Touching up a relic bicycle
May 7, 2009 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I bought a bicycle that's twice as old as I am and it needs some cosmetic work.

The beauty in question is a 1966 Raleigh Superbe, in the green color. It's in incredibly good condition for its age (even has the original Brooks saddle with very little damage), but there are a few corrosion spots on the fenders and chainguard.

I would like to remove the corrosion as well as possible and fix the paint on those spots, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about it. I'm not interested in repainting the entire bicycle; I'd like to keep it as original as possible. So, I think I need to know a few things:

-the best way to remove light rust off the steel bits
-what type of paint to use (I was thinking of the acrylic paint I used to use for building models when I was a kid, and I've also seen suggestions to use nail polish. Thoughts?)
-how to repaint it. Primer coat? Brush type? I'm pretty bad at painting things, so use small words.
-any other suggestions or cautions you've got, or any other tips for keeping this bike looking in tip-top shape

posted by backseatpilot to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Corrosion, rub with stainless steel wool and wd-40.

Don't try to repaint the whole bike, amateur jobs always look amateur, and you won't ever get the right decals, etc. A good bike paint job can cost $500+

Do find some paint that matches the bike and touch up chips if you want to, I have a Bianchi track bike with chips all over it, and it looks cool to me, and doesn't really hurt it any, surface rust doesn't damage a bike all that much. If you want to touch it up, just get something close, nail polish, testors model paint, or car touch up paint from the auto parts store, that stuff comes in a rainbow of colors.

good luck!
posted by jester69 at 3:17 PM on May 7, 2009

Corrosion, rub with stainless steel wool and wd-40.

Not on chrome! This is exactly what brass wool is for. Or, better yet, get some Quick-Glo. They probably stock it at the local bike shop.
posted by pullayup at 3:38 PM on May 7, 2009

What about touch-up paint for cars and trucks? They have a 1,001 colours and they're for outdoor use, as well as coming with a small nail polish type of brush.
posted by Taurid at 4:37 PM on May 7, 2009

I've been told that Waterford carries touch up paint in Schwinn legacy colors. They also restore Raleighs, so maybe they have your color too. Can't hurt to ask.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:26 PM on May 7, 2009

If you want to spend a little (or a lot) to fix up your bike, Via Bicycle in Philadelphia usually has Raleigh parts and does repairs and restorations of your generation of bike.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 AM on May 8, 2009

Best answer: Old, complete but unrestored bikes are my favorite. A super clean paint job and new decals looks great, but (in my opinion) it can't compete with something that has patina. I have a good friend that builds and restores bikes for a living, and this is his workflow:

0. (for novices: get a good bike manual dealing with older bikes, Sloan's Complete Book of Bicycling is a good one, particularly older, 1970s-80s, editions)

1. Strip the bike to bits, i.e. get down to a bare frame, bag up and label all the little parts, tape fender hardware to the fenders, etc... Hardware for an old Raliegh might be odd (non-metric) sized) so try to clean it up and reuse it, if possible.

2. Clean and degrease the frame, fork and other parts. Simple green and a soft bristle brush/sponge/towel is good for this. Get it as clean as possible, but do not use anything abrasive, like a scrubby sponge which will scratch paint and decals. You want it very clean so you can inspect all the tubes and parts for any additional corrosion. Once you fix the corroded areas you may want to clean it again before polish and wax.

3. Wipe with dry towels and set in the sun to bake. Turn the fame over a few times to make sure all the water is out of the frame. Steel frames often die from moisture inside the frame, corroding from the inside out. The small tubes (chain stays, seat stays and fork) all have little holes in the small ends, poke a wire in there to make sure they are clear.

4. Carefully inspect all the parts for corrosion, cracks, dents or other problems.

5. Clean the corroded spots with brass wool and a little wd-40. Try to get back to clean metal.

6. Clean, degrease, dry again.

7. Here's where things diverge: For patina, use clear nail polish to cover over any bare metal or chips in the paint. For less patina, use automotive touch up paints. Clean the area to be painted with alcohol, let dry. Do it on a warm day, when the frame is warm and mulitple light coats are better than 1 or 2 heavy coats. Unless you've got large areas to paint, 1 touch up bottle should last you a long long time.

8. Once the nail polish or paint is well and truely dry, rub all the metal parts with car polish, buff off, then wax with a good high quality car wax. (if you really want shine, do a clay bar treatment before polish, instructions are usually in the package)

9. Spritz the inside of the frame with a protectant, like Boeshield B-9, or FrameSaver. rotate the frame around as you do this, so all the interior surfaces get a good coating. Wipe up any excess.

10. Clean chrome/aluminum parts with something like simichrome and elbow grease.

11. Replace cables/cable housing, brake pads, tires, and grips. You'd be amazed how much this can improve the look of a bike.

12. Brooks saddles. Go easy on oiling a brooks saddle, in fact I don't use any oil on mine. Brush it with a dry bristle brush if it's particularly dusty/dirty. Then rub a small amount of proofide, obenauffs, or lexol cleaner/conditioner. It's really easy to over do this part, and that will make the saddle too soft, or too messy to ride on.

This is the workflow for a cosmetic revival, while you are at it, you can (and shoud) also do a mechanical revival: repacking bearings, adjusting headsets/bottom brackets, replacing worn components etc...

Let me know if you have any specific questions about your bike, I can pass them along and see what he says.

Good luck! And I'd love to see before and after photos!
posted by gofargogo at 10:14 AM on May 8, 2009 [10 favorites]

Bob's Garage is an unfinished video slideshow series hosted on Fixed Gear Gallery, although they no longer link to it from the front page. In Chapter 3, the avuncular Bob tackles cleaning, touching up and polishing a frame.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:38 PM on May 8, 2009

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