Repainting an Old Bicycle




About: I am no longer a student at IU as I've graduated (huzzah!). I joined Instructables because I enjoy making and viewing unusual objects. I like Instructables that are unique and when I create something, I enjo...

Do you have an old, worn out looking bike? Do you want it to look as fast as you can go on it? Here's how to do it.

The story behind the bike that I am holding in front of the camera is as follows
My father destroyed his bike frame when he was younger and asked to "borrow" one of his friends bike frames. The friend was into bikes and had some extras. My father then put all of his old bikes parts onto the new frame. Unfortunately for my father, he didn't like the color yellow. He promptly fixed this by painting most of it red. Thirty years later, I get the bike and I also don't like the color combination. So I am going to show you how to change that color by repainting it.

Step 1: Materials

Here is the list for materials needed. This list doesn't include tools because I used a pipe wrench on everything that didn't want to come off correctly.

Paint - I used Rustoleum indoor/outdoor paint (I chose black and silver)
Sand Paper - I used some 3M wet/dry 220 grit and 400 grit paper
Paint Remover - I used some environmentally safe stripper I found at Rural King
Masking Tape - I used blue tape from 3M to mask my project.
Bondo - the brand shouldn't matter as long as it is made to be painted over
A Mask - I used one I found laying around (has paint grade filters on it)
Polish - I used the Nevr-Dull from Eagle One on all of the chromed parts (including wheels)
An assortment of tools - I used my 'Bucket O' Tools' located in my garage
A next door neighbor that knows more about bikes than you do

Step 2: Taking Apart the Bike

For this bike, I took off all of the parts. This requires only a few tools. I will not go too far into depth here because painting and fixing up the bike is what you are here for. I have a little description of what I did at each photo. These were mainly taken to help me remember what I did to take the bike apart in the first place.

Step 3: Stripping the Bike Frame

For stripping the bike, what I used was an environmentally friendly paint stripper. I used it because it was safer for me and the environment.

Once the stripper is dry (paint stripper that is), scrape it off with a scraping tool or a paint roll cleaner (I used the roll cleaner because it had a curve on it).

Step 4: Bondo

I used Bondo to even up the dents and dings in the frame. Remember to put enough on so you only need one coat of it. When you let the bondo dry and cure you can start sanding it down.

To get a nice and flat surface, use a piece of wood or a sanding block so your hands don't sand down the bondo past the plane of the metal tube. I used 220 grit sandpaper on all of the sanding except the primer. I used 400 grit on the primer.

Step 5: Priming

Before you can start thinking about priming, you must first tape off any part of the bike you do not wish any paint to touch at all. Now the bike frame should be ready to prime for paint. I used only the finest painting booth salvageable from parts lying about in my garage, a ladder, a blanket, and a tarp that is used for painting walls(it is used to keep paint from dripping onto floors).

For my paint, I used a Rustoleum primer to paint my bike with. To prime, spray slow and long strokes across the bike frame until it is throughly coated, but do not spray so much that it drips. Dripping is what you do not want after you have spent all the time taking paint off of it. Once you have given it a good coat, wait about 30 minutes before giving it a second coat.

Once you have as many coats of paint as you want, sand down the rough areas with 400 grit sand paper very lightly. This will help get a smooth final coat onto the bike. It helps to feel the primer with your hands so you can locate any rough spots.

Step 6: Painting

To get started painting, you must first think of a design. My design is a two toned bike, black and silver.

Since I know there will be a large amount of silver on the bike, I just gave the whole bike a good solid coat of silver. Wait until the paint is no longer tacky to spray another coat. The average drying time is about 30 minutes on a day with a small amount of humidity. Although, it took nearly eight hours to dry when the humidity was at about 90%.

Once there are around 4-5 thin coats of silver you are ready for black (or any other color you wish, I just stuck with black). Wait a day before masking for the next color to make sure that the paint will not stick to the masking tape when you take it off.

For the black, you should also do 4-5 thin coats to avoid dripping.

For extra protection, you can use some clear coats on the bike frame. I used around 3 coats of clear.

Step 7: Cleaning (Optional)

This step isn't necessary for refurbishing the bicycle, but it would help it look quite a bit better.

I used Nevr-Dull from Eagle One on the fork and the wheels of the bike to give them a nice shine. I wasn't thinking when I was cleaning my wheels, but be careful when you do anything to the rim of the wheel, since this is where the rubber brake pads make contact. If you reduce the amount of friction between the pads and the rim, you will significantly reduce the braking performance. Luckily for me, I didn't notice any real change in the bike's braking capabilities.

You can also clean the chain with a healthy amount of chain oil. Some people might not know it, but grease can help to clean bike chains. I used an old tooth brush and a cloth to work the new oil into those hard to reach spots for maximum performance and looks. I found that it is easier to clean and oil the chain before you put it onto the bike. Make sure to wipe off any excess oil soon after applying the lubricant to the chain and letting it work into the gears. If you don't you may end up with some oil on the rear rim of your bike, reducing how well you can brake. In addition to that, the more oil you have on the chain, the more dirt and debris the chain tends to pick up from the road.

Step 8: Re-Assemble the Bike

Before you put your bike together again, make sure that the chain is in good working order. Also you need to lubricate all of the moving parts. You may also want new wires for shifters and brakes. In addition to the wires, there are colored wire covers you may need if your old ones no longer match the bike. The biggest visual impact of the bike (other than the bike frame) is its handle bar tape, I would suggest replacing the tape with a new color to match the bike.

To put the bike together again, just do the steps on putting it together in reverse. I didn't get the bike completely put back together due to missing tools on May 31, but it still looks a lot better than it did before.

Step 9: Updates (1 Year Later and Counting)

I have reached the 3rd year anniversary of this instructable. (or at least when I took the before pictures).

So far I have ridden my bike for over 1000 miles, due to 6-10 miles a day just to get to classes at college. I only have one major spot of damage on the bike from when my shifters slid down my tube due to the tension and the fact that I didn't tighten the bolts enough. I have also just finished my third Tour De Trails (50k bike ride). I have the bike route posted below.

Some information about this years Tour De Trails:
This most recent year, I chose to do the 75k bike ride (around 50 miles) through the hills of Brown County. Since this ride was a different length, and not on a mostly flat route, I've decided to post my top speed so that you can imagine the kind of hills I had to climb to get to that point. My top speed was a little over 40 mph.

Last year my average speed was around 17 mph, for the 30 miles (50k) with a time of 1hr  53min

Two years ago my average speed was 18 mph, for 50K (31 miles) with a time of 1hr 48min.
Also, it was raining this year so my bike was covered with large quantities of dead worms.

Three years ago my average speed was 16 mph for the same length with a time of 1hr 58min.

Here is a more accurate map of the route (I put what I remembered into It isn't exactly the same route, but it is close... Trail Here

The next pictures are also post race (during the rain) with all the little goodies that come with wet pavement. If you haven't ridden in the rain/post rain you wouldnt know that I am talking about the worms that crawl up onto the pavement and get flung into the air onto the person behind you. I was in a group so I was hit with the front groups worms.

Runner Up in the
Park Tool Bike Month



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    112 Discussions

    Yard Sale Dale

    5 years ago on Step 2

    Check out for the Bicyclopaedia. It is a collection of years worth of tutorials from a master cycling mechanic and former bike shop owner (he passed away). Also Park Tools makes bicycle tools for pros and bike owners, and has tutorials and videos on their mfgr. webpage.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I used an old Azuki bike with an alloy frame, the rest of the parts were from my dad's old bike that he made from parts he had around.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Do I have to be familiared with painting and removing it ? Also how much time do I need for the whole process ? and can you give me an idea about how much money do I need ? thanks in advanced :)

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I know this is a bit late, but it took me roughly (this is going from memory) 1-2 hours to take it apart, 2+ hours to strip the paint (not including the waiting period with the paint stripper), a few minutes to tape it up and prepare the painting area, 2-4 hours of painting (including the wait between coats), and an hour or two for reassembly. Realistically, you could do this project in a weekend if you had large time slots to devote to the bike. Personally, I would take the bike apart on a Friday and add the paint stripper to the frame and cover it in saran wrap overnight, then strip the paint in the morning and begin the prep and paint process.


    6 years ago on Step 3

    have you taped the chrome here to protect it? will the stripper damage/varnish the chrome?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It shouldn't damage the chrome unless it is already damaged, it may take off more from where there is damage (if it's a coating). If anything, the tape was there for when we went to paint it. However, it's never a bad idea to cover it to avoid possible tarnishing or scratches.


    6 years ago on Step 3

    I highly recommend getting one of these multi-tools for stripping the paint off:

    If that link ever dies it is called a 6 in 1 multi-tool with blade. I was using just a flat putty knife and it was going slow, but then I found one of these lying around and I probably saved myself at least an hour. I wouldn't do it again without one.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    I but my spray cans in a bucket of hot water before spraying it gives you more pressure and you get all the paint out of the can


    7 years ago on Introduction

    ello, my name is Chris and I created Informative Site about and Motorcycle History. I am trying to find readers who love this topic. If you are interested you can check it: Bicycle History

    I like it. Maybe if I pick up an ol' junker that I deam worthy of saving I'll paint 'er up.

    And those are awesome shifters. I have an older Murray Sebring roadbike from about 1970-1980 sitting out behind my shed with the same thing, except mine has plastic shifters.

    Although someone in my area is selling an old Blue Schwinn from the 80's that looks real nice with metal shifters. Perhaps I'll buy it and touch up the paint....


    8 years ago on Introduction

    It's really pretty! I have shifters almost identical to those on my '78 (I think) Peugeot, and I like them a lot more than the locking ones, because it's all by feel, if that made any sense at all...


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Hey there. I was just wondering, did you sand in between paint coats, or wait til all of them were done before sanding? If you DID sand between coats, how long did you wait before sanding, and how long after sanding before doing the next coat? Also, how's your paint job held up over the years?

    I've got my frame hanging primed in the basement, waiting to finish drying so I can throw on the paint. Which is why I wanted to know about sanding between coats.. Thank you! Great instructable!

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 6

    I didn't sand between coats, and I don't think I sanded after coating. However, I would advise that you sand before clear coating the frame so that the clear adheres to the paint better. So far the only spots of damage are from where I put my bike on the bike racks on the college campus and people just blatantly ram their bikes into the racks, hitting other people's bikes (aka, mine). I also have minor damage from where the chain hits the frame when I jump the curbs because people aren't paying attention to where they are walking, and a large chip from some slightly lose parts that managed to slip down the tube, scraping up some paint.

    I would probably sand after you get all of you paint coats so that you actually have a base of paint to sand on, instead of incredibly thin layers of paint. Make sure that you clean the frame really well before adding any additional paint / clear coat once you've sanded the bike after painting. Good luck, and feel free to post your bike here once you've finished.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 6

    Hey, thanks for the super speedy response! Okay, I'm about to go try to lay down the first couple really thin coats of paint. I'm going to try a method I found online used for painting pc cases, which is to warm the paint up for a few minutes in a bucket of hot water (to get the paint flowing out of the nozzle smoother). I'll let you know how it goes after she's all finished :)


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 6

    No problem for the fast response, it was mostly luck since I only visit Instructables maybe once every day or two, and for only a few minutes at a time. Feel free to post your finished bike / frame in the comments and I may add a step with all of the bikes that people paint. I doubt that step will ever get many pictures though.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    nice job!!!!
    years ago i redid an old bike and really was gratefull for a tip from a friend of mine who told me to take the frame to a radiator shop to have them dip it in their radiator cleaner.... the thing came back almost silver!!! knowing what a pain stripping anything is, it really took a lot of the not fun part out of the project.....

    take care, and again, NICE JOB!


    8 years ago on Step 9

    I have been using map my ride when I do century bicycle rides in Salt Lake City. I do think it is a great tool and I look forward to using it at the FrontRunner Century in April of 2011. I just heard about it, what do you think? I think they are doing a metric bicycle century ride in the spring and a full century ride in the fall from Salt Lake City to Ogden.