I seached the bike forums frame builders section on this but I thought I'd also ask the question here (because you guys are so smart!):
What are the advantages/disadvantages of powder coating a bike frame?
I had some car wheels powder coated some time ago & I know that it is very durable. My guess is that the state of the art of powder coating doesn't easily allow fancy stuff like fade paint jobs or metallic paint jobs like solvent based paint.
I assume that powder coating is thicker than wet paint & therefore likely heavier. But how much does the paint weigh on a tandem frame? Is powder twice as heavy? Why don't manufacturers powder coat their frames?
Quite a few bicycle builders are using powercoating, either exclusively or as an optional finish. My '97 Marble Peak has a solid powercoat finish, my '98 Ventana ECdM had a wonderful, translucent red powercoat finish and my '02 ECdM has what's called a "SuperDust" powdercoat finish which is pretty much a metal flake that looks stunning. Like wet paint, the skill and experience of the powdercoater is what willl limit the use of powercoating, within limits. Attention to prep work needs to be better unless you want to chase all of the threads and reface the bottom bracket and head tubes.
The benefits are that it is generally more efficient and economical to use compared to wet paint, there are some environmental advantages since there are no paint fumes, it doesn't take a lot of skill to apply so long as it's used as a base coat or solid color, and its very durable. My guess on weight is that when properly applied, its no different than a base / top coat paint job. If clears are added on top to bury or protect decals it then becomes the same process as putting clear on a wet paint top coat. Wet paint can actually get pretty heavy, e.g., my two Erickson signature bikes (one solo & one tandem) have seven layers of wet paint: base + color coat + 5 hand-sanded clear coats over the decals. The S&S bike has a standard 3 layer finish: base + color coat + clear.
You'll usually find that places offering both the option of powdercoat or wet paint will charge less for powdercoating given the aforementioned efficiencies. Builders who stick with wet paint most likely do so because they've already made a capital investment in paint booths or have a relationship with a good 3rd party paint shop that meets their needs and the expectation of their customers. Again, wet paint in the hands of a skilled painter affords a builder limitless options on finish details that are often times selling points for their frames.
Again, if you do some checking around I think you'll discover that there are a lot of off-road bike builders using powdercoating, as well as a few custom builders and bicycle paint houses, e.g., Cyclart.
I was considering using a vendor that sells us products here at work (not bicycle frames). I doubt they have any experience with bike frames. I didn't think about masking the BB & head tubes. I was thinking that I could install screws in all of the braze-ons & then back them out when finished. The other complication is the couplers. These are stainless steel & would need to be masked. I assume that the masking material would have to withstand the baking process.
Maybe this is a foolish idea. I don't want our bike frame to be their learning curve. As I understand it, powder coating is less process sensitive than wet paint. They just charge the metal & powder opposite & spray the powder toward the metal. Some powder electrostically sticks to the metal, the rest falls to the floor. However, because the charge density is higher at the edges than in mid-surface, the powder tends to be thicker near edges. I also emailed Co-Motion for a quote on repainting the bike. It's really not in that bad of shape, just has a few scratches.
Had mine powder coated by a company who does work for my employer. Pick one of their standard colors so the price was right. They had done a frame or two, but not a lot of experience. The results were great. The stuff is tough as nails. I would recommend you take digital pictures and indicate everything you want masked or plugged. Even with the plugs, a little clean up with a tap was necessary on some of the threads. One item to be careful with is the top of the seat tube if you have a loose clamp. The extra thickness from the coating required me to sand off the powder coating in this area to get the clamp on! Powder coating is tough stuff to sand. Overall it freshened up a '94 Burley Bossa Nova and we are happy with the results.
I don't think I'll look into repainting the bike just yet. Some time ago I got the paint code from Co-Motion & bought 3 spray cans of dark metallic green from a Sherwin-Williams automotive paint store locally. There were a few places on the frame with scratches. Previously, I had tried to touch them up with poor results. I'm not really experienced with spraying but I gave it a try. I tried to be patient & do several thin coats. I followed up with gloss clear. The results are pretty good but the spray can paint isn't as durable as the original. I had the fork & stem off (the stem is painted the same as the frame) & I put these parts in the oven at about 200 deg F. This seemed to help cure the paint. On the center frame section, I partially repainted the lateral tube. This section was too big to put in the oven so I used a heat gun several times to warm it up & help cure the paint. So far it looks pretty good. I think I'll follow up with a clay bar to remove some of the overspray.
Its not perfect but it's a travel bike, it's 10 years old with about 10k miles on it.
While traditional 'wet' paint can do some beautiful/stunning paint schemes, powdercoats can do a very creditable sparkle paint effect; note some of the later Burleys that twinkle in the sunlight.
Of course, an experienced painter is a must.
Majority of our tandems have had gloss black wet paintjobs, with accents.
Gloss black is one of the easiest colors to match; get a rattle can of good quality gloss black and touch up the desired area.
Usually the least affected tube on a tandem for paint chips is the top of the boob tube. So, we've had two tandems that had airbrushed desert scenes on boobtube. A nice contrast to the gloss black.
Chroming of forks or seat/chain stays is another way to add a bit of bling/contrast. But it is difficult to find a chromer that is qualified to work with bicycle tubing.
Unless you want a super multi-shaded or intricate design paintjob, the powder coat is a great way to go.
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem