Bike assembly – frame painting

The first part of the bike to deal with is the frame. The frame determines the kind of bike (mountain, full suspension, race etc.) and the size of the frame determines the size of the rider. I had an old frame (2004 Gary Fisher Marlin) which was quite worn out, so I decided to use that, since it was free 🙂 and I was sure the size was right since it was my frame to begin with. So, here is DIY on frame restoration and painting:

Ingredients and tools:

  • an old frame, your size
  • sanding paper in different grits, 60-1200
  • paint removing chemicals (optional)
  • can spray paint, primer, color and finisher
  • stickers for the bike (optional)
  • some rags or toilet paper for cleaning

Time and cost:

This can take anything from one day to a couple of weeks (if you are very thorough and want to make it look professional). The cost was close to zero for me, since I had the materials around, but I imagine that you need to buy sandpaper and can spray, which will set you back about 10-15 pounds, depending on the number of cans you buy.


1. Completely remove all the items from the frame. This includes the bottom bracket, bolts, v-brake pins etc. Be careful when taking the bike apart. Some areas of the bike are quite complicated to take apart. If you’d like, you can take notes and pictures of how the parts were aligned when you took them out, so that you can get them back in correctly. Otherwise, I plan to describe the assembly step-by-step, so you can find instructions here as well. Removal without deforming some parts is difficult without the proper tools, so consider taking your frame to a bicycle shop for any step of the break down.
2. Degrease the bike using a de-greaser of choice (gasoline will be fine) and remove all Frame_cleanof the existing paint with medium-grade sandpaper (60-80 grit). If you have some paint removing chemical, you can use this as well. This step is very important, so make sure you get everything off your frame. This may take time, so be patient. If there are any dents or wear marks which you want to fill in, this is the time to do it. Use putty or something similar to produce a smooth surface and sand it down well afterwards.

3. Hang the bike in a well-ventilated area by the bottom bracket to ensure that paint doesn’t clog up there. PrimerYou can fill the bottom bracket tube with something as well. Apply a primer with very thin coats for the best finish. Follow the instructions on the can (typically spray about 20-30cm from the surface). Start at the joints and bottom bracket in the frame. These are the hardest bits to paint, and the easiest places to get runs or miss a spot. Wait about 15-20 minutes between coats, and don’t worry about it if you don’t fully cover the frame in the first or second coat, because you will be applying several coats. You can put 4-5 coats on the bike, since this is the most important layer of paint. Allow the frame to dry for 24 hours.

Notes: Make sure you buy the right type of primer, as the color of the primer depends on what your final color will be. Look for a primer that resists rust. If you are refurbishing an aluminum frame, you may need to get a special primer or an alomide coating. Wear goggles and a mouth mask. If there are small spots where the paint was thick (running paint), sand it down with finer-grit paper (500 grit).

4. SMaskingand the primer using 200-300 grit sandpaper. If you wish to paint the frame in multiple colours, you simply apply the lighter paint first, applying till an even coat is achieved (3 or 4 coats), then mask over the area you wish to remain the light colour, and paint the darker color on. Additionally, if you already know where your dark areas will be, you can mask over them now. Use a tape which you can easily remove later. I found that the painter’s tape works best.

5. Now, put on the main coat of paint. Once again, make sure your bike is clean of dust Half paintedand any grease. To apply the color, follow the same steps as you did for the primer, ensuring you apply thin coats until you have a uniform finish. After painting, let the paint dry (ideally another 24 hours) and remove the masking tape. Once this is done, check if you are satisfied or need to make any corrections. You can make small corrections with a thin brush. When you are happy, put the tape on the now colored area. You will apply the darker coat on the non-colored area. In this case, this will be black.

6. Now paint with the darker color the same way you did with the lighter. Apply several coats and leave for 24 hours. When the paint dries, sand it down again, this time with 1200 grit paper. This is “water grade paper”, so the areas that you are sanding need to be wet. You can use a water spray to help you do this. Dry the frame well. If you have any stickers you’d like on your bike, stick them now. Finally, apply the clear lacquer in several layers. It is important that you do not have the spray can too far from the surface as you could end up with a rough surface. Leave for 24 hours.

7. Thread paintFinally, after the painting is done, there are few more small steps that need to get done. One is to clean any threads on the frame that might have paint on them. You want the threads perfectly clean. You can use sanding paper to this, but an easier way would likely be to use paint remover. That will do the job extremely well, at least from my experience (compare the images).  When this step is done, you can apply some wax on your frame to make it nice and shiny. I have Thread cleansome wax I use for all the bikes – you can also use car wax or any other shining agent you may have. Put a chainstay protector on the frame if you’d like as well. Finally, I added the v-brake pins (commonly called bosses), since I intend to use v-brakes. Before inserting them, I cleaned them in some gasoline and applied some anti-seize compound.

That’s it, your frame is done – hopefully you are happy of painting it yourself!Frame_done

PS. I will make a PDF of this and other manuals when the entire bike is complete (like a DIY bike book).

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1 Response to Bike assembly – frame painting

  1. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such great information being shared freely out there.

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