A very common question, that just about anyone will ask when thinking about how to restore or refurbish a vintage bicycle, is should it be painted?  If restoration/preservation is the goal, probably not.  If anything else is the target, perhaps so.  Confused?

It is nice to have nice things.  Sadly, or not, depending on one's point of view, not all vintage bicycles reach today in pristine condition.  Rather, many of those old steeds present themselves, sporting a patina of age that represents their, often times, decades of use and/or abuse.  And that patina of age might well run deep, considering how fragile vintage road bicycles are, to begin with.

Put another way, rare is it that an old bicycle will manage to travel, from yesterday to today, without evidence that it has done so.  Paint chips and scratches are common.  Environmental damage, in the form of rust or faded paint, will also accompany the evidence of use.  Lost and/or damaged art work will be part of the package.  And sometimes, some previous owner has succumbed to the need, or simple desire, to clean that old bicycle's looks up by slapping a coat of paint on it.  The results can be but are not always all that appealing.

In addition to cosmetic concerns, there are structural concerns as well.  A slightly bent frame or fork might not be a cosmetic challenge issue, however; significant bends will likely require cosmetic repair, once the unwanted bend is repaired. The same holds true for repaired, or disguised, dents.

Dented tubes, be the dents small or large, will usually require some cosmetic repair.  The point is, many situations can, and quite likely will, present themselves with older bicycles.  And, generally speaking, cosmetic issues will all but demand to be addressed.  Sadly, one of the most common mistakes newly initiated vintage bicycle enthusiasts make is to respond to that request, without first understanding the need to think through the idea of To Paint or Not To Paint.

But before jumping onto the "I'm going to paint it band wagon", it might first be wise to consider if the bicycle should be painted.  Just because one can do something, does not always mean one should.  And, of course, cosmetic repair can be implemented in different ways, from a full paint/art redo, to minimal paint chip/scratch touch-up.  Or, the cosmetics can be left as found, allowing the patina of age to reveal part of the bicycles history of use.  For example, this old Specialized Allez Some-thing-or-other was a stolen bicycle that passed through the legalizing process.  all of the cosmetic repair situations should be considered, before deciding on a path to follow.

A full paint job, even a home done spray bomb one, will cost a few bucks.  The do it yourself, paint with a brush or spray bomb result can be pleasing, but will never match the appearance, or durability, of a professional paint job.  The home version will take many hours to complete and set the painter back close to fifty dollars not counting art, at the time of this writing.  The professional job, will cost many times more, but the results can be both stunning and long lasting.

There is the cost of new art.  In addition to new old stock decals, sometimes offered on-line, many decal reproductions are being offered in today's market place, and some of the reproductions come very close to original appearance.  Very close, being the operative part of that statement.  Few reproductions are bang on the money, but they do cost money to purchase.  Expect to pay, again at the time of this writing, a good fifty bucks, or more, plus shipping costs.

So, with the cost of the paint, even a few rattle cans, plus the cost of art, the bottom line cost to paint a bicycle will exceed a hundred bucks.  Let's leave that, for a moment, and consider other issues associated with new paint and art.

A new paint job had better match the remaining patina sported by the frame and fork set.  Shiny new paint and art will look out of place, along side oxidized chrome plating.  That same new paint/art job will not suit the presence of aged components and time worn, environmentally challenged leather saddles.  Put another way, the paint job is, often times, just the beginning of the costs involved in repainting a bicycle.  However, it could well be that a complete paint job is not required.  Sometimes preserving what is present, will prove to be the least expensive and most cosmetically rewarding way to go.

In many cases, the paint and art can be tidied up enough with paint touch up.  Again, there are issues that prevent the results from achieving perfection, but the overall cost will be low, when compared to the full paint treatment.  And, the paint and art, though repaired, will still be original, for the most part.  Little value, if any, will be lost and at a cost significantly lower than even the home done, "brushed it on myself", attempt to pretty the bicycle up.

Finally, the cosmetics can remain untouched but to retain this state means that no bare metal should be showing on the frame or fork sets.  Bare metal includes anything that is not chrome plated, cadmium plated or made of some aluminum alloy.  It is a rare old road bicycle that presents itself in such a pristine state.  Very rare - but it does happed, from time to time, as was the case with an eighties something Gardin 400.  Cherish those original cosmetics.  They have value, even for many entry level machines.

However, before making any decision to repair or replace frame and fork cosmetics, one should first try to understand the ramifications involved in doing so.  Put another way, one needs to understand that painting a bicycle can, not only cost a wee bit, but might also have unexpected and far reaching negative effects.