Sunday, September 18, 2011

Removing Rust using White Vinegar

Yes, vinegar. For years, I busted my ass using wire wheels on the drill, steel-wool, cleaners, etcetera. Well, no more of that! Simple white vinegar and a plastic tub is enough to solve our rusty woes. Check it out.

Step 1: get the cheapest gallon of white vinegar you can find at the store. It does not need to be good stuff, because all we need are its weak acidic properties, anyhow.

Step 2: purchase a tub big enough for the item you’d like to remove the rust from. Many folks use those ‘under the bed’ boxes, and that way they can dip entire bike frames. However, much smaller tubs can be used for things like cranks, bolts, stems, sprockets, tools, and the like.

Step 3: completely submerse the rusty item into the vinegar. If you only have bolts and small stuff to clean, a good idea is to tilt the tub up. That way, you can use less vinegar and soak the items in the corner/crease of it. If your tub came with a lid, I recommend using it, because this stuff evaporates eventually.

Step 4: leave the item in for a couple of hours. At that time, take it out and wipe it off with a rag. Then, take a small, copper-type wire brush very lightly on the surface of the item. The rust will just fall off. You could also use steel wool or anything else that won’t scratch the surface of the item. If all the rust comes off, you are good to go. If some is being stubborn, you can dip the item again for a few more hours.

This process is way more simple than all the effort it takes to remove the rust manually, and it’s easier on the chrome items, too. The lids are heavily recommended, though, because this stuff kinda reeks. The garage smells like Easter-egg dye if you don’t employ a lid. I have used this process on rusty tools, cranks, sprockets, necks, bolts, washers – really, anything that looks like it could use a good surface cleaning. The beauty of the white vinegar is that it’s acidic enough to eat away at the rust, but if you don’t leave the item in there for a week, it won’t eat it, as well. Vinegar is very gentle.

I always coat the item in a very light sheen of oil or WD40 after it dries, and I’m satisfied with its condition, to prevent flash-rusting. This process really works; it can turn a totally wasted BMX part into a shiny, new-looking part.

***EDITED TO ADD: I dropped a bike chain in there the other day, and left in a full day. The chain is now in a million pieces. Soak chains in oil, not vinegar. :P

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Custom Haro Backtrail Completed

Well, folks, after a long and rough ride, my Haro Backtrail is finally built. It is a 2003 model, and I got it for free a few years ago. An acquaintance of mine showed up at my house one day with it, totally out of the blue. It only consisted of a rusty frame and fork, bent bars, the original Fusion stem, and a cheap Taiwan made crank with a Haro chain wheel. The bike was in bad shape.

Well, I fixed it up right away but because of my living situation, I had no garage and the bike had to be stored outside. My resources were limited, as well as my tools and knowledge. The first build can be seen in the post just below this one. Basically, it consisted of sourcing used wheels, applying steel-wool to the frame, and spray-bombing the forks, bars, and seat clamp fluorescent orange. It rode like a dream, though, other than the rear wheel being a 3/8 axle in a 14mm flange. It kept moving on me when I’d ride it hard.

Of course, after sitting outside for a while, the thing got rusty again and the paint faded badly. Now I have a much better shop set up in a nice garage, and I have many more tools and a lot more room, so I figured I’d give it a nice do-over. What follows is the skinny of what I did.

I ordered a new 14mm rear rim – that was important. I shined up the chrome again using cleaners, steel wool, copper brushes, and rags. It came out pretty good. It’s no show-winner, but it definitely passes the three-foot test (looks great from three feet away). I completely rebuilt the front wheel, re-greased all the bearings on the bike, stripped and painted the bars, forks and seat clamp, and shot a nice coat of lacquer clear over the stem, chain ring, and front rim, which I had painted a bright-ass red. Also, I added the sticker set, which was my first. The rear wheel is a Weinmann Black Ops 14mm, and the front is made by Specialized. The tires are Diamond Back. I removed the Gyro because I don't plan on doing freestyle on it. Rear brake to come, as well. The front one is just an MX cheapie.

I had received another free bike, a Redline, a few months back from a friend who had too many. The Redline featured a really thick, once-piece Haro crank which I subbed-in on my Backtrail build. I like it much better than the cheapo one.

Anyhow, here it is. Let me know your opinions in the comments section! And yes, the Next seat is temporary. I’m a budget builder who is quite opportunistic with my choices. :D





Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Hi, there. My name is Derek, and I have been into building BMX and any other kind of bike for quite some time. I do not have access to high-dollar parts, machines, or tools. I am not a pro bike builder, and I have almost zero desire to actually “restore” a bike to factory condition. I like custom work. After all, what’s the use of diving into a project if you aren’t going to leave a little personality behind?

Largely, what I do is find bikes at yard sales or the local swap meet/flea market for a bargain, and then I break them down, fix them up, and either sell them cheaply or give them away, mostly depending on the bike itself.

I use parts left over from other builds, and sometimes I’ll fly to the local store and pick up cheap new stuff. I’m heavy on “improvement” and not perfection. I leave perfection for the guys with big dollars who have the means to purchase NOS stuff for classic bikes, who send frames, forks, and bars in to get powdercoated, and who worry about every era-correct nut and bolt. That is not for me. I think bikes are for riding, and riding hard. Carpet queens aren’t welcome here.

So, here’s a typical scenario: I find an old Diamond Back at a yard sale for $5. I take it home and break it totally apart. If the bearings are good, I’ll clean and re-grease them. I will remove the paint with spray-on stripper and then prime and paint it, usually a different color. I remove any rust from chrome as best I can, and I’ll add new tires/grips and the like if necessary. So, all in all I may end up having $30 or so into the bike, and that’s what I’ll sell it for. This isn’t a get-rich thing for me, it’s a hobby I enjoy. Besides, you should see the looks on some of the kids’ faces who come with their dad to get their first bike. Without folks like me, who are willing to rub a little elbow grease into a forgotten but otherwise very nice bike, they might not be able to get one. Even the department store bikes (Nexts, new Mongoose, etcetera.) are more than $30 bucks. It’s very rewarding.

I am currently in the process of building an ’02 Haro Backtrail. I don’t like chrome bikes, but the chrome on this Haro is in pretty good shape, so I kept it. I’m using good ole steel wool, vinegar, spray paint and bearing grease on it, same as I would any other bike. It’s coming along nicely and, since it will be my personal rider, I’ve even purchased some new stuff for it as money allowed. Everything but the rear rim, the tires and tubes, and the front brake will be original or donor stuff, though. I got the frame and fork for free from a friend, and once the build is done I’ll have in the ballpark of $100 into it, but considering that they sell for over $300 new, and mine will be custom, I feel it’s well worth it.

So anyhow, the intention of this blog is to share tricks and tips with you all, and maybe showcase my own builds to give you ideas. For those of you who have wanted to build bikes as a hobby but think it’s too expensive, it isn’t. Not by a long shot. I’ll show you why in the coming posts.

Here’s the first build of my Haro: Photobucket

Because of my living situation at the time, I had to store the bike outdoors, and it slipped back into Crapville. This time around, I’m doing it right.