“You can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black” - NorthRoad Cycles, 2017 (And some bloke who made cars 100 years ago)
Every cycle that makes its way into our customers hands is meticulously hand painted, by us. We didn’t really intend for it to happen that way, but we’re told it’s charming. It’s been hard work and a journey, that’s for sure.
In 2017 NorthRoad bikes were only available in black, with the exception of the velocity red Ares. Then we started accepting requests for paint…
Black bikes were easy, the frames came finished in a nice matte black and all we had to do was add decals and a bit of lacquer to secure them. Moving to different colours and finishes was a whole new learning curve to climb. Mr Ford may have had it right all those years ago.
Luckily, “we know a guy”. A guy who knows everything there is about paint. Fortunately for us, this guy is into bikes, and is a generous font of knowledge and advice. To this day if we’re stuck I'll send a message to the amazing Daniel Jeszke of Central Bodyshop, Chorley, and he will help any way he can.
Daniel did our first Ares, and our first set of lacquered frames, and the quality is incredible.
Choosing to do the paint in house was a matter of time and economics. Daniel has a massively busy paint shop where he paints 911s, Testarossas, and E-types (fancy cars to most everyone else). To fit us in to the paint schedule would have been a major pain in the butt. Gun changes and mixing paint in very small batches looks like a simple and low cost job but ultimately when you add in all the small requirements that take up additional time - you find yourself at the heart of a complex and expensive project.
So there we were, with cracking bikes and builds… as long as you wanted black.
Keen to continue our growth and with an Oracle on hand, There was only one thing to do...
Inflatable spray booth purchased, new compressor bought and a million messages to and fro with the paint guru and the NorthRoad custom paint option was born.
When we sprayed the first few bikes I had some total disasters and several had to be sanded back to primer and restarted; oh how I hate sanding. Despite this, we persevered and we’re 100% confident in every paint job that is out there. A borrowed mantra - 'no shit leaves the shop' is entirely applicable, it just may have taken longer and caused me issues before it was passed good by keen eye Jane.
Two and a half years on and somehow we have a reputation for doing custom paint jobs. A good reputation, to be clear. So much so we are continually asked if we can paint people's existing bikes. Sadly there simply isn't the time. We’re getting more and more efficient every day, so we’ll never say never, but we’ll let you know if we ever get to that point.
Because we can't do custom work on previously painted bikes, and because we’re often asked about the paint process we thought it would be helpful to provide some insider tips and DIY options for you to try.
Prepare the frame. For us this means degreasing with paint wipes and then using a tack cloth to remove all traces of dust or debris. If you are working on a previously painted frame you need a nice smooth finish and make sure any stickers have been removed. Then you'll want to sand it with 400 grit waterproof sandpaper. Dip the sandpaper in warm soapy water regularly as you go. Use your finger tips to tell you when the frame is completely smooth and without bumps and lumps.
Prime- we use an etch primer for maximum adhesion. You can buy similar in local motor factors in aerosol form. Use even strokes and don't rush. Build it up slowly over 3 or 4 very light coats. Don't be tempted to rush this. Leave this over night to cure.
Graphics colour- we use motor paint specialists colourtone in Withington for our base coat colours and use a 50:50 mix of paint and thinners in the spray gun. You can use car paint colours in aerosol cans. Expect to use a full can for a frame and forks, maybe even two. As with priming, go slow with even, thin coats. Leave this to cure over night.
Graphics masking vinyl- while the graphics colour is curing I ask Jane to cut me the NorthRoad, box logo and any other graphic shapes needed on our vinyl cutting machine. She puts this on transfer paper ready to apply to the bike. You can hand cut shapes and designs with vinyl that is available at places like Hobbycraft.
Apply the vinyl to the frame in the required locations.
As per step 3 paint the main colour over the whole frame and the vinyls.
After about 15 minutes use a fine pin, or needle, or scalpel to remove the vinyls. This reveals the graphics in the colour you applied in step 3. Leave for an hour.
Lacquer - we use a 2k lacquer that is very hard when cured, ideal for protecting paint on a bike. It is a chemical reaction that brings about the curing so it will dry regardless of how cold it is. At home you won't be able to use this poisonous mixture but you can use an aerosol lacquer from the motor factors. I apply a dust coat where I gently cover the frame very lightly ready for the next coat. On the next coat I apply a thick, wet look, coat. This takes some practice and skill but gets me an amazing gloss finish and a hard matte finish I can rely on. At home repeat the process as per the colour and build up over several coats. Leave to cure and don't touch for 24hrs.
And that's it! It’s not rocket science, but patience and attention to detail are key, a momentary distraction and it’s back to square one.
If you’d like to talk to us about your next NorthRoad bicycle and the paint options we have available, please drop as an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0161 327 0904