By Amanda Wilks
Are you in the market for a new bike but not quite ready to give up your old standby? Have you spent too many hours perched atop your mountain bike while overlooking scenic vistas or winding country roads to want to give it up?
There’s no shame in wanting to save a bit of money and hold on to an old friend for a little while longer, but a proper restoration job on even the most beaten and battered of bikes can be accomplished if you’re willing to spend some time and put in the effort to treat your mechanical friend just right.
Step One: Survey Your Bike
The first step of any restoration project is to take stock of what needs to be fixed. Is your bike’s frame damaged? Are there visible spots of rust or worn-away paint that are likely to rust if not treated promptly? Are your bike cables frayed? Do your gears look like you left them underwater for six months? Have your reflectors cracked or been lost entirely?
Jot down everything about your bike that you aren’t happy with and keep that list handy while working on it. If you aren’t comfortable with your own surveying skills, take your bike to a bike shop and have them give it a once-over for you, just to make sure you don’t miss something that could become a health hazard down the line.
Now is also a good time to take note of anything you might want to add to your bike later to make it more rider-friendly, like a high-performing mountain bike computer or a more powerful forward-facing light for night riding.
Step Two: Disassembly
Feel free to skip this step if your bike only needs a new tire or a tightened chain, but something like rust on the frame or grungy gears is going to require a tear-down. While intimidating it is entirely possible to get the hang of pulling your bike apart and re-assembling it as long as you have the right tools and take proper notes.
If it moves, requires grease, shows rust or otherwise needs help, you’re going to need to take it off. Chances are you’ll want a bike stand and a handful of basic tools including a variety of screwdrivers, socket wrench heads, lubricants and grease rags.
Step Three: Cleaning
If you needed to peel your bike apart, this is where you give those parts a thorough cleaning. If not, you may be tempted to blast your bike with a garden hose, but this may do more harm than help unless you’re ready to completely re-grease every moving part on your bike.
Rust removal may require rust removal spray and steel wool at the very least, but the assembly guide above can run you through what to do if you find yourself needing to de-rust a bike with several decades of neglect to attend to. For everything else, soap and water should do the trick!
Step Four: Reassembly, Replacement and Re-Greasing
Optionally, if your bike needs to be repainted you’re going to want to attend to that before you start putting it all back together, but you probably already knew that.
Once you’ve cleaned your mountain bike and double-checked to ensure you’ve found every possible part that could use a replacement, now’s the time to put it all back together with those replacements.
Some of those replacements are going to be easier than others; Rear reflectors often attach to your bike’s frame with little more than a single bolt or screw but replacing a damaged brake assembly may take a thorough guide produced by the maker of your bike or brakes of choice. Whatever you do, make sure you properly grease any metal parts that will be touching other metals to ensure they aren’t worn down too quickly or rendered impossible to remove the next time you need to perform routine maintenance.
Step Five: Maintain
This will either be the easiest or the hardest part for you, depending on your personality type. Keeping a bike up and running can take a library of maintenance knowledge but pays off when you don’t have to spend a week tearing down your favorite trail bike to track down the source of a strange grinding noise.
Keep things lubricated, check parts for signs of wear, ensure your brake cables don’t fray and always watch out for unusual tire wear or signs of damage. Now’s also the time to add extra reflectors, light sources or bike computers to help you keep your bike in proper shape without expending extra energy.
If you find yourself lacking in the memory department when it comes to maintenance, sharing your hobby with the ones you love may be just enough to help keep your eye on the prize over time. Some cyclists even tout how their hobby directly helped their marriages and it’s always nice to have a few pastimes in common with the important people in your life.
It may sound daunting at first but restoring a mountain bike to its former glory really isn’t the hardest job in the world.
If you have a working knowledge of how the bike’s parts fit together and enough time to scrub away the rust and caked-on dirt of trails past you’re already halfway there.