Vintage Bicycle Restoration

There is an inexplicable draw to the timeless charm of vintage bicycles. What was once outdated is now celebrated for its uniqueness.

If you have managed to find one of these exquisite bikes for yourself, then you may be wondering if it is possible to restore it to its former glory.

Well, wonder no more!

We have below five steps on how you can perform a vintage bicycle restoration. These steps are straight forward enough that you should be able to perform them yourself. All you need is one quick trip to your hardware store and some time on your hands.

Let’s begin!

Steps for Vintage Bicycle Restoration

Tackle Rust

Rust can be the unwanted eyesore that ruins the vintage look for your bicycle. Especially if you’ve got chrome wheels, it makes the rusts more visible. More signs that your wheels need truing are mentioned here. Does it mean that your bicycle is a lost cause, though? It depends.

There are two kinds of rust. The first kind, the kind you should hope for, is purely surface rust. This means that it has affected the upper paint but hasn’t affected the internal structure. The other kind, as you may have guessed, is one which damages the metal. So, how do you identify the type of rust in your bike?

One easy way is to tap the bicycle around the rusted area. If the metal around the rusted area begins to break apart, then there is a good chance the structure has been rusted, and restoration will be near impossible.

The good news though, is that chrome, which is widely used in old bicycles, can almost always be restored. What you’ll need is aluminum foil or fine steel wool. Believe it or not, you can rub off the rusting from chrome and leave it looking shiny and new.

Replace Parts

Any vintage bicycle up for restoration will likely need some replacement for its parts. Even if the parts seem to be okay, it is generally advisable to replace all the functional replaceable parts. This includes the brake pads, tires, cables, tubes, and the chain.

This replacement is necessary because even if the parts look functional, these elements may not have undergone any replacement in a long time. These parts have likely worn out. This is bound to cause trouble down the line, and you shouldn’t risk it, especially with the brake pads.

Always remember to replace these functional parts before replacing any other components. Doing this will help you accurately assess the extent of damage on your bicycle. It will also help you figure out whether the damage is due to these parts or something internal.

Remove Worn Out Parts

Components like brakes, front and rear derailleurs, and shifters are essential for the proper and safe functioning of your bicycle. Make sure you check them properly for rusting. Typically, adding lubrication can help with parts that have been a little worn out.

To remove rust, you can use a wire brush or aluminum foil. If the damage persists, then you should take it to your local repair shop for a look. Either this or you should look for a replacement.

Tight Check

Once you have performed all the replacements, make sure you double-check all the screws and bolts. It is easy to miss a screw when there are so many moving parts to take apart and put back together. You are better off checking twice before than finding out the hard way once later.


This is the process of adding aesthetics to your vintage bicycle. Make sure this is always the last step of your restoration, especially if you intend to paint it. This is largely to avoid wasting your efforts in case any worn-out components deem it unusable. The following are some of the cosmetic changes you can make:

Get Shiny New Wheels

When it comes to vintage bicycles, many people overlook the importance of wheels and tires. Keeping the wheels in pristine shape can give your vintage bicycle a whole new look. This goes a little further than simply wiping your wheels.

From how well kept the spokes are to how well maintained your rims are, anyone can take one look at your bicycle and determine its condition.

Replacing your rusty old wheels will make a dramatic difference in your vintage bicycle restoration. Typically, you can’t go wrong with silver for your wheels. Since they have been mostly timeless, they should fit right in with your bike.

Modern wheels can add that bit of uniqueness to your vintage bicycle without taking away from the classic feeling. Besides, the parts have improved drastically, and the latest spokes are guaranteed to provide you with a smoother functionality as well.

However, when you do change these wheels, remember that you will need to make adjustments to the brakes as well.

Leather Seats

You simply can’t talk about a vintage bicycle without talking about leather seats. Natural leather is always miles better than the plastic alternatives that we currently have. So, if you’re really aiming for that vintage look, you need to invest in these seats.

The great thing, though, is that your investment will pay off in the long run. Leather seats might seem too firm in the beginning, but they will mold to your fit. Let’s face it; a vintage look depends on a lot of visual elements, and a leather seat is an irreplaceable component to get this look.


This step is not very necessary when it comes to a vintage bicycle restoration. Usually, once the rust is removed, the chrome should be good as new. Besides, vintage bicycles rarely come in flashy colors.

Regardless, if you want to paint your bicycle, you will need to disassemble it completely. Make sure to take pictures as you disassemble so that you can remember where everything goes.

To begin with, you will need to wipe all the surfaces that are to be painted on with white spirits. This will help create a good base for your primer. Once you have let it rest for at least half an hour, you can apply two layers of primer. Try to spread it thinly and leave at least a day’s gap in between coatings.

Once the parts are completely dry, use some moist wet and dry paper to dab over the parts. Make sure to be as gentle as you can so as not to damage the primer. Next, wipe the entire surface with some moist paper towels. After you let these parts dry, you can begin painting.

You might need several coatings before you see the color that you want. Make sure you wait for the coating to dry and harden properly before applying a second layer. When you are happy with the color, let it dry for a couple of days before using it.

In Summary,

Restoring your vintage bicycle is definitely a demanding task. However, the end result is more than worth it. For a few days of toil, you could be rewarded with a shiny vintage bicycle that is sure to be the envy of your neighbors.