If you’re worried about carbon — I want to provide a few simple tips to protect it.
The first requires thinking differently about your bicycle, especially if you’ve only ever owned metal ones. You need to realize that carbon is more like glass than metal. Both can be amazingly strong, but metal bends when hit hard, while glass and carbon can shatter or crush, respectively.
If you keep this in mind, you can avoid mistakes that put your carbon at risk, like that roof rack I mentioned last week. Or, like tossing your bike on top of another bike in the back of a pickup or wagon. Or letting loose parts slam into the frame when you’re flying somewhere with the bike disassembled in a box.
With a little luck, you can get away with these mistakes with metal bikes, but it’s hazardous to treat carbon like that because if it gets hit just right (“wrong” is more like it), a tube could get seriously damaged. For stacking bikes, be sure to put cardboard or blankets between them. For shipping in a box, it’s even more important to pad the tubes to protect them and attach loose parts so they can’t move and hit the frame.
The one thing that’s the same with painted carbon and metal bikes is that they can get chipped or dinged from road debris or just normal use. Here, carbon has an advantage over steel bikes because it won’t rust. But, it’s still best to touch up the chip or ding because chipped paint can worsen. If you touch it up, you seal the chip and help your paint finish stay attached.
Touching up carbon chips can be as simple as dabbing on some clear nail polish. Nail polish is cheap, includes a brush built-into the cap, and it dries fast, too. It will nicely touch up clear coats over natural carbon frames. And, if yours is a painted frame where only the clear coat over the paint got chipped, the clear polish will work on that, too.
If your color coat got chipped, however, you’ll want to match the color. Here again, nail polish can do the trick since it comes in so many common and not so common hues. You can certainly try to get matching touch-up paint from the company that made your bicycle. But offering paint is not a common practice in the bike industry, the way it is for automobiles.
No matter what cleaner you use, be sure to gently clean off any surface grit or dirt off your bike. Unless it’s a perfectly dry day on asphalt, giving your bike a quick hose down is always better than letting dirt harden on your frame. Then you can move on to getting that matte nice and shiny. If you do a quick clean regularly, then you don’t have to do a full clean as often.
One caution. Every finish is different. No matter what cleaner you use, be sure to test it first. Always try out a small area, ideally in an out of the way part of the bike, before diving in. The inside of the fork or chainstays are a good area, and usually dirty, too.
Note: always be careful around rotors and disc brake pads, especially if you are using a spray bottle. Many cleaning agents can contaminate one or both, significantly decreasing your braking power. A couple bike-specific washes are potentially disc-safe but, unless it explicitly says so on the bottle, you should always assume they are not.
Several brands, including White Lightning and Muc-Off, make cleaning products specifically for matte finish carbon fiber bikes. There will be instructions on the bottle for exactly how to use each different formula. They vary from brand to brand, so read, then clean as instructed.Fancy specialized products are a new thing for bikes, but matte finishes aren’t. To find out how mechanics kept frames shiny before dedicated products, we asked Regan Pringle at Trail Bikes how he cleans matte bikes. Why? With many hours spent in the pits at mountain bike races and cyclocross World Cups, on top of his decades shop experience on Vancouver Island, he’s no stranger to cleaning muddy bikes.
Spray your bike to remove any larger muck or surface grit, then let it dry. Then apply WD-40 to a microfibre cloth (never spray directly on your frame. This helps avoid rotors your rotors) and wipe down the surface. You can wipe away any remaining residue, if there is any, after then let the bike dry. Work your way from the cleaner parts of the bike, finishing at the areas more likely to get grease or oil on them (chainstays, ect).
Second step is mineral oil, to polish, applied the same way. Generic mineral oil from Shoppers Drug Mart works well.*
Of the methods we tried, this worked very well. It also gave the longest lasting clean. Dust would wipe off clean for several rides and mud would spray cleanly off matte carbon instead of clinging to it. It may not sound as fancy as high tech solutions, but it’s cheaper. And sometimes, as Pringle told us, “the old ways are the best ways.
Simple Green like most other degreasers have warnings concerning contact with metals. The reason its a no, no is that if left on too long it can etch into metal. Also depending on how its sprayed, it could end up in your bottom bracket & end up unintentionally removing vital grease.
As for what to clean your bike, the best products to use are automotive cleaners. One of the best is the Mothers spray & wipe wax. Bicycle finishes are the same as car finishes so its obvious that car products would be the best choice.
Post time: Sep-27-2021