Vintage bicycles are rarely in perfect condition, "as found", either mechanically or cosmetically.  The mechanical issues are generally of minor consequence, unless the frame set's integrity had been compromised.  Components can be replaced and you don't even have to replace them with exactly the right ones at the beginning of a restoration project.  The cosmetics, however, can prove to be an entirely different issue.

From time to time, the term "patina of age" will be used.  This is an artsy fartsy way of saying scratched, chipped, faded or rusted in appearance.  And a bicycle's "patina of age" offers a host of clues as to how the bicycle lived its life.  Crash damage, including dents and bent tubes, will usually be easy to pick out.  Improper storage issues will be easy to see, most often in the form of oxidation and/or faded paint.  Modifications, usually in the form of drilled holes, will be unhidden.  Non-matching forks will become immediately obvious.  When considering frame issues, consider carefully.  In other words, take your time to looking (and feeling) the bicycle over.

If there is any evidence of mechanical damage to the frame set, be the damage caused through crash or simple modification, reconsider the idea of restoring the bicycle!

Before deciding what to do about the bicycle's Patina of Age, you must first come to terms with a fundamental issue.  No vintage road bicycle is worth more repainted, unless the original paint and art work was really really bad!  My 1963 Peugeot PX10, as received, already had much of its paint removed.  What little paint was left was contaminated with paint stripper.  I had no choice but to repaint the bicycle.  The same as found cosmetic issues prevailed with my sixties something Legnano Gran Premio, paint so bad that it all but demanded replacement, and art work that was non-existent.

On the other hand, both my sixties something Bottecchia Giro d'Italia and my early eighties Cambio Rino 2000 presented a paint it or don't paint it dilemma.  The bicycle's paint on the forks was all but shot but the rest of the bicycle, art work and all was not all that bad.  I decided to repaint the bicycle.  However, for most restoration purposes, one will be far better served by staying with the original paint and art work even though the bicycle might look much nicer repainted.  Let's explore that a bit further...

It has been said that a bicycle can be restored a hundred times but it can only be original once.  That is an all but self evident truth and needs to be considered before removing the old paint and art work.  If you remove the paint and decals, who is to say what the tubing material is?  And tubing material is of primary concern to many people who are looking to acquire a vintage road bicycle.  Whose is to say that the painted and reworked art work is a representation of what the bicycle originally looked like?  My Marinoni Quebec is a beautiful bicycle but the cosmetics are not original!  The bicycle has been powder coated and I really don't know what color it should be, nor do I know what the frame set is made of.  And I have no idea of what the original art work looked like.  I still really like the appearance of the bicycle, but not nearly as much as my absolutely original Marinoni Special that still wears it factory issued clothing.

Would you sooner buy a freshly repainted car or one that still wore its original paint.  If the paint is original, you can still see what damage has occurred during the car's life of use.  Now, it is no big deal to do a bit of body work on a car and then offer it for sale.  But what is the body work covering?  Accident damage?  Rust damage?  Bullet holes?  You get the point.  For my money, I prefer to buy a car that has its original paint still showing.  Actually, I prefer not to buy cars these days at all (but I do).

Now transfer that concern to the vintage bicycle frame set.  Does the fresh paint cover up any dents or holes in the frame tubes?  If so, the bike's ultimate value is seriously diminished.  Not only that but if holes or rust has been covered up, the strength of the frame set might be compromised, creating a safety related situation.  And that same fresh coat of paint can easily cover up any and all attempts to repair a bent frame set.  My own Peugeot PX10 needed to have the frame set straightened before the bicycle could be considered to be road worthy.  The point is, fresh paint and art might look just great but it might also hide something that is not all that great at all.

And fresh paint can be used to disguise what the bicycle really is.  It that freshly painted Cambio Rino really a Cambio Rino.  I know, for sure, that my Cambio Rino 2000 is really a Cambio Rino, because I am the one who painted it.  However, the other six billion people on Earth, will have to take my word for it.  They would also have to take my word, that it is made with a full chrome moly tube set, and virtually undamaged.  That's a lot of trusting, in  my humble opinion.

On the other side of the coin consider another vintage road bicycle that I hand painted with a brush, my 1958 Carlton Flyer. The Carlton might be anything but a 1958 Flyer.  The bicycle is a Carlton and I believe that it is of 1958 vintage but is it a Flyer or a Catalina All Chrome?  The original owner suggested the bicycle was a Flyer but there is no evidence to support the claim.  All that said, in my mind the Carlton is a Flyer, but I can't prove it.

Painting a vintage road bicycle can be a very expensive undertaking and once painted, a pain since the owner will be very nervous at the thought of riding and perhaps scratching his or her pristine bicycle.  Most people want to ride their old steed and most people are not filthy rich.  Bicycles that are to be ridden will experience some form of cosmetic damage, sooner or later.  With that in mind, spending several hundred dollars painting a bicycle that is to be street ridden on a regular basis does not necessarily make all that much sense.  Of course, the owner can undertake the task of doing their own paint and art work and save a lot of money in the process, but be forewarned, painting a bicycle frame set and getting it just right can be a daunting task.  Butting it "good enough" and looking fine is not all that difficult at all.

Painting a bicycle yourself can be very difficult to do.  What can be so difficult?  How tough can it be to buy an aerosol spray can and get at it?  Well, if you want to know the answer to this, give it a try and you will discover that the problem of overspray is an issue.  Because of all the different frame tubes, it is tough to get a smooth finish on all of the tubes with the spray painting method.  While painting one chain stay properly, the other gets painted improperly due to overspray.  And not only that.  Where are you planning on painting the frame set to begin with?  In your living room, bedroom or kitchen?  Not everyone has a facility that will allow for spray painting and spray painting creates a mess.  Paint spray and overspray will get everywhere.

Then, of course, there are skill issues to be taken into consideration.  How good are you at painting?  Or, more importantly, how good are you at doing a really good job at painting?  It is easy to paint a flat wall with water based acrylic paint filled roller and get pretty decent results.  But it is difficult to paint a picture.  Anyone can slap a coat of paint on an old lawn chair, but try getting that antique dresser just right.  Knowing what you are doing is an important issue before beginning any paint job.  And painting a vintage road bicycle is no different, unless you choose to learn as you go.

Learning as you go occurs throughout this entire painting procedure.  Almost every step of the way, there are opportunities to back up, correct mistakes and then proceed again.  With that in mind, let's begin a Street Restoration paint job by removing the old paint.