A fresh coat of paint can give your fixed-gear or single-speed bicycle a unique look, or some effective urban camouflage against theft. Painting your bike frame can cover any logos or emblems that might make your ride a target for thieves, or cover up any damage or corrosion from frequent -- or long -- use. Painting a bike frame takes some preparation and patience, but the results can make your fixie look and feel brand-new. Since fixies have no derailleurs, shifters or derailleur cables, stripping down the frame for painting is much easier than with a geared bike.
Things You'll Need
- Enamel spray paint
- No. 320 grit sandpaper (or finer)
- Phosphoric acid rust remover
- Rust-preventive zinc primer
- Masking tape
- Paint sprayer or brush
- Painter's mask
- Latex gloves
- Bicycle-specific tools
Strip the frame. Using bicycle-specific tools, remove the headset, drivetrain, handlebars, seat, stem, seat post, wheels and any other components from your fixie. If you don't have the tools to dismantle your bicycle yourself, your local shop can do it for a small fee. During refinishing, keep your work area well ventilated to prevent inhalation of any toxins.
Sand and refinish the frame to prepare it for paint. If your frame exhibits any corrosion, paint chips or grime, you'll want to clean, sand and polish the frame until the texture is uniform and smooth. No. 320 grit sandpaper can be used to scrub off old paint, with enough elbow grease.
Use a phosphoric-acid-based rust remover to remove corrosion. The phosphoric acid will eat away at the rust, allowing you to sand it off and restore the frame's original smooth texture. In a pinch, aluminum foil and water or a bit of cola can also work as a rust remover, but may leave residue on the frame.
Clean the frame using a solvent. A solvent cleaner will remove any hand oils and other contaminants that can prevent the primer from adhering to the frame. Use latex gloves to handle the frame while cleaning it, and afterward to prevent recontamination.
Seal off any openings using newspaper and masking tape. The bottom bracket shell, head tube, seat tube and rack and water bottle bosses should be sealed so paint doesn't get inside the frame.
Painting and Refinishing
Hang the bicycle frame in a well-ventilated area. You'll want to use a shed or garage where getting paint on the floor or walls won't matter. Make sure the area offers good airflow, as many of the toxins in paints, primers and solvents are harmful if inhaled. Use a mask is necessary.
Apply a layer of zinc-based primer. A zinc primer will work like an electric battery, absorbing the corrosion that would otherwise affect the metal of the frame. Sooner or later, moisture will work its way under your paint, but a zinc-based primer will prevent that moisture from causing corrosion to the frame.
Apply a base coat to the frame in the desired color using a paint sprayer or brush, after the primer is completely dry. A paint sprayer or spray can will give a more even coat, but a brush can be used deliberately for texture.
Mask off any patterns and re-coat the frame in a second color after the base coat is completely dry. This is optional, but now is the opportunity to let your creativity show by masking off the base coat and applying a second or third coat in different colors for a unique look.
Finish the frame with a clear coat. An enamel clear coat will protect your paint job from scuffs and give it a high gloss. Your frame is ready for reassembly. You may have to sand out the drop-outs, bottom bracket shell or headset if paint made its way into the frame during the painting process.
Tips & Warnings
- An oil-based enamel paint will spray easier and last longer, and it will have a higher gloss than a water-based enamel paint. It's the best choice for a smooth, even coat. Apply paint and primer slowly and carefully to prevent mistakes like fingerprints, drips and missed areas.
- Paints, solvents and primers contain toxic chemicals that require careful use and ventilation to ensure safety. Read all instructions carefully and never paint in an area that is poorly ventilated or that contains any open flames.
- Photo Credit Darren McCollester/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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