Oversimplified: Powder Coat vs. Paint

January 25, 2016

Here's the thing, cities are hard. As in, literally. As in, cement and steel and cars and corners. There are unforgiving surfaces everywhere.

But you're beautiful (learn to take a compliment). And your bike can be too, despite all those unforgiving surfaces. It helps to start with two things:

  • Be mindful
  • Ride a powder coated frame

Why powder coat? What is it? Glad you asked.

The Process

Powder coating is the process of applying dry colored pigment with a slight electric charge onto a grounded metal object. The powder is shot with compressed air and the electric attraction adheres the powder to the steel.

Raw steel Valencia frames waiting to be coated

After powder application the frame is baked at nearly 400º F, turning the dry pigment into a uniform coating that is beautiful and highly durable.

The walk-in oven: Powder coating is used on fences, car chassis and other large structures

Of the many benefits powder coating offers over liquid paint, this one is the most important: it's really tough.

No matter how careful you are, those hard city surfaces will come in contact with your bike eventually. The average powder application is twice as thick as liquid paint and heat cured for increased durability to protect against scratches, dings, and cracks.

Powder coating is also much greener process than liquid paint since the pigment is delivered with compressed air rather than solvents, and remains inert when not in use. Overspray is also easy to contain and can be literally swept up and reused, making it a zero waste process.

The powdered pigment can be swept up and used on another frame

Special Finishes

While powder coating can't achieve the intricate details and complex fades possible with liquid paint, there are some unique effects available. Most striking, the one we're most proud of, and the one you can only get from us, is the retroreflective glow of Lumen.

The Lumen coating adds thousands of tiny spheres to the powdered pigment. Each sphere acts as a boomerang, reversing the direction of incoming light and sending it directly back to its source. The result is a bike that lights up at night with no batteries required. For the full Lumen story, click here.

We also offer a perfectly clear powder coat that allows the idiosyncrasies of each steel tube and joint to show through. This transparent topcoat is just as protective as an opaque color but produces a unique aesthetic effect.

Gloss clear coat

All of our colors, including the clear coat, are available in both matte and gloss.

Matte clear coat

Gloss clear coat

Matte clear coat

Pro Tip: Dark colors hide dirt better than light colors. Gloss finishes shed dirt better than matte finishes. So to stay looking fresh, dark glossy colors need the least attention, while light matte colors need the most.

Made in San Francisco

We have each frame coated just before being built. Since that happens down the road in South San Francisco the turn around is fast.

When totaled, the winner for city riding is obvious for us: Powder coating offers more protection than liquid paint and that's what matters most.

Bonus: It's a cleaner process and a faster turn around.