Refurbishing and Modernizing an Old Bike

Introduction: Refurbishing and Modernizing an Old Bike

About: Chief Project Manager and Fabricator. I make all sorts of props and costumes from scratch on very low budgets for fun. anything from star wars to steam punk i always like to challenge myself with builds and ...

In this fine Instructable i will be showing how to refurbish and "modernize" an old bicycle, whether for cycling or for pleasure.

this an annoyingly easy process and anyone can do it regardless of budget.

The first time i did this was a couple years ago cause i needed a bike that could get me around campus and being at a school where is up hill both ways it was nice to find a gear bike for cheap. it ended up being a hobby and i started to refurbish one or two bikes a summer and sell them or donate them depending on how much work wen into them.

the total cost of refurbishing and old bike can range depending on if it needs knew rims or not but it averages around $30 to $40 bucks for the full refurbishment and that good as new look. took just under two weeks by myself :)

The bike your looking for depends on you needs. all the bikes in this instructable are Schwinn 12 speeds. how ever if you just want a sweet beach cruiser the same steps can be applied no problem.

what you'll need:
screw diver
Spray Paint (krylon is always a good choice, Rustoleum works great as well.)
Sand paper
Rust remover
Gear/ Chain Lubricant.

Bike Parts:
New Chain
New Brake and Gear Lines
New Tires and Tubes
New Cork Wrap
Head/Tail Light
E.L Wire with AA Battery pack

this is a simple DIY and  took only two weeks at part time hours (its mostly watching paint dry) but it does require a little handy man knowledge, Wire cutting, screws, chain removal and basic a disassemble process.

feel free to make your own changes to what ever you like! like paints, E.L colors and detailing!

feel free to ask questions and share comments with others! best of luck!

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Step 1: Finding Your Wheeled Companion

Lets Start with what you want to look for while picking a bike...

before you hand over the hard earned cash be aware of where and what your buying, brand and year does count when looking at bikes but its not all brand loyalty because after so long manufactures started to change the way bikes were build and slowly made them cheap weather by the material used or how they were put together. all the bikes in this intructables are Schwinn's. the male bike is a 1973 continental and the female bike is a 1978 le tour. i found that any bike made before the  80's is a great place to start regardless of brand because they were made with good solid metal parts.

once you have an idea what your looking for go for a drive around your town. its very common in early spring/summer for people to clean out there garage and put there bikes on the lawn with for sale signs, this my friends is where you want to pick up your deal. garage sales are also very popular with bikes as you may know.

when looking at the bike solely look at it mechanically dont worry bout paint and chrome thats the easiest to fix. start by looking at the rims and wheels spin the wheel to notice of the rim has dents or bumps and if its spinning on the frame straight, then do the same with the back tire but spin it with the pedal to make sure the alignment of the frame is good. if the frame and rims are in good shape your in good shape. test the breaks and the gear to make sure there still connected and applying pressure. after it all checks out haggle your self a deal. i wouldn't spend anymore the $40. remember these bikes are usually 20 to 25+ years old.

*photo courtesy of google*

Step 2: Cleaning and Dissasembly

once you have found your trust wheeled companion its time to give her/him a bath.

soak the bike down and wash away and dust and dirt so you can get a good look at the rust. there are plenty of safe chemicals to remove rust and you can also use an s.o.s pad and rub it off as well. before you start to take it apart take pictures of all the pieces that are being removed so you can easily look at how it was put together for easy reassembly. after you got it all clean take apart the bike by removing the brakes, brake lines, gear lines, seat, wheels, back gear assembly and the chain. i simply took my pliers and cut the lines and ground  the chain off since i was going to replace them anyway. your more then welcome to salvage them if they are in good condition.

once its been stripped down to the frame take a medium grit sandpaper and go over then entire frame. you can do this with a power sander if you have one. the object is to not remove all the paint but to completely remove the rust and create an even surface for the primer. i chose a white primer since i used a light color scheme.


Step 3: Designing and Painting

now for the fun part...

after your bike is all pretty with a couple coats of primer find some fun paint and create a fun design.

this process it mainly up to how you see fit and your display of creativity. find a couple colors or just one and put some sweet detailing on it. put a couple coats of each on it . painters tape is your best friend when creating straight lines.

Step 4: "Modernizing"

i use the term loosely but in lamens terms it means creating a fun bike that wont get you killed if you bike on the roads or at night.

hop on amazon or go to your local target/walmart/bike store and purchase a pair of bike lights for the rear and front of your bike. this is becoming the norm to have on your bike as well as being bike law in most cities, plus its just plain safe.

the use of E.L wire is a great conversation piece and fun to ride around in town with but also serves a very unique safety purpose. the use of E.L wire makes other drivers aware of you especially from the side where your head lights and tail lights are not viewable by. you can get it from a lot of differnt stores online and its fairly cheap as well.

you can have a lot of fun with E/L wire. measure out your Rims and get the according length you desire and have fun with designs and where you put it. i change out my design in my rims for fun, spirals, bars, graphs, and triangles. you can also put it in your frame and make your bike look like a tron light cycle if your feeling your bike it ready for the grid.

in the end this is all for fun and has become a great hobby for me and my friends.

hope you enjoyed reading and hope you give your Custom Bike a try!
feel free to check Towering productions out at our other projects on  our face book page and like us!

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    4 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I like the Portal-themed EL wire :)

    I just got a new bike as a gift back in April with disc brakes and everything, but one of the brake lines is already severed due to poor assembly. I just grabbed a new one from my old bike when I saw this and I think I'm going to give the painting and EL wire a try.

    Just one question though, I want a motor on my pedals that charges a battery under the seat for the EL wire, which will come on at night via light sensor. I can get this all to work, but the only problem is my power line to the EL wire gets wound up as I bike and eventually just gets pulled out of the battery holder.

    Towering Props
    Towering Props

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks actually made a apertaure science bike for a friend. Regarding the motor idea... it is possible how ever the wire get tangled presents the issue. The only way I can think of it working is that you use a friction motor attached to the axel of each tire/frame. How ever you could much more easily make a motor with the pedals as you suggested to charge batterys or battery pack for the e.l wire, which in turn would be much more efficent.


    7 years ago on Step 4

    Looks cool!

    I've been thinking about putting EL Wire on my bike, but never really knew where to mount the battery pack. Where did you mount yours?

    Towering Props
    Towering Props

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

    Thanks! It depends on the battery pack if its one of the lighter ones AAA or smaller you can just tape it to a spoke or the rim itself. What I did is a made a little bracket and put it on the axel of the rim. That way it doesn't unbalance the tire or fling off. Ill see if I still have it laying around and add it to the pictures. Of course with the frame its much easier and you could just duck tape it or hot glue the battery pack under the seat.