Bicycle Restoration: From Old To Brand New In Just A Few Steps


Although cycling is an ideal way to explore new areas and exercise, a lot of people get discouraged by the high cost of quality, new road bikes. Second-hand bikes are generally much cheaper. They, however, have one main problem – they are usually not in good riding condition. 

Through restoring bikes, cyclists can get old bikes back on the road. In addition to saving you money, bicycle restoration will give you the chance to personalize the bike and also understand how it works. In this detailed guide, we will show you how to perform bicycle restoration. 

A Step by Step Guide on Restoring Bikes

1. Get the Necessary Tools 

The tools you will need when restoring bikes may vary – your exact tools will depend on the bike’s condition. However, you will find the following checklist handy: 

  • Pliers or side cutters – for working on the cables 
  • Hammer – For dealing with stuck parts 
  • Masking tape – for covering bike parts before spray painting
  • Spray paint
  • Wet & Dry paper – You can use 400 to 2000 grit
  • Aluminum oxide paper – 80 to 240 grit should be ideal
  • Anti-rust primer 
  • Chemical paint remover 
  • Toothbrush, paintbrush, metal tin – For cleaning parts of the bike frame with white spirit 
  • Screwdrivers of varying sizes
  • Allen key set
  • Chain-link tool 
  • Crank-pulling tool 
  • Bike stand – this is not vital, but it can make your work easier
  • Wrench set 
  • Spanner set 
  • Bike multitool 
  • Lubricating fluid 
  • Grease 
  • Paper towel 
  • High-quality mask – For working with paint and other chemicals 
  • Wet wipes – To help you with degreasing and cleaning 
  • Sponges and wire wool – For cleaning the bike

In addition to the above tools, you may need to get some new components for your old mountain bike. These include: 

  • Handlebar tape 
  • Brake cables 
  • Free-wheel 
  • Gear cables 
  • Wheels 
  • Inner bike tubes 
  • Rim tape 
  • Bike tires 
  • Brake pads 
  • Decals

2. Disassemble the Bike 

To perform a full bicycle restoration, you will have to disassemble your old aluminum road bike. This allows you to inspect and work on individual parts. 

Removing most parts is straightforward – it is just a matter of undoing various screws and bolts. Use a component tray to place any little fixings you get off your bike – be sure to label where the fixings came from. Consider taking a lot of pictures of everything as you go – this record should help you if you happen to get stuck when re-assembling the bike. 

If you need to remove your bike’s crank arms from the bottom bracket, you will just have to use the crank-puller tool. This tool will screw into the threads present in the crank arms’ inside and then extends its inner section, pushing against the axle onto which the bike’s crankarm is forced. Applying some force should allow you to pull the crankarm off the axle. 

If parts of the bike are too jammed into each other, use a hammer or a mallet. A quick tap should break the corrosion bonds between the parts, allowing them to come apart. 

3. Prepare to Prime 

After removing all the parts you can from the bike’s forks and frame, the next step is to prepare your touring bike for the paint and primer. The first step will involve the removal of the old paint. For good adhesion and a perfectly smooth finish, primer needs to be applied to bare metal. 

When removing the old paint, you will need the chemical paint striper and the abrasives. When buying abrasives, Aluminum oxide paper is a much better option since it lasts longer than the Wet & Dry paper. However, keep in mind that the Wet & Dry paper is also useful. 

Get some coarse grades of the Aluminum oxide paper – that is, 60, 80, 120. For the Wet & Dry paper, get smoother grades – that is 240, 400, 800, 2000. 

A chemical paint stripper should help you speed up the process of old paint removal. Keep in mind that hard work and a lot of time may be needed to remove the old paint. 

4. Perform Rust Treatment 

Rust is pretty common on old bikes. You will find multiple spots and streaks of rust on the long straight sections of the bike frame. Moisten a fine Wet & Dry paper and rub at these spots. Do this all over your frame to get rid of the rust. 

Be sure to invest in an anti-rust primer. This will allow you to protect the bicycle from rust even if the paint layer above the primer gets scratched or chipped. 

5. Prime Your Metal Work 

Priming is best done on a dry, warm, and windless day. With the simple instructions below, priming the bike should be easy: 

  1. Use wires to suspend the forks and the frame from something, say a tree branch. 
  2. Mask off the parts you do not want to get a primer on. 
  3. Wear disposable gloves when handling the frame – this will help you avoid getting oil from your hands on the metal frame. 
  4. Dab your paper towel in white spirit and rub this on the entire frame, covering every inch. This helps you remove grease and dust left from the paint removal stage. 
  5. Leave the bike for half an hour for your white spirits to evaporate. 
  6. Find your primer and give it a good two-minute shake to mix the paint. 
  7. Leaving the bike for a day between coats, apply 2 thick coats over your bike. Don’t apply too thickly since it will run. 
  8. Move your forks and frame to the garage and leave them for a couple of days. Do not remove the masking tape yet. 

6. Paint the Bike 

After a couple of days, the primer should be ready to paint over. Once again, hang the forks and frame from an ideal place outside, only handling them with gloves. Next, follow the steps below: 

  1. Take a 2000 grit or higher Wet & Dry paper and moisten it. Rub over the mainframe areas. Press very lightly. This offers a roughened surface that allows the paint to adhere perfectly. 
  2. Use a damp paper towel to remove the dust from the first step. 
  3. Leave the frame and forks for some time to allow them to dry. 
  4. Shake your paint for about 2 minutes. Next, gently spray the paint over your bike frame. Avoid applying too thickly. 
  5. After doing the first coat, leave it for about 15 minutes to dry. Go back and do a second coat, then wait, do a third, then wait, do a fourth. Stop when your paint is opaque. 
  6. Transfer the forks and frame to a shed and leave them hanging up, undisturbed. 
  7. Wait for about 2 weeks for the paint to be dry and hard enough before re-attaching frame components. 

7. Degrease, Clean, and Paint Strip Other Components 

Take a look at the components you removed from your old commuter bike and decide what needs to be done to each. For example, you may need to use a big bucket of warm water, kitchen sponge, wire wool, and wet & dry paper to wash some of the parts.

If the road bike handlebar is encrusted with old handlebar tape, be sure to clean it too. With proper cleaning, everything, including the bike pedals, crankarms, and main sprockets should come out looking shiny. This will give the bike the new look. 

Be sure to get replacements for parts in bad condition. For example, if you hear a tinkle/rustle/whoosh sound when rotating the wheels near your ear, this suggests that rust has tumbled around inside. This means you will need new bike wheels.

8. Replace Your Bottom Bracket and Cranks 

Now that you have prepared everything, the next step in restoring bikes is putting the parts together. You can begin with the bottom bracket and cranks. 

Using an old toothbrush and white spirits, clean the bearings, axle, and bearing cups. Once the old grease is off, re-lubricate the assembly. 

Next, lubricate the axle so that the crank arms slip in easily. Next, tighten the central nut to force your crank arm onto the axle’s shaft. Repeat on both sides of your college bike and ensure that they rotate smoothly. 

9. Re-Install the Chain 

If the sprocket(s) and derailleur (both rear and front) are installed, it is time to put the chain on. If you did not buy a new chain, ensure that the old bike chain is properly cleaned. Also, be sure to lubricate the bike chain before putting it on. 

To install the chain, fit it around the sprocket, derailleurs, freewheel, and the sprocket. Bring the ends together to check the length. If you need to shorten it, use the chain tool to remove chain links as necessary. Once the chain length fits, simply close it up after ensuring it is in an ideal position. 

10. Install the Brakes and Cables 

When performing bicycle restoration, you will probably need to replace the brake pads. Be sure to get ones that have a similar design and size – this will ensure their compatibility with your bike. 

Once the brake pads are in place, move on to the cabling. Be sure to tighten the brake cables properly. Having help from a second person can help you with the entire cabling process. 

Once you are done with the brake cables, move on to the gear cabling. Gear cable installation is a piece of cake for old road bikes with shifters on the down-tube. 

For tidiness, protect the cable ends from fraying with a small piece of metal over the cable’s end. The metal piece should be supplied with cables. Use the pliers to clamp it tightly and your cables should be terminated neatly. 

You might need to calibrate your derailleurs to ensure that you can shift within the full range of gears. Taking the bike out for test rides should help you determine how to adjust the gears

11. Wrap the Handlebars

If you have reached this far, you are almost done with bicycle restoration. You only have the handlebar tape and decals remaining. 

Adding handlebar tape to the bike isn’t too complicated. With our guide on how to wrap handlebars, the entire process should be much simpler. 

12. Add the Decals 

The last opportunity to personalize the bike is the decals/stickers. A huge variety is available, so you can customize the bike to fit your taste. 

If you would like to apply your artwork and motifs, you can get custom decals printed for you. Once you are finished with adding your decals, the bike should be ready for a ride. 



Q: How Much Does It Cost to Restore A Bike?


A decent job will start at around $500. If your bike needs a lot of componentry work, this may cost you a few hundred dollars more. It is not uncommon for bike restorations to cost up to $1000.

Q: How Do You Restore A Bike?


To restore a bike, you will need to replace the overly-damaged parts, clean the functional parts, and repaint the frame and forks. You will also need to lubricate the moving parts, re-calibrate the gears, and replace braking components.

Q: How Do You Restore A Rusted Bike?


To eliminate rust, moisten a fine Wet & Dry paper and rub the rusty areas. Do this as need all over the bike frame. Once you are done, be sure to apply an anti-rust primer to protect the bike from rust.

Q: Is It Worth Fixing an Old Bike?


In some cases, fixing an old bike is worth it. If the bike is not severely damaged, its restoration will cost much less compared to purchasing a new bike – in such a case, fixing the bike is a good idea. However, if the restoration is more expensive than the cost of the new bike, fixing the old bike may not be worth it.

Q: Can A Rusty Bike Be Saved?


Yes, it is possible to save a rusty bike. Simply remove the rust physically by sanding. After the rust is removed, use an anti-rust primer and a good paint to protect the bike from rust.

Globo Surf Overview 

While restoring bikes may take some of your time, it is an ideal way to save money. Old bikes cost less compared to the newer bikes. And if the restoration job is done perfectly, the restored bike should function just as a new bike would. With the steps outlined in this guide, bicycle restoration should be much easier for you.

Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!