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A Makeover… For Your Old Road Bike? Yes, Please! Part Five – What To Change; Paint and Headset


August 2022

This is the fun post about getting that old school bike made over… the paint. Now, first things first, you be you. My opinion doesn’t mean a hill of $#!+ next to what you want. That said, don’t be gaudy… and I’m talking 1999 Trek 5200 gaudy. Now, mine was purchased used and the previous owner had un-gaudied it by removing the most egregious decals:

This one wasn’t so lucky:

The postal service bikes, while cool in their old school-ness, were the next best thing to bedazzled with decals and I’d never recommend going for that when there are far better options… unless you actually have a true postal bike in good condition (Klem, I’m looking at you, brother… yours is super cool):

See? Now this is vastly preferable to the bike equivalent of bedazzlement, right? Technically, that’s not a question. That’s more a statement of fact. Of course it is.

The original headset on the bike was absolutely toasted beyond help, so having the frame painted made perfect timing of replacing the headset with a brand-spankin’-new Chris King Holy Grail of Headsets. And so it was.

I loved the old candy apple red over gold flake paint job, but I’m a massive fan of red on black. And that matched my Specialized Venge… so I only needed to worry about red and black clothing! Bonus!

That’s a potent one-two punch.

Choosing your painter can be tricky. I lucked out because our local owner was a frame builder from way back who apprenticed in England and had a paint booth in his old shop. When I was ready to have the Trek painted, where it was getting painted was a no-brainer.

Now, one massively important thing to note before you even bother is this; unless you pick a factory acceptable painter, you’re likely to void the lifetime warranty on your carbon frame and fork. I did. See, you can’t chemically strip a carbon bike so you’ve got to sand the paint down. If you’re not careful, you get into the structural carbon fiber layup with the sanding and you can ruin the frame. For that reason, manufacturers will only trust certain trained professionals. I had absolute trust in the owner of our shop and that was good enough for me.

After that, talk to someone at a local shop and they’ll likely be able to point you in the direction of a good bike frame painter. Expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $800 for a frame and fork with the upper reaches hitting well over $1,200 for a show-stopping finish. I can tell you, a friend has a $1,200 paint job on one of his classics and he got his money’s worth. He shipped the frame and fork to California to have it done and it’s amazing.

My Trek still looks gorgeous after having it painted – vastly better than before it was done. The decals are custom and I’ve got my name on the top tube under the clearcoat. As paint goes, if you’ve got the money and the stomach to either void the warranty or pay a little more for a factory approved professional, a new paint job can make a tired, old bike look amazing again.


  1. One day I’d love to get mine stripped and freshly repainted (in the original metallic sparkly blue-to-grey of course). I’ve even got a brand new set of gaudy US POSTAL decals ready to slap on! 😎😂😁

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