Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Shin Process

Many people have been asking, "What does the restoration process entail?"

Well, documented here will be the step of my restoration process.  I'm using a 22" men's Chicago Schwinn Varsity as the test subject.  Stay tuned for up to date progress on the bike!

Here is the condition of the bike as I recieved it.  The wheels have been removed and will be documented later.  But as you can see, it's pretty rusty, crusty and old.

Wash time!  The first step is to get as much mud, dirt, gunk, etc off with hot soapy water, (Dawn dish soap works best) and a soft brush.  For this bike, I was unable to save the original bar tape :-( because it was severly torn. 

I've also removed all the cables and housings before washing except for the rear derailler.  Here's why.

Tip #1  Pull the shift lever as if you are going into the lowest gear.  That will fully extend the derailler and hold it in place while you wash all the hard to reach places!
Here are all the parts removed after washing the bike.  This is where most of the work lies.  Most of these parts will go into the parts cleaner with degreaser.  Then finished with a wire brush, and soaked in WD-40 to get the moisture out.
Here is the frame, naked and cleaned with a citrus degreaser.  That bottom bracket cleans up nicely!

Shiny parts!  The degreaser loosens all the grime and dirt.  Then it's brisk work with a wire brush and Dawn dish soap to complete the job.

Usually the chains are a complete disaster and I just end up buying a new one but in this case, the chain was in good condition...just incredibly dirty.  No problem.  Degrease and wash.

Here is the fork before and after.

Tip# 2.  Even with all the washing, some parts are super stubborn rusty.  Usually the stem and derailler ring.  Save your energy and use a fine wire brush attachment on a dremmel tool.  It's a little messy so wear eye protection and work your garage!
Next up are the handlebars.

Tip#3 Use tin foil to wash chrome.  An unlikely cleaning tool but you'll be surprised how well tin foil and soapy water will polish these parts up.

OK!  Let's put the clean parts back onto the bicycle.  It's looking great so far!

 Tip #3 Save your old brake and derailleur cable housings!  I label each set with some masking tape and you can use them to measure out the new cable housings.  If they were the right size before, then your new cable housing can be cut exactly the same lengths as before.

 I'll get into more wheel restoration detail later but here is a "shot" of the bearings that go into the hub.  The ball bearings are easy to come by but it does suck if you lose one.  I put some fresh grease into the hub and use it to help keep the balls in place while I finish the assembly.

 Voila!  All the parts go back together perfectly!  The last step is to take her out for a test run and check if she rides smooth and straight.  I make sure the bike chain is lubricated properly and fine tune the shifting and braking so that nothing binds or is loose.

That's the whole process in a nutshell basically.  I hope you enjoyed reading about the process.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments!  I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Nice dude! Love the "Shin Process"! I do something similar out of my apartment in Lincoln Square. We should compare notes!

  2. Nice work, I'm doing the same thing right now to my old 79 schwinn varsity. Hope mine comes out as nice as yours did.

    1. Nice! Good luck with your '79. The wheels are the toughest part! Let me know if you run into any problems, I may be able to help you out!