Steel remains a superb bicycle frame material. The number of surviving vintage steel bikes attest to this fact. Still, oxidation is a fact-of-life with steel frames (unless of course it’s built with revolutionary Reynolds 953 stainless tubes)
Whether you are restoring a neglected classic, or protecting a new, thin-walled thoroughbred bicycle frame–the latter demanding particular attention to rust-proofing–longevity can be enhanced with a little preventative medicine that won’t break the bank.
Of course, nicks and scratches in the external paint should be covered with an appropriate laquer, but what about inside frame tubes, where invading water and condensation can undermine your valuable velo unseen?
The best time to rust-proof a bike frame is when it’s new and free of components, or during a re-build.
There are a number of rust-inhibitors on the market, even one targeted specifically at the bicycle market: J P Weigle’s Frame Saver. Here, I use the widely-available RustCheck.
If the bike is complete, you can still reach inside tubes with the simple removal of the seat post, which will provide access to the seat tube, and through breathing holes located at the ends of some tubes, such as fork ends, seat stays, and chain stays (rust-inhibitors usually come in an aerosol can, with a thin, flexible tube to squirt into small spaces).
Ideally, though, you’ll also want to gain entry to the head tube and bottom bracket for full coverage.
Move the nozzle around in the tubes to assure good coverage. Turn the frame up, down, sideways, round, to distribute the fluid. Allow the frame to drain, preferably onto a surface you can clean. Follow safety instructions on rust-proofing products. An approved respirator is good idea.
Go to VeloGarage