Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bicycle Reborn

I had a lot of fun recently (and learned a thing or two) re-painting my Gary Fisher Mendota commuter bike. It was a pretty decent looking bike, grey in color and understated. But the graphics on it were kind of ugly and I've never been a fan of displaying logos. Plus, I'm curious about what it takes to paint a bike and if it was something I could handle or not.


First step was to take it all apart. This was a little daunting because I knew that it meant I'd have to put it  all back together, too.  I've done a fair amount of maintenance on this bike, but that was mostly making adjustments to the brakes and derailleurs. I'd never replaced cables or removed the crankset.  Dismantling went smoothly, though I did need help from the Bozeman Bike Kitchen because I did not have all the necessary tools. There's a special tool for virtually everything, ya know.

Once it was taken all apart, the next step is to sand down the frame to remove all the paint, right down to the bare aluminum frame. In this photo, you can see where I'd been sanding off the paint to get it down to the aluminum.

To sand it I purchased some metal brush-like attachments for my drill so I didn't have to use sandpaper and do it by hand.  It still took a little while, though.

Completely sanded and ready for primer

After sanding it's time for primer. I hung the frame up in the garage and taped as necessary.  Here it is with primer applied. 

Those old moving boxes that have been sitting in my garage for 3 months came in handy as a spray barrier.

I applied about 4 thin coats of primer, each 20 minutes apart, and then let it sit 24 hours before painting. The next day I repeated with white spray paint -- 4 or 5 thin coats.

It wasn't until I figured out a design that I liked for the frame that I took this plunge into painting. If I was going to paint it myself then I had to put a little of my personality into it. I am a simple man and would want my bicycle to reflect that. In fact, I really really hate now new bikes have such fancy paint jobs on them -- they really turn me off, trying to look all sleek and special. So I decided to keep it simple with what I consider a bit of an anti-logo: Bicycle.

So I messed around on Powerpoint, found a good font, Rockford, and took it to Kinko's to print out in navy blue on clear sticker paper. I'd thought about making a stencil and spray painting on the design text, but figured I'd probably struggle with drips and would have trouble getting the letters to look crisp. So I opted for the sticker route.

I think I maybe should have used a hairdryer or flambé blowtorch on the sticker after application to remove any air bubbles from underneath it, but didn't think of that until I'd already applied the first layer of clear coat finish. Next time maybe I'll give that a shot because if you look closely you can see the outline of the clear sticker paper on the frame. Not a big deal, but something I could maybe do better next time.

After painting I let it sit one full week to allow the paint and clear coat to fully set up before putting it back onto the rack to be reassembled.

Reassembly went better than I thought it would. I made another trip to the Bike Kitchen for tools to put the chain back together, and had to make a couple trips to the local bike shop for some parts that somehow disappeared since disassembly.

But look at her comin' together...

Ta daaaaa...!

Note that I also removed the rear rack for panniers and added a fender in its place. The fenders are needed for wet travel because that rack, despite what it looks like, provided no protection from water splattering on my back during wet rides. Since this is my daily commuter bike for going to the grocery store (co-op), the library, and general errand running, I need wet weather protection. But I also need a place to carry groceries and library books.

So that's where I turned to Trash Bags to make me a custom designed messenger bag.

Now I've got a newly painted bike with fenders (still need to add on front) and a way to carry stuff.  Looks like I'm set.

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