Early Thursday Tech Tip: How to strip your bike’s paint

I currently ride the Woodstock 707. It’s been a great bike, but I wanted a little change with the scenery. Actually I wanted a dramatic change. So the best way to mix things up with a bike other than spending tons of cash for new parts is to paint it. But I’m not really going to paint it. I just want to achieve a brushed aluminum look on the frame. So let’s get going on how to strip your bike’s paint.

First thing you need to do is remove all the parts from the bike. I am only stripping the frame portion of the bike. I’m leaving the rear triangle the original color, its to add some character to the project.

Try to remove all of the suspension bearings. If you can’t, just cover them up with some tape like I did.

I then weighed the frame to see how much paint comes off the darn thing. It’s right around 4.5 pounds.

I picked up this foaming paint stripper from Walmart for about $5.

I sprayed the frame, I ended up using the whole can because I treated it twice. The OEM paint was really thick.

I waited about 15-20 minutes for the foam to do its stuff. Then I started to wipe off the paint.This is after the first treatment…gnarly eh?

After cleaning up the frame, I wanted to see how shinny I could get it by using a brush attached to my power drill. I still have a few spots to treat. But once its all cleaned up, the bike will be assembled.

I’m debating if I should paint the frame. If so I wanted either a flat military green, baby blue, pink or a gun metal gray…what do you think?

By the way, I ended taking off 1 whole pound of paint from the frame. Now it weighs 3.5lbs.

22 Replies to “Early Thursday Tech Tip: How to strip your bike’s paint”

  1. Thanks for the steps. Sometimes it just takes someone doing something to see how simple it is.

    I think pink would be cool.

    Personally, I favor a flat orange. That’s what I’ll paint mine.


  2. Did you paint it? I was thinking of striping my frame then making so decals on my computer and then using a clear coat. looks great

  3. Laura, regular spray-can paint or automotive spray paint is commonly used to paint bikes (for us shade-tree painters). The finish given by spray paint isn’t particularly durable, even with a clearcoat.

    For aluminum frames, there’s an additional step before painting — you’ve GOT to use an etching primer (acid-etch)before the color coats or the paint won’t stick to the aluminum tubing.

    If you want a durable finish, put down the rattlecans and find a powdercoater in your area. For $90 to $120 or so, you’ll get your choice of colors and a virtually indestructible finish!

  4. Hey, nice job. Did the foaming paint stripper cause any damage to the frame? I wanna try it on my bike, but i’m too scared it will ruin it.

  5. wow, I never knew you did this. I looked into doing this to one of my bikes for the RAW look.

    Man you’re full of surprises 🙂

    Maybe next week after we get back from Otter!

  6. omg i sanded my bike and still had some pant left on it and i used spray paint i dont recommend it at least the one that i used cause its thick heavy and really brittle but yeah i am going to try this with the spray paint stripper 🙂

  7. Nice job.. been wanting to try it on my SS rig.. now will see how it looks after stripping the paint. Thanks

  8. Let us know how it goes. I was thinking of doing the samething to my SS steel frame. By the way, where are you from?

  9. That’s a great looking bike frame you have. I bought some of that paint stripper at Walmart last night. I got the brush-on one because I had only a small area to remove paint from; it worked just like it did in the photos of your 707. Fantastic! Thanks!

  10. Also, take a look at Duracoat http://www.duracoat-firearm-finishes.com It is product that is used for coating firearms and is very durable. I have finished two frames using this stuff and had excellent results. Does not require thick coats as powder coating, so you save weight, but does take a long time to dry: 2-3 weeks

  11. keep in mind that chemical strippers might not work on powder-coated frames and also SHOULD NEVER EVER BE USED ON CARBON FIBER PARTS!!! i’m sure most people would realise that, but i’ve seen people do some dumb stuff anyway.

    i second the vote for powdercoating as the most durable finish (and it’s not terribly expensive, about $100 for a frame, but that usually also includes stripping and sandblasting the old finish and frame prep, so it’s really worth the price and it’s a quick turnaround in most shops). you’d also be amazed at some of the really cool colors you can get: everything from matte finishes to metal-flake in literally every color under the sun!)

    otherwise, i’d definitely go with automotive paint, which is usually acrylic lacquer. a clearcoat is a must to protect the finish, and like someone else stated you MUST use an etching primer on aluminum, otherwise the paint will just flake right off. you can get all the stuff you’d need at places like AutoZone, but a local auto paint supplier is going to have a much better selection and will also have bulk and custom mixed colors if you have a spray setup. another option, which is a a bit more durable, is automotive engine enamel. it usually has ceramic in it which makes it stronger, although some brands need to be cured in an oven for full durability (check the can). the downside to engine enamel is that it usually comes in a pretty limited amount of colors, but it’s a good way to go if you’re going to do matte-black.

    the toughest finish next to powdercoating would probably be a 2-part catalyzed finish, but it’s complicated to mix and apply just right, and you often need to have cure it in a UV oven, which makes it undoable for most people. there are shops that will do this finish for you, but it’s more expensive than powdercoating and still not quite as durable (although if you have a really intricate design that may not be feasable with powdercoating, it’s an option).

    option #D would be anodizing, but it only works on aluminum and titanium frames. you can get some really cool colors, but since the frame has to be dunked, usually about as complicated as you can get is a two-tone frame where half is dunked in one color, and then the other half is dunked in a different color. also, you can’t really “spot-anodize” stuff, since it needs to sit in a tank with an anode and cathode. it’s pretty much a one or two-color thing. it’s not particularly expensive (no more than powdercoating) and it’s good for mirror-shine colors, but it also scratches fairly easily and isn’t super-durable. it’s definitely more for show than anything else.

    the cool thing about aluminum though is that unlike carbon steel, it doesn’t NEED a finish. raw aluminum quickly forms a microscopic layer of aluminum oxide when exposed to regular old air, and this al-oxide protects it from corrosion. even in the worst conditions, an unfinished aluminum frame is probably going to last a lot longer than you before it starts really corroding. that’s one of the great beauties of it, and why it’s used for so many different things. and you can wire-brush it like RL is doing, which looks cool and will “hide” scratches, you can bead-blast it for a matte finish or you can go all-out and polish it with up to 12,000-grit wet-or-dry sandpaper for a literal mirror-finish (although i would imagine the sun glare on a mirror-polished top tube would be pretty brutal!)

    @CDL: Dura-coat would be a pretty tough finish (i’ve had a couple pistols finished with it). the downside, like you stated, is that it takes forever to dry (you can cure it in an oven, but again, i don’t most people have access to an oven large enough for a bike frame). and even though it doesn’t require a primer, metal prep is super-important: you really need to sand or bead-blast the frame (i found out the hard way that it’s pretty easy to scratch if the metal isn’t blasted first. an expensive mistake). which brings me to the biggest downside to Dura-Coat: it’s REALLY expensive! an 8oz can of matte black is about $30! and that’s not counting that it has to be ordered online, then mixed, and then sprayed with a spray setup. while it’s a great finish, i think it’s just way too expensive for a whole bike frame and it could easily approach the cost of having a pro powdercoating job done (which would also save time, hassle and still be more durable. plus, you’d have the frame back in a few days, rather than having to wait nearly a month to ride it again).

    FWIW, i think a good compromise on a cool custom finish would be to have the frame powdercoated in a solid color, and then use auto paint (or even Duracoat) to do some custom embellishments. this is what i want to do at some point (i’d like to PC a frame in a color like Fender’s “surf green”, which is sort of a pastel bluish-green, and then use black pinstriping paint to paint a design that i drew awhile back. this way i get the overall durability of powdercoating, but i can still have some cool custom stuff on it that’ll be easy to touch up if it gets scratched.

  12. You gotta put some protection on it…. Naked Aluminum will corrode unbelieveably fast otherwise, especially if you sweat on it!!

  13. WOW! A whole pound!?! That’s worth considering for an XC rider like myself. I have a Connondale F-600 in the blue and I wonder how much I’d loose if I took the paint off. The n again the resale value

  14. Sometimes it’s as easy as it sounds. But I just did one (mid 90’s frame) and it has 30% of the paint still there. Used half gal of same stripper, over 2 days time. It’s a CroMo frame not aluminum too.
    This is where a sand blaster would come in real handy 😉

  15. Owner of a powdercoating co. I’ve powdercoated EVERYTHING, and will say that it is the toughest, BUT, who ever sand blasts it has to be very very good, and unless it’s your buddy or you, they won’t because it’s about production and they are hot in the suit and have plenty of other projects to blast. The art of powdercoating is based,(as all painting is) on your prep work. You void warrantees when you powdercoat because you compromise the integrity (strength) of the fram which is tested, designed and welded specifically for what ever type of riding you will do.If STRENGTH,WARRENTEE,OR WEIGHT are the most important to you, DO NOT POWDERCOAT IT. Plus, as said pryor, if you have tricked out, or hard designs in you painting design, powder is not the way at all. You can paint over it and it will be fine. If you are a sticker,sponsor,decal nut like me then you will be adding quite a bit of weight. But it will last quite a long time. Rust-Oleum is heavy as well and legitimately needs 48 hours to cure per coat, or within the first hour hit it again. There are many types of opinions, paints, and ways to paint your metals, it’s about money and time which most people don’t seem to have enough of. I would suggest a stripper, then wire drill heads or brush the whole frame which takes care of etching, then as thin a paint as you can get like an automotive paint with a minimum of 2-5 coats of laquer (depending on gloss look, sticker or stencil influence, and or amount of desired durability sought)for a clean professional finish.

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