How to Fix Up an Old Bicycle

By Max Roman Dilthey

Why buy a brand-new bike when the one buried in the back of your garage is perfectly salvageable? Bike restoration can do more than save you money; this project is a fun and easy way to practice maintaining your bicycle, and comes with the accomplishment of getting the bike rolling yourself. A good cleaning and lubricating, along with a few fresh parts, can make your old bike ride like new again.

Quick Cleaning

A thorough cleaning and inspection will help you diagnose any issues your older bike has. Start with a rinse using a low setting on a hose or sprayer, and then wipe the bike down with a clean rag to remove any dust and grime. Then, identify areas that are rusted, seized or corroded for cleaning or replacement. Moving parts are common areas for seizing if they're neglected.

Out with the Old

Any parts that are bent or worn beyond use, or seized due to corrosion, need to be replaced. Steel frames can be bent back in some cases, but other damage will necessitate replacements. Since older bikes aren't compatible with some modern parts, consult a professional to make sure you get the right parts for your vintage frame. If you can't remove a component due to corrosion, apply a citrus degreaser or a chemical rust remover and let the bike sit for several hours, and try again. For safety, it's best to also replace the cables and housing on an older bike with new ones, since corrosion can compromise the strength of cables underneath the housing.

New Life

To restore the look of any chrome or metal components on your bike, rub down these surfaces with aluminum foil and water. The aluminum foil will react with the water to strip corrosion and restore your bike's shine. You can also use a citrus degreaser to restore the chain, cassette and chain rings. If you've got stubborn corrosion, removing a component like a chain or derailleur and allowing it to soak in degreaser can loosen buildup and restore smooth function.

Safety First

Once you've cleaned and restored your components, double-check that you've properly greased and tensioned each bolt and threaded component on your bike. Be sure to also re-lubricate your chain. Since older bikes often have issues with frame integrity, tire reliability and wheel trueness, you'll want to consult a professional bike mechanic to ensure your bike is safe for use. Bike mechanics can also help diagnose any stubborn problems you can't fix yourself. You can also purchase bike-specific tools at your local shop to make future home repairs easier.

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