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Making a raw polished Cannondale or Klein, has anyone done it?

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Making a raw polished Cannondale or Klein, has anyone done it?

Old 01-20-18, 06:13 AM
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Making a raw polished Cannondale or Klein, has anyone done it?

I remember back in the “glory days” of USA made Cannondale of the early to mid-1990’s. Going to the bike shop and looking at the new model year of Cannondale and getting in on the ground floor for the new catalog. It was as much fun (maybe even more fun?) than the 1970’s Schwinn catalogs.

One bike in particular that was really beautiful. And now in hind sight the asking price (maybe $949-ish 1993 dollars) sounds positively reasonable. I’m talking about what was most likely an R900 2.8 road bike, “nude” finished. These frames were gorgeous. I’m going on memory here since I have lost that year’s catalog. But Whitman Bike in Dayton, Ohio had the bike. I want to say it came with Ultegra 6500 (or maybe 6400) components/drivetrain. The 2.8 frame (or maybe 3.0) was nearing the dawn of the “CAAD” frames. This polished one was special order but was available. The frame was raw aluminum then clear anodized I believe. Or it could have just been painted “clear”. It was a great finish for an OCD collector, more of a garage queen. The few I saw in the wild suffered sacreligious levels of commuter abuse, making how they appeared in the showroom a distant memory of their perfection. Also the sales person steered me away from that bike saying that they got scratched almost from day 1 of real world use. These frames required extra prep on the welds since there was no paint.

Fast forward to 25 years and, wow - it’s 2018. Oversized aluminum bikes are now 2nd tier. “Made in USA” is now passe’. WTF is going on in this world??

Anyway, given this build-up, here is my challenge: re-create the polished oversized aluminum clear anodized frame. My test mule? A 1989 Klein Quantum. The first gen one. If I have it bead blasted the riveted cable guides will have to come off and be re-riveted. Same with the bottom bracket cable guide.

After bead blasting and removing cable guides the polishing would need to begin. I see this as a DIY job, yes. But it is also worthy of seeking a quote from the local motorcycle polishing shop. I’m sure you could spend many, many man hours working from medium to super fine sandpaper and on to power polishing through finer and finer grades of polishing compound until the desired result is obtained.

The 2nd hand market has no shortage of these 1990’s era frames from Cannondale. I’m sure that some of our C&V members here have considered the same thing. Can we get a few responses from those who have done it?

I’m willing to give a try to stripping and polishing this Quantum. The aluminum straight tubes with externally routed cables are about as robust as you could imagine. The rear seat stays alone are such an anomaly today that they are now quirky-cool.

Thanks for any history that folks can give on the (now rare) original 1990’s polished/clear and Cannondales or for how-to descriptions of mirror polishing aluminum frames. Regards, from Bill in Dayton (AKA “masi61”).

Last edited by masi61; 01-20-18 at 06:32 AM.
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Old 01-20-18, 07:19 AM
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Klein used a different alloy than your typical Cannondale of the era. Not sure how it'd polish up.

Google search shows Cannondales with a very nice polish...
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Old 01-20-18, 07:58 AM
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I stripped my aluminum Trek Y-Glide, did some swirl sanding marks then clear coated. I liked the look and it held up well.


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Old 01-20-18, 08:20 AM
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Found the one I was looking for while perusing vintage Cannondale catalogs. I was off by 1 year, it was was '94!

I will edit in a minute and provide a like to the 94 catalog. They made a polished track bike frame that year as well and it is super cool as well. The R900 came with Ultegra 6400 STI group.
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Old 01-20-18, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by sloar View Post
I stripped my aluminum Trek Y-Glide, did some swirl sanding marks then clear coated. I liked the look and it held up well.


Very cool! Not what I originally was thinking but wow! Yes!! Keep them coming.
Maybe add some close up photos that can capture the swirl pattern close up?
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Old 01-20-18, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by miamijim View Post
Klein used a different alloy than your typical Cannondale of the era. Not sure how it'd polish up.

Google search shows Cannondales with a very nice polish...
Please expand (if possible) on the differences between Klein's aluminum of the period vs Cannondale's aluminum of the same period.

BTW: I seem to recall speaking with my LBS back in '94 (when the '95 catalog was produced and new Cannondale's shipped would be considered '95's - A uniquely American marketing ploy hearkening back to the the new auto model year.
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Old 01-20-18, 08:50 AM
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Rocky Mountain sold a number of raw aluminum bikes with clear coat. I think they looked good and held up just fine. Here's a 91 Stratos, not mine.

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Old 01-20-18, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post

After bead blasting and removing cable guides the polishing would need to begin. I see this as a DIY job, yes. But it is also worthy of seeking a quote from the local motorcycle polishing shop. I’m sure you could spend many, many man hours working from medium to super fine sandpaper and on to power polishing through finer and finer grades of polishing compound until the desired result is obtained.
Yeah, I considered doing that to my Cannondale back in the 90s. The idea was to polish it out, then put parts anodized in a few different colors on it. This was during the color anodizing craze.... Remember Paul derailleurs? Never did get around to it... Other priorities at the time.

Anyhow, I've polished quite a lot of aluminum and can give you a couple tips.

Do not bead blast it. If you do that it will triple your work, as you will need to start with a coarser grit sandpaper to remove the bead blast texture. Chemical stripper will go fast. Stripper is way less nasty than it once was, but still, do it outside with a respirator.

For home polishing, wet sanding by hand is going to be fastest. The finer grit you start with the less work it will be. Each grit has to obliterate the sanding scratches from the previous one. With aluminum, you don't need to work up to super super fine grits like you do with lacquer. You can often go from about P600 directly to polish. Maybe P1000.

Sample finish/polish schedule:

Chemical strip
clean up with 0000 equivalent scotch brite
P400 in soapy water till it's nice and smooth
P600 in soapy water till sanding scratches from above gone
P1000 in soapy water till sanding scratches from above gone
hand polish with Simichrome or Ween or equivalent and a cotton rag

Clean with naphtha and give it a light coat of lacquer if desired. I like Mohawk tone finish lacquer for this. Or just wax it and repolish every few months.
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Old 01-20-18, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Yeah, I considered doing that to my Cannondale back in the 90s. The idea was to polish it out, then put parts anodized in a few different colors on it. This was during the color anodizing craze.... Remember Paul derailleurs? Never did get around to it... Other priorities at the time.

Anyhow, I've polished quite a lot of aluminum and can give you a couple tips.

Do not bead blast it. If you do that it will triple your work, as you will need to start with a coarser grit sandpaper to remove the bead blast texture. Chemical stripper will go fast. Stripper is way less nasty than it once was, but still, do it outside with a respirator.

For home polishing, wet sanding by hand is going to be fastest. The finer grit you start with the less work it will be. Each grit has to obliterate the sanding scratches from the previous one. With aluminum, you don't need to work up to super super fine grits like you do with lacquer. You can often go from about P600 directly to polish. Maybe P1000.

Sample finish/polish schedule:

Chemical strip
clean up with 0000 equivalent scotch brite
P400 in soapy water till it's nice and smooth
P600 in soapy water till sanding scratches from above gone
P1000 in soapy water till sanding scratches from above gone
hand polish with Simichrome or Ween or equivalent and a cotton rag

Clean with naphtha and give it a light coat of lacquer if desired. I like Mohawk tone finish lacquer for this. Or just wax it and repolish every few months.
thanks for this...
I would look to have something sprayed on it if I went to the trouble of going through similar steps to what you have posted above.
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Old 01-20-18, 12:46 PM
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The '16-'17 Synapse 105 was available in a 'Raw' finish that had some black-and-green grapics over bare alloy w/ clearcoat. Does not appear to be available for '18, though.
Nice 'bright' alloy, well finished but not fully polished. Looked mega.

Old Super-V's tend to show up on my local CL with some regularity, if I ever feel like doing an old-school build, '90s style with lots of ano'ed parts.

I'm also a member of a Softride owners group, and a lot of the 'wing' frame bikes get polished instead of re-painted there, too.



Chemical strip, don't blast. Scotchbrite, 600 wet, and hand polish gets a nice finish with less work than you'd expect, but 1000-grit, and a buffing wheel gets that 'hot chrome' look.

Last edited by Ironfish653; 01-20-18 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 01-20-18, 12:49 PM
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I polished my Cannondale back in the '80s. Looked pretty good and held up fine.
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Old 01-20-18, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Ironfish653 View Post
The '16-'17 Synapse 105 was available in a 'Raw' finish that had some black-and-green grapics over bare alloy w/ clearcoat. Does not appear to be available for '18, though.
Nice 'bright' alloy, well finished but not fully polished. Looked mega.

Old Super-V's tend to show up on my local CL with some regularity, if I ever feel like doing an old-school build, '90s style with lots of ano'ed parts.

I'm also a member of a Softride owners group, and a lot of the 'wing' frame bikes get polished instead of re-painted there, too.




Chemical strip, don't blast. Scotchbrite, 600 wet, and hand polish gets a nice finish with less work than you'd expect, but 1000-grit, and a buffing wheel gets that 'hot chrome' look.
Interesting! The “hot chrome” look could potentially look sweet with the over sized aluminum tubes. I would be tempted to remove the cable guide rivets in order to get a more uniform polish in those areas. Someone posted a Klein owner’s manual for the 1989 range that listed the correct sizes of rivets required for the cable guides & bottom bracket guide.
The local BMX shop guy is an expert powder coater & I spoke with him today. He said yes, chemically strip the to preserve the aluminum finish. As to removing the rivets for the guides he advised to leave them and just carefully apply more chemical stripper around these areas then remove the paint with a Harbor Freight brass brush.
He said he can put a powder coat gloss clear coat on there (once I’m happy with the prep work). He says he has done clear over raw aluminum before & the results were good.

Last edited by masi61; 01-20-18 at 02:35 PM.
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Old 01-20-18, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
I polished my Cannondale back in the '80s. Looked pretty good and held up fine.
Did you wax it or clear coat it?
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Old 01-20-18, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
Did you wax it or clear coat it?
Nope. Polished aluminum will not corrode easily, and repolishes with little effort. Nothing wrong with wax, though. Clear coating bare metal is a questionable notion - when it starts to chip or haze it is much more difficult to address than wax.
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Old 01-20-18, 04:09 PM
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^^^ Yeah, the thing about clear coat is that if/when the aluminum does start to dull under the clear, there's nothing you can do except strip it again, and start over. Might take a few years though...

The advantage of lacquer over more substantive clears is that you can wipe it off almost instantly with a rag dipped in acetone. Then repolish and respray.

I'd probably just use wax myself. Repolishing aluminum about twice a year will keep it chromelike IME. 15 minutes tops.
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Old 01-20-18, 05:02 PM
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I believe rgver3 @rgver3 polished up an Aluminum Trek for the 2015 Velo Cheapo Contest:

Velo-Cheapo Contest 2015- Entries are in, vote for your favorite!

I think some of the build is buried somewhere in this thread, but I think mixed in the PhotoBucket Mess.
Velo-cheapo before or as found thread or lipstick on a pig

There is also a thread on a Cannondale six13, although as I understand it, the frame was probably factory bare (with decals?). Still, one could potentially do something similar with a painted frame.
Legalize My Cannondale
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Old 01-20-18, 11:49 PM
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Seattle CL has an 89 Quantum listed that has been taken down to bare metal and clear coated. Seller describes it as "looks amazing". I much prefer the look of a painted Klein, especially if the original paint and decals are intact.

https://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/b...453585056.html



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Old 01-21-18, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by raverson View Post
Seattle CL has an 89 Quantum listed that has been taken down to bare metal and clear coated. Seller describes it as "looks amazing". I much prefer the look of a painted Klein, especially if the original paint and decals are intact.

https://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/b...453585056.html



Thanks for posting this. I tend to agree with you. I cannot concur with the seller when he says that it “looks amazing”. It looks functional in a stealth kind of way. Also, it does reveal what clean welds Klein was able to achieve. And the chunky rear dropout design which I previously thought was too simplistic, well now I’m starting to gain a new appreciation...
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Old 01-21-18, 08:09 AM
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Cannonades are readily available, and many of the earlier ones had "self stripping" paint on them. All the components and parts will be easy to find. Kleins on the other hand sometimes had unique bottom brackets, were noted for their beautiful paint jobs and are more desirable than a similarly equipped Cannondale.


Myself, I would go with a Cannondale for this project.
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Old 01-21-18, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by raverson View Post
Seattle CL has an 89 Quantum listed that has been taken down to bare metal and clear coated. Seller describes it as "looks amazing". I much prefer the look of a painted Klein, especially if the original paint and decals are intact.

https://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/b...453585056.html



I didn't do that much polishing work, but my bare Cannondale looked much nicer than that, even after years.

A vote against clear coating.
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Old 01-21-18, 12:25 PM
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No picture, but I once had a polished Cannondale R800, came with 2x8 Shimano 1055, so I'm guessing early 90's. It was OEM polished, with black lettering, and a black carbon fork. A really pretty bike that had to be wiped down a lot to stay looking nice. The 1055 group was particularly ugly against that frame.

It was light and a horrible riding frame compared to steel, so it moved on.
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Old 03-11-18, 08:46 PM
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[QUOTE=sloar;20120518]I stripped my aluminum Trek Y-Glide, did some swirl sanding marks then clear coated.

What did you use to clearcoat it with? What was you process? (I'm planning to raw my commuter with a similar-looking final product.)
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Old 03-11-18, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Yeah, I considered doing that to my Cannondale back in the 90s. The idea was to polish it out, then put parts anodized in a few different colors on it. This was during the color anodizing craze.... Remember Paul derailleurs? Never did get around to it... Other priorities at the time.

Anyhow, I've polished quite a lot of aluminum and can give you a couple tips.

Do not bead blast it. If you do that it will triple your work, as you will need to start with a coarser grit sandpaper to remove the bead blast texture. Chemical stripper will go fast. Stripper is way less nasty than it once was, but still, do it outside with a respirator.

For home polishing, wet sanding by hand is going to be fastest. The finer grit you start with the less work it will be. Each grit has to obliterate the sanding scratches from the previous one. With aluminum, you don't need to work up to super super fine grits like you do with lacquer. You can often go from about P600 directly to polish. Maybe P1000.

Sample finish/polish schedule:

Chemical strip
clean up with 0000 equivalent scotch brite
P400 in soapy water till it's nice and smooth
P600 in soapy water till sanding scratches from above gone
P1000 in soapy water till sanding scratches from above gone
hand polish with Simichrome or Ween or equivalent and a cotton rag

Clean with naphtha and give it a light coat of lacquer if desired. I like Mohawk tone finish lacquer for this. Or just wax it and repolish every few months.
Mohawk clear is a wood lacquer? You find this works well without any kind of primer?
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Old 03-11-18, 09:22 PM
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If I were going to clear coat metal, I would not polish it. The clear coat will be shiny enough and will stick better to a brushed finish.
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Old 03-11-18, 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by dneufeld View Post
Mohawk clear is a wood lacquer? You find this works well without any kind of primer?
Not just for wood. The particular stuff I recommended is actually a touch up lacquer with some additives. It works well, better than 2k IMO. Do clean the metal with a non oily solvent first. Nice thing about lacquer is that it can be removed easily with a rag dipped in acetone if you ever need to repolish or whatever. I think of it almost like super hard wax.

If you want to go extra cheezy, I remember people used to spray MTB prototype frames with hairspray as a quick and dirty finish. Slows oxidation 'enough'.
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