Repainting a bike.

Ever wanted to repaint you bike? Maybe your bike’s got too many scratches or maybe you’re just tired of the color. I know I’ve had that feeling several times. Being a frequent Craigslister, I’ve owned a few bikes that I wish had a different color–the bikes rode great but the color was sometimes just drab or depressing. So, when I became a writer for this site, I had to come up with ideas for articles and repainting was one of them. So here it is! After getting over my fears, I now can share my experience of how I repainted my bike.

About a year ago, I bought a “parts bike”–a bike to harvest parts from–to install on another bike. Since then, the bike has rarely been used and as a result, it’s just sat in my garage.

I went on YouTube, and asked RL, to get a better idea of what to expect. The process (which I’ll break down later) was surprisingly easy.

I went online and followed the instructions I found both from mtnbikeriders.com , ehow.com and a couple of youtube videos. After disassembling (which was not as easy as I thought), I read the instructions on the paint stripper can and it was scary! I had to use a mask to not inhale dangerous fumes and use solvent-resistant gloves! Using a putty knife, I easily removed the paint. But since the previous owner just painted over the original paint of coat, I had to use two cans of the paint stripper. After sanding down the frame with fine and extra fine sandpaper, I was ready to paint. The sanding was very cumbersome because of hard to reach parts like where the derailleur cable goes but it only took about eight hours spread over a couple of days. After that, the repaint was easy–laying down plastic to make sure that the spray paint doesn’t get all over the place, I sprayed four coats over four hours (that means, 4 coats with dry times of 1 hour each). And since I used a spray paint that combined the primer and paint in one, I was able to skip 2 coats of primer making my job a little easier! FYI: the guy at Home Depot just suggested the primer/paint combo without a finish to be sufficient.

One minor setback happened–some debris made it onto the paint in the threading where the rear derailleur goes so when I attempted to reinstall the rear derailleur, it was at an angle. This damaged the first 2 or 3 threads so I tried to thread it in between the drop outs, as opposed to outside of the dropouts hoping that it would fix the thread. It didn’t so I was off to the bike shop. Now the bike shop didn’t have a metal tap or heli-coil to fix the stripped threads so I was advised to buy a bolt of the same size as the derailleur bolt from a hardware store to fix the thread so I did. I screwed in the bolt from the inside (in between the drop outs) and it fixed it! I installed the rear derailleur and put together the rest of the bike.

What’s needed:

Klean-Strip Paint Stripper

Flat Black Spray

  • Paint Stripper (about $7)
  • Paint (about $7)
  • Tools: Crank Remover (If you don’t have one, they’re about $8 on Amazon)
  • Monkey wrench/Spanner Tool
  • Hex Keys/Allen Wrenches (I used 5mm, 8 mm)
  • Socket wrenches
  • Cable Cutters (if necessary)
  • Gloves and breathing mask

I also used, a painter’s sheet of plastic (1.50 at home depot) which I recommend but it’s not necessary.

Here are the steps!

1. Disassemble Bike

Remove crank, fork, pedals, wheels, brakes, cables, derailleurs, seatpost and handlebar.

Bike Before Disassembly

Kept Crankset On

Covered Headset w/ Painter's Tape

Covered Crankset w/ Tape and Grocery Bag (Not the prettiest thing but it gets the job done)

2. Spray paint stripper on fork and remove paint using putty knife. Repeat if necessary. Sand down to get a smoother finish.

Hung the fork on metal hanger

3. Spray paint stripper on frame and remove paint using putty knife. Repeat if necessary. Sand down to get a smoother finish.

Sprayed a pretty thick coat!

4. Re-paint!

Eventually took off crankset to get easier access to the bottom bracket

Beautiful!!!

5. Assemble again!

Ta Da!


19 Comments

  1. Don October 14, 2012 9:46 am 

    1. The original finish looked fine.
    2. The end result of your project looks like a stolen bike, no offense.
    3. If you must refinish a bike, powder coating is the only way to go.
    4. If powder coating is too expensive, then you probably don’t need to recoat.
    5. If the aesthetics of the existing finish are that upsetting to your delicate sensibilities, then you probably need to ride more and look at your bike less.

  2. Hermes October 14, 2012 12:31 pm 

    1. Photo didn’t show the many little nicks and scratches that often disappears with white paint.
    2. None taken.
    3. I disagree. Paint looks better.
    4. I disagree.
    5. I ride 10 miles a day and the bike was also originally purchased as a parts bike meaning I didn’t intend to keep it.

  3. Raiyn October 14, 2012 6:44 pm 

    I, for one, realize that I suck at rattle can painting. I’ve learned that my best work comes with “Hammer Tone” style paints that are supposed to look crinkly. I’ll be going with powder coating for my future projects.

  4. Ghost Rider October 15, 2012 3:23 am 

    Hermes, you must have never seen a good powdercoating job, because it looks AWESOME. Remind me and I will point you to a coated frame on my personal FB page.

    I rattlecanned bikes for years…I must have painted 50 bikes in my lifetime so far. Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass and I am never particularly pleased of the outcome. Raiyn’s hammertone idea is a good one; I may have to try that. But for me powdercoating is the way to go. It can be pricey but holy cow is it durable!

  5. Dustin October 15, 2012 6:01 am 

    I think the painted bike looks good! It’ll be interesting to see how it holds up, I haven’t had great results with rattle can jobs on BMX bikes in the past….of course, BMX bikes tend to take a bit of a beating. Thinking about having my SS MTB powdered eventually.

  6. Ghost Rider October 15, 2012 6:59 am 

    I’ve found the best rattlecan finish for a bike is a flat color. I did an old Trek in flat OD green (seen in this review: http://www.bikecommuters.com/2008/02/10/ergon-bd-1-backpack-review/). It chipped and scratched really easily, but I just quickly sprayed on more without masking or other prep.

    That being said, I’ll happily spend the extra bucks for a trip through the oven.

  7. listenermark October 15, 2012 8:04 pm 

    Some bikes rate a powder coat and others a rattle can. The bike I lock up at the train station is different from the bike I ride to work. Sometimes perfection is seriously over rated.

  8. Raiyn October 15, 2012 9:07 pm 

    @ listnermark

    I don’t disagree, but I feel there’s actually 3 levels of bike paint.
    1) Rattle can – for that bike that gets left outside more or less permanently and you wouldn’t care if it got stolen. The finish isn’t great or durable, but who care.
    2) Powdercoating – for that bike you ride daily but have somewhere indoors and secure to park it. A much tougher finish that looks fairly decent.
    3) Automotive level paint (as wild as you want to get it) – for your show-off bike or restoration project. ‘Nuff said.

    I tend to stay with bikes that are worthy of level 2 paint.

  9. Ghost Rider October 16, 2012 5:17 am 

    Powdercoat is surprisingly durable for bikes locked outside, but I’m with Raiyn…for a beater, nothing beats rattlecan.

  10. Don October 16, 2012 3:22 pm 

    Around town I see a crappy big-box alu mtb that someone stripped and left bare metal, which I guess is an option with aluminum. Still a little paint left around the edges. That bike has a certain hard-won dignity that commands respect.

    For some rattle-can beaters, there’s always decoupage.

  11. Mir.I.Am October 16, 2012 8:33 pm 

    Nice frame, Hermes!!! Me gusta MUCHO!!!

  12. Hermes October 17, 2012 2:32 am 

    Why thank you Mir!

  13. Cat MacKinnon October 18, 2012 5:40 am 

    it’s probably worth noting that some types of paint are more appropriate for this than others. as far as rattlecans go, enamel is going to be your best bet as far as durability: it doesn’t dry quite as hard as lacquer, which is a good thing in this case. even though lacquer has that “classic car look”, it dries really brittle, thin and doesn’t age well (it yellows, checks/cracks and shrinks.) nitrocellulose lacquer is especially nasty stuff too, as far as chemicals are concerned, and it’s also susceptible to damage from many types of solvents.

    i like DupliColor automotive enamels for metal. it’s durable stuff, inexpensive and available in virtually any color (including metallics, flakes and pearls) that you can think of. i’ve had good results applying it over unprimed steel (although bare steel really should be primed too), but bare aluminum should ALWAYS be primed with an etching primer, otherwise the paint will just flake right off after it’s cured. Rustoleum would be my choice for hardware store paint. i’ve never had good results with anything Krylon makes, but YMMV.

    it’s also important to understand that enamels can take a couple of weeks to fully cure (lacquers should be given at least a month, six weeks is best.) i think this is one of the reasons some people have less than stellar results with spray cans, and if you can leave your freshly painted bike alone for a week, the finish will come out better.

    having said all that, i’d have to toss in my vote for powder coating as well. at least here in CO, there are several places that will do a hardtail frame and rigid fork for around $130, and that includes all the metal prep. if you’re going for a really nice finish (and not just covering up a beater bike), the cost of powder coating quickly evens out: once you pay for a can of primer, a couple cans of color, a can of stripper, at least $30 in sandpaper and buffing compounds, plus a couple dozen hours stripping, taping up and prepping the bike, it comes out about even. there are literally thousands of colors to choose from, as well as any type of finish from super-glossy to the flattest flat, plus it’s far more durable than anything you’ll ever get out of a spray can. and the finish is fully hardened as soon as it comes out of the curing oven. professional 2- and 3-part auto finishes can offer comparable durability, as well as some cool color options and techniques that can’t be done with powder coating, but it tends to be a lot more expensive.

    just some food for thought.

  14. Hermes October 18, 2012 7:39 am 

    @Cat: An extensive response Cat; impressive. Ghost Rider showed me a couple powdercoating jobs that looked pretty decent. There are plenty of powdercoaters where I live and the pricing isn’t too much (70 for frame and fork) but all of the examples I saw had matte finishes. So I ended up deciding that paying 70 dollars for something I could do wasn’t worth it–plus I’ve always wanted to learn how to repaint a bike.

    I do have a couple of bikes that I certainly would not want to repaint myself so powdercoating…hiring a professional…is the route I’ll take.

  15. Raiyn October 18, 2012 5:00 pm 

    @ Hermes
    Yeah Ghost actually turned me on to the company that did his bikes. I have a couple parts I need to get for my Schwinn Varsity project first, but when I’m ready I know exactly where I’m going.

    Now if I could just find someone who has some vector graphics for the Varsity decals so I can have them custom made on my choice of substrate I’d be really happy.

  16. jelly andrews October 26, 2012 1:46 am 

    Great posting! This is just in time. I am thinking of painting my old bike. Its paint seems so old already. Thanks for sharing this one. I can surely use the steps you mentioned.

  17. Hermes October 26, 2012 2:55 am 

    You are welcome Jelly!

    I hope it turns out well for you. Be sure to come back and share your results with us! =)

  18. Candy Smith March 8, 2013 1:53 am 

    Oh! You can’t believe it. It turns out great. The steps you shared really help. Thanks a lot!

  19. Raiyn March 8, 2013 6:57 am 

    Pics or it didn’t happen.

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