isn't often necessary. Same with the chainwheels.

As for WD-40 -- I'll use it to clean the chainwheels or cassette sometimes (wiping it away well afterwards), but I wouldn't ever spray in on the chain. It dilutes your lube, making it less effective. It's great on cables and bolts, but be careful not to let it slop over onto your disk brakes.

Good luck.

  • thank you!! Never knew much of that, I'll try all of that, also thanks for the drive train part, never knew any of that and next time I clean it I'll do it properly now. Cheers! :)
    – Mitch
    Feb 4, 2015 at 7:55
  • youtube.com/watch?v=Sf80DnCgHRQ is a good how-to video on cleaning a bike. Also, rather than a high-pressure sprayer, I have found a hand-pressurized garden sprayer (the sort you'd use to spray pesticides) works really well for rinsing a bike as it can generate enough pressure to spray dirt away without creating huge puddles. Also, if you have to do the bike wash in the cold (common after a cyclocross race), you can fill the sprayer with warm water. Just make sure not to use one with any pesticide residue. Feb 4, 2015 at 14:52

Chain will rust always after washing (or even light rain or a puddle of water), if not re-lubed. I think this is detrimental to the chain, as it removes material from the rollers and thus contributes to chain stretch.

Bolts for stem, handlebars etc. seem to always like to rust after rain or washing. I don't think it is a big deal, but it ruins the look of the bike. How I solve this is put a small amount of grease at the bottom of the bolt head (and then wipe any excess). The grease seals the hollow head and stops rust. Using a hex on the bolt removes most of the grease, so re-lubing after repairs is nice.

About the disc brake rotors - this surprises me. Apart from two general advices, I can't see how can I help with this. Firstly, after washing a bike, lift it up several times and force it into the ground - this should should shake a lot of water off. Secondly, after that, you can make a couple of hard stops - the disk pads will dry the disks in no time.

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    To clarify - if you don't lube the chain immediately after washing, it will rust (a couple of hours seem to be enough). I don't have solid sources, but I feel that the oil displaces the water and protects the rollers immediately.
    – Vorac
    Feb 2, 2015 at 12:56
  • Depends on the chain. Higher end chains are nickel-plated precisely to address this sort of thing. In the shimano line, Ultegra and Dura-Ace are nickel-plated. Feb 2, 2015 at 20:45
  • @Vorac Thanks for the advice! I will do that :)
    – Mitch
    Feb 3, 2015 at 3:30

Don't pressure hose your bike at all and steer clear of the air compressor. You don't want to force water, air or grit into seals and bearings.

I always lightly hose off excess dirt or brush it off, then sponge down with a soapy hot water, then rinse, leave or drip -dry or use a cloth to wipe off excess liquid.

Clean the chain, rings, cassette, rims with a rag and a pipe cleaner brush or your toothbrush.

Before I started going bike tourin I used to use products like WD40 and muc-off but since I don't use them anymore, just more elbow grease.

Leave the bike to dry and then lube the chain.

  • Thanks for the tip. With the soapy hot water just use ordinary cleaning products or anything special? And is it alright to use the air compressor on the brakes? Just to clear the water and dirt? Thanks!
    – Mitch
    Feb 2, 2015 at 11:16
  • As long as you don't aim it directly or closely at the seals you should be alright. For the cleaning, if I use anything other than water it's generally something like muc-off that is made for cleaning bikes/vehicles.
    – Holloway
    Feb 2, 2015 at 14:15
  • Please don't engage in self-promotion unless it's relevant to the issue at hand.
    – jimchristie
    Feb 2, 2015 at 18:44

You may be overwashing it. Rust needs water to oxidize steel and you're providing it in copious amounts. That combined with either the sulphur in the air or salt (if you're near an ocean) is a deadly mix.

You may want to give your exposed bolts a nice coating of something that will prevent rust. WD-40 is fine for that purpose but washes off easily. Some people use Silicone Spray (available at your car parts store). I'm a fan of Boeshield T-9 -- it's purportedly based on a formula that Boeing designed to keep airline parts from oxidizing. The nice thing about Boeshield is that you can also use it as a conformal coating for electronics, meaning that at least as it applies to bikes, drips of it getting into your lights and speedos will not damage them.

Note that any of these will be VERY bad for you to put on braking surfaces. That is, your braking surfaces will look nice and shiny -- but will be very slippery and won't brake anymore. Stopping disk rotors from rusting is hard -- the best way is to keep them dry and ride them a lot.

And don't worry about a bit of mud on your bike. It's supposed to be dirty.

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    Disk rotors are made of stainless steel precisely to keep the rust to a minimum. The rest is par for the course, but rust on the rotors is worrying. Unfortunately, I can't think of any way of preventing it that isn't worse. Feb 2, 2015 at 16:53
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    @FredtheMagicWonderDog To my experience, the brake rotors themselves don't rust. However, the metal particles that are enclosed in most brake pads do. As this metallic dust from the brake pads is all over the rotor and especially in the gap between brake pads and rotor, there might be some rusty film on the rotor surface. But one should be able to just wipe or brake this away as it shouldn't affect the rotor surface itself. Feb 2, 2015 at 21:33
  • @FredtheMagicWonderDog thanks for the advice! I will get some WD-40 and use that!
    – Mitch
    Feb 3, 2015 at 3:32
  • Don't use WD40 on your brakes (or anywhere near them) unless you like to live dangerously.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 3, 2015 at 17:49
  • @RoboKaren will make sure not to do that!
    – Mitch
    Feb 4, 2015 at 7:52

If you are getting that much rust then you are putting that bike up wet.
It does not take much water - it is only dry if it is bone dry.
If you are hosing that bike down after every ride you are putting too much water on that bike.

Unprotected rust will consume iron and steel.
Wiki Rust

I would suggest you go with two levels of cleaning

  1. Touch up - keep water off parts that rust
    There are spray on cleaners for spot cleaning the frame.
    Or just use small sponge for spot cleaning the frame.
    Then rinse with a very low water pressure and keep water off all exposed (non painted) metal.
  2. Full Clean
    Only performed on a sunny day
    Start with spray on degreaser let it sit the 5-10 minutes and hose it off
    Came back with detergent and clean the entire bike
    Rinse again
    Use a tooth brush and degreaser to detail degrease
    Rinse again
    Detergent clean the entire bike again
    Rinse again
    Dry the bike
    Check the bike over mechanically
    Me this is when I do maintenance as I have a clean bike with minimal grease
    If you are going to replace chain ring or cassette do it now
    If you are going to replace chain ring or cassette then do a full cleaning
    Apply chain cleaner
    Ride the bike to help spin off water
    Let it bake in sun for at least 1/2 hour
    If it is disc then need to turn the wheel 1/4 turn a couple times Me I use this hour to clean the next bike Wax the frame
    Lube the chain
    Hit pedals, derailleur, and other exposed metal parts with a small shot of WD40
    Don't hit disc or wheel with WD40
    If the disc is not bone dry then leave it in the sun longer

As for threads when you have the bolt out then grease the thread before you put it back in. I never pull a bolt just to grease the threads.

If you have a lot sulfur in the air then don't feed it with water to create sulfuric acid unless you are going to protect it.

  • thanks heaps for this!! I will definitely follow this for when I clean my bike!
    – Mitch
    Feb 3, 2015 at 3:34

Muc-Off or any other bike specific cleaning product is a good bet. Followed by a brush and hose down. It's not necessary to go all out with a pressure hose.

I also use a chain degreaser spray and use this sparingly on the cassette with a brush. It bring the chain up like new. However, immediately after cleaning the drive-train - I re-oil the chain and wipe the chain down of any excess.

Chrome steel nuts and bolts will pit and corrode. Try applying a light film of grease over them.

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    I have reservations about this answer simply because you say a pressure hose is unnecessary, implying that you can use one if you want to, but don't have to. In fact, pressure hoses should be avoided because they can flush lubricant out of places (a classic example being hubs) and therefore cause harm.
    – PeteH
    Feb 2, 2015 at 13:09
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    There is no harm using a pressure hose on static parts of the bike - ie. frame, tyres, rims etc., It has already been highlighted in a previous answer the dangers of using a pressure hose on certain areas of the bike - therefore not necessary to re-highlight this danger. Pressure hoses should only be avoided if the user is not able to direct the pressure hose at the safe parts of bicycle or doesn't know the safe parts!
    – OraNob
    Feb 2, 2015 at 13:20
  • @OraNob thanks for this, I will re oil and grease more!
    – Mitch
    Feb 3, 2015 at 3:34

Consider using something like isopropyl alcohol to wipe down things that need to be clean but not moist/damp. You can use that on brake components with no residue and with no harm to surrounding paint. There are certainly volatile organic compounds that would also leave no residue (such as automotive brake cleaner) but those are typically not really good near paint. Isopropyl alcohol is cheap and easy to find, too.

Cyclocross bikes get frequent washings. The common thing to do to the drivetrain afterwards is:

  • bounce the bike on the rear wheel gently to shake out water from the chain
  • wrap a rag around the bottom of the chain and backpedal, getting off dirt and moisture
  • apply WD-40 to displace the moisture and allow to dry
  • after drying, use a dry rag and wipe the chain down again
  • apply your favorite lube

As for bolts, they are typically plated. What will rust is the interior not the exterior. If the exterior is starting to rust, then you should address that by replacing the bolt if it's becoming pitted, otherwise clean the bolt, then, for an exposed bolt, wipe it with a WD-40 covered rag or something like T-9. For a recessed bolt, put a drop of the same lube in the head recess.

  • thanks for this! I'll definitely do this next time! Never knew that either. I will get some WD-40!
    – Mitch
    Feb 3, 2015 at 3:37
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    NO! Not WD-40. It's good for CLEANING, but it actually attracts moisture and will not do what you want here. Do NOT use it as a lubricant or for protecting bare metal. Here's a link: cr4.globalspec.com/comment/312565/… Try using a lightweight "regular" oil instead. The 3-in-1 black label is my favorite, but whatever you have except WD-40 is probably fine.
    – Jeffiekins
    Feb 3, 2015 at 4:22
  • WD-40 is not a lubricant, nor did I suggest it is. The suggestion is to use it to displace moisture (and for its cleaning effect as well). Never ever confuse WD-40 with lubricant. The link cited by @Jeffiekins is worth chasing and reading, and then clicking through to read the entire thread. Why? Because while the specific message to which he linked conjures up fear and doom, most of the rest exonerate WD-40. Feel free not to use WD-40. But you need to do something to displace the moisture. Anything more intense will have a negative effect of flushing lube deep in the rollers. Feb 3, 2015 at 19:20
  • The issue is leaving it on. It's great for cleaning things, and for displacing (absorbing) water, but just as you don't leave soap on, but remove it, so too for WD-40. A normal oil is what you want to leave a coating of on bare metal. In a corrosive environment, even high-quality stainless or nickel will corrode if left out long enough. A thin layer of oil will keep the air away from the metal.
    – Jeffiekins
    Feb 3, 2015 at 23:03
  • Yes, leaving WD-40 or any solvent on is bad. That's why the steps above do not suggest leaving it on. They suggest using it to flush/clean/clear moisture and, after drying, applying favorite lube. Feb 4, 2015 at 14:44

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