Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thoughts/FAQ on Ceramic Coatings

In no particular order.

-First, here's as high-res of an image as blogger will let me post of a HT/DT/TT joint with ceramic coating.

Ceramilicious
-As you can see, the coating is VERY thin and you will see every bit of what I did when welding (ie all the starts and stops, everywhere I wavered a tiny bit, etc). Some people like this look, some people prefer a smooth/no visible weld bead transition. If you like a smoother look, stick with powdercoat.

-The ceramic coating only weighs about 10-15g for the frame (to be fair, my scale is not very precise for objects this heavy, so take that with a grain of salt). In contrast, a powdercoat is about 80-100g for a complete frame. For FS front triangles both sets of numbers will be a bit lower (by about 1/3).

-The coating is so thin that it can be applied to the INSIDE of anything accessible without requiring removal (ie, the headset can press right in on top of the ceramic, likewise your BB can thread into the shell without a problem). Pretty cool if you're concerned about a rusty BB shell (but note that it's not possible to coat the insides of the tubes, so the bottom of the seat tube/bottom of the toptube will still be vulnerable to moisture if you don't take some care of your bike.

-Cost is high. If you want to know, check out the pricing here. There are 2 reasons for this: first, it's just harder to do than powdercoat, and second, it has to be shipped across the country twice (whereas powdercoats are done locally by a shop about 10 miles away). If light weight is your goal and you're on a limited budget, there are smarter places to spend your money as this fails the $1/gram test (ie, if you are willing to pay more than $1/g, you have a serious weightweenie disorder).

-Wait times will be longer. As of now, there is nobody local doing bikes with ceramic, hence I have to ship to Ceramikoat, they do the coating, and it has to be shipped back to me for final prep/headset and BB install/decals/etc. Expect to wait at least an extra month for your frame if you choose this option.

-If you prefer a glossy look the ceramic will not really accomplish it. It's satin or matte only. We can put a gloss clearcoat on top (at extra cost) but that will also eat into your weight savings pretty significantly.

-I have almost zero experience with the durability of the finish. It is claimed to be VERY good but I've already experienced some coating rubbing off (from a packing problem when the frame was shipped back to me) that indicates to me that it will not really be any more durable than powder. I have spoken with folks who had cranks coated who wore through the coating in less than 1000 miles as well (to be fair, there are some duck-footed folks like me who will wear through anything on their cranks).

-There is no warranty of any kind on the ceramic finish (for now). If you want to try this, you are a willing test monkey and if the coating wears off, you'll have to pay for refinishing yourself. In a few years when I have some time on my own ceramic coated frame to test it, that may change. You've been warned!

-If it were my money, I probably would stick with powdercoat, but it's a tough call. The coating is neat but the cost is pretty high (that may change) and the color selection is limited. If you're on a steel bike an extra 60g of powder probably shouldn't concern you too much, either. But it's the cool new thing, it can coat the insides of the BB/HT and part of the seat tube, and I got one of my frames done, so it's totally up to you whether it's worth the extra time and money. If my "testing" (ie, riding off some winter beer weight once the snow melts) proves it more durable than powder that might change my mind. 

Here's a quick shot of my FS XC bike (now even more weightweenie-tacular with machined down rockers!) that has been ceramic coated (but I forgot to turn off the flash, so it's not a great representation of the color - better pictures when I have the bike built up):

Yes, that's how your bike gets to Fedex (background)

1 comment:

RD Dale said...

RD here at Shawnee Bike and I would like to make a correction to say we do guarantee our coating and application as any paint or powder shop does. Our guarantee states that our finish will not crack, flake, peel, chip, craze,and will protect the frame from corrosion caused by chemical and environmental exposure including salt.