The First Cut is the Deepest. Here’s How to fix that Mother.
People say that the birth of your child is the best day ever. These people are confusing ‘having’ a baby – which is very nice, with ‘giving birth’ to one – which any woman in her right mind will tell you is a fucking nightmare. So by process of elimination, the day you get a new bike is, in fact, the best day ever.
If we are to apply the same logic, the day you suffer the first significant damage to your precious new bike baby, is most certainly the worst day ever.
Recently, after a long and difficult wait, I was blessed with the arrival of a spanking new Focus CX Mares carbon fibre cyclocross race bike. It was love at first sight. Crisp white with red, white and blue accents, the bike is a little Evel Knievel, in a cool, retro 1970’s kind of way that makes me feel all warm and squishy when I look at it.
During our first weekend together, we bombed all through the countryside, riding on pavement, grass, and even gravel. This is a cyclocross bike, after all, and no matter how pretty it is, I was not going to treat it like it belonged in the Guggenheim.When the weekend was over and I was sufficiently and completely in love, the bike was placed lovingly on the hitch rack for the trip back to the city. Upon arrival at our destination, I saw this.
Breathe. Mother. Fucker. Breathe.
I’d had the bike for less than 48 hours and the damage from the stupid rack was worse than anything I have inflicted on any bike I have ever owned, including my road bike, which I have crashed effectively enough to be escorted from the scene by ambulance.
Well-meaning friends offered condolences. “It’s not so bad,” they said, “it’s a ‘cross bike, it was bound to happen eventually”. While all of this is true, when I looked at my beautiful new bike, all I could see were those horrible gouges.
This aggression would not stand, man.
I scoured the interwebs and interrogated the bike geek army for information on how to make the heinous blemishes disappear. There were a few options for a touch up – nail polish, automotive paint, or model paint seemed to be the most common suggestions. Riding the bike into a wall and destroying the fork in order to get a new one on warranty was an innovative idea, but I dismissed it based on the high probability of massive head trauma.
SO. Here are the steps I took and can recommend for a surface repair to your precious carbon bike. Keep in mind this is for surface damage only. If you have more significant damage, you need to get that shit checked out by a pro. You don’t want to find out your fork has been structurally compromised the hard way. Trust me.
Calm the fuck down. You will get through this. While I don’t like to encourage drinking at a time of crisis, this may be an exception.
Find a colour match. Being a graphic designer has few advantages in life, but having access to a Pantone colour match guide and chip book is one of them. When it came to shopping for paint, this little chip fit in my purse much better than my bike does.
Get some paint. I decided to use model paint – it comes in a shit ton of colours, has a thinner consistency than nail polish, and is significantly less work than trying to custom match automotive paint. The paint pots are small and relatively inexpensive, so get a few at your local hobby shop. Pay attention to the finish, they come in gloss, matte, and metallic. Even if you nail the colour, if you get the wrong finish, it will look like ass.STEP FOUR
Do some tests, preferably on an inconspicuous part of your bike, like the undercarriage of the bottom bracket, assuming the colour appears there. I’m not going to lie, touching this part of your bike feels a little inappropriate. Incidentally, this is one of the only instances in which flipping your bike upside down is acceptable.
Do a small patch test and let the paint dry completely. This will also allow you to make sure the colour and finish are a good match. If you have trouble seeing the test spot once it’s dry, you have your match.
This one is a toughie, and I can almost say it should be avoided. Sand the area with a very, very fine sandpaper. It’s tricky and you may end up making matters worse, so use your best judgement. After you sand, make sure the area is clear of any dust, dirt, and vodka, as the case may be.
Apply a thin layer of the paint with a good quality, fine tip brush. Use longish strokes, overlapping the good paint just a little. Make sure you do this under very good lighting conditions, and as sober as possible. Let the paint dry, inspect it to see if you need additional coats, and reapply as required, letting it dry completely between coats. This takes time, and waiting – as we all know – is hard. Hang in there.
If you are so inclined, apply a thin coat of clear, no-chip nail polish over the patch to protect and seal the area. While you’re at it, go ahead and give yourself a manicure. You deserve it.So there you have it. A ‘relatively’ quick, cheap, and painless fix that will (mostly) restore your bike to its previous glory.
Unfortunately, you will always know the boo-boo is there, but nobody else will. And as someone pointed out, over the years you will eat shit many times on your bike, and these little nicks will only add to the patina of awesome.