Stealth black on black, fluro, primary colours, intricate or chunky; all possible options that help determine the bike we ride. When it comes down to it, consumers will choose a bike as much on it’s aesthetics as it’s technical abilities (let’s be honest here ;-)), the manufacturers know this, so style their machines within brand guidelines and with an eye on current fashions.
But what if you could choose what you wanted? What if your chosen steed was painted the way you wanted it?There is a growing market for custom painted machines, either as part of the initial purchase of a custom bike, or as an aftermarket personalisation exercise. Some of the paint shops out there are true artisans, creating one-off works of art that are almost too pretty to ride, almost.
When visiting an artist you are limited only by what you can imagine, with flair, panache and a steady hand these folks are able to create almost anything you can dream of. They’ve got the skill, come get your fill.
But I don’t. I was notoriously bad at art at school, the images in my head would be distorted by the time they got to paper.
Obviously it made perfect sense for me to paint my own bike!
I rang up the best bike painter I knew - Stuart over at Ooey Custom - and asked if I could borrow a desk in his paintshop for a couple of days whilst I painted my Transcontinental-racing machine, a custom WyndyMilla Massive Attack, designed for the longer days of continent crossing. He laughed, kindly obliged, but promised me he wouldn’t help, telling me it was going to be all down to me, he would instruct, but not do, I would be on my own…….
So, off I toddled!
Day 1 saw the raw carbon frame being sanded, and then sanded again - taking off the lacquer that it comes with - it then has a degreaser applied and things can get serious!
The best looking frames quite often need the best designs, whether that’s an artisitic flourish or a classic style, it’s got to look right, and that’s why companies from Rapha to Ray-Ban employ teams of designers, stylists, and user experience people to ensure it all works stylistically. I used me.
My design was in my head, and I very quickly came upon a slight challenge - I didn’t know how to actually make the thing in my head appear on the frame.
No decals were used on the frame, everything is painted by hand, so it all had to be masked off, that is blocking out the bits you don’t want to paint and only leaving the bits you do. And well, it’s quite tricky. I spent hours lining up strips of 2mm wide electrical tape, ensuring that lines were parallel, evenly-spaced, and joining neatly. It was a lot harder than that sentence made it sound!
At this stage I realised I didn’t have the technical skill to do what I had in my head, trying to get 1 line to wrap across 3 tubes (from fork to seat) remaining straight and parallel the whole time and repeatable was way too complicated for me! Plans where changed on the hoof!!!
Base coats of paint were applied, remasked, and the next section repainted, then repeated again to put down the colour foundation - it was like being in the delivery room as each layer of colour was added, bringing my design(!) to life as it did so. Spray painting is an interesting experience, not for me was the tin of aerosol from Halfords, but rather it was all pantone-matched with a tiny nozzle, very intricate, very delicate, and very easy to spray too much in one place (you dry it then rub it off and start again when that happens!) - cursing!!
After all the colours are added, the masking comes off and the frame is there, fully exposed, in its coloured, but matt state - a smile can’t help but come to your face as your realise that you actually did that!
Next up is ‘flatting’, that is rubbing with paper very gently and carefully to remove the edges from the paint work - it’s quite an unnerving process as you are effectively rubbing off paint!
Stencils for logos are applied, a bit of gold sparkle is added to the paint for the logos, just because, and they are filled in.
Lacquer is applied, more fun in the spray booth! Stuart kindly informed me that at this point you can ruin the entire body of work done so far, too much lacquer and you get a run, a big enough run and you can’t correct it, can’t correct it and you have to sand the whole thing down and start again.
Then bake. Exactly as it sounds, put the finished work in a massive oven and wait for it to cook solid. 30 minutes later and you venture into the, now cooled oven, to retrieve your finished frame. It’s a wicked-good feeling, this is the finished article! It’s not perfect, it never was going to be if I did it, but it’s damn good, and it’s mine, and I made it!
I’ve got to admit, it’s actually quite tricky to do this malarkey, and this design was pretty simple! I certainly appreciate the effort and skill that goes into the more complicated paint jobs you may find, and it was fascinating to watch Stuart at Ooey Custom as he was working on the more artistic stuff in the workshop - if you are wanting to refresh your frame then definitely give the guy a call, its cheaper than a new bike