Thursday, January 20, 2022

Review Of Parts Past: Gun Kote (Cerakote)

 Today we are going to take a look at something you cannot get anymore. (Note: Well- actually, in this case, you can. You can still get Gun Kote, but there is a new coating called Cerakote which is what this post will refer to)  Parts and pieces that graced our rides in days past that were noted for some special characteristic, either good or bad, will be featured in this recurring theme from time to time here. I call it "Review Of Parts Past".

In this particular post the theme won't be about a part, but a frame and parts treatment called Gun Kote and a new treatment which s called Cerakote.  

My old 2007 Salsa Cycles El Mariachi in a "Gun Kote" finish. (Image courtesy of Ben's Cycles of Milwaukee.)

There is a bit of a buzz going round these days concerning a new treatment for parts and frames on bicycles called "Cerakote". You may have seen that SILCA is using this on water bottle cages and tools, for instance. But this story in "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News"is what caught my eye. Apparently, there is an effort to diversify uses for Cerakote by the company that provides it to manufacturers. 

After reading about Cerakote, it became quite obvious to me that this was very similar to a surface treatment I had tested back in 2009 on an old Salsa Cycles El Mariachi frame set I once owned. Back in those days the newest 'gun' related treatment was called "Gun Kote".  Now the new kid on the block is "Cerakote". Gun Kote and Cerakote are doing similar jobs with a bit different chemical make-up. That said, I thought a review of it might come in handy for anyone who is seeing Cerakote for the first time. 

Gun Kote/Cerakote is so thin that you can see the tooling marks in this EBB of my old frame.

These coatings are not paint. They are a coating which have the benefits of being very tough, long-lasting, and they can be applied so thinly that you can actually realize a weight savings over a wet-painted frame or a powder coated frame. These coatings are also fairly impervious to heat, are flexible so they don't chip or crack due to flexing, and they can be had in several colors. 

Downsides are that- currently- Gun Kote is best applied to metal surfaces since it has to be cured at a high temperature which carbon fiber would be ruined by. Cerakote is a little more forgiving, but it still hasn't been widely used on carbon fiber. Although experimentation with a different curing process for carbon is showing a little promise.

So, why isn't Cerakote or Gun Kote on all aluminum, steel, and titanium frames now? That's a great question. I've lived with, and I've seen the long-term results of Gun Kote performance. My old El Mariachi was sold to a local rider, and I've seen it as recently as a couple of years ago in a shop where I used to work, so I've kept up on how this finish holds up after a dozen years of riding.

First of all, the "showroom appeal" of this finish isn't nearly as nice as wet paint or powder coating. Cerakote and Gun Kote looks dull and dead in comparison to the more flashy, sparkly finishes you see on bicycles today. This would line up with what one builder of bikes said in the "BRaIN" article regarding how they liked the matte finishes over the gloss in Cerakote. 

Color choices are also fairly slim in comparison as well, so what you can get is limited. The frame I got was supposedly "Purple" and in intense light, you see that, but I would liken that El Mariachi color to "eggplant" more in normal lighting. It looked like a powder coated finish that had lost its sheen when this Gun Kote was fresh. So, the appeal on new bikes would be far less than with the finishes used typically. And I'm pretty sure you cannot get metallic finishes in Cerakote, further limiting its appeal and this contributes to its 'flat' look.

The Gun Kote finished El Mariachi in natural light.

So, let's say you don't mind the muted tones of Cerakote and you are still thinking that this might be a rad finish for your metal framed bike. Well, there are a few concerns to keep in mind. One being that this coating is super-thin, so it can be worn through more easily than a thicker powder coated finish can be. I'd be concerned maybe if I were riding with strapped on bags a lot, for instance.

Also, I wouldn't look at this myself for a gravel bike. The constant biffing of smaller stones and larger rocks would maybe take the Cerakote right off the lower portion of a down tube, the back of a seat tube, and on the chain stays in fairly short order. I had this happen with the Gun Kote-ed El Mariachi. The back of the seat tube on that bike is peppered with tiny pockmarks where sand knocked off the coating and allowed bare steel to show. Now, the frame, being ChroMoly tubed, doesn't rust as badly as you'd expect, and it is hard to notice these imperfections with this "eggplant' color, but on a lighter color it would show up badly. 

As I've said, I've seen this bike off and on since I sold it, and the Gun Kote is a bit duller than when new, which I would completely expect, but since it started off being "not very shiny", it looks pretty dull. Add in the fact that there is no "depth" to the color of this finish, no metallic sparkle, and no sheen, you have to have a certain taste and affection for muted tones to get on with it. Cerakote looks similar in the examples I have seen online. So, the similarities to Gun Kote would make Cerakote appear to be another muted choice in gloss.  Or maybe go with a matte Cerakote finish then.

Conclusions: Cerakote is a pretty cool option for metal, and maybe carbon, but it doesn't hold a candle to wet paint or powder coated finishes when it comes to "eye appeal". Yes- it has attractive physical properties- light weight, resistance to cracking, rust prevention (If it doesn't get rubbed or nicked off)- but the looks are where it is at for many of us. IF you can get by the aesthetics of Cerakote, or if you don't mind a mate finish, then it cold be a great finish for you.

NOTE: See The Standard Disclaimer Page to better understand my relationship and reasons for having been able to use Gun Kote.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

All too often one only hears about all the great attributes of something new and none the down sides. I have been looking at a new frame and I have seen some offered with Cerakote. Good to know, thanks for this post.