Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bike makeover project

I've been doing some bike flipping and parting out of bikes this past year, trying to make a few bucks here and there. It does take some bike and part knowledge, and for sure some time, but if you do it right you can make a little money and maybe even have the option to piece together a project bike or get an old junker back up and running with the extra parts you accumulate.

I ran across an old Trek 5200, the US Postal Service edition that Lance won a Tour or two on back in the the day. I bought it cheap, parted it out, sold the wheelset and shifters for what I purchased the complete bike for, so I decided a little project with it might be fun. The bike originally was a bit rusty, and the paint was flaking and in very bad shape. My vision of the Trek 5200 Multisport Ministries edition then came to mind... so I went at it. The frame is made of carbon fiber, so I didn't really know how to go about it. After a bit of research and some help from members of the Slowtwitch.com forums (thanks Erik Stevens), I learned a few steps to start with. If you have an old frame lying around, and a bit of time to give it a makeover, here's a quick summary to get you on your way.

Supplies needed: Jasco Paint & Epoxy Remover (or similar), 240 grit sand paper, 400-600 grit waterproof sandpaper, masking tape, a razor blade, Chemical proof rubber gloves, a wire brush, primer, color of choice top quality spray paint (House of Kolor is good stuff), and a glossy clear coat spray paint. You'll also need your standard set of allen wrenches and bike tools if you need to disassemble an existing complete bike.

The Process:

You need to get the frame free of all parts. Remove everything possible from the frame (handlebars, stem, crankset (bottom bracket tool needed), derailleurs, wheelset, etc, and take the fork out of the frame. Take off the front derailleur mount as well, which is screwed to the frame. You'll need an allen wrench for this. Fill any holes (i.e. water bottle screw holes, rear derailleur hangar hole, front derailleur mount frame holes, steerer tube, etc. with rolled up paper towel, filler paper, masking tape, etc. to avoid getting paint in any screw hole threads.

Once you have just the bike naked with just the frame, apply a varnish/paint remover to the frame. THIS STUFF IS HARSH! Make sure your product is safe on carbon fiber. I recommend Jasco Paint & Epoxy remover, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. Again... did I say this stuff is harsh..powerful..yes..be careful! You will need chemical resistant gloves, as it WILL burn your skin badly without (it will even burn through cheaper rubber gloves...as I've learned using it to remove glue from tubular rims in the past). Be careful not to get it on your skin. If any gets on the skin, rub it off quickly. To avoid this, wear long sleeves and pants. The remover comes out in globs, so try to spread out along the frame. However, the thicker it is applied, the better it works. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. The paint eventually should become bubbly and flaky. Using a wire brush or plastic scraper, start scraping away. This process is the most time consuming step of the project. You will need to repeat this step several times on the entire frame to get all the old paint off. I ended up using a razor blade to carefully scrape away any excess paint at the end so all that was visible was the gray carbon fiber. Be careful not to cut into the carbon frame at all and damage the structure. Once the bike is paint-free, lightly sand it with 600 grit wet sandpaper.

Mask any areas of the bike (i.e. the metal rings the fork slides into, the cable housing guides) with masking tape to avoid getting any paint on that area. Spray 1 or 2 light layers of primer as your first coat on the frame. After it fully dries, it's time to spray your first base paint layer. Be careful not to spray closer than 8 inches to the frame, to avoid thick paint buildup and any drips. Let each layer fully dry (overnight is recommended). You can lightly sand using 600 grit sandpaper each coat in order that the next coat adheres well with a strong bond. Paint must be completely dry prior to sanding. (If you don't do this step between coats, as I learned, you risk causing "crackling". When this happens, paint becomes ripply and cracks. Then, you'll need to start over sanding the damaged area which has cracked...no bueno.)
This light sanding step is especially crucial between your clear coats. After 2 coats of base color, let dry completely before applying the first clear coat. Again, to avoid drips, spray lighter coats as opposed to thick, heavier coats.
If you do have any drips, come back over them with 220 grit wet sandpaper after the paint has dried completely, and follow that with a light sand job using 400-600 grit sandpaper. If you sand into the color base coat, you'll need to repaint it, so be careful to sand just slightly into the clear coat. The clear coat is what will protect the frame, so 3-4 coats is recommended, whereas the base coat is simply for color, so 1-2 coats should suffice. Remember, the more coats you apply, the heavier the frame will be (I know...this is very important ; ) ). When lightly sanding between clear coats, the frame will look scratched up, white, and cloudy. This is normal, and should go away with the next coat of clear applied.

If you want to add any graphics, stickers, etc. that you want to be permanently bonded onto the frame, you can do so after applying the base color coats, and lying the clear coat over them. The thinner and flush (the frame) the decals, the better they will look when it's all said and done. You can find custom website decals on ebay for about $7 for a set of 2, as well as old bike decals in many colors. Paint/art supply stores also sell pinstripes and specialty pin striping tape.

If it's your first time repainting a frame, as it was mine, remember that doing the project is how you learn best. Try it once on an old frame you can afford to make a few mistakes on (and can afford to void the warrant on ; ) ), because it likely won't turn out perfectly your first time. Be patient, and work a bit on it here and there so you don't get frustrated and want to rush the project. You've put in the time already, so why not finish it right.

Once your frameset is looking good, go ahead and build the bike back up, and ride around town a bit taller than you did before. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: These are the steps I took as a first-timer. Research repainting bikes online first to be certain you haven't missed any crucial steps. I am no expert, and simply am sharing the steps I took in my project. That said, I don't take any responsibility in how your project turns out... unless it turns out amazing of course.

1 comment:

Tedd Fox said...

didn;t the paint remover damage the carbon and epoxy resin at all?