A few weeks ago, I decided to build a new bike. There was an old 26″ MTB frame lying around, I had all the parts, so why not!
For some stupid reason, I happen to only like blue bikes. That’s a bit crazy, given the fact that I am not a fan of blue: I don’t like blue clothes except jeans, I don’t like blue cars a bit, I don’t like blue motorbikes, maybe I like blue watch dials, to a degree. So I decided to challenge myself, and paint a bike that has no blue on it.
I have a compressor, few spray guns, hardeners, reducers, and thinners, but not paint. Besides, I’m too lazy these days to mix and paint various colors. So I decided to go for spray paint, which I don’t like. I talked about this much already, there are many downsides to spray paints or rattle cans: they don’t harden easily, they are not durable as automotive paints, or properly UV-proof.
Not all rattle cans are created equal: I’ve seen 2K clearcoats in a can, where hardener and clearcoat is not mixed together until you break the seal, which gives you 24 hours after 2 parts are mixed. These are hard to get and much more expensive compared to automotive products.
I decided to go with Molotow in this case, which I never tried before but read good things about it.
Molotow: a superb paint, but…
Don’t get me wrong: Molotow is the best spray paint I’ve come across in almost all aspects, except for one critical thing, but let me why I bought them first: first of all, they have exceptional colors. It has the best palette I’ve seen so far, at least amongst the products sold in my country. Second, the nozzles and consistency are incredible: it atomizes paint like a nice paint gun, almost impossible to have runs, which I tried many times and hardly succeeded!
Third, it covers exceptionally well. If I were to use a single color, I could paint the frame with a half can, which is 1/3 or at least half with other spray paint I’ve tried before.
So why it failed, and how ?
The problem with Molotow is, it hardens very slowly and does not set hard. After a few days, even alcohol can dissolve it, without much effort. If you use spray paints often, you may easily notice it smells different. Molotow is a big name amongst graffiti artists, so I guess it’s formulated for easy removal. That’s just a theory, but it makes sense. I got the impression that, with a pressure washer and some alcohol, it may be removed from metal surfaces like trains, containers, or even plaster walls.
The paint itself is not very glossy, so I also bought the clear coat. Although advertised as “not super shiny”, I must say it’s super clear and bright, even compared to the glossiest clearcoats for automotive paints. Regarding color intensity and shine, I’m super pleased with the results, but I doubt it will last. I’d like to try it with an automotive grade 2K clearcoat, but I almost tell without trying that using such products would ruin the paint, as the chemistries seem to be extremely different. Thinking that even alcohol can easily dissolve the paint, reducers in automotive paints would ruin it.
Will it survive ?
I used a clearcoat, not just for added shine: it’s a thicker coat in nature than a topcoat, protects paint, chips and other paint damage does not look as bad, as clearcoat is..clear. When it becomes dull, or damaged, you just sand it lightly and add a few coats of clear coat again, and it’s good as new. Even I paint a topcoat, I try to do at least two clearcoats.
With paint jobs including multiple colors, in my case it’s 3, adding a clearcoat is much more important. Painting with multiple colors is not easy. You have to do a lot of masking, have to wait for the paint to set, otherwise, tape will damage it. Rather than doing these tedious tasks over and over again, just reapplying clearcoat is easier, much less labor-intensive, and cheaper.
So, worst-case scenario is, I’d clearcoat the frame every year. If I’ve used automotive grade paint and a clear coat, I wouldn’t bother for at least 10 years, probably 20 years or more, if babied.
Are rattle cans worth it ?
In most cases, no. These days, you can buy a cheap airbush kit with a compressor, which will do the job on a bike frame. It’s a worthwhile invest, doesn’t take much space as a big compressor and spray guns / accessories combined. Besides, since it won’t be cheap as buying few cans of paint, you can use it for many projects and probably will pay itself after 2 paint jobs.
I used rattle cans just because I was lazy at the moment and want to test Molotow’s. I was blown away with their quality, except for the fact that they they’re not the most suitable type of paint for the job. The only big downside is, they set very slow. Really slow. After 3-4 days, I believe it’s hard enough to apply painters’ tape, but I was mistaken: it was like 25 degrees Celcius, I didn’t apply too much pressure, and the tape stayed half an hour at max, but still ruined the paint underneath. So, I had to resand, and repaint.
For quick projects, rattle cans are ok, but for some serious work, they aren’t. For example, I wouldn’t paint a crankset with it. Chemical resistance is very low for Molotow, but it’s not too much different for the other brands I tried. They cannot be comparable to automotive paints, in any sense. And the worst of it begins after the paintjob: you’ll have hard time polishing. Since any clearcoat that is not 2K will not set hard enough, rubbing compounds do not work great with them. For this reason, you have to care for them much better, compared to automotive paint. You can get away with 2 waxing sessions for the automotive paint, which will still keep your bike in great condition, shiny and new, but for rattle cans, you have to do this religiously, and 4 times a year may still not be enough.