How to Restore a Bike in 8 Steps
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Cycling still remains one of the most popular ways of commuting to and from work, exploring the great outdoors, and exercising. However, the high cost of bikes is often a discouragement to many people.
The good news is that you can get your old bicycle from the garage and bring it back to life or buy a cheap old bike and clean, repair, and restore it to its original condition.
How to Do a Bicycle Restoration
In this post, I’ll show you how to restore a bike and make it functional again.
1. Wash and Clean the Old Bike
The first step in any bike restoration procedure is to wash the bike thoroughly before you give it a detailed visual inspection.
The bike might have accumulated layers of dust and mud from its last ride, which is probably why you think it’s beyond repair. When the bike is clean you can easily tell dirt from rust, especially on its frame.
You can then disassemble the entire bike, put the parts in a kerosene container, and clean each of them individually to remove rust and accumulated oil and grease.
2. Gather Your Tools and Parts That May Need to Be Replaced
Make sure you have all the required tools at hand before you start the bike restoration project.
The tools you need will largely depend on the work involved but at least have the following tools ready:
- Flat and Phillips screwdrivers of different sizes
- 4 to 6mm hex keys
- Adjustable wrench
- Side cutters just in case you have to deal with cables
- A bike multi-tool if available
- Tire levers
- A hammer for prying out stuck or rusty parts
- Toothbrush for cleaning small parts
- Anti-rust primer
- Chemical paint remover
- Spray paint
- Masking tape
- Grease and lubricating fluid
- Wire wool, soap, sponges, wet wipes and paper towels for cleaning
- A bike stand if available
You may also need to purchase new parts depending on what needs to be replaced. In most cases, the parts you may need to replace depending on the condition of the old bike include:
3. Restore the Frame
The frame is the most important part of the bike. It holds the entire bike together and shouldn’t have any structural or material damage that could send you into a catastrophic crash.
Most bikes are made of steel frames that are prone to rust damage if left neglected for a long time. Check for rust in areas around the weld which tend to have more rust than the surface. If the frame is damaged beyond a point where it can be salvaged then it’s time to think of getting a new one.
If it’s still worthy of restoration, start by removing surface rust using a paste of vinegar and lime juice.
Aluminum bike frames don’t corrode as much as steel bike frames but still give it a thorough clean, especially around any welded areas and joints. You can also ask a professional to evaluate the bike frame for integrity and safety if in doubt.
Once you’re satisfied with the integrity of the bike frame and given it a thorough clean, give it a spray of paint to make it look as good as new again. Leave it to dry as you focus on the next step.
4. Replace Worn Out Rubber Parts
One thing we cannot fail to emphasize in this guide on how to restore a bike is the importance of replacing all worn rubber parts.
This step may cost you a bit but keep in mind that rubber parts such as brake grips, pads, and tires aren’t made to last forever and tend to degrade even if the bike was kept in storage.
Check and replace old worn rubber parts not forgetting parts such as rubber handlebars which tend to get gummy and sticky over time. Replace the worn parts for a safer, comfortable, and more enjoyable ride.
5. Pay Special Attention to the Drivetrain
You should always clean and service the drivetrain when restoring bikes. It’s recommended to run the bike’s chain through a solvent and use a brush to get rid of the sticky semi-dried grease.
If the chain is completely damaged, consider replacing it altogether. A worn chain could snap when you’re miles away from the nearest repair shop.
Apply a dedicated lube on the chain and the surrounding parts as well. Check, adjust, and clean the derailleur too.
6. Repair or Replace the Cables
Cables link different parts of the bike together and should, therefore, function properly to give you a smooth ride.
They connect the bike’s shifters and brake levers on the handlebars with the derailleurs and brakes below.
When left without service for a long time, cables tend to corrosion and breakage. If the cable housing is cracked or the metal inside broken, replace the entire cable.
7. Replace Worn Tires
If you notice the rubber on tires has hardened or suffered storage damage over time, get a pair of new ones. Remember to replace the inner tubes as well.
New tires will give you a smooth safer ride without the usual problems associated with worn tires such as frequent flats and lack of sufficient traction so you will be ready to get your bicycle on a bike rack at the back of your car.
8. Assemble the Bike and Check for Wobbles
It’s now time to reassemble the bike and check for any obvious signs of trouble before you take it for a ride.
Tighten every part to the frame using the right bolts for each part. Check for wobbly wheels and adjust them accordingly if required.
Give the bike a test ride and if satisfied with its performance, you can go ahead and give it a final paint spray after applying the right primer.
I hope this guide on how to restore a bike has been helpful. But ultimately every bike restoration is unique in its own way depending on the type of bicycle you want to restore and the level of degradation the bike has seen.
However, if you feel overwhelmed or stuck you can always seek help from bike shops and service centers.
I also find YouTube quite helpful. It has many useful videos on how to restore a bike and other relevant topics.