mountain bike rust prevention

Steer Clear of Mountain Bike Rust With Proper Care & Bike Cover

Protecting against mountain bike rust and corrosion should be a priority for anyone who rides regularly. Designed for navigating rugged trails, mountain bikes are built to withstand rough use. But like any other product with metal components, the risk of and corrosion is a real one.

All outdoor bicycles are susceptible to the possibility of corrosive elements. Mountain bikes however can be especially vulnerable because they are frequently and directly exposed to harsh elements like wind, rain, sun, sand, mud, salt, and craggy debris. Rust and corrosion can quickly sideline even the sturdiest two-wheeler.

The good news is that a well-made bike with the benefit of proper cleaning, preventative maintenance, and storage with an anti-rust bike cover will be rolling strong for many more mountains, valleys, hills, and trails to come.

Choose the Right Bike Frame

The right bike frame can make a major difference in how well your wheels – and other components – stand up to to the threat of rust.

Rust is a corrosive chemical reaction that is specific to metals made of iron or iron alloys. (Rust = iron + water + oxygen) Other types of metal can still corrode in a manner similar to rusting, but rust is a specific process that involves ferrous metals, or those that are iron-based.

The iron alloy most commonly used in bicycle frames is steel. Aluminum, which is not an iron alloy but can corrode as well, is also used in many mountain bike designs.

Each type of frame has its own pros and cons, and your preference for one or the other is likely to vary depending on your priorities as a rider, including:

  • Budget
  • Weight
  • Longevity
  • Performance demands
  • Routine riding environment

Aluminum is generally the go-to bike frame metal because of the fact that it’s affordable, stiff, and lightweight. Pure aluminum is generally corrosion resistant. But more than likely, an aluminum bike frame is made not of pure aluminum (which would be too soft) but an aluminum alloy, and these can make the bike susceptible to certain types of corrosion.

On the other hand, bike frames made of steel – an iron alloy – can be susceptible to rust. But on the flip side, steel bikes tend to be stronger, more durable, and more comfortable than aluminum bikes. If you can take care of it, a bike made of a steel frame will last a while.

Titanium bike frames are another option. Titanium is corrosion resistant and comfortable, but likely quite heavy and expensive.

Finally, carbon fiber bike frames are another popular choice. They can be easily molded into sleek, aerodynamic tube shapes, but they tend to be pricier and more prone to damage. Carbon fiber can generally stand up to harsh environments, but it’s not entirely immune to corrosion, particularly when exposed to strong oxidizing agents.

Keep Your Bike Clean & Dry

H2O is the most significant catalyst for metal rust and corrosion – and that can include moisture in the air as well as direct exposure to water. If you want to prevent mountain bike rust, you’ve got to take note of anytime you’ve ridden in rain or fog, over snow slush, and through puddles and mud. If so, take the time to clean and dry off your bike completely before placing it in storage. This is especially important if you’ve ridden through salt (or near saltwater), sand, or grime that can accelerate corrosion.

It can be tempting after a hard ride to leave it parked outside or in the garage without taking the time to clean it off and wipe it down. This is a mistake that in the long run will reduce the among of rides you have before mountain bike rust or corrosion results in a malfunction.

Keep Your Bike Oiled

A bike that is properly-oiled is less prone to corrode. This is especially critical on exposed metal components, such as the chain, bolts, nuts, derailleur, etc.

Be sure that the product you’re using is a lubricant as opposed to a degreaser. These are two different things, and the latter will not work to prevent mountain bike rust as effectively as oil.

Keep Your Bike Indoors

If at all possible, do not store your bike outdoors. Exposure to the elements –  over hours, days, or weeks – will cause the components to weaken, corrode, and break down. Fluctuations in temperature can also take a toll.

If you have a newer, higher-end bike, you might be able to get away with a day or two of outdoor storage because it’s more likely to have better seals and covers to prevent corrosion. On the other hand, if you’ve invested so much into a better bike, why not be sure to take care of it?

Any bike that you leave outdoors a week or more is likely to show visible signs of damage. You’ll see the chains start to rust, the rubber and plastic will start to break down, the colors will fade, and the plastic will become brittle. Bolts will start to seize up, dissimilar metals near each other will begin to corrode and likely get stuck. Your cables will start to break down and you’ll begin to feel a lot of drag when you’re trying to shift or brake.

If at all possible, keep your bike in a space that is climate-controlled and shaded.Bicycle Cover

Keep Your Bike Properly Covered

Putting a regular bike cover on a bike – whether it’s stored indoors or outdoors – can sometimes be worse than not covering it at all if moisture gets trapped underneath. Moisture that’s unable to evaporate ends up sticking to the metal parts, accelerating corrosive processes.

Zerust bicycle covers offer superior protection against rust and corrosion for mountain bikes. Not only do they keep corrosion at bay, they’re also water-resistant and mold-proof. They seal completely, and protect the contents inside with VCI (vapor corrosion inhibiting) technology woven into the fiber. The covers last up to five years after purchase.

For more information about our top-selling VCI mountain bike covers, contact Zerust at [email protected]

Additional Resources:

What Happens When You Store Your Bike Outside, April 19, 2022, By Caitlin Na Giddings, 

More Blog Entries:

Prevent Mountain Bike Rust From Ruining Your Ride, Feb. 15, 2021, Zerust Rust Prevention Blog