Introduction- How to Paint Your Bike Chain
If your bike chain is old and rusty, or the colors on your bike are starting to fade, all you really need for an updated look is some lubricant and a fresh new coat of paint. And fortunately for you, you can fix it up right from home with ease – no need to pay for a professional. With the right tools, you can give your bike a new, bright, and personalized look.
Regular cleaning of the chain afterwards will help protect it from rust, extend its lifespan, and improve your pedaling efficiency. The following technique offers some quick and easy pointers to complete the project.
So, prepare your workspace, assemble your supplies, and get ready for some paint on your hands.
The Painting Process
- Old newspapers
- Tape (for design)
- Old toothbrush
- Quality bicycle chain lubricant
- Rags (or an old shirt)
- Solvents of any type (like rubbing alcohol)
- Spray paint
Before you begin:
Find a spot with plenty of space and aeration that won’t mind a spot of dirt or paint (garage, basement, or driveway works well). Prop up the bike and gear up as you move the pedals so that the chain is on the largest front ring and the smallest rear ring. Once you’re ready, carefully dismantle the bike to isolate the frame. Set aside the chain and drivetrain components.
If you are painting the bike frame as well, remove any decals and sand down the frame.
Wipe the frame with a rag to remove dust and leave a clean painting surface. Add tape to areas if you want them untouched (if trying for a design or rings).
Spray your lubricant on the bicycle chain. Slowly turn the pedals backwards as you do to rotate through the entire chain. This process loosens the grease and dirt accumulated in the chain.
Clean the chain with a rag and solvent. Be sure the rag is damp, and continue wiping with clean parts of the rag as grime accumulates. Continue this process until the chain is as clean and grease-free as you can make it.
Use a toothbrush to deep-clean the chain. Soak the brush in lubricant and work between the links in the chain, or anywhere you could not reach in Step One. Rotate through the chain until you have successfully cleaned the chain on the sides, top, and bottom. Use a clean rag and solvent to wipe down the chain once complete.
Clean the other components of your drivetrain. These also collect a fair bit of grease and dirt so get into them with your lubricant, toothbrush, solvent, and rag until you’re satisfied. Wipe down every piece a final time with a clean rag and solvent. Also wipe down your frame one final time.
Step Five (Optional) – Painting the Frame
Let everything sit for at least an hour until dry. If you paint too soon, lubricant will not allow the paint to stick. Carefully apply paint in an even movement over your frame until satisfied. Let dry. Carefully flip the frame and continue painting the other side, and any spots or corners missed. Let dry.
Step Six – Painting the Chain
Before we begin this step, know that painting the chain runs a risk of “sticking” and a loss of efficiency – so this procedure is not recommended for a performance bike – it is best with a leisure bike.
For best riding, carefully re-apply lubricant to the inner links of the chain, the metal-on-metal contact points, and leave the outer side dry. Fold your chain as best you can into a “zig-zag” or block formation, in an attempt to mask the inner part of the chain.Carefully apply paint to only the outer surface of the chain and let dry. Once dry, wipe the inner links of the chain free of paint and re-apply lubricant. Flip the chain, re-form into the “zig-zag”, and carefully paint the outside again.
Once dry, wipe the inner links of the chain free of paint, and lubricate one final time. If painting the other drivetrain components, carefully lubricate and protect the inner contact points in a similar fashion before painting – use tape if required.
Congratulations – you’ve now painted your bike chain! Once everything is dry, carefully re-assemble the bike and take it for a good ride to loosen up the components. Try to ride your bike frequently over the next week to work down any “sticking” paint.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of paint should I use on my bike?
For best results, a good spray-painted enamel finish requires several coats. First, the anti-corrosion primer, then a colored coat, and maybe a lighter coat to give it shine. So consider these steps when getting ready to paint, and work them into the routine. Be sure all paint is dry before applying a new coat.
Can you paint a bike without taking it apart?
Sure. It is a quicker process, but it might not lead to best results. Taking the bike apart will also help you remove grease, old paint, and rust – helpful for painting, and good practice to increase the lifespan of your bike.
Can I paint a bicycle with acrylic paint?
Sure. Acrylic paint is water-based and does not contain corrosive or harmful substances for aluminum. A drawback to using acrylic is that it is less durable and can be easily scratched, requiring more frequent touch-ups.