Restore Vintage Bicycle: Amazing Vintage Tips for Bike Lovers

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BY Jim Felt
Updated on 03/24/2021
11 min read

Vintage bikes have always been so special and popular to all cyclists. Their looks, the vibe, and the old mechanism are the real attraction. You can buy a vintage bike from second-hand sellers, but since they are used bikes, the conditions may not always be good.

Therefore, a lot of bikers choose to restore vintage bicycles. This way they can customize the bikes according to their preferences and have full control over the performance of the companion. Moreover, restoring vintage bicycles require a keen sense of aesthetics, which can also be great past-time activities.

However, how to restore a vintage bicycle, upgrade your bikes without causing further damage, or choose the suitable parts to replace the old ones? Without further ado, let’s get right into this article to learn the vintage bike restoration tips!

Why Do I Want To Restore My Bike?

Why Do I Want To Restore My Bike

Why Do I Want To Restore My Bike?

The most common reasons for vintage bicycle restoration must be cost and preference. Sometimes it’s more economical to purchase a vintage bicycle at a cheap price and fix it up with a few more bucks.

The old models of bicycles do not mean inferior quality, vintage bikes can be really lightweight and easy to ride. it’s just that the design may not be fashionable anymore, or the newer models are more appealing to the mass. So for beginners and casual riders, having vintage bikes is advantageous and cheaper.

A brand new bike can cost you several thousands of dollars, but fixing up the old bikes can be as much as a mere fragment of that sum. Besides, not all the gears and parts of a model can suit all riders – you can alter all the details when you restore old bikes.

In addition, vintage and classic bike restoration is a form of art. After buying from local bike shop, a bike guy can repaint the bike frame, choose a vintage bicycle handle, or a leather saddle. The ability to custom your own vintage bicycle can be a joy to many people. No matter what bike type is, single speed bike or racing rike, bike restorations is always possible. You can do it in your kitchen storage.

Some of the good suggestions for vintage bike restoration process:

Watch video: How to build your STEEL ROAD BIKE from a CLASSIC FRAME and MODERN COMPONENTS

Tools Needed For Vintage Bike Restoration

Tools Needed For Vintage Bike Restoration

Tools Needed For Vintage Bike Restoration

Nevertheless, vintage bike restoration can not be done solely by hands alone. To get the most time-efficient and high-quality work, having the tools at hand will be advantageous. Some of the tool recommendations are:

Cutting tools such as hammers, steel cutters, or pliers. When you need to break down the stuck components or old cables, these cutting tools will solve the problem quickly. They help to cut out all the parts and replace them quickly if these parts are too worn out.

Cleaning tools like white spirit, paint remover, soap, sponge, and paper towel. Old bikes right off the batch are often in bad shape and need cleaning up before restoration. Sometimes the long-stuck grease and dirt can be hard to remove, so patience is needed too.

Next are prep tools: paints, anti-rust primer, brushes, and aluminum oxide paper. These things will give your vintage bikes whole new looks, you can customize the bikes up to your own liking. Note that you should remove surface rust. Surface rust will make your restoration low-quality. Rust also might be in tape inner tubes, brake calipers, handlebar tape, bottom bracket, front forks and all the components.

Chain tools, crank-pulling tools, key sets, and lubricants are for the finishing touch. You should check all the gears and parts to see if they work properly. Lubricants are important since they help your bikes to work as smoothly as possible.

For vintage and classic bikes with faulty or broken parts or components, getting spare parts ready is also recommended. Some of the commonly required parts are wheels, cable, chains, bike seats, handlebars, and brake pads. Depending on the conditions of your bikes, you should purchase what is needed.

The paint stripping and rust removal are processes that take a lot of time. Aluminium oxide paper (al ox paper) can quickly remove all the rust.

For better illustration, this tutorial videos will help you know all about the needed tools:

Watch video: Basic Bike Restoration Tools - Other Things Thursday

Steps For Vintage And Classic Bike Restoration

When an old bike gets to a secondhand owner, there is a lot of work that needs to be done before you can get it on the road. The process may vary from bikes to bikes, but in general, there are these steps to restore your vintage bikes:


Detachment all the parts and components

Detachment all the parts and components

To get a better inspection of the conditions of your bikes, it’s better to disassemble all the parts and components at the beginning. Try to keep things organized, so you can sort out what needs to be replaced, fixed, or cleaned clearly.

This may take a long span of time, but be patient. Many vintage cyclists make the mistake of skipping these steps, and later running into trouble due to broken hidden parts or rusty components. A secondhand bike may seem alright on the outside, but inside it can be all worn-out and broken.

Don’t be stingy and try to keep all the things you disassembled from your vintage or classic bikes. It’s normal to replace most of the old parts, since they may be too old or out-of-date to use. For small parts like screws, use a tray to pile them up to avoid losing them.

For tough parts like chains or crank arms, use specialized tools like pliers and crank-pulling tools. Try to be as careful as possible to cause the least damage to your bike components.

Paint Removal

Removing Paint From Bicycle

Removing Paint From Bicycle

Old bike paint can be a real obstacle since it can get all choppy, discolor, or rusty. And it’s hard to take them off – warm water and soap are not sufficient to clean them off. Prepping the bike frame by taking away all the old paint creates a blank canvas for later steps, so it’s required for vintage and classic bike restoration.

Paint removal should be applied first of all. These chemicals will break down the old paint, allowing you to get them off easier. After stripping off all the layers, use a bike paint primer to coax the bike frame thoroughly. This will give a smooth and easy to work with canvas for the new paint colors.

Treatment And Reparation

Treatment And Reparation Your Bicycle

Treatment And Reparation Your Bicycle

At this point, you can work into further details. Find the rusty spots, or loosen screws and treat them carefully. Rust can be done away with chemicals too, or wet and dry paper. It’s better to keep your bike all shiny.

For small problems like screws or crooked handlebar, they can be fixed quite simply. Try to get as much work done at this stage since it will help to save time and effort later.

For rust treatment, there are great tips for you in this video:

Watch video: How To Remove Rust From Your Bicycle | Clean Your Bike With Household Products


Paintwork Your Bike Frame

Paintwork Your Bike Frame

Next is my most favorite stage: color your bike. The bike frame should be cleaned and nicely prepared at this time, so you can choose to layer the colors on. Before using color paints, it is suggested that water-proof and rust-resistant primers be applied first for better results in the long term.

Some of the primers will take days to dry out, so you may have to wait eventually. It’s also good to wait for the color paint layer to dry completely before putting on another one. Paintwork should be done to one’s likings, there is restriction since it’s your own color to display.

If you need help with the color scheme and design, you can always browse the internet for a few ideas. Paintwork can be done with brushes, but the low-effort choice – spray paints – can give out a similar result if you pay enough attention.

Parts And Components Cleaning

Parts And Components Cleaning

Parts And Components Cleaning

Mow when the bike frame is done, you can take care of the disassembled parts and components. First thing first, put them in a bucket of warm soapy water and clean off all the dirt. For vintage bikes, you can be pretty sure that these small things will be covered in dried mud and dirt.

Then dry them off, treat rusty parts with chemicals, degrease the old lubrication, and scrap them until shine if needed. This may take days to work with since parts and components are far more meticulous. But there is joy and satisfaction when you strip off all the dirt of them and make them brand new again.

New Part Purchase

Replace The Old Broken Parts And Components

Replace The Old Broken Parts And Components

It’s time you spend some more money. Decide what you need to replace the old broken parts and components, also what to upgrade and decorate your vintage bike more. It’s not necessary to buy the latest and most expensive ones, just consider what is most suitable for your vintage and classic bike restoration.

Replacement And Re-Installation

Replacement And Re-Installation

Replacement And Re-Installation

It’s almost there, and you can go with replacements and re-installations parts and components on your bike now. Try to attach all the big and foundation parts first, then the smaller and detailed ones later. These steps will require a lot of specialized tools to put things into their places correctly.

Try to be delicate, organized and careful, since there are parts that will not work if installed incorrectly. You can refer to the manufacturer guide, online instruction, or the help of an experienced friend to do this.

Finish The Restoration And Check-Up

Finish The Restoration And Check-Up

Finish The Restoration And Check-Up

You have almost complete vintage bike restoration, the only thing left is the finishing touch. Lubrication should be done since you degreased all of the parts and components previously. Use a good amount of lube, but it does not mean to cover the whole bike in lubes. A little goes a long way.

You can put not the decoration and supportive parts now, such as bike bells, bike horns, handlebar pads, water bottle holders, or baskets. Try to be as creative as possible, and don’t hesitate to follow your own aesthetics.

Running your brand new vintage bike for a short ride will help warm it up, and let you check if all the parts are working properly. If you are not comfortable with the result, you can always dissemble it and adjust again. You know the whole process now.

You can learn more about the process of vintage bike restoration right here:

Watch video: Vintage Bike Restoration / DIY

Some Special Bicycle Restoration Tips

Some Special Bicycle Restoration Tips

Some Special Bicycle Restoration Tips

It’s always good to have more tips and pieces of knowledge, so here are the little things you should pay attention to when fixing up the old bikes:

Safety comes first. During vintage bike restoration, there are stages that you have to work with hazardous objects and chemicals, so precautions should be taken. Wearing gloves, a face mask, and protective glasses are good choices.

Choose reliable chemicals and bike tools. Inferior gadgets can cause more harm than the initial state of your secondhand bike. No one wants to have chappy-like paint after a short time in use, or broken tools during repairment.

Restore old bikes at well-ventilated places and avoid humid and rainy days. These weather conditions will help the chemicals work more effectively and lessen the drying time for paintwork.

Pick reliable vintage bikes for sales. It’s hard just to judge an old bike based on its appearance, so choosing trusty dealers will be more beneficial. This way you can choose vintage bikes with the least damage, and at a reasonable price.

Be generous with your replacement. Since buying old bikes means you have the parts that have been on the road for miles, they can not be as good as new anymore. Therefore be more generous with the replacement to make up for the mileage of your vintage bikes.

Consider using lacquer paint for the finishing touch. This extra layer offers better protection to bike color and bike paint under extreme riding conditions. It will help to lessen the burden of repainting and fixing your vintage bike.


How much should I spend to restore a vintage bicycle?

The cost range can be from a few hundreds of dollars up to 1000$.

Can I restore all types of bikes?

Yes, you can restore all types of bikes.

How can I restore an old rusty bike?

You can remove all the rusty and repaint these bikes.

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