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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Adventures in Shellac: Fancy Bicyclist Part 7

Welcome friends to another installment of the Fancy Bicyclist!

Today we'll be talking about shellac.

No, not those guys.

Shellac is a natural resin which comes from the lac bug and is normally used as a protective coating or finish on wood. But it can coat other things like cloth, twine, and cork. This comes in useful for bicycles, as one can shellac cork grips, cork tape, or cloth tape. As Velouria explains so eloquently on Lovely Bicycle:

When you cover your handlebars in cloth tape, two things will happen to them over a surprisingly short time period:  They will get dirty from your hands rubbing road dust into them, and they will get soggy from rain and sweat - which can cause the tape to distend, discolor, and even rot eventually. Shellac will form a protective layer that will prevent this from happening.

So it's pretty...and functional. I can attest to both. If I didn't shellac my cork tape on the bars of my Long Haul Trucker before the four month Cross-Con Tour, I would have needed new tape by now.

Still, the shellac doesn't last forever and will start wearing off from the constant rubbing of hands against bars. Once you decide to shellac, you are committed to shellac. You will need to reapply. My fancy twining (that I spent three hours on before departure, three hours that could have been spent, I don't know, sleeping*) started to unravel by the end of month one, and by month two it was pretty ravaged.

Thankfully I was in Edmonton, where Mr. Keith Raving Bike Fiend saved my ass (or would that be arse?) once again. He fixed the twine, showing me a better way than I did it, and re-shellacked everything.

Of course by the time I got back to Portland the shellac was pretty worn so I went out and bought myself a new can of shellac.** This time I opted for amber color vs. clear. These were the results after about four coats.

I think they came out nicely.

Unfortunately one 100 kilometre ride wore a bunch of shellac off. I think it was all the rubbing of wet wool gloves. So I reapplied another layer. I don't have photos of this time, but for some reason some parts came out grayish. I don't know what exactly caused that.

And since I did the bars on the Long Haul Trucker, might as well re-shellack the cork grips on the Raleigh Wayfarer.

Not too shabby either.

Join us next time at Fancy Bicyclist for our next installment: How to obsess and futz with every little detail on your bike!

*Sleeping is for loooosers.
**Of course one can get shellac flakes and then mix it with alcohol, because that is so old-school and "artisan". But I'm just a Fancy Bicyclist, not a Fancy Ass Bicyclist.

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