Most vintage road bicycle frames are decorated with some form of art.  Statements of tubing type and structure, manufacturer, model and the like adorn these lovely old assemblies of tubes, lugs and drop-outs.

Some of the art, such as the pin striping outlining lug work, is hand painted.  More often than not, the hand painted art work will be found on older vintage road bicycles, although there is no rule defining this situation.  Suffice it to say that hand painting art work is a time consuming or labour intensive task.  Hand painting is by far the most pricey form of vintage road bicycle art work.

Water transfers, more commonly called decals, offer some of the documentation found on old road bike frame sets.  The water transfer is a form of documentation that is soaked in water and then slid off of paper backing onto the painted or chromed surface of the bicycle frame.  Water transfers, or decals, are very thin when compared to either hand painted art or even the more modern sticker used primarily today.  The decal made it possible to add detailed art to just about any surface without including the services of an artist.  This greatly reduced the cost of manufacturing vintage road bicycles while increasing the detail that could be included to the frame set's art work.

In to day's world, much of a bicycle's art is attached with a sticky backed paper like material which are referred to as "stickers".  Stickers are fairly thick and have a tendency to both peel and fade with exposure to the elements and the passing of time.  They are thick when compared to decals and often time left uncovered.  But they are incredibly easy to apply, even when compared to their predecessor the water transfer.

My grandchildren love stickers and they could care less where they stick them.  This phenomenon seems to present itself in the world of vintage bicycles also.  How many bicycles have surfaced with an assortment of aftermarket stickers plastered all over the frame set?  The trick, of course, is figuring out how to remove this unwanted art.  And do so, without damaging the paint or wanted art. Removing a sticker can go well, if you know what to do.  However; when one sticker is buried beneath another, the task becomes more difficult.


This procedure applies to Stickers only.  Stickers have an adhesive side that is intended to keep the sticker in place.  Often times, this sticky side is water proof or, at the very least, water resistant.  And the sticky stuff can harden with the passing of time, making the sticker very difficult to remove.  All that said, any sticker will come off of anything.  At least, that is what I have found to be the case, so far.

Two very special tools are required to complete this task - a simple hair dryer and a thumbnail.  That's right, a common hair drier will greatly facilitate the removal of just about any sticker.  Heat is needed, to soften the sticky stuff, that holds the sticker to the frame.  And a hair dryer is the perfect tool to apply controlled heat, to the frame set.   And a thumbnail is about the safest "sticker scraper" I can think of.

Have a good look at the offending sticker and attempt to determine its weakest point.  In this case, the forward lower corner on the front Dasani sticker is already starting to lift.  Spread the heat over the entire sticker area.  Apply the heat carefully, keeping an eye on the results of the heat application.  Allow the hair dryer to linger longer at the initial point of attack.  The warmer the sticker is the easier it will be to lift from the surface.  However, you do not want to melt the sticker itself and you will be able to see the sticker actually begin to change shape, if things get to be too hot.  Heat the chosen end and attempt to pick at or "drag at" one corner.

Once a corner "lifts" it is time to stop lifting and begin "peeling".  Lifting pulls away from the painted surface the sticker is adhered to and lifting just might lift the paint also.  Peeling pulls parallel to the painted surface, greatly reducing the possibility of pulling the paint away from the surface of the metal.  The second advantage to peeling is that the sticker will be less likely to break, forcing the need to find another weak spot to begin at again.  If you work slowly, and remove a sticker all in one piece, you will most likely have saved time, in the long run.

With the sticker removed, there will likely be a bit of adhesive residue left sticking to the frame's surface.  In many cases, a good cleaning wax, mixed with a liberal dose of elbow grease, and applied with a soft cloth, will get rid of the residue.  From time to time, an alcohol based cleaner will be needed, however; take great care with such a product.  Try using the cleaner first on a very small, and obscure, part of the frame set, as a test case.  If the paint is going to react badly, it is best to allow it to happen in a non-critical/visible area.

And that's about it.  A little heat coupled with a little know how, and off with the Ugly Art.  The Fiori frame set is all de-stickered and looks not bad.  The next step, of course, is a complete cleaning, followed by a thorough waxing.  One does have to admit that the frame set looks much better now!