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Can You Paint a Bike Chain?


You’ve had your bike for several years now and the chain is starting to look old and rusty. It happens. Due to constant use and contact with different elements like water during storage, it’s inevitable that this happens. Most people decide to give their bike a makeover when it gets to this point. But if you don’t know how to go about it, you risk damaging the chain.

Fortunately, with the right tools and a bit of elbow grease, you can customize your bike chain to your liking and get it looking brand new. To get an updated look, you’re going to need a lubricant and new paint. Afterwards, clean the bike chain regularly to extend its lifespan and prevent rusting.

A bike chain is one of the most crucial parts of your bike. Without it, your bike is practically useless. It’s, therefore, essential to follow the right steps when painting it to ensure the results are excellent and the bike remains functional. We’ve shared a comprehensive guide to help you through the entire process. Let’s jump right in.

How to Paint a Bike Chain

Whether or not you ride your bike often, chances are you’d like it to look incredible when you take it out for a ride.  A rusty chain makes this impossible. It not only ruins your bike’s aesthetics but may also interfere with overall performance.

If you’re strapped for cash to get a chain replacement, painting your bike chain may be the best option if it’s still working as it should. So how do you go about it? Does the type of paint matter? Let’s find out.

What You’ll Need

For this DIY, you’re going to need a few items. These include:

Preparing Your Workstation

The first thing you need to do is to identify an area you can do the project in without worrying about damaging any surfaces. We recommend painting your bike chain outdoors or in a room with proper ventilation such as the garage.

If you decide to do it indoors or on a pavement, it’s best to put down some old newspapers to prevent the paint from ruining floors and surrounding surfaces. Next, open all the windows and doors if you’re working indoors and proceed to the next step.

Dismantling the Bike

Once you’ve prepared your work surface, the next thing to do is to take your bike apart. This step is crucial because it allows you to have access to the entire bike chain. What’s more, it makes it easier for you to paint the frame if you want to personalize your entire bike.

Start by propping up the bike and gearing up as you move the pedals. This way, the chain will be on the largest front ring and the smallest rear ring. Next, take your bike apart and set the chain and drive train components aside. (Source: Instructables)

Prepping the Frame (Optional)

If your bike chain is in bad shape, chances are your frame isn’t looking so good either. It may, therefore, be an excellent idea to fix your entire bike to get a new look. However, if you’re satisfied with how the frame looks, you can skip this step.

To prep your bike frame, begin by removing all decals on it. Next, proceed with sanding down the frame. Afterwards, use an old T-shirt or rags to wipe the dust away leaving a clean painting surface. If you plan to add designs to your bike frame, use tape to cover the areas you don’t want the paint covering in your desired design.

Lubricating and Cleaning the Bike Chain

Spray your lubricant all over your bike chain as you rotate the chain backward to ensure all parts are covered. This step is crucial because it not only removes dirt but also loosens the grease on the chain.

Once you’re sure every part of the chain is coated in the lubricant, use a damp rag and solvent to clean it further. Keep cleaning the chain until you’ve gotten rid of as much grease and dirt as possible.

Next, take the toothbrush, soak it in the lubricant and use it to deep clean the chain making sure to focus between the links and other areas you couldn’t reach with the rag. As you do this, keep rotating the chain to ensure you clean all areas. 

Clean the bottom, sides, and upper parts of the chain for the best results. After cleaning, wipe the chain with a clean rag to remove excess lubricant and finalize cleaning the bike chain.

Cleaning the Drivetrain Components

The drivetrain components also accumulate a lot of dirt and grease. Clean them in the same way you cleaned the chain. Begin by wiping the parts down using a damp cloth and solvent and go in with a toothbrush to clean any parts you missed. Finalize the process by wiping all the parts with a clean rag.

Painting the Bike Frame (Optional)

If you decided to give your bike a complete makeover, the next step is to paint the frame. Ensure you’ve placed the design tape how you want it before you begin. Also, ensure the frame is completely dry before adding paint. If the surface is wet or lubricated, the paint will not stick.

When you’re ready, follow the instructions listed on your spray paint label and spray paint the bike frame evenly, making sure to begin with a few coats. Leave the bike to dry and turn it to paint the other side. Allow the second side to dry before proceeding.

Check to see if there are any hidden areas not covered in paint and paint those as well. When the frame dries, check to see if the shade meets your expectations. Decide whether or not you need to add a few more layers of paint. (Source: Spray Bike)

Painting the Bike Chain

Before you start painting your bike chain, it’s essential to know that painting a bike chain may interfere with performance if there’s sticking. Therefore, it’s best to try this DIY on a leisure bike and not a performance bike.

Begin by prepping the chain for the paint. To prevent sticking, lubricate the metal-on-metal contact points and the inner links of the bike chain. Leave the outer sides of the chain dry. Next, fold the bike chain in a zigzag pattern to hide the inner links so as to prevent spray paint from sticking there.

Next, spray paint the outer parts of the chain and give it time to dry. Afterward, flip the chain to access the other side and repeat the aforementioned steps. 

(Source: Sheldon Brown)

Finishing Off

When the bike chain is completely dry, wipe the inner links to get rid of any paint that may have reached these areas. Then, take your lubricant once again and apply it to the inner links of the chain. Ensure everything is dry and reassemble your bike. That’s it! Your bike is as good as new!

Final Thoughts

If you were asking, “can you paint a bike chain?” now you know. As you can see, it’s a pretty straightforward process. However, to ensure your bike chain efficiency isn’t effected, you need to follow the protection steps carefully. Also, ensure you’re not using too many coats of paints on the chain to prevent sticking. And always clean and lubricate the inner links when you’re done for the best performance.

Related article:

How to Clean a Road Bike Chain and Gears

Road Bike Chains 101: A Guide to Types and Sizes

Can You Paint a Bike Helmet?

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