Breathing new life into an old bike

If you’ve got a neglected bike it’s possible to spruce it up and turn it from an unloved mess to a tip-top dream machine. Whether it’s been abandoned for months or just over the Christmas break. In this overhauling an old bike series I’ll be explaining over the coming weeks how anyone can do it.

Once you’ve completed the tweaks and upgrades you’ll get a far better ride without any annoying squeaking and over-the-top pedalling effort.

I’m starting the series because when I asked you for feedback your message was clear: More bike maintenance posts!

It also suits me because I’ve been neglecting my bike.

This is what I will be covering over the next few weeks

Bike on stand

If you are interested in bike maintenance then you might be interested in my bike maintenance iPhone & Android application: Bike Doctor. It has 23 repairs that show you how to look after your bike.

If you’ve got any more suggestions as to other things you’d like me to cover then please do leave a comment below and I’ll see what I can do.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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13 Responses to Breathing new life into an old bike

  1. Jamie Carruthers 17/01/2011 at 11:39 am #

    Looking forward to this – my bike gets ridden a lot but looks neglected! I haven’t yet had it serviced but had it for about 9 months now.

  2. thereverent 17/01/2011 at 12:24 pm #

    I’d be very interested in this. Having bought a new commute bike at the end of last year to replace my old mountain bike (after 10 years service).
    A friend wants a bike to cycle with at weekends with his girlfriend, so I said he can have my old one. I just want to hand it over in a good state for him.

  3. Amoeba 17/01/2011 at 5:35 pm #

    Just a reminder to those about frame materials.
    Steel is long-lasting and will last almost indefinitely. I believe the same can be said of Titanium. While Aluminium has a limited life. So before one spends time and money on an old Aluminium frame, it might be well worth getting an expert eye run over it.

  4. David Wellbeloved 17/01/2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Excellent news. Perfect timing for me as I’m looking to convert my 2004 Kona Dew Deluxe city bike into a porteur/utility bike. My wife has told me that I’ve got to do more supermarket shopping without her and it’s either this or learn to drive (managed to avoid this for 31 years!).

    Can I make 3 suggestions on topics:

    Front/Rear Rack fitting;
    Fitting a Chainguard;
    Raising the handlebars with a threadless headset (Bike Doctor doesn’t cover this).

    If you cant do any of these (I understand that the first two at least will take parts) no problems. I’m sure the rest will be really useful.

    Looking forward to it.

    • Craig 17/01/2011 at 8:09 pm #

      David if you want to raise the handle bars the simplest way is to change the handlebar stem (the bit that connects the handlebars to the the headset) for one with a greater angle. If you are planning on wholesale changes I recommend the “Zinn and the art of ….” series. They take you from maintenance, to more advanced mechanics (should you desire) . Sometimes though it is worth locating your nearest bike shop as although you need to pay the man, its better than hours of frustration and scuffed knuckles.

      • David Wellbeloved 18/01/2011 at 12:16 am #


        Thanks for the advice. Funny you should mention using the local bike shop as reading about fitting the SKS Chainguard that works with my triple front derailleur sounds a nightmare.

        Just ordered the Zinn road bike book, never need an excuse to buy a book!


    • Andreas 18/01/2011 at 6:57 pm #

      Might be able to cover a rear rack fitting as I do have one lying around!

  5. Craig 17/01/2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Having just about completed an exploration in building a bike from the frame up, I can honestly say that bike maintenance is not as scary as it sounds. Most of the task you need to do are easy, unless you have a specialist bike. True there are a few things to make sure of as some parts don’t fit other parts, but in if you stick to like for like all will go well. Remember 26″ MTB wheels will not fit in 29″ “road” frame :).

    Yes the frame does need to be sound, but unless you have been throwing it off big jumps, or regularly riding through deep potholes, there is no reason for a bike of 10+ years not to have a sound frame. Obvious metal fatigue round the weld points will be the give away, but your frame alignment (which is the only thing you need specialist knowledge to check) should be fine.

    A simple tool set should allow you to do the following with ease
    Change cables
    Change the tyres, inner tube and wheel
    change the saddle and handle bars
    change the pedals
    Change the seat
    change brakes both pads and the whole assembly
    Add lights
    add pannier racks
    add set bags
    Adjust gears
    adjust brakes

    With the addition of a few cheap specialised bike tools you can
    change the chain
    change pedal cranks
    change the rear cassette
    change front drive chain
    Possibly change your bottom bracket (which connects the pedals together)

    Not needing specialist tools but some practice and more advanced knowledge you can even replace your rear mech and front mech. There is nothing overcomplicated about the average bike apart from wheel building which is an art. It is really a question of time to learn and complete the tasks. Which is where your local bike shop can help by giving you the time to go down the pub without a bike lock :).

    • Andreas 18/01/2011 at 10:34 am #

      Craig a good heads up. Its true that with a basic bike maintenance tool kit you can get most jobs done. Then as and when you need to do bigger repairs you can weigh up the cost of buying the extra tools or taking it to a bike shop.

      • Andreas 18/01/2011 at 6:58 pm #

        P.s. loving the blindbikebuilder blog – I’ve RSS subscribed.

        • Craig 18/01/2011 at 8:08 pm #

          Thanks Andreas – I have to say despite some of the setbacks, I am enjoying the process.

  6. Andy Wood 21/01/2011 at 10:13 am #

    How about getting your old clunkers converted to single speed. No more gears to maintain!!!

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