Restoring Your Bicycle: Prepping a Bicycle Frame for Paint

Maybe you have an old bicycle in the garage that you haven’t ridden in a while, or maybe you just picked up a gem from a garage sale and it’s a little worse for wear, especially in the paint department. Here are some excellent tips so that your bicycle’s paint comes out looking like a quality job when you spray it.

Removing the old paint and rust. Put the bicycle in a vice or find another way to hold it steady once you have carefully removed and inspected all the components and are left with just the frame. Be careful not to pinch it too tight in the vice, because you can leave dents and tool marks on the bicycle frame if you don’t do it just right. The goal is to make it a tight fit so you can apply pressure to the frame, without closing the vice down on the bicycle as hard as you possibly can.

Experiment here, it can be tricky! I place the circular crank bearing housing on the bottom of the bicycle frame into the vise because it has an outer metal edge that is tough and difficult to scar. Sometimes I place washcloths or old rags in between the vice and the frame to minimize the chances of damage. Try to avoid placing the bicycle tubes themselves in the vice, as they will bend very easily, causing permanent damage.

Next, attach a wire wheel onto a drill, and move all over the bicycle frame, applying a good amount of pressure. This will take the paint and rust off in no time, leaving you with a shiny silver surface free of any dirt or debris. TIP: for removal of stickers, reverse the drill rotation with the wire wheel on it. The wires will get bent in the direction they usually spin, so reversing the drill makes them “bite” quite a bit more, and those old stickers on the frame will come off relatively easily! If you don’t have a wire wheel, they can be found for under five dollars at any hardware store, don’t fret.

Lightly sand the bicycle with something like 150 or 200 grit paper once you have removed ALL the paint and rust you can. This will ensure a clean, easy to paint surface and also remove that hard-to-reach rust or paint that the wheel had trouble with. Once you are down to bare metal all over the bicycle, tape off the bearing journal areas with masking tape. As you reassemble the bicycle, the last thing you want is for bits of primer or paint getting mixed up in the bearings.

The last step I do is blow the frame off with compressed air. If you don’t have a compressor, the keyboard cleaner stuff that comes in a small can will work OK, or you could simply use a VERY clean rag and glass cleaner – the glass cleaner is a good choice because it leaves zero residue and dries quickly. Now your bicycle frame is clean, shiny, and ready for primer!

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