AFTER THE GRITTERS WENT HOME

MICHAEL VERSUS THE ELEMENTS

No matter how meticulous, some might say fussy, you are about post ride care, the elements will, ultimately, take their toll on your bike’s painted, plated and anodized finishes. Ignored, they will also chomp through your drivetrain components, wear rims wafer thin and generally wreak very expensive chaos.

General stuff

If you have a season specific bike, say ‘cross or winter workhorse, giving them a thorough strip, inspection and clean before they’re put into hibernation saves a whole heap of time and money in the longer run. 

 

Stage 1 Preparation 

 

Park bikes outside. Work stands aren’t essential but make life easier. Get yourself two buckets, brushes, sponges, bike shampoo/washes. Simple car wash n’ wax formulas will do just fine. We’re a little sceptical of bike brushes per se but are really impressed by Pedro's Pro set. Round up your multi tool, PTFE sprays, clean, rag, kitchen and anything else used for basic tune-ups. Fill two buckets of water; one cold, one hot. Removing the wheels is best for a really though clean and presents an ideal opportunity to purge impacted grot from underneath the mudguards.

Stage two

Start by rinsing the bike with cold water, this will cleanse any residual salty stuff. A garden hose saves time but obviously, avoid pressure washing and direct contact with bearing seals. Introducing warm; or hot water first will simply accelerate the chemically caustic process. 

Stage 3

Cover the bike under that sudsy blanket of bike wash, or shampoo and using a soft bristled brush, work it into a rich lather. Starting at the bars, regularly rinse the brush to avoid cross contamination. Remember, gravity is your friend. Now is the time to give the chain, rings, cassette and mechs a seriously good clean. I tend to apply a non-solvent based degreaser stock via brush at this stage, so grotty stuff can all slither away into the same mucky puddle.

 

Give the bike another cold water rinse and dry thoroughly with clean dry rag.

Frame/forks

Inspect the frame and forks for any minor dings, chips and scratches. So long as we’re talking superficial, cosmetic stuff, re-touch minor chips and scratches using hobby enamels, or nail varnish of compatible colour. Check crash damage more thoroughly and have a shop mechanic or frame builder inspect for peace of mind.

Mech hangers are particularly vulnerable to tumbles. The vast majority of carbon fibre and aluminium alloy frames employ replaceable hangers for precisely this reason, although can usually be judiciously cajoled back into line with the correct tool.

Same goes for steel. Something like my long serving, ultra faithful Cyclus go for around £35 www.framebuilding.com  but a good bike shop or friendly frame builder will charge around £20 to pull a wayward hanger back into line.

If cosmetic damage is more extensive, or paint is beginning to flake, now is the obvious time to consider a re-spray. Specialist/project finishers at the way forward here, regardless of materials. However, it is a good sign when they will refuse to entertain composites.

Several have told me recently that potential customers have been asking them to blast, and yes, powder coat(!) composite framesets. When it comes to the magical weave, approach a carbon fibre specialist who can carefully strip, inspect and then, where appropriate, give it a wet-spray makeover. Because of the complexity, most will only talk price on application.

Wheels

 

Checking these is also much easier when clean, so starting with the tyres; give everything a really thorough scrub. Inspect rim sidewalls for any signs of wear/trouble, even if you are running disc brakes. Talking of which, give the rotors a gentle scrub, ensure they’re snug. Put some anti-seize prep on the mounting bolts and give the pads a once over while you’re there.

Spin the wheels to make sure the hubs are still buttery smooth and rims aren’t dancing the samba. Hubs vary in sophistication, depending on price.

Deore and similar grades really appreciate a strip and can live to ripe old ages, with generous helpings of stout grease.

 

See  Rub-a-dud-hub for further advice.

Drivetrain 

 

This takes a serious spanking through the darker months. Neglected your chain, fed it a gooey wet lube and couldn’t be bothered to wipe the outer links every few rides? Then don’t be surprised if it’s nearing the knackers’ yard See chain care and replacement.

Minute shards of aluminium are scraped from the rings when using the front shifter. Mixed with a wet lube, these will form a very effective grinding paste that, left unchecked, will cruise through rings, chains, cassette and derailleurs.

There’s sound economic ground for running cheaper chains and cassettes, replacing more frequently and, if appropriate, upgrading to something more upmarket during summer.           

Regardless of system or spec, give cranks a tug to check bottom bearings are still good. 

If the arms are looking a little tired, like these Deore LX, they can be chemically stripped and polished, or painted. Either way, this is an ideal opportunity to strip and re-grease the chain-ring bolts.

Really stubborn examples may require quick blasts of penetrant spray and long Allen leverage before they’ll budge. For a deep clean, give rings and arms a good scrub in a bucket of hot sudsy water.

Case Study

Generally in great shape, my daily driver is based around a mid 90’s Univega Alpina 506 frame. Made from triple butted Cro-moly steel, complete bikes sported a mix of Shimano LX and XT components. Mine was bought as a frameset in 1998 and originally dressed in a hotch-potch of nice-ish components from my spares bin. Since then, it rapidly evolved into a rough stuff tourer cum daily driver. Many, many miles hence, I’d decided over Christmas to tweak the spec slightly. Time to ditch the front mech and inner ring and embrace a 1x9!

While contemplating ring sizes and the most cost-effective conversion, I noticed some discolouration along its LX crank arms. Having stripped these and cleaned everything thoroughly, it was clear that salt and other corrosive, grotty stuff had licked through protective layers of wax and bitten into the anodising.

 

Many wouldn’t bat an eyelid and happily run older components into the ground. However, since I was waiting for new, shorter crank bolts, it seemed logical to strip and tackle the pock marked finish. One route would be to buy some industrial stripper and then polish the alloy to a high sheen. However, unless I went for a really hardy lacquer, this would require more frequent upkeep. I opted to have the arms and spider blasted, then powder coated.

    

Frame 

With the cranks off, it was clear the flamboyant red enamel was beginning to chip and flake badly around the chainstays, seat collar, seat and top tube. 

 

Traces of bubbling were also apparent around the chainstay-bridge and getting a suitable colour match that would also adhere convincingly was also proving tricky.

Properly greased components and an ocean of home brewed corrosion inhibitor sloshing around the tubes meant everything came apart pretty effortlessly! Be sure to tell your frame builder/refinisher if you have also gone this route. Otherwise, when heat’s applied, it will turn molten and then rush from the tubes. If by some miracle, this doesn’t scald someone, it will almost certainly spoil the new paintwork.

Maldon Shotblasting & Powder Coating to the rescue!

Stage1 Frame Preserve Purging

Well versed in my love of waxy preserves, Graham and Chris initially set it on their workbench and, having plugged the bottom bracket shell, introduced some isopropyl alcohol into the seat tube. After ten minutes, this was having negligible effect, so they popped it in their curing oven at 150 degrees ...

Even this made little impression, so Graham stepped up the game and popped my frame into the murky depths of their methyl chloride tank. Being the active ingredient in old school, over the counter paint-strippers, this would also soften the enamel nicely, ready for blasting.

Thirty seconds later...

The greasy gravy began bubbling out and racing to the surface ...

We were surprised to find this ... The frame had been treated to a thin nickel plated layer at the factory for additional protection. Thin enough to be erased at the dropouts by the knurled side of quick release skewers.

Though a less slippery customer than chrome, chances are the factory paint-shop would’ve needed to use acid etch primers. It would also explain why the existing paint was starting to chip and flake so easily.

Stage 2 Blasting Clean

Graham now moves to the iron oxide blast cabinet. This is a very fine, though effective media that will shift the existing surface and leave the bare metal lightly etched, ready to receive a primer coat.

Four minutes later it’s almost ready for priming. However, Graham gives my frame a further tickling with polymer beads for an even finer result. The threads are then fully masked ready for priming.

Primer

A good primer coat is important, regardless of paint type but particularly when it comes to powder coating. Some finishers will forgo this at customer request - usually on the grounds of weight but should the paintwork take a hit, moisture can sneak beneath the paint and induce corrosion.

The first you’ll know about it, is when paint begins peeling. Maldon Shotblasting & Powder Coating offer a five year warrantee against defects, so long as you’ve followed this method and obviously, bother cleaning your bike.

Epoxy colour coats aren’t UV resistant, hence why cheaper paints will fade over time. However, this is a moot point with the zinc rich primer. This also has a very good flow-rate, meaning even coverage and a great surface for the colour coat to stick to.  

 

This is placed in the curing oven for 15 minutes at 150 degrees. Higher temperatures are not uncommon but “over-cooking” often results in a brittle top coat. This way the primer is very slightly tacky when it receives the polyester paint.  

I was very fond of the Univega’s metallic red but wanted a change, so went for rich, glossy buttermilk. Any finisher worth their salt will tell you that all paints have very unique characteristics, which require slightly different spraying techniques.

Those with little pigment, including cream and yellow can be particularly tricky customers. Graham and Chris explain this particular variant is no exception. On the one hand, excellent flow rate means rich, flawless effect. On the flip side, this can result in runs or drips, which only reveal themselves after curing.

Even when carefully stored, powder coating eventually “goes off” which can also leave imperfections in the final finish. This particular paint did just that, resulting in slight but unsightly dimpling along the Univega’s down tube. 

 

Graham found another, high quality match - Interpon 610 Cream. Remedial sanding and preparation complete, he applies the rich, creamy powder before returning my frame to the curing oven, for a final 15 minute bake. 

Cranks 

 

Thread masking faff aside, cranks were a much simpler proposition. Taped up, the arms were blasted with iron oxide media, stripping the anodized top layer and priming the aluminium alloy for an epoxy base coat. Metal underneath is sound, so is now given some of that zinc rich grey primer.  

 

Even with the epoxy base coat, aluminium alloys, especially those pitted with corrosion can “gas out” during the curing phase, resulting in unsightly bubbling. Silver on many levels is ideal and ages better than colour finishes but satin black was to hand and didn’t offend my sensibilities. 

 

Total cost for this frame and component makeover are approximately £100 (£65 for the frame and 

 

£35 for the crank arms). Tatty metal pedal bodies, stems and other contact points could also be rejuvenated the same way. Re-using the LX arms, outer ring and UN55 bottom bracket meant I only needed to spend £20 on shorter bolts and replacement chain. 

Two hard winters since its makeover, Michael’s beloved “old girl” remains resplendent. Loved dearly, and well maintained, it’s far from cosseted. This winter, he has switched over to Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus. These feature more spikes, providing superior traction and cornering, on icy roads.

Puncture protection is also superior to their lowly but very highly dependable Schwalbe Winter Spiked siblings. Though the salt monster has nibbled the bike’s rear derailleur cage, in places, the unsealed cream finish remains nigh-on oven fresh.

Water staining, finger marks and other dirt shows more readily, than would be the case, with a clear lacquer topcoat.  Stones thrown up along unmade/dirt roads have made no impression, whatsoever.

 

Some minor scuffing along the top tube (when it fell over, fully laden) was easily buffed out, with Crankalicious Mayo Jaune Intensive Frame Polish.   While contact points are regularly striped, cleaned, and re-greased to avoid minor galvanic corrosion struck between the titanium post. Nothing a quick blast of penetrant spray, and a deft tap from an “engineers” mallet couldn’t sort. My fault: should’ve stuck to a modern all surface type, such as White Lightning Crystal High Performance Grease.

PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2017

UPDATED FEBRUARY 2019

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