Introduction: Bike Repainting - Explained...

... I hope.

My girlfriend has had the same bike for almost her entire 2-wheeled life. Though I am not sure exactly which mid-90's year her Raleigh 'Tarantula' came from. It's an old one and treated like most family bikes...

Sadly, I don't have a full picture of the bike before I started - Only this one shot of the seat stays I took when consulting my Dad on something from across the country.

The Challenge was a simple one - after about the 16th(ish) winter it had given up the ghost... the casette was toast, all the cable chewed and the rust.... rust....everywhere... It also spent a portion of its life on the bottom of a pile of family bikes.

So the challenge was set. This bike needed a second coming...

You will need:

- 2x Spray cans of White Primer paint for metal - I used Krylon Brand
- 2x Spray cans of coloured paint (whatever colour you want - Krylon Black Matte and Liquidtex professional spray for the accenting colour)
- 2x Spray cans of Clear sealer - I used Krylon Brand
- Various Drop cloths/ Tarps
- Some means to suspend bike parts in the air (Rope, wire, etc...) - You can see what I used in step 3
- 10x Sheets of 100 grit Sandpaper
- 1x roll of painter's masking tape (usually it is green or blue) - any tape will do, but painter's tape comes off the easiest
- A Blowdryer

Step 1: Strip the Frame

We need to strip the frame.

To begin with take off all the removable bits: Wheels, derailleurs, brakes, seat, handle bars, etc... I won't detail how to remove those as there are plenty of references available out there for that.

Stripping the decals: Taking the decals off was pretty difficult because they were in rough shape. I used a blow dryer to heat them up and lifted them off by hand where I could. Just keep passing the heat how the decal and lift from a corner slowly - take your time and it might come all off together. If not I used heat and some sandpaper to get off the little bits... you won't get to use that sandpaper anymore so don't use your last piece. I wasn't too fussed about the grit of the sandpaper I used for 'decal troubleshooting' because I was going to sand the metal bare anyway. I found this the most time consuming part because the decals were in awful shape... but also because their are way more decals on a bike than I would have thought!

Stripping the paint: Good old fashioned elbow grease. I used a 100 grit sand paper, a 6-pack of beer and the Songza playlist 'Liquid Dubstep' to do this part. put the sand paper in your hand and keep rubbing until the bike looks like bare metal. I don't have much advice on technique - if you use this method just keep rubbing. Don't be afraid to fold the sandpaper into little shapes to get into every nook and cranny. It is possible to paint without stripping the old paint completely, however my understanding is that you won't get as nice a finish on your top coats later. Should you choose to go that route you only need to rough up the existing paint so that the primer can be applied to it.

There are paint removers out there, liquids, gels and such, I might try that next time as sanding took me 10ish hours to complete (over a 2 day period). Some people don't have that kind of time.

At this point I went back and did the fork using the same technique. Make sure you don't forget the front fork. I did in literally every step, and had to go back and do it once I had already started the next step. Don't be like me.

Step 2: Painting the Frame

Set up your room with drop cloths on the floor and tarps (or more cloths) surrounding the bike. The trick is to suspend the bike without things touching the frame... at least minimizing it. As I didn't have anything to hand can cause a contained zero gravity environment - I had to use a clothes line from the dollar store, which I am not even sure why I had. I hung the frame up like a shank of beef, suspending it from one rear seat stay (where the quick releases pressure) and alternated which stay it hung by each paint coat to ensure I didn't have a gap in my colour.

First, you need to apply some coats of primer. I found that one can of white primer (for wood, metal, plastic, unobtainium, etc...) did the entire frame - and fork when I remembered to go back and do it later. For those interested I used "Krylon" brand primer for no reason other than it wasn't the cheapest at Home Depot... I applied 4 coats of primer. Don't stress too much about the quality of this paint job as its expressed purpose is to be covered with another one anyway. Just cover all the bare metal as it rusts VERY quickly when completely bare. I wouldn't leave the metal bare more than a couple of days, especially if it's humid out. Make sure you let it dry for 48 hours minimum before putting on the actual paint! (to let it "cure")

Second, the real paint: My girlfriend wanted matte black so that is what I used. I put 5 coats of paint on. This is a bit more tricky to do as this is what the world will see - so take your time. Spray in quick spurts of less than 5 seconds and continuously move your spray around to avoid putting too much in one area. Too much and you get drips and runs... no one likes having the runs. Between each coat of paint I waited an hour to let it "set" (plus the instructions on the can said 20 mins to 2 hours). Keep moving the frame... or you... around and get different vantages on the frame - you need to cover everything. I used Krylon for this too because that was the matte black they had available. I found that this took just a little bit over 1 can for the frame and fork. I let it sit over night before applying the final step.

Finally! Apply the sealer: This is a step I think some people forget, you need to lock that colour in! I used "Rust-olium" brand matte clear acrylic (because Krylon didn't have a matte clear available). One thing I did learn that is important: I was told by the guy at the store that I could use a glossy clear because the paint was matte, the clear would be look matte as well - this was a lie. If you want matte finish make sure you get matte clear sealer. Apply this the same way as before: spray in short bursts and move around so you don't get too much in one place. Personally, I found it really dusty in my workroom, so I did 3 coats of sealer and let it sit for 2 hours  and wiped it down before putting on that last coat. I also let it sit after that coat in a different room so the dust didn't stick in the finish!

Patience now - you need to let the sealer completely cure before putting it back together. I would the allow the frame a week of uninterrupted meditation.

Step 3: Optional Parts

Part the 'reskinning' of this bike included some optional parts that needed to be painted as well: Cable housing, chain and rims.

For this I rigged up a very quick and rough 'mobile' for suspending the things I was working on. It is literally made of Bailer's Twine (any rope-like thing will do) and an old wheel I had in the workroom. 

Cable housing: The problem with painting cable housing is that you can't lay it down after its painted because it will loose the paint on the side it's laying on: there is where the mobile came in. I had some coper wire around from a tree I had built - I ran it through the housing and bent the end like a fish hook and made another fish hook in the other end as well to hang it off the wheel, this is what you see pictured.

One important thing I learned during this is not to use Bailer's twine in the future, it's very 'shaggy' and little hairs of the rope got stuck all over what I was working on - I plan to continue with this device though, with some modifications.... so I might try cheap wire, or coat hangers or something like that in the future.

Rims: You will want to tape each spoke to prevent getting paint on them when you are coating the rim. When taping the spokes I found it easier to tape length-wise (up and down the spoke)... I tried both ways and this was less time consuming, less wasteful and made it easier to snug the end in close to the rim. Place one end of the tape at the base of the spoke and work it around to ensure the spoke is cover, yet without allowing tape to "spill over" onto the rim itself. Fold the tape over on the rest of the spoke. You don't need to go right to the centre (the hub) because unless things get real crazy you won't be pointing the spray can there. I went 3/4 of the way up the spoke

I suspended the rims by two loops of twine, with a quick release resting on them. This allowed me to freely rotate the wheel around while painting - which helped me to evenly coat. I also could rotate the mobile so that I could do both sides without having to move around and changing the light I was working with.

In terms of the painting itself: follow the same procedure as before: Prime x4, Paint x4 (or 5), Coat x4 - same techniques different parts. I followed the same 'drying rules' as the frame as well in terms of time between coats, etc...

These also should 'cure' for a week before being put back together.

Step 4: Reassembly and Enjoyment


After all that waiting its time to put the bike back to together. From having taken it apart you should know where everything goes. The only trick here is that gearing will have to be tuned since the cables were disconnected from the derailleurs. If you don't know how to give a bike a basic tune, there is a guide for that as well, or you can bring it to your friendly neighbourhood mechanic to be tuned up -you will want it tuned before you start riding it again!

It's that simple! I personally found it much more time consuming than difficult but I really enjoyed the process. I will be doing more in the future.

At the time of completion of this project the bike is still waiting for some new parts - new crank, custom colour grips, etc... So I don't have a completely assembled picture to round this off. Here is how it sits right now, patiently awaiting a few international deliveries.

I put this together because I was pleasently surprised with how straightforward giving a bike a makeover can be, I sincerely hope that I have peaked a few curiosities and that some of you will give it a try... When your bike looks good, you want to be on it. Why not give your old-faithful a new lease on life?

Thanks for reading, please don't hesitate to message me with questions or comments!

- Cad

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