There’s a right and a wrong way to do something. Sure, you could whip out a set of paintbrushes and start painting your bike rims but the end result would mirror the effort you put into it. Painting rims and making them look professionally done takes a little more dedication than that. You’ll need the right tools and a bit of patience to get the job done right.
To properly paint bicycle rims, first remove the tires and clear away any stickers using nail polish remover. Once prepped, use metal-safe spray paint to lay an even coat of color across the rim. After the paint has dried, seal the paint using a clear coat. Only after everything has dried can you reinstall the tires and test out your newly painted rims.
In this guide, we’ll help you learn how to paint bike rims by carefully walking you through each step. If you’re ready to breathe some new life into your bicycle, let’s get started!
What You Should Know Before You Start Painting
Before we show you how to paint bike rims, there are a few things you should know. This way, you can go into the project fully informed and be as prepared as possible. Here’s what you need to know:
- Standard paints will not adhere to aluminum – Before you go out and buy any old paint, be aware that most standard spray paints will not adhere to aluminum. Its non-porous surface struggles to absorb the material, making it much harder to paint. Therefore, if your bicycle has aluminum rims, you’ll need to purchase special aluminum paint.
- You can paint over existing paint – Don’t worry if your rims are already painted. You can simply paint over the existing paint job without priming the rims. Just sand the rims a little bit to help create a smooth surface for the paint to stick to.
- Use metal-safe paint – Be sure to use metal-safe paint. Although aluminum paints are specifically designed to stick to aluminum surfaces, if your rims are made from steel, you still need to use metal-safe paint. We recommend an anti-rust option, such as Rust-Oleum.
- Get creative – One of the best parts about painting your own bike rims is that you can choose any color you want. Whether you want a classic black or a bright neon pink, the choice is yours. Don’t be afraid to express your creativity!
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the step-by-step process of how to paint bike rims.
Step 1 – Remove the Tires and Prep the Rims
Before you learn how to paint bike rims, you’ll first have to prepare the rims by removing the tires and clearing away any stickers or added decoration. This step is fairly straightforward and can be done by following these easy steps:
- Position your bicycle – Flip your bike over and rest it on its handlebars so that the chain is facing upward. If you’re worried about damaging the seat or the handlebars, you can also lay your bicycle on its side. Set the gears to their lowest position before removing the back tire.
- Remove the wheel – Most modern bikes have a quick-release lever that allows you to easily remove the wheel. Simply lift the lever, detach the brake cables by squeezing the calipers, and lift the wheel off its frame. If your bike doesn’t have a quick release, you’ll have to unbolt the wheel using a wrench.
- Deflate the tires – Depress the air valve to release all of the air from your tires. Gently squeezing the tires as they deflate will help speed up the deflation process.
- Remove the tire – Shimmy a tire lever between the tire and rim to loosen the assembly. If your tires have tubes, pull out the tub before removing the entire assembly. If your tires are tubeless, simply pull the tire over the rim. If you do not have a tire lever, you can break the bead seal by squeezing both sides towards the middle of the wheel.
- Tidy the rim – Using soapy water, rubbing alcohol, or some nail polish remover, clean any sealant, stickers, or built-up grime from the rim to create a clean and smooth surface for the paint to adhere to.
Now that you’re all prepped, let’s take a look at how to paint bike rims!
Step 2 – Paint Your Rims
The actual painting process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes but be sure to cover the entirety of your bike rim before leaving the paint to dry. You’ll need some metal-safe spray paint, a can of clear coat, painter’s tape, and some string to get started. Once you have your materials on hand, follow these steps to learn how to paint bike rims:
- Hang your rims – Using some string, tie up your bike rims so they hang above the ground. By hanging your rims, you’ll be able to spray the entire surface without flipping or smearing the paint.
- Tape the spokes – If you don’t want to paint the spokes, cover them with some tape. Alternatively, you can use tape to get creative and only cover part of the spokes. This can create a unique design and add character to your rims.
- Start spraying – Using metal-safe paint, start spraying your rims. Spray paint will help create a smooth and even coat, free from brush marks and uneven textures. Go easy at first, though. A light coat will dry quickly and you can then go back over it again to help the color settle into the rim.
- Apply a clear coat – After the paint dries, be sure to go over it with a sprayable clear coat to lock in the color and protect your new paint job. It doesn’t matter whether you use a high-gloss or matte coat but by using these products, you’ll help the paint harden and extend its lifespan.
Once the paint and clear coat have both dried, remove any remaining tape and begin reassembling the tire and wheel assemblies.
Step 3 – Reinstall the Tires
After your paint has dried, you can now reinstall your tires and take your newly painted rims for a spin! If your bike’s tires are tubeless, you’ll need some sealant and rim tape on hand to recreate the necessary seal between your tires and the bead seat. Whichever type of tire you use, though, simply follow these steps to reassemble your wheels:
For Tube-Type Tires
- Prepare the tube – If you’re using a tube-type tire, start by unpacking a new tube and laying it out flat. You can use a floor pump or a hand pump to add air into the tube to help it keep its shape as you start positioning it into the tire.
- Wrap the tire around the rim – Before you can insert the tube, first wrap the tire around the rim. It doesn’t have to be snug against the rim just yet, though, since you need to insert the tube. Just wrap it enough to give shape and support.
- Insert the tube – Shimmy the tube under the tire, making sure to follow the edge of the rim without bending or twisting the tube. Any kinks will make it difficult to fully inflate the tube and could lead to possible ruptures.
- Fully inflate the tube – Using a hand or floor pump, inflate your tires to the appropriate PSI. Most road bike tires should sit between 80 and 140 PSI, while hybrid tires need between 50 and 70 PSI.
For Tubeless Tires
- Apply rim tape – Start by using a measuring tape to measure the circumference of your rims. This will determine how much rim tap you’ll need. Then, cut the tape and carefully apply it to the rim, making sure to avoid creases, air pockets, or other imperfections.
- Screw in the valve stems – Screw the valve stems into your rims. Avoid over-tightening them by using your fingers. Using a wrench or pliers can assert too much pressure and crack your rim, so be careful during this step.
- Seat the tire – With the valve stems in place, mount the tire. Place one side of the bead over the rim and carefully shimmy the tire around the rim.
- Partially inflate the tire – With the bead seated in place, slightly inflate the tire using a floor pump to help it lock into position.
- Apply a sealant – You’ll now have to seal the tire by applying a line of sealant around the tire’s sidewalls. This will create an airtight seal, keeping the rest of the air within the tire.
- Fully inflate the tire – Once the sealant has dried, finish inflating the tire to the necessary PSI. Tubeless tires can usually make do with between 60 and 100 PSI.
Now that your tires are in place, you can then move on to reattaching the wheel assembly.
Step 4 – Reinstall the Wheel
Now that you’ve reseated the tires, you can then reinstall the wheel and test out your newly painted rims. This final step shouldn’t take too much, as long as you have the right tools.
- Install the disc brake rotor (if applicable) – If you have a disc brake system, start by attaching the rotor to the hub. Make sure that the rotor is properly aligned before tightening the bolts.
- Install the wheel – With the rotor in place (or not, in the case of rim brakes), you can now line up the axle with the dropouts and slide the wheel back into place.
- Tighten the bolts – Once the wheel is in the dropouts, use a wrench to tighten the bolts. Again, be careful not to over-tighten the bolts as this can damage the frame or the dropouts.
- Reattach the quick release lever (if applicable) – If your bike has a quick-release lever, you can now reattach it to the axle.
- Test the brakes – Once the wheel is fully installed, test the brakes to ensure that they’re properly functioning.
And there you have it! You’ve now learned how to paint bike rims. Just remember to be patient, take your time, and use the right materials to get the best results.