DIY: How to paint your bike without taking it apart

We're reaching day 50 of my quarantine, but who's counting? Actually, I don't really know how many days it's been, but it's probably close to that. And while I've had plenty of days where I've done absolutely nothing except stare at whatever is on Netflix (looking at you, Never Have I Ever) and think about the state of the world, there have been days where I've gotten my butt in gear and actually done something. 

About a year ago, I convinced Brandon to go with me to North Charleston and buy these $50 bikes off a random kid on Facebook Marketplace. We used to live in a fairly large neighborhood and could ride our bikes to the local coffee shop, so I was stoked (get it?) about getting bikes back then. Since moving to a very VERY small neighborhood, I didn't really ride my bike much anymore. But quarantine changed all of that rather quickly. Once I was done filling orders, I'd pop them in my bag and get on my bike to take them to the collective mailbox. But pretty quickly, I realized I wanted to change my bike and the royal blue covered-in-decals look it had going on.

The only problem was I was pretty convinced if I took the bike apart, I'd never be able to get it back together again. And since Brandon is working at home 9-5 every day, I didn't really want to bug him to rebuild my bike when according to him, "The bike is JUST fine. I don't even know why you'd want to redo it." 

Okay, Mr. Perfect Bike. 

So I was determined to figure out how to update my bike without actually taking it apart. And without having to really dig through too many tools. 

This is what I was working with. Decals on most of the metal. Very blue. Very shiny. Very "I'm going to go pop a wheelie in front of the neighborhood kid bike gang later." I looked online at some tutorials, but again, they all pretty much said to take the bike apart. So what I did I do? Like any 30 year old basic quarantined woman, I went to Target for supplies. 

I knew I was going to need a lot of tape, regardless of how exactly I was going to get it to bend the way the metal went. The paint I chose was Rustoleum, so it sticks to pretty much anything. Same goes for the Sealer. I didn't want my bike to have a very shiny finish, so I chose a matte paint and a clear sealer. I also needed Sandpaper because I wasn't convinced anything was going to stick to the shiny surface already on the bike without a little grit. All in all, the supplies cost me probably around $20 if that. 

After peeling off the decals, next up was sanding. I didn't go crazy with sanding, but I did try to get most of the gloss off. The 180 grit sandpaper was perfect for that. It was rough enough to break through the gloss, and it didn't take every muscle in my arm to work either. Once the bike was sanded, it looked something like this.

I'm not going to lie, it kind of freaked me out that the sandpaper was scratching the metal. I was worried the scratches would show through the coat of new paint, but it didn't. I would recommend only lightly sanding to get the gloss off moving forward. Once it was "roughed" up, the new paint really didn't have a problem sticking to the leftover blue paint. 

Next up was taping the bike off. THIS WAS A PAIN. Like I said, bikes have a lot of bends. I wanted to keep the white tire covers as they were, but I needed a way to paint the undersides of the blue metal without painting everything else (i.e. the million spokes). Taping the bike off definitely was the longest part of the entire process. But I will say it was kind of fun trying to figure out what I wanted to paint and what I wanted to leave the same. For example, I painted over most of the silver metal pieces that connected various parts of the bike. But I wanted to leave some things white like they originally had been. 

What I will tell you, and this is my "pro tip" is that the thing that helped me the most for the parts of the bike where tape just wasn't going to work was a pizza box. Because it's quarantine, we had an empty pizza box (or 10) laying around the garage that day, and it was the perfect size to cut up and use as a blocker when I was spray painting those hard to reach areas. I would recommend taping as much as you possibly can, but definitely have a few pieces of cardboard cut at various sizes that you can sort of use as you go and block off small areas where you really don't want paint to go.

Once the bike was fairly taped off, and the pizza box was in place, I was ready to paint! At first, because I was scared of messing up, I started painting very close to the metal. But dripping occurred which I then had to clean up, so I'd tell you to back up as far as you can without painting everything in sight. Light, even sprays will give you the best coverage. And yes, you'll probably have to use a small paintbrush for those *really* hard to reach places, like between your spokes. 

Yes, I tried to paint the pedals. Kind of dumb since over time the paint will wear off, but I'm just going to order some different pedals eventually. 

My favorite part about Rustoleum is the dry time. Within a few hours, it had dried enough to touch. I used that time to touch up the places where the dripping had occurred or go back in with a paintbrush like I mentioned before to really hit those tiny areas. I did let the colored paint dry overnight before spraying the sealer. I chose the clear sealer, but they have gloss as well. I just really wanted to keep that beach cruiser matte finish look that the blue paint had. 

I did mess up because hello, I'd never done this before, but that is where Brandon came in handy. We had Mineral Spirits in our garage, and using a small bit on a rag cleaned up any spots the spray paint hit that I didn't want painted. It was kind of a miracle worker. So if you mess up, grab some mineral spirits, and that'll clean it right up!

While I was waiting for paint to dry, I decided it was a great time to sit next to Brandon (who was still working like a normal human) and hop on Amazon to buy accessories! I knew I wanted a basket that could hold my packages when I went to the mailbox. I wanted a cup holder to hold my beer -- I mean, water -- and I wanted to switch up my seat and handlebar covers to make it look more like a beach cruiser rather than some rad 9 year old's bike. 

And this was my finished product...

And now I have a cute bike that I love! All in all with the accessories, I probably spent $100 or a little less. So far, the paint has held up well for beach cruises and those trips to the mailbox. But it's also nice to know that if it ever gets spots that need to be touched up, I have more in the garage. So it can always look pretty much brand new! 

I hope that helps you if you're thinking about painting your bike but don't know how to take it apart because, neither did I. And I still don't! 





1 comment

  • Thank you so much, you will not believe how many videos and articles I needed to go through to find this. My bike isn’t in the best condition so it is difficult for me to take it apart completely. Now that I see how amazing your bike came out it gives me hope that I can restore my bike.

    Angelica Torres

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