Being one of the simplest and most health-friendly modes of transport, it’s always sad to see bikes fall out of grace due to neglect, time, and the work of natural elements.
Luckily, a bike can be restored to its former glory with relative ease. Not only is the process of old bike restoration cathartic and relieving, but is also a great learning experience for its owner as well.
This article provides a step-by-step guide on bicycle restoration that can help you restore a bike properly. Each step is explained with sufficient information so as to make it easy to follow.
Tips and shortcuts are also included in the process to save both time and effort.
Table of Contents
7 Steps on How to Restore a Bike
1. Check out the bike condition
Step 1 should always be to take a quick glance at the ride and determine how dirty and how damaged it is and how much work it will take to bring it back into shape. Inspecting the ride in detail will enable you to make certain calculations about the level of effort required.
It will also let you begin compartmentalizing the range of time to be spent on each of the remaining steps below. This may come in handy as the process becomes more complex as it progresses with time.
To make the cleaning service simpler and more streamlined, remove any labels or stickers from the chrome.
Also, either through shaking or picking, ensure that any trash stuck to the bike is removed as well. This trash may be leaves, plastic bags, cigarette butts, or other neglected items.
2. Clean and disassemble
Old bikes have a variety of undesirable materials such as dust, dirt, and rust on them. These need to be removed at the beginning of the restoration process.
Dirt and dust can be cleaned with a piece of clothing by firmly wiping the desired area.
For more efficient dirt cleaning, a wire brush may be utilized as well. This brush easily removes dirt that is difficult to clean with a cloth.
Rust spots, however, require something different. A combination of lubricant and steel wool should be used to sufficiently clean away surface rust.
Next, the bike should be separated into its constituent components.
For this, screwdrivers, pliers, and hex keys are required. A little bit of ingenuity doesn’t hurt as well.
The frame, tires, handle, brake levers, chain, and the other remaining rubber parts should be separated. Remove the tires from their rims as well and put them aside.
It’s good to take a picture of the bike before its disassembly so you can keep tabs on every part and make it easy when you’re to assemble it next time.
Corrosion will make it difficult to separate some of the parts such as nuts and screws. However, with some time and effort, every single part of the bike can be separated.
3. Remove old paint
For Step 3, put aside every component of the bike except the main body. Here, we’ll remove the paint from the old bicycle frame and stem.
First, get an abrasive paper to scrub away the paint from the frame until you can see the chrome shining of the frame itself.
This scrubbing process will take a bit of time and effort as it isn’t easy to remove layers of paint easily. Spending two to three hours is normal for a beginner at this stage.
If scrubbing fails to give the desired results, you could always use a paint remover chemical. A variety of these are available on the market at affordable cost and any top brand will do the job here.
You could always get this part done from bike shops but you could get charged a fortune.
4. Paint the frame
Now that both the old paint and rust are gone, begin painting the bike.
First, firmly cover the parts that you don’t want to paint with either masking tape or newspapers. Then, using wool, apply spirits over the whole area that will be painted.
After ensuring that the spirit has evaporated, it’s now time to apply primer using a paintbrush.
Take care to ensure that this first layer of primer remains thin. Let the paint dry for 24 hours after this first coat of primer.
The next day, apply the second coat of primer in the same method as the first. Make sure that this coat of paint also has the same amount of time to dry as the first coat.
In case the primer isn’t sticking to the body as it’s supposed to, give it some more time in the sun.
Next, it’s time to get to work on the fun part; spraying designs on the primer. Here, you’re encouraged to let loose your internal creative genius and make patterns and designs on the frame as you see fit.
Don’t forget to shake the paint before use and take care to protect your eyes and face from paint droplets. As far as bike tips go, it’s pertinent to mention that this painting activity should be done in a shed to ensure direct sunlight doesn’t come into contact with fresh paint.
5. Take care of the rest of the bike
Although you were preoccupied with beautifying the frame, don’t forget that you had neatly separated all other parts from the frame in Step 2. While the paint dries on the frame, proceed with cleaning the rest of the parts of the bicycle.
The wheel rims, fork, pedals, brake pads, chain, and other components would have collected a lot of dust and grease. Begin the cleaning process by first submerging these items in warm water concurrently.
Next, vigorously clean these items with either sponge or another lightly abrasive material so as to get the paste of oil and dirt off.
These components may also have rust on them. To remove rust, follow the same procedure as in Step 2.
At the end of this step, each component is bound to be clean and rust-free.
6. Re-assemble the bike
Now that all parts of the bike have been cleaned and painted, reassemble the bike. As you go through each part below, take care to lubricate all of these parts during their process of installation.
Start with the drive train set.
Carefully place the chain over the sprocket and derailleurs. Ensure that the chain doesn’t lag and is exactly the length required for smooth operations.
If the chain is lagging, it’s longer than it should be. Therefore, it needs to be shortened by removing the pin that connects the excess length to the rest of the chain.
Next, inspect the brake calipers. Ensure that they aren’t rusted, and if they are, they would need to be replaced.
Then, you need to check whether the braking cable is working as intended. The braking cable goes a long way from the brake handle on the handlebar to the braking pads.
Braking pads are rubber parts that grind against the tires to stop them. In case they’re worn out, these pads would need replacement as well.
Then, insert the tires between the forks and connect the two using the hub. Install the seat post as well and ensure that it’s high enough to provide both comfort and control.
After most pieces of the bike have been installed, proceed with reinstalling the head badge in its original position. This badge typically houses the logo of the manufacturer.
For safety, installation of bike eye is recommended. Bike eye is a bicycle mirror that apprises the rider of any oncoming traffic on his way from behind.
7. Test the bike
Once again, check that every component of the bicycle is in its required place and is in working order. A checklist would be nice at this stage as it would ensure that nothing is missed.
Check the brakes, gears, seat post height, and other components essential for a comfortable ride. An anti-rust coating may be applied at this stage to protect the parts from corrosion.
The restoration project is now complete and the end product is now good as new and ready for another life, so go ahead and take it for a spin.
You can also include some decals and stickers on the bicycle to make the ride stylish and cool.
The project of restoring an old bike yourself is a transformative experience. With equal portions of fun and learning, such a process will not only lead novices to learn about bicycles more but will also impart a newfound appreciation for the craft itself.
While a bike mechanic may do this same process faster, choosing service centers would mean significant cost expenditure as well as letting go of a great chance to learn some cool new skills.
The step-by-step process above is designed to be followed by people of every experience level. All the tools and material included in the process are easily available everywhere, making road bike restoration a worthwhile experience for all those who dare to try it.