Repairing bicycles is as easy as you might expect. If you expect to fix your bicycle to be a slightly frustrating but rewarding experience, you are right.
If you expect it to be easy and quick, you are going to be in for an interesting experience. The exact "how to restore a vintage bicycle" answer is complex.
There are a few variables you have to consider:
- Where did you pick up the bike?
- How much did it cost you?
- Do you have time?
- Do you have money to invest?
- What is your goal for the bike?
All of these points feed into what exactly you will be doing to restore a vintage bike, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. We will give you a brief, simple guide to get you started.
This is a no-brainer that most people overlook. Think it through before you start the project and get all the materials. Decide where you are going to get the bike from, what you have to invest time and money wise, and what you intend to use the bike for.
If you are trying to have a nice cruiser for leisurely rides on the weekend, spend a bit more money by going beyond dumpsters and landfills.
Pro-Tip: You should look into a yard and garage sale, especially by older couples for some great frames and bikes still in prime condition.
Sketch What You Are Aiming For
Take a minute to write out what you are willing to do and what tools you have at your disposal.
You don't have to be Leonardo da Vinci to do draw out what you are aiming to do color and frame wise. You can make simple marks and diagrams at places that need to be replaced on your bike.
Make A List of What You Will Need
You are going to need a few tools but if you want to consolidate it, consider picking up a basic bike repair kit. In it will be everything you will need for the quicker/easier repairs such as replacing inner tubes, tires, handle adjustments, etc. Heavy duty models or parts can be held in a high quality bench vice for cutting down.
Beyond that, you may need a chain swing, a blow torch, or a welding set if you are intent on going full customization mode regarding changing/building up a custom frameset.
Read Up & Take Your Time, Don’t Rush It
Finally, considering purchasing the Blue Book of Bicycle Repairs, it's a book that is the bible of bicycle repairs for those starting out.
It outlines the processes, details, and parts of bike form that you will need to make your repairs, purchase parts, and other materials easier.
The entire process of restoring a vintage bicycle essentially will come down to
- 1. Improving the frame and handles in function
- 2. Painting the frame and updating the seats for more comfort
- 3. Fixing/Replacing the chain, brakes, handlebars, and wheels.
Above all, you should realize it may not be a quick job. Take your time, do your research, and make sure you are thorough in your final inspections. The last thing you want is to end up face down on the pavement with your new ride in pieces.