Choosing Your Bike’s Color: Sometimes it’s What’s Underneath That Counts…

by editor on September 6, 2010

Santa Cruz’s new “bare” finish means that when your bike picks up nicks and scratches, you will hardly see them.  When you’re thinking about what color or finish for your new mountain bike, you might want to plan for the long term.

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Before You Go with the Eye Grabbing Color, Think About What Your Bike Will Look Like After a Year or so….

Brand-new, glossy, scratch-free bikes sure do look good… But they don’t look nearly as good if you’re the kind of person who thrashes your rig on a regular basis. Then again, if you’re the type who rarely falls, rides where it’s not so rocky… a bit of flash may be just fine for you.

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Is an Anodized Finish That Much Tougher Than Powder Coat?

When it comes to bikes, the answer is: not really… Anodizing can be much more durable than a painted surface, but just as there are different types of paint and processes that yield vastly different qualities, there are a range of anodizing treatments.

Hard versus “decorative” anodizing. To simplify things, if you know what your fork or shock’s stanchion or piston surface looks like, that’s what most hard anodizing looks like. You’ve probably also noticed that your fork and shock sliding surfaces are pretty tough. That’s hard anodizing.  While the subject is very complex, here’s a brief explanation of what “hard anodizing” is from a commercial surface treatment firm:

“…Hard Anodizing is a term used to describe the production of anodic coatings with film hardness or abrasion as their primary characteristic. They are usually thick by normal anodizing standards (greater than 25 microns) and they are produced using special anodizing conditions (very low temperature, high current density, special electrolytes). They find application in the engineering industry for components which require a very wear resistant surface such as piston, cylinders and hydraulic gear. They are often left unsealed, but may be impregnated with materials such as waxes or silicone fluids to give particular surface properties…”

The primary point here is that the only bike frame we know of that was ever hard anodized were special order, Maverick frames. Other than the few that were sold, the other 99%+ anodized mountain bike frames have thinner anodized films and are much less durable and scratch resistant. In the end, we’d say that a fall or collision that puts a scratch in a powder coated frame will do the same to most anodized frames.

Not sure what powder coat is all about? Click here

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What About Carbon Frames?

As you can see, the inside of this carbon fiber frame looks pretty much like the outside… And while many people like the carbon fiber finish, as has been the case with road bikes, more and more mountain bikes are “painted” these days. And there are a few things you should know about painting a carbon fiber frame before you go that way.

1 Carbon fiber frames are “wet” painted, meaning they are painted the old fashion way, complete with solvents and long drying times: powder coating requires heating the frames to very high temperatures, something you can’t do with carbon fiber components.

2 If you try and remove the paint on your carbon fiber frame with paint remover or other solvents, you just might dissolve your frame. Not good. Not good at all.

3 Standard “bead blasting” media used to remove paint from aluminum and steel bike frames will destroy your carbon fiber frame and do it immediately

The bottom line is that it’s a lot more complicated – and probably expensive – to have a painted carbon fiber frame re-painted… and remember, the wet-paint process used on all carbon frames is not nearly as durable as the power coat painting method used on metal mountain bike frames.

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BIKESKILLS Recommendation on Colors and Finishes: Get What You Want!

An increasing number of bike companies give you a chance to see what different color and component configurations will look like, on line.  Santa Cruz Bicycles isn’t alone with its on-line Bike Builder.  Check out the bikes you’re interested websites, they just might offer you a way to see an array of color and finishes that you can’t otherwise find at your local bike dealer.

Bikes are so personal, you really should, in the end, get what you want… Sure, there are advantages of having an aluminum frame that’s more or less, the same on the outside as it is through-and-through. And there’s no doubt that having to go through the hassle and expense of having a carbon fiber frame re-finished will be just that. However, if you love bikes like we love bikes, just think about it a little more before you pull the buy trigger! And the time spent thinking, planning, even building that new rig is half the fun, right?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Karl Rogne September 9, 2010 at 9:17 am

I wasn’t so sure about the clear coated raw finish, now that I have built it up, ridden it and seen it from every angle with some dirt on it, I love it!

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