I’ve pined after pretty vintage bikes but never come across one with quite the shape I loved until recently. I was on a quest to bring home something old and beautiful when I ran across a purple and white 1960’s Hiawatha with the most charming headlights and original stickers. It was in working shape but needed a little TLC so I brought it home to see what I could do.
A little elbow grease and a few cans of spray paint later and I now have a shiny new bike!
Giving your bike a makeover can feel intimidating but I’m here to share a few things I learned along the way that will help you end up with something you can be proud to ride down the street.
Supplies: You’ll need a bike, hehe, a sandpaper block in a medium-light grade, painter’s tape, a wrench, a screw driver or two depending on your bike screws, scissors (optional), a big box to flatten out and use to protect your surface, primer spray paint, spray paint in choice of color(s), wash rag, painters mask (not shown) and eye goggles (optional).
1. Take lots of detail shots of your bike before you take it apart so you can see how things fit back together when you get to that step. I didn’t remember if the bike rack legs went on the inside or outside of the bike frame so I was glad I could refer back to my photos.
2. I also drew a little picture of my bike on another piece of paper and laid out all the screws I took out on the bike part where they belonged. I suggest numbering the steps you took the bike apart in as well so you can put it back together faster. Once your bike is in pieces, lightly sand the parts you want to paint. I chose to paint my fenders but not my handlebar and pedals. I set aside my seat and taped everything I couldn’t physically remove from the frame such as the gear and pedals (they were stuck on!), the handlebars, and the chain.
3. Next I used a wet cloth to wipe down each piece to remove dust and previously sanded paint fragments and let it dry. Then I applied three thin coats of primer spray paint following the manufacturer’s instructions to allow 10 minutes of dry time between each coat. Once I had the primer on, I let it dry overnight to set. Then I applied three thin coats of my top coat of spray paint making sure to let one side dry before doing the other side. Again, follow the directions on your can and don’t over spray because you’ll have ugly drips and want to curse. Let it set again for 24 hours and then add two coats of polyurethane spray paint to seal it. Put it back together following your photos in reverse order and you’re done!
Note: If you find a bike with a lot of rust you’ll need to use a power sander or rust remover before painting. As always, safety first!
I chose not to reattach the headlight portion of my bike because it wasn’t taking the new spray paint and was too rusted to reattach without it looking terrible. I like the new shape that I got because of it being off but I’m saving it just in case. I also added a basket to the front. I found it at a major hobby store and just tied it to the handlebars with twine. Zip ties are an option if you can find them in clear but I liked the aesthetic of twine better. It’s more for decoration than utility anyway. If you have to store your bike in the elements you’ll want to consider something that won’t wear out quickly such as a wicker or wire basket.
Enjoy your bike!