I started a while back restoring a custom-built tandem bicycle, and I sanded it down to bare metal and just used spray paint (Rustoleum I think, took the bike completely apart to just paint the frame) to give it 5 or so coats, then a clear coat... but the paint still comes off pretty easy. To paint it up I just hung it up by the back forks and did light coats. Anyways, it looked good in the end, but the paint still comes off pretty easily.

What are the steps that someone should take to fully paint a bicycle that already has a coat of paint on it, that is tough and good looking?

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    The most durable finish would be "powder coating", but that must be done by a commercial outfit (special equipment needed). Otherwise, automotive spray paint is probably the best choice for a DIY job, or even if you want to hire it out. But in both cases you probably need to take the frame down to bare metal. Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 13:19
  • Powder coat shops are always equipped to strip paint (and prep screw holes). They use bead/sand/walnut blasters. Powder coating does require the fork crown bearing race to be removed (usually needs a bike shop).
    – Angelo
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 13:35
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    +1 for powder coating, I have had two bikes done and they are great and the coating is very durable. Painting yourself, unless you are looking to get into it, is just too difficult. Commented Jan 2, 2013 at 18:21
  • @cutrightjm its now 8 years later - how did your paint job hold up? (or is it still pending? :)
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


If you're going to use paint, I have had some success with the following:

  • Bead-blast (or sandblast) the old-paint completely off the frame. Sandpaper just isn't as good. You can rent a bead-blaster.
  • Clean thoroughly with ethanol and rags. A white rag should stay clean if you rub it on the frame by the time you're done.
  • Prepare a clean environment for painting. Get a roll of plastic tarp and literally make "a tent" in which you hang your bike. Cut slots in the wall so you can stick your hand in and apply the paint.
  • Apply the appropriate primer coat (critical for success)
  • Apply layers of the spray-paint color (this is where experience makes a difference, I tried really hard to get it uniform but only pros can really get it right).
  • Apply clear coat.

As an alternative to paint, you can have your bike professionally powder-coated. This will give really beautiful results. I have had this done, but had problems with a lugged frame. After a few years, I can see that the powder coat has started to admit rust in the edges of the lugs. It is probably better to reserve powder coat for fillet-brazed (tig-welded) bikes. I am not sure if there are special preparations needed to powder-coat lugged frames.

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    In addition to @ Angelos comments, If you are going to sand use progressivly finer grits to minimize scratches. Use the same brand primer the paint directions call for. Use Rustoleum primer for Rustoleum paint etc. Rustoleum used to make products specifically for metal, if they are available use them.
    – mikes
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 13:45
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    In powder-coating lugged frames, I've found that dark colors go on heavier in general - however, a powder-coating outfit that knows how to prep/coat bicycle frames can usually do a pretty good job. The better paint jobs I've seen involve a very thin primer coat application before the main color, but they cost more. It is a good example of "you get what you pay for."
    – WTHarper
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 17:23
  • Would you say just one coat of primer and clear coat, or two or more?
    – cutrightjm
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 8:14
  • @ekaj Check the website of the spray paint manufacturer for detailed instructions for the products you're using. I've always used one coat of primer.
    – Angelo
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 12:56
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    The advice here for preparation is sound. If you can't afford powder coating, I have had better luck with the "appliance epoxy" spray paints than the normal spray paints. Another option for durability is tractor paint available in farm stores. It can be thinned slightly and brushed on, and provides a more durable result than spraypaint. Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 15:21

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