“Nude” Carbon Needs Sunscreen… Really.

When we built our collection of Calfee bikes I opted to leave off the paint and clear coat as a way of freeing myself of being overly concerned with protecting our painted frames from nicks and scuffs.  For the most part, it’s been a great choice.

Nude Calfee headtube area recently coated with Aerospace 303

However, owning a Calfee or any other composite-framed bike frame that has an au natural finish is similar to owning a bike with polished aluminum cranks from daVinci: they ain’t no maintenance, just low maintenance.  For example, if you don’t wipe down your daVinci cranks after a ride to remove any sweat or sports-drink residue, the chemicals in that residue will leave marks in the aluminum that can’t be wiped away the next day.  Moreover, the longer you let those sweat spots sit the harder the stains, or worse, the etching will be to remove.

With unpainted composite frames, it’s UV light that can play havoc with the finish.  You see, while UV light won’t weaken the frame, it will give the exposed epoxy that binds the carbon fiber fabrics together a yellowish tint over time UNLESS you keep the frame coated with a UV protectant. Calfee recommends the use of Aerospace 303.  Aerospace 303 is great stuff, but having used it on other materials and vinyl convertible tops I’ve found that it has one really undesirable property: as it gets wet an oily slick forms that finds its way into all kinds of places.  So, for the past two years I’ve been using a slightly different product called RaggTopp, a vinyl convertible top protectant that we’ve used on Debbie’s Honda S2000 roadster for the past five and half years with excellent results.  RaggTopp seems to dry into a more durable state that doesn’t wash off which made it desirable for the bike.  However, because it dries to a flat finish and doesn’t run I sometimes forgot to reapply the stuff on a semi-regular basis, i.e., about once a month is probably the right interval.

Well, son-of-a-gun if I didn’t notice that a few yellowish spots have started to appear on our Calfee!  I immediately recognized these yellowish spots because Debbie’s Calfee Luna Pro is a second-hand nude frame that didn’t get enough sunscreen either.  So, this past week I broke down and gave back in to using Aerospace 303.

Really close-up view of previous head-tube photo that lets you see what a nude frame looks like as well as the slight yellowing.

On the bright side, it does give the unpainted carbon frame a much darker hue and an Armor All – like sheen which is pretty nice looking and seems to have a compounding effect, i.e., the more applications you make the more deep and glossy it becomes over time.  Of course, after the first two hot and sweaty rides the frame was a mess with streaks and splotches of 303 all over the place.  Cest la vie.  Guess I’ll need to go and update my Calfee Journal.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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