rusty-bikeSo we’re going to open a can of worms and talk about bike restoration. There are many facets to this topic and even more opinions on the best way to tackle bike projects.  We here at the collective use techniques that range from very simple to professional, depending on the project.  For the newer bike enthusiast, we will keep it basic, since veteran hobbyists and collectors already know these techniques.

There will be two phases to this project and it will be documented as it takes place.  Updates will be added as we progress.

     1. Quick Bike Clean-up

     2. Basic Bike Restoration

Quick Bike Clean-up

photoStep 1: Assess the bike.  In this case, we have rust and grease (usually the case).

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Step 2: Remove any unwanted stickers, tape, or accessories that will cover areas you want cleaned.  Tip…a hair dryer is perfect for heating up those stickers and peeling them off.

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Step 3: Begin the cleaning process.  Here is where there will be differences in opinion on what products to use. This guide is to help the beginner by using common household products. Regardless of what you decide to use, I recommend wearing gloves.  Tip…this doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor.  Dollar stores and discount hardware stores carry most, if not all of these products.

Find a spot to clean your bike and at the very least, have a bucket of water and some rags to wipe off any detergents, chemicals, or dirt.  I like to work in the yard with a hose and a bucket.  If you’re working in the driveway or garage, a piece of cardboard helps to keep the chemicals off the cement (as they can leave spots).  A tarp can be used, they just don’t absorb anything.  Finally, it’s not a bad idea to wear safety glasses.


Tip…It helps to spray your bike down with degreaser first and let it penetrate while you work on rust…

To clean rust off of chrome (NEVER the paint), 0000 steel wool and silicone lubricant is most widely used.  Crumpled up aluminum foil and water also work.  Can you use WD40, Brillo, or SOS pads with detergent on them?  Yes, but some collectors and hobbyists argue that you will create small scratches in the chrome with the pads and that WD40 corrodes metal.  If this concerns you, whether you plan on re-selling the bike or wish to preserve it long term, just use 0000 steel wool or aluminum foil (you may just have to apply more elbow grease, depending on how much rust there is). Here at the collective we’ve cleaned dozens of bikes with all of the above and they all turned out great with no visible differences in the following years.  I personally have used WD40 and SOS pads on my own bikes with no complaints.  Just be sure to rinse off any detergents.  So now…spray, scrub, and wipe.

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One thing you may notice are black spots or patches that don’t come off.  This is called ”pitting’ and it’s corrosion through the chrome.  Unfortunately, that’s there to stay…

Grease, dirt, etc:

WD40 or Simple Green (also goes by mean green, extreme green, etc.) are both effective in breaking up old, crusty grease from the numerous components that benefit from lubrication.  Caution…both products will also strip water decals commonly found on Schwinns.  It’s best to just use damp cloth for those areas. After applying a liberal amount of degreaser, let it rest and penetrate the grease.  A stiff nylon or wire brush will then break up the grime.  Use shop towels or rags to wipe away debris and rinse when you’ve reach the desired look.

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Aluminum components:

Due to its durability and light weight, aluminum components are very common on semi-vintage bikes, and pretty standard on modern bikes.  However, it becomes dull and spotted over time.  Here’s the solution…wadding polish!  A personal favorite.  It’s safe to use on all metals and requires very little, if any, elbow grease.  Just wipe the metal down thoroughly with a piece of the wadding material and wipe with a clean rag.  Done.


So there you have it folks!  Just some simple tips and techniques to get you on your way towards a nicer looking ride.  Feel free to share your own experiences or let us know if you have some preferred techniques.

Good Luck and Ride On!


Coming Soon…Basic Bike restoration