How to Restore a Bicycle

Cycling is an excellent way to get some cardio exercise. But, the prices of these newer models can be astronomical!

Unless you have an old bicycle that might just do the trick. You may have looked at the rust marks and chipped paint and wondered if it is really worth the hassle to try and fix.

Besides, you’d need to be a professional, right?

Not at all! All you need to do is a quick run to the supply store, and you are all set to start restoring your bicycle. We have separated the restoration process into four simple phases. All you need to do is follow along.

So grab your wrenches, and let’s start learning!

Steps to Restore a Bicycle

Phase 1: Preparation

Step 1: Assessment

The first thing to do is to assess the bike at hand. To make the following steps easier, remove any tape, stickers, or accessories. This will make your cleaning process much smoother later on. You can use a hairdryer to heat up any persistent labels and peel them off.

Step 2: Required Tools

An old bicycle is subject to many problems. Apart from rusts, you might need to fix up the brakes, the gears, and so on. Similarly, there is a good chance that it will need a new coat of paint. To prepare for all this, you will need a toolbox.

Some of the tools you might want to keep handy are:

  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Spanners
  • Allen key set
  • Wrench set
  • White Spirit
  • Metal tin (To hold the white spirit)
  • Brushes for cleaning
  • Aluminum oxide paper
  • Anti-rust primer
  • Spray paint
  • Lubricating fluid
  • Chain-link tool
  • Paper Towels and sponges
  • Mask and Gloves

Depending on how extensively you need to repair your bicycle, you might need some other replacement parts. For instance: tires, brake cables, brake pads, inner tubes, and so on.

Step 3: Cleaning

An old bicycle is likely to have grease stains and rusts. You can clean these parts using common household cleaners. We do advise that you wear gloves while using any cleaning product.

For grease stains, you’re more likely to have good results if you spray some degreaser and let it sit for a while. Remember to lay a tarp or cardboard to avoid leaving stains on your pavement. Use a cloth to wipe off any dirt or chemicals from your bike.

For rust stains, the most widely used approach is 0000 steel wool and silicone lubricant. An alternate method can be using aluminum foil and water if the former materials are unavailable.

If your rusting problem is more severe, we have detailed instructions below in Phase 3!

Once you’ve sufficiently scrubbed your bicycle, it’s time to move to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Disassembling

To properly inspect your bicycle and perform a full restoration, you will need to disassemble it. Even if you don’t think it needs a deep repair but intend to paint it, disassembly will be necessary regardless.

Depending on how old your bicycle is, this process might take you a while. Some of the parts tend to be jammed due to corrosion. Remember to take your time and undo all the bolts and screws.

Tip: Keep a tray handy so that you don’t lose the screws while you work on these parts.

It’s also a good idea to take pictures of all the parts as you disassemble. These will help you in case you get stuck during the reassembly. You might need a crank-puller (see photo) to remove the crank arms at the bottom. It is reasonably straightforward, you simply thread the head into the screws, then apply pressure on the spanner.

You can also watch some youtube videos if you still aren’t sure how to do this. The metal badge in front of your bicycle can also be pulled off with a lever. You might also have some success by merely sliding some dental floss behind it.

Phase 3: Restoration

Step 1: Paint Removal

Once you have all our separated parts, it’s time to get your bicycle ready for priming and painting. This is most likely the longest part of this whole process because it involves removing all the old paint.

For a smooth finish, you need to apply primer directly onto metal. To remove the paint, you can utilize abrasives and chemical paint strippers (NitroMors). You can use Wet & Dry paper to scrub off the paint, but your job will be much easier with Aluminium Oxide paper. It will also likely last you longer than the other papers.

This process can be easier or harder for you depending on how many layers of paint you will need to remove. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts for this portion. Remember to be careful as you don’t want to damage the metal underneath.

Step 2: Rust Protection

If your bicycle is fairly old and has a lot of rust, don’t panic just yet! We can still fix this!

First, get some wet & dry paper and moisten it. Rub into the area and try to remove whatever comes off. Try this on all the rusted parts of the frame.

For crevices that you cannot reach, we’ll be using a toothbrush and Hammerite Kurust. This is a rust remover. If you cannot get this exact product, then you can replace it with any other similar product. You can pour out some product into a metal tin and use a brush to rub out.

If you are using Kurust, then you should see that the product turns black as it reacts with rust. So the black spots are a sign of success! You can then clean off these spots. Your bicycle is now ready for the primer!

Step 3: Priming

It is a good idea to go for an anti-rust primer. This will help keep the inner metal frame safe even if the upper layers are rusted. Cover up all the bits that you don’t need to add primer too.

Now that your bicycle is shiny and clean remember to wear disposable gloves while handling the parts. Otherwise, you might add stains onto the metal. Use the white spirits and paper towel to dab the spirit throughout the frame. Make sure to be thorough as this step is essential in creating a smooth base for your paint.

Once you are done, let it rest for 30 mins to an hour to make sure all of the spirits have dried up. Next, get your primer and make sure you shake it well before using it. Apply a layer of primer all over the parts and try not to apply it too thick.

Try to do this in the shed or shaded area, as this will need to dry for a day. Once you’ve left it alone for a day or two, put in a second coat of primer and leave it to dry again.

Step 4: Paint Away!

Now, we finally get to the fun part! Grab some of the wet and dry paper and moisten it again. This time, you’ll want to be as gentle as you can as you don’t want to damage the primer you’ve so patiently waited to dry. Only gently rub over the mainframe to create a slightly rougher base.

This process can help smoothen any uneven coatings created during priming. Next, wipe the entire frame gently with some damp paper towels. Make sure to let all the parts dry thoroughly before moving on.

Shake your paint properly before using it for at least 2 minutes. Be careful while spraying it. Some people tend to add multiple layers as the color will not appear dark straight away. It is easy to overdo it and get thick, uneven layers. Be patient and let each coating dry for at least 15 mins before applying the next layer.

You might need up to four or five layers before you reach your desired color. Make sure to wait between each layer to let it dry thoroughly. After this, leave it back in the shed for it to dry properly. You can also add a coat of lacquer to protect your paint for a longer period of time. Typically, it is advised that you wait at least two weeks before reassembling all the parts.

Step 5: Cleaning The Rest

While your shiny bicycle takes its time to dry, you have the components that you masked away to take care of. This includes all the metal parts and screws that need deep degreasing. After all, we can’t put these greasy parts on your newly painted bicycle!

The first thing for you to do is get a bucket of warm water and a kitchen sponge. Put all of the handlebars, pedals, and other metal parts into the warm water and commence the scrubbing. You might need to use wet and dry paper or chemical paint depending on your parts and how much grease and paint they have collected.

Phase 4: Reassembly and Repairs

Step 1: Cleaning and Lubrication

Before reassembling your bicycle, remember to clean out all the screws and bearings too. You can use the white spirits and a toothbrush to get into all the nooks and crannies. Get your grease and apply it to all the bearings that have needed to be lubricated.

After this, screw all the components back together. Retrace your steps of disassembling. Lubricate the axle on your crank arms well. You’ll see that putting it together is much easier due to proper lubrication.

Step 2: Chain

While putting the chain back on, you might need a second pair of hands. Begin by putting the chain around the sprocket, freewheel, and derailleurs. Assess the length that you will need. In case you need to shorten it, you’ll need to get a chain tool. This tool allows you to remove chain links easily by pushing its handle against the side of the pin. This can require quite the effort so you might need some help. Knowing your bicycle chain health and why it keeps clicking is the first measure step you can start with.

Step 3: Brakes

The most common thing you need to fix on an old bicycle is the brake pads. Make sure to order the ones that are the right size for your bicycle. You should also check whether your brake cabling needs to be changed. Make sure while putting it back that you don’t leave large loops as they will look unflattering.

Step 4: End Product

It’s time to add the finishing touches to your bicycle. You can add a stylish handlebar tape and whichever decals you prefer. You can customize it however you like.


So there you have it! Restoring a bicycle can be a long but rewarding process. You are likely going to find yourself a lot more attached to this bicycle now due to all the work you’ve put in. It is also an excellent step for the environment as you are reducing the waste generated. Sit back and admire your work as you’ve just breathed new life into an old machine.