Carbon fiber bicycles are becoming increasingly popular now that improved techniques in manufacturing have brought the prices down. Made of woven carbon fibers sealed within epoxy resin, carbon frames are both strong and light. Painting a carbon frame requires a bit more care than painting one made of high tensile steel because epoxy resin damages more easily. But, with the proper care and gentle touch, you can custom-paint a carbon frame bicycle at far less expense than a professional paint job requires.
Cover your work area with a drop cloth to protect it from sanding dust and paint.
Wash your bike frame thoroughly with a mild degreasing cleanser such as dish liquid dissolved in hot water. Do not use cold water, because it won’t cut through oil or grease without excessive scrubbing.
Dry your bike frame with shop cloths. Don’t use old towels because they can leave fibers or lint behind.
Remove or tape over any parts of the bicycle that you don’t intend to paint.
Dampen a sheet of 220 grit or finer wet/dry sandpaper and lightly roughen the surface of your bike. Keep a very gentle touch because you don’t want to remove any existing paint, all you want to do is remove the slickness of the surface so that the new paint has something to cling to.
Wipe your bike down with tack cloths to remove every trace of sanding dust.
Hang your bike frame to let you spray paint both sides without having to wait for one to dry before painting the other. This can be accomplished in several different ways, so choose the method that works best for you. For example, insert a wire hanger through the seat-tube clamp holes and suspend the bike frame from a clothesline. Slide the seat-tube opening over a piece of rebar stuck vertically in the ground, or simply clamp the frame to a sawhorse or the edge of your worktable.
Put on your protective gear, which should include a painter’s mask, goggles and latex gloves, which will keep the paint off your hands and still allow you work the spray nozzle.
Hold the can of epoxy paint approximately 6 to 10 inches from your bike’s frame. Spray the paint on in long, even strokes. Don’t use any epoxy paint that requires heat to seal it unless you are an expert at heat-sealing paint. Appliance or automotive spray epoxy should work fine on a carbon bike.
Let the paint dry completely according to the manufacturer’s suggested drying time. Add 30 to 60 minutes if it is damp or raining outside.
Things You'll Need
Painter’s tape or bike tools
Wet/dry sandpaper, 220-grit or finer
Seal your paint with a thin, even layer of clear coat designed to be compatible with epoxy paint, for a longer-lasting finish.
Never use a chemical stripper on a carbon frame because it will damage the epoxy resin coating the frame and holding it together.