Plaid Is Rad





Introduction: Plaid Is Rad

This is a fairly easy project to make most any bike standout. The parts won't set you back too much to make this show bike. Lots of bling can be added as you go along. Mostly it just takes time in bits and pieces but well worth the effort.

Step 1: Parts and Tools

One older bike single, speed is easiest with rims that you can get fancy tires for.

I started with English made 1958 Rudge which had 26" x 1-3/8" tires. These rims require tires that go on English type three speed rims. I swapped the rims for rims that fit 26" x 1.50 tires. Also the rear rim was from a 12 speed bike that I installed a single track gear on and a year latter exchanged the rim to one that had a a coaster brake hub on it. For more fun install a 2 speed kickback coaster brake.

The cloth was plaid but you could use anything made of cotton like material with a pattern, maybe paisley

Phenosil Transparent Caulking (At your local hardware store. This is what I used as glue.)
Rattle can spray paint for painting frame parts and rims
Paint for pinstripe (optional)


Assorted bike tools that you would need to dismantle a bike with and then some (borrow if you must)
Single edge razors (like what painters use)
masking tape

Step 2: Preparing the Frame

Starting by removing things like chain guards and cables. Handle bars and fenders and things like that. It's not necessary to remove the cranks (I did to regrease the bearings) but do remove the pedals (left pedal left threaded, right pedal right threaded).

You will have to cut off cable guides off the tubes (if your not using them) so the tubes are clean of lumps. Use a grinder, cutoff wheel, or hacksaw. These cuts will be covered by the cloth.

Remove your wheels and tires from them including the tubes and rim liners.

Lets clean everything with a degreaser. Use a green cleaner or something with nasty chemicals. Clean the wheels even if you don't paint them.

The picture shows my bare frame after I painted the parts that I won't cover with cloth. Mask off any places you don't want over spray on. Any place you bared the metal by grinding or scratches or any rusty places need to be prepped and painted also.

Step 3: Wrapping

From here I’ll attempt to give you some ideas how you can apply cloth to your builds. One thing you will need for tools are shears for cutting. A bad pair of shears will eat your hands and do a bad job of cutting. If you can, borrow some nice ones from your mother if your wife doesn’t have any. Also you'll need a marker and a straight edge like a yard stick.
Most important, some razors, single edge they have for scraping windows or the kind you put in knifes. I used the latter being a carpenter so I had plenty. Dull ones cut badly so I went through about ten of them and there is a reason why. When I chose plaid I realized that I would get a better look if I applied it diagonally. This uses more cloth and is harder to cut strips. When you trim on a diagonal freehand it tends to have a mind of its own and you need the sharp blades to keep the seams straight.
I laid the pattern out on a large clean surface and lined up the pattern straight. I picked a diagonal and with the straight edge marked my first line and cut. I looked at my project bike and figured out where I would be putting on the plaid. Tubes are easy by measuring the circumference and then add an inch. I cut all that I needed for the project as straight as I could while not letting the pattern shift around. Other parts that are covered like fenders and chain guards needed ample amount of cloth to cover complex curves. Think ahead on those. A chain guard you will have to do some diagonal tugging but it will conform.
Before I started gluing, I made sure all parts are ready for the final assembly and all under parts were painted. I also painted dropouts, lugs, head tubes, and bottom brackets as they were not going to be clothed over. I made sure the strips I cut were long enough to meet my lugs or miters on the frame and then some.
Using Phenoseal Vinyl Adhesive Translucent Caulking ( this is the glue) I applied a small bead to what will be seen the most leaving the seam for the back. How much bead depends on how much of it you can spread on to cover a half an inch. Thick or thin, too much too little. Hard to say when you don’t know. This is the part you learn by doing. Too little it won’t adhere well and too much will ooze through the cloth. It might ooze through now and then and that will be OK. The picture shows a little to much was applied.

I applied the cloth centered to the tubes leaving the rest to hang down free. I was just trying to center the cloth without losing the pattern which is easy to lose when you run the cloth diagonally. Only the tops get done and has to set up so when you finish the wrap the pattern won’t shift around. Smoothing this out with my fingers I would be cleaning hands frequently. I went on to the other tubes letting this set up straight.

Once these are set then apply more glue like before to one side of the tube at a time, the first side trimmed with the razor blade by eye a little past the center point where the seam will be. choose your seam placement in areas that won't be seen like the bottoms of tubes or backsides. This is followed by the opposite side trimmed at the seam. Smooth this out with your fingers. Work out the miters and trim. Clean hands frequently. I find it’s easier to use bare hands than it is to use gloves, maybe it’s a bad idea but I like bare hands and washing them durring the gluing.
Chain guards and fenders need care because of complex surfaces. I located my starting point so that the pattern would stay straight and not shift around and then let it set. My fenders had raised and creased surfaces and you have to work those in. Then I glued up to the edges and let that set. When it comes to gluing it under, I had to cut slits to make the curves under. I trimmed it by eye one quarter of an inch beyond the edge for finish underneath where you can’t see.

Everything was clear coated a few coats, more if you care to but you may get some shine. There may be some fuzz that the clear coat will raise up. Either like it or smooth it out as the clear coat dries. I left the fuzz proud to give the finish a real cloth feel.

Step 4: Putting All Back Together

This is the best part when the roller coaster comes to a stop. I hope all your trouble was well worth it. Take a deep breath and carefully bolt it back together, take your time. You may notice that the drop bars are really bars flipped over and the wrap around fenders are really custom made from two fenders. This is a story of plaid, if you would like to know a little more I would be glad to talk about it.. A hint on the old chrome: Lemon Pledge and fine steel wool or scotch pads.

Step 5: Life of the '58 Rudge

This would have been trash but the old English bikes are built strong and last a long time. Not only that but they ride well. I wish good luck to anyone who follows these guidelines and theirs turns out well.

Feel free to vote for me


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63 Discussions

As a single Mom with 3 kids I had to learn how to build new "cool" bikes out of old junkers for my kids as they were growing up, and we did a similar project on one of our bikes, but used wallpaper (yeah, you guessed, it didn't last) But this is great! I never thought of vinyl caulk, and fabric! What did you use as a clear protective coating, btw? Thanks, I wish this was around 20 years ago :-)

5 replies

:-) (sis) are you asking about my pen-name? First letters of my kids names. P.S. I'm working on my bicycle right now~

I'm not sure but I was using Rustoleum at the time and I would dare say that it was their product and I sprayed over the entire frame.

Check into the rotary cutter system for cutting cloth. The tools are a bit spendy, but the savings in aggravation when cutting cloth, especially on the bias, make it well worth it. Go to your local quilt store and ask for a demo. You'll be blown away. Trust me.

1 reply

++++1 Suslee has it right all the way. Rotary cutters are great for anything that tends to deform while cutting - even vinyl or rubber sheeting.

Sweet, sweet! Last week I got home with plaid, leopard and peacock from a yard sale and didn't really know what to do with it. Then came you!
One huge problem though: I've been on the phone and googling since yesterday and it seems vinyl caulking is virtually impossible to obtain to a mere mortal in Germany. I talked to a floor layer and he said this isn't used anymore. Then I found some and it was terribly expensive.

What other options are there for people who don't have easy access to vinyl caulk or marine epoxy?

3 replies

Bummer man! I'm with out a solution for you. Can you get out of mortal standings and move up a notch? I have been thinking of the marine epoxy but knowing how messy it was to glass with......I'm not sure if it would be easy to use but it would be durable. I'll get back to you if I figure out a solution.

I'm not sure if this would work but you could buy a small amount and experiment. Gorilla Glues have some white waterproof that you can buy in a small bottle and you can use most anywhere. The other choice is "2P 10" glue. I am told by my friends you can skip the spray part and it takes longer to cure......but this type of glue will stick your pencil behind your ear if your not careful. Hope this might help or try other glues on scraps.

Whoooo! After much more leg work I finally found a UV- and age-resistant marine silicone with supposedly good adhesive qualities in a hardware shop that claims they didn't even know they had this.
Equivalent of about $12, still kinda steep for some 'marine' silicone that says you shouldn't use it on boats but to vent that anger I felt I would need to explain why it is imperative that all bycicles be wrapped in plaid (and maybe leopard).

On a side-note: Gorilla Glue, Modgepodge, Suguru - these pillars of the american DIY scene are next to impossible to get anywhere else. So finding equivalents is always the tip of the scale for many 'ibles. Thanks for helping me out here!


That's awesome I think I might try on my Pure City commuter. Maybe in paisley... I just bought some to make a shirt but maybe I'll do this with is instead :)

This is a lovely project, and the technique would have great potential for covering many sorts of items. I agree with Suslee - this would be easier with a rotary cutter, cutting mat and a ruler made for cutting fabric. Look for videos that demonstrate proper technique for safety. Also, you might find Mod-Podge or something similar easier to work with than the caulk. It is water based and designed for decoupage applications, which is what this is, essentially. I don't know how well it would hold up in weather extremes, however. The manufacturer would have advice on that.. It comes in both matte and gloss finishes. You would have to do several coats for maximum results.

2 replies

Thanks for your input. I'm a believer in the rotary cutter from just what was posted here. Shears suck at best. As far as the gluing is concerned you have to think much as I treat her as a Queen she does get damp and it does have two coats of clear coat to help. As a straight up decoupage you have my attention.......that would be cool and has me thinking about it as it would be true art.

To help others lets talk caulking. 45+ years as a carpenter tells me this product that I used here should not be used as a caulking on your house (as WD-4 should not be used on your bike chains). It does act somewhat like a glue and though it comes out white it turns clear (almost). Once you secure the cloth to the top of the tubes or curved parts you need to some times pull and stretch it. This caulking gives me enough time to work it around the curves. You need a glue that's not slow or fast but more half fast. I would like to try the two part glues that I use at work but I fear that I would be too slow and be the man on the floor stuck to his bicycle, pictures at 11:00.

Back in the redwoods we used to coat redwood tables with 2 part marine slow dry epoxy to give her a long lasting gloss finish. This is not a flat surface, but impregnation is the idea for fabric so I'd go with a paintbrush covering the fender, then both sides of the fabric, smashed on with gloves then give it a few hours and add a second coat of the goop. You should do the handlebars, wheels, spokes...and maybe plaid lights for the nights. This gives me an idea; there are new motherboards super cheap one could use as a controller for this; You know those new led tv's? Well the German company that makes them had originally intended on selling them as rollable sheets. You should still be able to buy small displays like this which can wrap around objects, even epoxy over them I suppose(?); all run by the motherboard which senses motion using usb accelerometers to make the pattern move when you move... or just go off the wheel gear.