Rebuilding and Painting Vintage Road Bike

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Introduction: Rebuilding and Painting Vintage Road Bike

About: Meteorology student, builder, and photographer

I've had this old Schwinn World for a few months now and it's badly in need of an update. In this Instructable I'm going to repaint this vintage bike and turn it into one that looks way cooler and better suited for riding gravel!

Here are a few things you'll need for this build, the bold ones are bike-specific and can be bought at a local shop:

  • Old bike (obviously)
  • Socket wrench set
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Cable cutters
  • Allen wrenches
  • WD-40
  • Grease
  • Masking tape
  • Spray paint (3 color, 1 clear)
  • Tire levers
  • Chain tool
  • Crank Puller
  • New parts as needed (I replaced the tires, bar tape, saddle, and some cables)

Step 1: Remove Wheels

We'll start off easy for the first step, removing the wheels. First you'll need to disengage the front and rear brakes (usually a bolt that tightens down on the brake cable). After that loosen the wheel bolts and pull them off.

Step 2: Remove Chain

This step requires a chain tool, which you can get for about $15 at a bike shop. To remove the chain, line up the tool with one of the pins on the chain and rotate the handle, pushing the pin out. Make sure not to loose this piece!

Step 3: Remove Cranks + Bottom Bracket

This step will also require a bike-specific tool, a crank puller.

Most bikes have a dust cover on the cranks, and with mine I used a quarter to remove it. Under the dust cover is a nut, remove this with a socket wrench.

Now we'll need to use the crank puller. The crank on the bike is friction fit and is pretty much impossible to remove without this tool. Screw in the crank puller as shown in the photos, and then with a socket wrench tighten the crank puller. This will pull the crank off the bike.

Once the cranks are off, you'll want to remove the bottom bracket. This isn't entirely necessary, but its nice to give it a good cleaning, and it would be pretty hard to mask it so no paint gets on it. Some bottom brackets require special tools to remove but I just needed a regular socket wrench.

Step 4: Remove Derailleurs and Brakes

Next up we'll remove the derailleurs and brakes. First, loosen the cables that connect to the parts, and then remove them from the frame.

Step 5: Remove Handlebar and Fork

The handlebar on my particular bike is secured with a friction-fit system, so loosening the single allen bolt is all it takes to remove it.

After that, we'll need a large hex wrench to loosen the nut that secures the fork. Its helpful here to have someone hold the fork to keep it from rotating. After that nut is loosened, remove the shifting levers and bearings. Make sure to note the order that these part came off the bike!

Step 6: Sand Frame and Fork

Now that all the parts are off we can get to work!

If you're going to paint your bike, you need to strip off the old paint first. It's ideal to get down to bare metal, but that's not really practical unless you use paint stripper (which I didn't). Instead, make sure you at least scratch up the paint in those hard to reach areas.

I sanded the whole bike with 60 grit down to bare metal, then 120 grit. I wouldn't go with any finer grit than that because its really more work than is necessary; the paint adheres better with deeper scratches and it also fills them in perfectly with a couple coats. Make sure to wear a mask when sanding!

Step 7: Add Water Bottle Mounts

For some reason my bike didn't come with any water bottle mounts, so I added a couple at this step.

I started off by measuring where they should be, I kept the bottles as low as possible to lower the center of gravity and to give more room for frame bags above them. once you've measured where the holes should be, mark it with a center punch, drill, and tap the holes.

At this step I also removed the kickstand mount, which was brazed on to the frame. Any other metal work such as internal cable routing could be done here too.

Step 8: Clean Parts

Before painting, its super important that there are no contaminants on the parts to be painted. I used soapy water to thoroughly clean the frame and fork.

I also cleaned all the other parts we took off earlier with WD-40 and set them aside. You could also clean these in between coats of spray paint to save time.

Step 9: Paint Frame and Fork

Now for the fun part!

I just had to mask off a few areas. The bottom bracket, Schwinn logo, upper part of the fork, and some chrome areas on the head tube. The best way that I found to paint the bike was to stick a rod through the head tube and just let it rest on there. That allows you to paint the entire bike in one go without touching it.

When your painting, always use long strokes and keep the can about 8" to a foot away from the bike. Its better to do a bunch of light coats than a couple heavy ones so you don't get drips.

I would make sure to get a nice even coat, then I waited until the paint had just barely hardened to re-coat (about 30 min between coats). This not only saves time, but the paint actually bonds better when the previous coat isn't fully dry. The reason is because the new coat melds to the previous one, and they basically merge into one coat with no boundary.

I used two cans of color, which resulted in 4 coats total, although I would recommend getting one more can as I was cutting it close. After the color I put on two coats of matte clear coat. I used rustoleum for both the color and clear, and although I can't comment on the durability yet, the paint went on really smoothly with no splatter at all.

After painting, I would recommend waiting 48 hours before touching it at all. I installed the parts the next day (12 hours) and the paint was very soft - I had to be pretty careful when moving it around.

Step 10: Install New Tires, Bar Tape, Saddle

This is also a good step to do while the paint dries!

On my bike I chose to replace the tires, bar tape, and saddle.

Lets start with the tires. First, remove any air in the tubes by pressing on the valve as shown. Then, take the tires levers and get them underneath the bead of the tires and work your way around, getting one side of the tire off the rim. After popping off the old tire, partially inflate the new tube and install it inside the new tire. Line up the valve with the hole in the rim, and install the new tire with the tire levers, one side at a time. Finally, fill to the recommended PSI.

I also replaced the bar tape here; I'll include a link to a video that explains how to do that much better than I can here!

Tire Removal/Install:

Bar Tape Tutorial:

Step 11: Install Fork + Handlebar

Time to put the bike back together! Let's start with the fork.

First, I lined up all the parts in the order they need to go on to make sure I don't miss anything. The first thing you'll need to do is repack the bearings with grease (make sure to get it between all the ball bearings), and install them where they were previously. Then, we can install the fork onto the head tube. After that, install the nut that held the fork to the frame (photo #7), and tighten it to the correct tightness so that the fork rotates freely, but is not too loose. If you over tighten this, the fork will not turn easily.

Next, install the shifting lever, washer, the nut that secures the whole thing in place. Grease up the lower part of the handle bar (slanted part), and slide it into the fork. line up the handlebar so its straight, and tighten the main allen bolt on top.

Step 12: Install Bottom Bracket

Next, I installed the bottom bracket. I made sure to take a photo of how all the parts go on so I could put it all back in the correct order.

First, make sure to grease the bearings really well, then put the parts on as shown in the photos. Install the bottom bracket into the frame with a socket wrench. Finally install the ring on the exposed threads off the bottom bracket.

Step 13: Install Brakes and Derailleurs

Bolt the brakes on the same way they came off earlier then, you will need to run the cables and cable guides. If you bought new cable guides (like I did), you'll have to cut them to length. The cable guide for both the front and rear brakes goes all the way from the brake lever to the brake caliper.

After that, fit the brake cables into the slots on the underside of the brake levers, and run them through the cable guides. Finally, run the cables through the securing bolt on the brake calipers, and tighten them down (it doesn't need to be perfect at this stage). Roughly cut the cable to length if you installed new cables.

For the derailleurs, install them on the frame in the same way they were before, and then run the cables from the shifters to the derailleurs as shown in the photos.

Step 14: Install Wheels

Next, I installed the wheels. Now its starting to look like a bike again!

Step 15: Install Cranks

Next, install the cranks. Slide the crank onto the bottom bracket spindle and tighten it down with the nut, and finally install the dust cap. Do this for both sides.

Step 16: Install Chain

Now you can install the chain using the same tool that you took it off with. What you'll want to do is thread the chain through the front and rear derailleurs and then line up the two ends. Take the pin that you removed earlier, and carefully place it onto the link that's missing a pin. Using the chain tool, push the pin back into the chain.

Step 17: Tune Brakes and Derailleurs

Almost done now! All we have left to do is tune up the brakes and derailleurs and the bike is ready to ride! I'll include some links to some videos for this; the guys at park tool explain these steps way better than I could here.

Front derailleur:

Rear derailleur:

Dual Pivot Brakes:

Step 18: Get Out and Ride!

Wooo! Now you've got a brand new bike! I'm pretty happy with bike that I worked on, it's noticeable smoother on the road after the tune up and the knobbier tires helped a ton for gravel riding. The new bar tape, saddle, and bottle cages also made it so much more comfortable for riding longer distances.

I hope this Instructable helped you guys out, and leave a comment below with what your working on!

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    36 Comments

    1
    cspann560
    cspann560

    11 months ago on Step 18

    This takes me back to the early 70s and my sky blue Schwinn Varsity. I tore that thing apart so many times sitting on the garage floor with grimy parts in a pan of gasoline and an old toothbrush. This is how I learned bicycle mechanics- just by doing it. Great job and happy travels I hope you go far.

    0
    mittoviedo
    mittoviedo

    Reply 6 months ago

    the schwinn varsity was the american bike for the american boy!, almost indestructible, i had a neighbor who lived with his grandmother, he was a little spoiled in that he got pretty much anything he wanted, but was all around a normal kid, i remember during the bike boom of the early 1970's when everybody had to have 10 speed, he went through about 6 bikes in a row, either wrecking them or leaving them out and getting them stolen, one real pretty gold columbia w/ chrome fenders made it through one day, christmas day, before the r. derailleur was wrapped up in the bent rear wheel, anywho, one fall[they went to long island every summer], he came back with his new york bike, a campus green varsity with chrome fenders, this is the only bike that lasted, he bent the seat, they were prone to do that,,, but otherwise it held up ,i think a stock one, sans fenders of accessories weighed in at 38 lbs.,double walled steel rims, steel stem and bars, steel derailleurs and shifters upgraded by the manufacturers to schwinns standards"schwinn approved"

    0
    jcbuchli
    jcbuchli

    Reply 11 months ago

    Best way to learn is by doing it!

    0
    Richard O
    Richard O

    9 months ago on Step 3

    Excellent instructions. I knew all this but enjoyed reading it. Question. could I sandblast my old, slightly rusty steel vintage frame without damaging it~?

    0
    throbscottle
    throbscottle

    11 months ago

    Reminds me of the happy days I spent riding, restoring, modifying and modernising Eric The Bicycle, a 1970's (or even 60's?) Sun who I acquired with 2 different sized wheels and only 1 gear. Ended up with 18 gears. Frame was too small for me so I put a mountain bike seat post on and turned the handlebars upside down. After 5000 miles the bottom bracket gave out and I put a MAG (or is it FAG - I can't remember) cartridge in. Many more joyful miles :)

    1
    mf70
    mf70

    Tip 11 months ago

    Two other points: 1) After you've THOROUGHLY cleaned the chain and freewheel, check for wear, as at

    2) If you're adding a bottle mount, watch out for Reynolds 531 sticker: butted tubing is hair thin in the middle & cannot be tapped. I used JBWeld to glue a lug on:

    Reynolds-531-tubing-Cycling-Weekly-Archive.jpg20200717_075939.jpg20200717_075218.jpg
    0
    jcbuchli
    jcbuchli

    Reply 11 months ago

    Good point on the bottle mounts! The tubing was definitely thin, if I were to do it again I would try the job weld method

    2
    mf70
    mf70

    11 months ago

    In step 2, you'll save yourself a Lot of work if you leave the pin in the last side plate. Since the pins are slightly peened at each end, you can feel the resistance as the pin gets to the back plate. It is MUCH easier to drive the pin back in if it never left the plate. When replacing, you can use the same tool to loosen the link slightly so that the chain is fully flexible.

    1
    danmcd712
    danmcd712

    Reply 11 months ago

    the other point is work from the far side of the chain to break it, then it easier to work with on the near side. A chain hook helps 4inch of wire, with a half loop on both ends. it draws the chain together so you don't have to fight the derailleur tensioner when reassembling.

    0
    mf70
    mf70

    Reply 11 months ago

    Danmcd712; good point, especially for modern asymmetric chain.

    0
    jcbuchli
    jcbuchli

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks for the tip! I had a pretty hard time driving the pin back in when installing the chain

    0
    S0dyP0p
    S0dyP0p

    11 months ago

    Nice description, and great call on the color. I've seen several older road bikes in yellow, and they wear it well.
    I highly recommend checking for a local non-profit community bike shop at https://www.bikecollectives.org/wiki/index.php?title=Community_Bicycle_Organizations. They'll have both tools and expertise to help you with this DIY. And the lovable bike nerds there will have fun helping an old bike get refreshed and ridden!

    0
    leeparsons70
    leeparsons70

    Reply 11 months ago

    Most of us, aren't even back after lockdown. I would hold your horses for a while, or phone in advance. The social distancing where I volunteer isn't there really. When you have all those tools, bicycles and parts we do. That's without the students as well.

    0
    jcbuchli
    jcbuchli

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks! It’s definitely more vibrant than before!

    1
    rozzieozzie
    rozzieozzie

    11 months ago

    Wow! I have the first 10 speed I bought in my garage and it looks just like your before pictures! Bought it in the early 70's, think Schwinn called the color "lemon yellow". Now if I ever get the itch to redo it, thanks to you I'll know how! Thanks!

    0
    jcbuchli
    jcbuchli

    Reply 11 months ago

    Let me know how it goes if you rebuild it!

    1
    andymanek
    andymanek

    11 months ago

    Thank you for your story - your work is so beautiful! Now I have an impulse to bring my 30-year-old bike back on the road :-)

    0
    jcbuchli
    jcbuchli

    Reply 11 months ago

    Go for it! It’s fun to get stuff working again

    1
    kaylibuchli
    kaylibuchli

    11 months ago

    I love your bike, it looks both retro and modern! You got it done really fast too!!

    0
    ColinT22
    ColinT22

    11 months ago

    Now that makes me feel old as I had a Falcon version 50 plus years ago with centre pull brakes and 10 speed. Gawd I feel old. Wilko yes I can see some cog wear as well.