Wednesday, September 25, 2013

OIRL Vultures Knob course preview

A goal we pursued this year was to start a state wide high school mountain bike racing league in the state of Ohio. Our five race series began early this month with 27 racers from 12 different school districts and continues to evolve with each race. After visiting three different venues, we bring the series "home" to Vultures Knob for the race on Saturday. As many of the kids have to travel great distances to participate, they do not always have the time to pre ride the course, so I put together a video showing aspects of the selected portions of the trail designed for the diverse ability levels. So grab some popcorn and an energy drink and check it out!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paint, it's in the details...

I've received a LOT of questions recently regarding the necessary equipment for painting/finishing your own frames.  Much of this information has been posted in other areas, but I thought I'd bring it all together here.

What do I need to set up a paint booth?

Will your booth be subject to the local building code and permit process, annual inspection by both fire department and insurance ISO adjusters, and located in a commercial area zoned for manufacturing? If you fall into any of these conditions, the process, construction, inspection process and cost are significant but not prohibitive.

At the very least, I'll answer some preference queries and then describe the qualifying factors for many of the OSHA/ISO requirements.

The booth size is determined by your needs, but I've found a 10 x 10 with a permanent fixture placed in the center to be the minimum I like to have to be able to fully move around the frame, rotate it in all aspects, and still have space to work on forks, bars, cranks at the same time. I use a dual stage compressor that feeds all my air needs for the shop; dual stage is important for the blast cabinet to maintain constant pressure and air feed rate for prepping frames. The compressor has multiple water trap/air filters in line to protect against air contamination, an issue that will show quickly in the paint booth.

The booth must meet fire resistant construction standards, meaning it will be fabricated out of metal or multiple layers of fire retard drywall. The booth must be located greater than 16 inches from an exterior wall with load bearing responsibilities to protect the structural integrity of the building in case of explosion. All electrical connections must exist outside of the fume space. Lighting is typically achieved by placing all lights fixtures outside the booth, cutting windows in the booth wall, and sealing the lights behind glass with airtight rubber seals. Filtration is a two part consideration. Incoming filtered air can be passive if the combination of supply air and out going air meets the minimum cfm defined by your OSHA requirements. The incoming fresh air should be climate controlled to provide stability in the paint environment. A filter wall for paint over spray entrapment and cleaning of outgoing air, typically two times the size anticipated for the expected volume of air to be moved is a smart decision, allowing for redundancy in protection if you do not change your dirty filters as often as you should. An explosion proof fan within the plenum to create the exhaust flow in mandatory. The final consideration is fume space suppression. for the 10 x 10 area discussed, a small dry chemical suppression system with heat activated nozzle as well as an external activation switch is recommended.

Total cost for the system as described can be kept realistic if you utilize your local resources for the research on requirements and do the work yourself. The last booth I built broke down like this...

Permits and Inspection Fees - 275.00
Building materials - 3500.00
Filtration equipment (explosion proof fan, filters) - 400.00
Water traps for booth - 300.00
Suppression System - 1500.00 (used)
Annual ISO hazardous environment endorsement on insurance policy - 250.00

Associated costs include all your guns, airbrushes, hoses, consumables, compressor, personal protective equipment, and hazardous materials disposal fees for recovered paint products.

Whew, lots of info to consider. Keep in mind, for every one guy who does it right, there are twenty folks with an electric box fan in a window spraying in a small area tarped off from the rest of the shop rolling the dice with his health.

The investment in finishing your own product is easily returned over the life of your business, the skill set is difficult to learn but very rewarding, and the outlet for creativity is unparalleled. I encourage every builder to at least experience the finishing process, as it will give you new respect for your painter each time you write him a check for another job well done :)

What type of painting equipment do I need to invest in?

First and foremost should be your safety; insure that you have the proper personal protective equipment to protect your health.

Ideal is a self contained air supply system for respiration,  however, a 3M half face respirator rated for spray paint use with proper ventilation through the booth that meets OSHA standards can be used.  Make sure you wear the mask as soon as the can of paint opens til you finish cleaning out the should not smell any of the process along the way.  Additionally, TYVEC coveralls, rubber/latex/vinyl gloves, and goggles or glasses to protect your eye's mucous membranes should be used.  Not that I always follow my recommendations, but you should  :)

With painting equipment, you get what you pay for.  I believe it's best to spend the money once and buy right with no regrets.

Good paint begins with clean air.  I use a two stage in line air dryer to provide contaminant and moisture free air.  This model from Devilbiss is the nuts...

I use high volume, low pressure guns exclusively for my liquid and ceramic work.  When considering HVLP guns, the three I'd stick with are Devilbiss, Sata, and Iwata with a gravity feed, .8mm tip, and 4-8 oz cup size. You will typically find these under the "touch up" category in most automotive lines. Here's my favorite in it's current iteration:

 Additionally, you'll want a nice airbrush for detailed stencil work, love my Iwata HP-C Plus brush as a general do it all.

How do you do your graphics?

 All graphics/lettering are created in Adobe Illustrator and then cut out on a cutter/plotter using specific low tack paint mask.  Of importance is having a rock solid cutter and media that is flexible enough for round tubing but holds a tight edge.  I've used the 15" Graphtec 6000 weekly for 6 years now, for detailed paint masking, decals, and the occasional heavy vinyl lettering for signs, running it with the plug in for Adobe Illustrator.

The Graphtec cutter utilizes a swivel knife to create smooth contours, adjustable tip pressure that makes it easy to move between media types, and multiple friction rollers to insure the media stays oriented during long cuts. The more spendy models will incorporate optical sensing for multiple layer cutting and printing, not normally needed for bicycle work.

The Graphtec is built like a tank, it has been one of the best investments I've made.

I use Avery Premium paint maks, 1850 series, for the majority of my cutter driven masking. This product has been renamed as Avery SF 100 and is also available as FDC 2905 Premium Paint mask film, as seen here ... . This works well with low temp bake cycles  for liquid paint applications.

If you want a paint mask to leave on while powdercoating multiple colors, consider using Argon masking tape designed for cutting masks for powder coating, here...
This product can be cut to your design and does not shrink, pull, or lift during the cure cycle.  It is removed once the frame is cool. 

Alternatively, you can use standard sign vinyl, easily available locally, for temporary masking with two stage powdercoat processes.   The base color is layed down and baked to a full cure.  The vinyl is then layed on the powder base as a mask, shot with the top coat color, placed in the oven for ten minutes to wet out, then carefully peeled away revealing the base color as the graphic.  The frame can then be fully cured.

Painting can be the most rewarding and frustrating aspect of building your own frame, requiring a whole other skill set that takes longer to master than just sticking tubes together.  Remember, all painters will make mistakes, the masters just recover better :)

Hope this helps answer some of the more common equipment questions,


Friday, September 20, 2013

Patricks 1940's Bomber

Patrick desired a 1940's Warplane motif with simple hand painted graphics and a distressed look that speaks of vintage parts and history. A modern-day relic, so to speak.  

We started out by laying down a primer/base coat of powdered aircraft grey, giving it a nice industrial finish.  While the base was cooling, I got to work on the graphics, simple military style stencil and bomber plane motif of the era, fitting of the handpainted designs that adorned many planes.  As I am not using any decals on this frame, I used the waving flag insigna that I made for the Smiley Bikes...felt like it kinda fit the theme.

Once the masking was cut, I rubbed the frame out with black, rust brown, and a darker battleship grey, using a variety of application techinques from crumpled paper towels, scotch brite pads, and 80 grit emory cloth to get the distressed look we were going for.

I then masked off the frame and airbrushed on the blue panels, leaving high and low spots in the saturation to give some depth.  Then the masking was applied.

As we are going for the handpainted look, I used a course horse hair brush to apply the white to the lettering and pin up sillohette.

The other masks, inteded for black paint, received airbrushed work, as the black sits better under the matte clear the thinner it is.

Immediately after shooting the PPG DBC Black, I rough it up slightly with an abrasive pad

Peel away the masks and you have your finished lettering in simple, weathered black.

I normally like to do airbrushed, detailed pin ups, but money and time were parameters on this build, so a simple sillohette had to suffice.  Clean and classy.

Some missions logged on the motif...airbrushed bombs in the same style as the black lettering.

The finished product after matte clear is applied...the final layer does a nice job of darkening up the colors and blending.

The Fed Ex guy stopped in for a delivery and saw the frame...he asked if that old bike was in to be stripped and repainted as it looked worn out.  I guess we acheived our goal  :)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Food for thought...

I get a lot of questions about framebuilding as a career each week via email and by phone. Many folks are enamored with the idea of pursuing a career in building, have attended a class and built a few frames, and want to make the transitio...n to professional status. There is SO MUCH to consider. Here's a short synopsis of some advise I sent out early last week to an aspiring young man.

When you build for yourself, it is a hobby.

When you build for anyone else, it needs to be treated as a business.

First, get it ingrained in your head that you are producing a vehicle that is capable of carrying it's passenger at high rates of speed, it's rider is subject to a risk of physical injury. Proper liability insurance is mandatory if your bikes are going to anyone other than you...that includes family and friends. This is for THEIR protection, not yours. When you build a bicycle for another, you must be accountable for their well being, insurance protects and helps fulfil your responsibility to the client in case of failure. Cost of such insurance starts off at about $1500.00 and goes up from there.

As a private builder, you are responsible for the frame and it's use for life. Just because you stop building does not relieve that accountability. Legally, you must carry insurance on your products for the rest of your life.

By forming a LLC or Corporation, your private holdings are protected by another layer of legal shielding in case of a suit for wrongful injury or death. Additionally, when the business is dissolved, so to is the responsibility to continue to insure the products. Legal fees for incorporation run around $1000.00.

Understand that building for a career and successfully making money is 90% small business skill and 10% fabrication. Too many folks get starry eyed over the thought of crafting frames by hand for a living and neglect the fact that you need to have a foundation in place before accepting orders, such as:

- Setting up the business (licenses, insurance, incorporation)
- Having a solid business plan (knowing COGS, product quotas each year to keep lights on, customer service costs, warranty costs in time and money per product, market niche)
- Qualifying fabrication skills (having product fatigue tested, meeting product standards like CEN)
- Defining your product (type or range of builds, materials you will use, options for finish, etc)
- Determining your benefits (amount set aside to pay yourself, health insurance, retirement)
- Determining the sustainability of this career over your lifetime goals...will it support you alone, a couple, a family?

It is a lot to consider, however, the reason so many builders fail is because they ignored the above calculations, instead blindly following their passion.

Honestly, this just scratches the surface.

My advise to you is this... keep building for yourself as a hobby and continue to learn and refine your skill. Stay in school, finish your engineering degree and add in some business and accounting classes to get a feel for the skills necessary to run a successful small business. If, after graduation, this is still something you wish to pursue, honestly look hard at the above criteria and determine where your business will need to be to support your career goals. If you pursue frame building as a career, set it up and operate it correctly from the start, years later, when you are still around and so many others have flamed out, you'll be glad you did.

Sorry if this came off a bit as "tough love", just want to insure that you protect your future and those that use your product.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ohio High School League

Been very busy on the 331 Racing Promotions side the last few weeks with the kick off of the Ohio Interscholastic High School Mountain Bike Race League and our Big Valley Festival at Camp Manatoc.

The festival is always a hit, as these trails are only open this one weekend each year.  Saturday morning was met very early with a half marathon trail running race, then a huge open riding and demo rig opportunity, kids races and skills area in the afternoon, and finally the inaugural Ohio High School race in the evening.  Sunday saw the next xc race in the Ohio Power Series...whew, what a action packed weekend!

The demo area featured test rigs from Trek, Specialized, Giant, Niner, and eight independent bike shops featuring bikes from Felt, Cervelo, Jamis, Smiley, Capital Bikes, and a few more that I am lax in recalling.  Despite the plethora of options, all the vendors reported sending out more demos during this event than even Sea Otter...a west coast event with 10,000+ participants.  Clearly a sign that there is a hunger in our area for all that is good about cycling.

Our kids races featured events from training wheels to age 12, with over 140 kids participating.  It is always a blast to see so many enthusiastic kids of all abilities enjoying a day in the sun on their bikes.  Medals were provided to all kids as well as bags of home made caramel corn, courtesy of Grandma Rosy.

The inaugural high school race was probably the most rewarding event I've ever had the opportunity to promote and work. We had 27 athletes from 12 different schools from across Ohio toe the line.  Ability ranged from an experienced Cat 1 road racer to kids who had never before ridden single track.  Without exception, every one finished with a smile bigger than I've seen at any race before. This 5 race series will be one to watch as we lead to the State Championships at Vulture's Knob in October.

Nathan of Wooster High grunting out the final climb on the way to the finish at Manatoc...

Twelve high schools and 27 racers competed in the inaugural event...all smiles!

Series #2 saw us at the twisty, technical single track of Reagan Park in Medina Ohio.  We had 3 less participants for this race but the level of competition has increased, with some fantastic battles on the final climb to the finish line.  In addition to the individual points, we are also tracking team points to have a school champion at the end of the season.  Holy Name of Parma is currently the leader with 7 points over Wooster High, should be a close competition as only the top three in Varsity and JV score.

The start of the Varsity race...Samantha Miranda sporting the #1 yellow plate to signify she leads the Varsity Girls competition.

Emily of Wooster charging the finish line to take 3rd in Varsity girls...
Our next High School race will be immediately following our Thorne Time Trial at Findley State Park on Saturday the 14th, 1400 hours.  If you are racing the TT, please consider hanging out and supporting the kids in the high school series.