The spokes on my 83 raleigh aren't in the best shape. They're all there and structurally sound, but the aluminum (maybe steel?) has that whitish, rough oxidation all over it. It's only on the surface, so it's still safe to ride. I'm considering painting over them. Both for the look of it, to mask the nastiness, as well as to preserve it from further pitting. Is this something people 'do'? Anyone have experience with this process? Tips, colors, suggestions...?
They are either chromed or galvanized steel. Since you say "whitish" I'm guessing they are galvanized. Painting them is not a good idea and wouldn't last long if you did. I suggest going to an auto parts store near you and picking up a can of a product called "Nev'r Dull". Cost about $4. It's in a silver can about 3 inches in diameter and about 4 inches tall. It's a wadding compound for removing oxidation and for polishing. Pick up some shop rags while you are there, too. I buy the cheap-o bag of red rags. Tear off a little piece of the Nev'r Dull and spend about 5-6 seconds rubbing it up and down on a spoke in a quick repetitive way. Then take the rag and rub it down the same way for a few seconds. It should remove most of the oxidation, and if you're really lucky that spoke might also be shiny. Keep going until it's all to your liking.
My spokes looked like that too - no pitting but oxidized galvanized steel - old and dull.
I just recently did a wet sanding with 400 grit paper, this took everyting off quickly and made them clean & shiny. Then I buffed them hard up and down each spoke with #000 steel wool to make them smooth and now they look factory new! At this point, you could even use a polish as mentioned above(I'm going to now) and they will sparkle.