Introduction: Sputnik Soviet Bicycle Restoration

About: After a degree in micro-engineering in Switzerland, I moved to Russia to discover new landscapes

In early autumn, I found a Sputnik bike V37 in my wife's dacha (cabin). After some research on the internet, it appears that these bikes were manufactured between 1964 and 1967. I decided to take it home. Renovate this bike would be an enjoyable way to spend the long winter evenings.

Two weeks ago the Moskva river has melted and this week everyone is walking along wearing only T-shirts. It is time to take the Sputnik outside for the resurrection.

I did not want to equip this bike with carbon rims or to transform it into a fixie. No, I wanted to keep it as close as possible to the original version.

Step 1: Tools and Material


You don't need a full bike workshop as we see sometimes on youtube with a guy explaining with an extremely low voice that removing the cog is very simple. But this guy absolutely doesn't see your problem with his brand new bike, his special cog remover and his apron. He doesn't see that you are watching the video on your mobile phone in your courtyard in the falling night, that the only tool you have is a hammer and a screwdriver, that in front of you is the rusted bike you promised your girlfriend to repair.

No, you don't need all that. You can make a lot with common hex bits and sockets but spending a day to organize your space before a long project is not a waste of time. I made a wood repair stand specially for this project. It will be probably the object of my next instructables.

However, buying special tools can be a good idea if, as me, biking is a part of your life. Otherwise, there are more and more open workshops where you can just go and use professional tools for a reasonable price so check if there is one in your town.

I bought:

  • sprocket remover / chain whip
  • pin spanner
  • cut chain
  • 13,14,15,17mm cone/pedal wrench (you need a very thin wrench for the cones)
  • spoke wrench
  • sponge
  • cloth
  • latex gloves (optional)
  • protection gloves (optional)
  • boxes (yoghurt cups! Many yoghurt cups!)
  • bucket
  • toothbrush
  • glasses


  • rust solvent
  • white spirit
  • chain oil
  • bearing grease

Step 2: Disassembling and Cleaning

The first step was to disassemble everything and put it in boxes (yoghurt cups) or bucket. It was sometimes so rusted that I couldn't unscrew. In this situation I sprayed some rust remover and waited overnight. In the picture you can see how I used pliers to disassemble the fork (use both hands). The only part that I really couldn't disassemble was the right bottom bracket so I cleaned it from the other side.

Be careful when disassembling the bearings because usually the balls drop from everywhere and you don't wand to loose them. The head tube bearing has a collar to maintain the ball bearing together so it was easy. When I opened the pedal or the wheel bearing, I always placed the bucket just under. Then I placed the balls in separate yoghurt cups. Also it is better to write down how many balls are on each side of the pedal (if you have not seen when opening it is not very important, your bike will work anyway).

Take three containers (yoghurt cups! If you become fat because of yoghurt, no worry: you will soon loose your fat on your bike) and fill the first with 1cm of white spirit, the second with 1cm of rust dissolver and the third with water. Then put the parts in the first bath. Use the toothbrush to remove the old dried grease in the white spirit. Once clean, let them in the rust dissolver the time needed to dissolve all the rust. (It took me between 10 min and 1 hours depending on how rusted they were). Finally use the sponge and water to remove the oxide and the rust dissolver. Wear gloves and glasses when manipulating white spirit and rust dissolver (strong acid!).

You can reuse always the same bath until the white spirit becomes really dark and doesn't clean anymore or until the rust dissolver doesn't dissolve anything. I used a magnetic screwdriver to retrieve the ball bearings in the dark white spirit.

Step 3: Repaint Your Frame (optional)

Some people make professional paining, in this case you need to remove all the old paining and rust but it is a expensive and long process. I opted for a easier option: cover the first painting with a new one on my own.

First I sprayed some rust dissolver and cleaned the chipped paint. Then take the frame and wash it with water and dish soap. Use some white spirit and cloth to remove the dried grease in the bottom bracket and head tube. Be careful: If you want to repaint the frame, it has to be perfectly free of oil residue and the problem with white spirit is that it let some oil. So you will need to clean with dish soap for a long time. Then the frame motifs you want to keep have to be covered with masking tape as well as the bottom bracket, saddle and head tube. Spray the frame and fork with quick and regular movements around 20 cm away. Do not try to make a thick layer, if needed make a second or third layer when the previous one is dried.

Step 4: Reassembling (The Fun Part!)

All the bearings have been disassembled, cleaned, greased and reassembled.

You need to apply the grease in order to keep the balls in place. I used a tube of grease with a sharp nozzle. It was helpful to access the difficult part and make a nice grease cord. I also used tweezers to place the balls one by one.

At this time, the saddle has been simply brushed and waxed but I do not exclude that one day I will replace it.

The tires and tubes have been replaced. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the good tire size for old bikes but I was lucky.

I equally replaced the cables, houses and break pads for style but more importantly for security reasons.

Step 5: Spoking

Even if some spokes are in poor condition, I decided not to completely disassemble the wheels as long as I do not have the replacement spokes. Instead I simply corrected the wheel circularity. Here is the algorithm:

First place a piece of wood (a pen?) with the tip almost touching the rim.

  • Then turn the wheel and try to see in which portion the wheel is approaching the pen tip and which portion is going far.
  • In the abnormal portion (too far or too close) pinch the spokes between your thumb and forefinger and try to feel which spokes are abnormally tight or loose comparing to the others.
  • Now if your portion is too close to the pen tip and you found a super tight spoke pulling in the pen direction, loosen this spoke a bit (half a turn). Loosen means that you have to unscrew the spoke (if you don't know which direction unscrew, check the right hand screw rule on google) but your spoke wrench is not turning the spoke but the nipple. It means that it is the reverse direction! I know it is a bit of mental gymnastic but once you understood the idea it is not that complicated. Just imagine that you want to screw the spoke but finally turn on the opposite direction. Equally if you felt a loose spoke that could pull the rim away from the pen tip, just tighten it (half a turn). Also if your portion is not too close but too far from the pen apply the same concept to correct it.
  • After that look at the wheel axially. Turn the wheel and now check the radial deformations. As before look for a abnormal portion comparing to the average. Then correct this portion by tightening or loosening the spokes but this time make a symmetrical correction: If you tighten a spoke, tighten also the next spoke (or the previous one) in order to move the rim radially but not axially.
  • Repeat these steps until you are happy with the result. (two or three times for me)

If it sounds too esoteric, watching a tutorial on youtube can help. Even if it is a difficult part, I encourage you to try, particularly if your wheel looks dead. I remarked that usually, bike shops don't want to deal with spokes (too time consuming) and push you to buy a new wheel. But the biggest risk that you take is to ruin the wheel and you will have to buy a new one. Of course if it is a precious bike, do not experiment with it but this technique allowed me to take a bike in the trash, adjust the spoke and finally use this bike during my whole university time. When I took the bike, the wheels couldn't turn anymore because of the deformations. Of course when the rims have been that much twisted, you can't expect a perfect result but it was enough to travel my 10 min daily journey.

Step 6: Final Adjustments

Before riding, you need to adjust the derailleur stops to avoid derailment as well as the break cable tension. Finally adjust the saddle height and the handlebar height to the rider size.


Spotless Contest

Participated in the
Spotless Contest