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I've seen chains with so many colours, white, red, you name it.

I would like to give it a try (this paint job is intended for visual styling of the bike, nothing related to protecting it), but I have no clue on how to do it.

I think there must be a way to paint it without "glueing" the links with paint, I don't know if spray paint does that or not... I'm sure I need to degrease it first, but then what follows?

So, the question:

How do I paint a chain without ruining it? (the painted chain needs to be in working conditions, it will be used).

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I'm guessing that most "painted" chains are color-coated (with something akin to powder coating) prior to assembly, possibly before the pieces are cut from the sheet metal. But you could use something akin to Heltonbiker's scheme if you really, really think you need to do this. Any paint would wear away quickly, however, on a deraileur bike. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 24 '12 at 19:58
Another "quickie" option is to NOT thoroughly clean the chain, but to somehow get just the outer surfaces reasonably clean (leaving some lube in the joints), then spray paint the chain. The residual lube would probably prevent the chain from "freezing", though it would be hard to get good paint adhesion. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 24 '12 at 20:01
@jackJoe - "Powder coating" is much harder than conventional paint and would probably survive for awhile on a derailleur bike. In particular, the outer plates only get wear when shifting to a larger front ring, so on an old 5 speed or whatever the outside should hold up reasonably well. I wouldn't expect even the factory finish to last very long on, say, a heavily used 21-speed bike, though. And the DIY finish would probably be history in a few hours on a derailleur bike. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 24 '12 at 23:08
just buy a factory painted chain so many colors available online – user7191 Jun 11 '13 at 15:53
I'd be careful about degreasing the chain entirely. Modern chains are greased prior to assembly and once you've cut through that, you'll never be able to get the grease back into them to the same degree. – user8399 Oct 14 '13 at 7:03
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I think @freiheit already said it: paint the outside of the outer links!

If you ride single/fixed, this part of the links never touch anything else, so the paint does not wear out neither damage other working parts.

I would do it degreasing the chain very well (boiling with soap in the end, perhaps) and then using a hard foam paint roller, with the chain over the ground with its side facing up.

If you don't mind paying for the job, most the colored chains I've seen in google seem to be powder-coated (electrostatic) or anodized. This would give a probably good result, but I think you wouldn't want to pay the price :oP

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Nice tips. But would painting with a roller "glue" the links after the ink is dry? – jackJoe Jan 24 '12 at 19:58
I meant using a paint instrument named "paint roller", not painting the rollers in the chain. ;o) If you press it soft, only the outer sides of the outer links will be painted, and they don't have relative motion with the chain pins. – heltonbiker Jan 24 '12 at 21:24
Thanks for that clarification! I'm going to give it a try + @DanielRHicks I'm also going to try that lube technique. – jackJoe Jan 25 '12 at 19:05
Are they really that much more expensive? I see some on Amazon for $8.99. Even my LBS only wants $15 or so for them. – John Doucette Aug 21 '13 at 18:04

I imagine the homegrown process would look like this:

  1. Take chain apart
  2. Clean links thoroughly
  3. Mask any metal to metal contact points on links
  4. Use airbrush or other spray paint on exposed portions. Apply as many coats as necessary
  5. Reassemble chain
  6. Re-grease chain

I imagine the manufactures process would look like this:

  1. Paint one side of sheet metal used for chain links
  2. Manufacture chain as usual

Since the manufacturing process is much easier I think it may be more worthwhile to just purchase one.

share|improve this answer
That's more of an alternative, but it doesn't really answer the question of how to paint a bicycle chain, if all answers were like this ("buy/service it, it's easier"), this site wouldn't exist. – jackJoe Jan 24 '12 at 18:59
Kept my original sentiment, but provided what I think the answer is. I do think the question is broken. – Glenn Jan 24 '12 at 19:18
thanks for your ideas! – jackJoe Jan 24 '12 at 19:55

The easiest way is to fold the chain zig-zag style so that only the outer links are exposed (the inner links are only exposed at a bare minimum). After cleaning it, spray light coats and watch for any dripping.

After you let it dry, use WD40 or something similar to get in between the links easily and work the chain by hand link by link to make sure it rolls smoothly. I worked in a folding chair manufacturing shop in their paint department. After they painted the chairs it was my job to get them folding proper, and that is what we did. Works for chains too.

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You painted the chairs after assembly? – Emil Vikström Feb 4 at 12:46
It was a while ago, but from what I remember, yes, the chairs were fully built before they were painted. They were hung on hooks and went through the paint room, then out to us, where we sprayed it with WD-40 then then tapped with a rubber mallet if it was still sticking. ( @EmilVikström – BillyNair Feb 4 at 16:42

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