How to Paint a Bike
Have you ever found an incredibly good deal on a bike, or seen an old bicycle that you really wanted to have but didn't like the color or the paint was all chipped? Or if you just wanted to make your bike more original (by painting it neon colors). Don't lose hope. Here is how to paint an old bike frame with a professional-looking finish.
- Take off or tape over with painter's tape any items you don't want painted, such as the bottom bracket or forks. Areas of the frame with threads for bolts can either be covered with painter's tape, or the bolts can be put in, (you don't want paint preventing you from putting it back together).
- Be careful when taking the bike apart. The head (where the handle bars and forks attach to the frame) and the rear wheel axle (if you plan to paint the rims of your wheels) are quite complicated. You should definitely take notes and pictures of how the parts were aligned when you take them out, so that you can get them back in correctly.
- Also, buy some standard grease and use your hand to apply to the bearings and internal mechanisms; this will ensure smooth operation and protect these parts from wear.
- Degrease the bike. You can use bike degreaser or car body wipe.
- Remove all of the existing paint with medium-grade sandpaper or rough sponge (80 grit) to form a smooth surface. See Tips for other options.
- If you are lucky enough to have a carbon frame, make sure that you do not sand the carbon. You may have to leave some of the paint in place.
- If there are any dents or wear marks which you want to fill in, this is the time to do it. You can use knifing putty, bondo, or something similar to produce a smooth surface. Make sure that you sand it down well afterwards, and remove the dust.
- Hang the bike by the head tube to ensure that your paint does not clog up at the bottom bracket. A coat hanger works great. Hang it in an area that you have good access to, as you will need to be able to move around the whole bike and underneath it, too. Also, make sure you hang your bike in a well ventilated area, with good light to help check that you have applied an even coat.
- Apply a primer with very thin coats to provide the best finish. Follow the instructions on the can (typically spray about 20cm from the surface). Start at the joints and bottom bracket in the frame. These are the hardest bits to paint, and the easiest places to get runs or miss a spot. Wait about 15 minutes between coats, and don't worry about it if you don't fully cover the frame in the first or second coat, because you will be applying several coats.
- Make sure you buy the right type of primer, as the colour of the primer depends on what your final colour will be. Also, look for a primer that resists rust or a rust converter, (rust inhibitor).
- If you are refurbishing an aluminium frame, you may need to get a special primer or an alomide coating, which ensures that the pores in the aluminium do not affect the finish.
- When priming the bike, especially if you are outside, wear goggles and a mouth mask. It is not a nice feeling to have paint fly into your eyes whenever a gust of wind comes. Also wear gloves, because some paints strip your skin.
- Allow the frame to dry for about 24 hours. Try to let it dry in the place you painted it. If this is not possible, lay it carefully on newspapers, and try not to touch it, since the paint is easily damaged.
- Sand the primer using 220-grit paper/sponge. Your aim is to achieve a smooth surface which the next layer of paint can adhere to.
- Put on your main coat of paint. Once again, make sure your bike is clean of dust and any grease. To apply the color, follow the same steps as you did for the primer, ensuring you apply thin coats until you have a uniform finish. If you wish to paint the frame in multiple colours, you simply apply the lighter paint first, applying till an even coat is achieved (3 or 4 coats), then mask over the area you wish to remain the light colour, and paint the darker colour on.
- Sand it down again after the paint dries, this time using some wet-or-dry 1200-grit paper. When sanding with the 1200-grit sandpaper, make sure to "wet-sand" the finish. This keeps the sandpaper from "loading". Wet-sand by taking some windex, and spraying the windex onto the paint, and then sand. Make sure you keep the finish "wet" while you're sanding. All you are trying to do is to take the gloss off the paint producing a matte finish for the lacquer to stick to. The lacquer will make the paint shiny again.
- Put stickers or decals on your bike (optional). The lacquer you put on afterward will protect the stickers; however, unless you have very thin stickers, it is unlikely you will get a completely smooth surface. If you want to buy decals, have a look online, as there are many replica decals for major bike manufacturers.
- Apply the clear lacquer in the same way as you painted the bike; however, this time you may only need to put on 2 or 3 coats. It is important, especially at this stage, that you do not have the spray can too far from the surface as you could end up with a rough surface.
- Complete the repainting of your bike by following the steps for the frame with the forks or any other part. Allow the lacquer to harden for at least a week before putting the bike together, or you may damage your beautiful new paint job.
- If you can't be bothered sanding your bike down to the metal, you can always find a sandblaster to do it for you, but make sure they know what they are doing or they could destroy your frame.
- Another option to remove the paint with a chemical paint remover; it will be messier, but faster and less labor-intensive. **WARNING!** Wear protective gear as this stuff will burn!
- For safe and easy removal of rust from iron and steel, Naval Jelly is useful for preparing metal surfaces for painting.
- When sanding the paint to get the bike ready to paint, make sure that you do not go through your paint! Also, don't make the paint too thin. If you do, you may be able to see through it.
- When wet sanding, make sure you don't go through the paint, by drying off the area that you are sanding with a (paper) towel, and survey the area to verify that it looks correct. (Not too thick; not too thin).
- The quickest, most efficient way to remove the existing paint from your frame is to use a heat-gun and paint scraper. It's easy, safe, chemically free, and clean-up is a breeze. If you live in a community with a Tool Lending Library you can probably find these there.
- If you have an angle grinder, the wire wheel attachment will blast off the paint without damaging the frame.
- A wire brush for your drill works well too.
- Do not mix different paint manufacturers (be that for primer, primary paint and lacquer) unless you have knowledge that they are compatible. This is because the 2 types of paint may react with each other.
- Even 24 hours after painting, do not lay your frame on a carpet or put it in clamp. This will distort the paint, which is still very soft, and will be imprinted with the pattern in the carpet, for example.
Things You'll Need
- A bicycle to paint.
- Some basic hand tools to disassemble the bicycle, (wrenches, screwdrivers, etc).
- Sandpaper/sponge, (80 grit, 220 grit, and 1200 grit).
- Windex or other Glass Cleaner
- Razor blade, (helps when removing old decals, if present).
- Hair dryer also works wonders with old stickers and its less likely to cut you in the process
- Masking tape, to cover up certain areas if you are applying different colors.
- A piece of stiff wire to hang up the bicycle with.
- Primer (about 2 cans for a large bike).
- Paint of desired color (again about 2 cans for a large bike).
- Clear lacquer coat, one can should do.
- A clean, well-lit place to work, with good ventilation (remember: don't destroy your skin, lungs, and eyes over a bike).
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