Project Ziggy: Part One

In: Just Riding Along, NEWS By: Karl Rosengarth On: July 27, 2009

karl-mud-race-1.jpgOne of the sweet job perks at Dirt Rag is having the opportunity to test ride the latest and greatest bikes, model year after model year. It’s my job to have a swell, new bike between my legs as often as possible.  When I’m riding I’m working—logging miles and forming impressions on some newfangled bike or other.

Tough life, I know. But there is a down-side, I assure you. The main problem is that my personal stable of bikes tends to suffer from neglect for long stretches.  Then there’s the never-ending game of round-robin cannibalism that’s designed to keep at least a portion of the heard in running condition. Not a pretty sight.

Which brings me to Project Ziggy, aka my 2001 Gunnar Rockhound frame, my most recent mountain bike purchase. That’s right, my most up-to-date mountain bike is a hardtail from the V-brake era. No, I’m not a crumedgeony retro-grouch. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love riding full-suspension bikes. You see, there’s this steady stream of full-suspension test bikes to be had, and I figure that negates any need to purchase one of my own.

Hence, my own stable is a bit "off the back." Not that there’s anything at all wrong with my Rockhound. In fact she’s one fine steed. To make a long story short, I reviewed the Rockhound for Dirt Rag #84, and was impressed enough to plunk down some hard earned cash to purchase a frame of my own. Since then, I’ve ridden and raced the Rockhound frame from coast to coast, in all sorts of conditions, and racked up countless miles. She’s always treated me right. It’s just that she’s getting a little long in the tooth.

Nothing that a little makeover wouldn’t cure. At least that was my thinking late last year, when I stood looking at my partially-cannibalized Rockhound frame, with her well-earned battle scars. She was already on her second paint job (1970s Mopar muscle-car "Panther Pink"), but that finish had seen better days. I decided then and there to strip her down, give her a fresh paint job, and rebuild her from the ground up. I didn’t have all the details figured out, nor did I know where all the parts would come from, but I decided that the first step was to take the first step. I’d worry about the rest of the plan later on.

Cooper's Rock RaceAt that point in the game, I had a vague idea that I wanted to make the frame into some sort of "art project." I decided to get the frame coated in plain old white, which would serve as a "blank canvas" for future creative artwork, the nature of which I would determine later on.

I toyed with the idea giving out paint pens to friends letting them have at it. Or maybe I’d keep it punk-rock simple and slather her with a fist-full of stickers. I’ll have more to say about the artwork in a moment, but the first step was to apply the base coat. Since all I wanted was plain old white, I decided to not spend the dough on a fancy paint job from an established bicycle frame painter.

I had heard from friends about a local powder-coater who would shoot a bicycle frame in a single color for $75. That sounded right up my alley. Off I went, frame in hand. As I walked into the establishment, I was surrounded by a powder-coated potpourri: iron patio furniture, sprint car frames, and freshly-coated metal objects whose industrial application I could not discern from my casual inspection. The proprietor was friendly enough, and he assured me that he’d done bicycle frames before. I looked at the catalog of color samples, picked one, provided my name and phone, shook hands, and left.

I guess I should have asked a few more questions and/or provided more detailed "special instructions" for my job. Since these guys had coated bicycle frames before, I had "assumed" that they would mask off the openings for the head-tube, seat-tube and bottom bracket, as well at the canti brake bosses and the threads on the derailleur hanger and rack eyelets. Wrong. I guess you don’t get what you don’t ask for. When I returned to pick up my frame, I noted varying degrees of white powder-coat on each of the aforementioned undesirable spots. Rut roh.

Good thing I was not in a hurry to finish this project. There was plenty of white powder that needed removed. Fortunately Dirt Rag had the necessary tools to chase and face the bottom bracket, and chase the derailleur hanger threads. I invested in a tap to chase the rack eyelets. Good old elbow grease and emery cloth removed the white stuff from the canti bosses, and from the inside of the seat and head tubes. Somewhere an established bicycle frame painter is reading this and snickering.

Ziggy the Zebra Bicycle With the frame cleaned up, it was time to answer the "art" question. I brainstormed ideas with friends over the course of several weeks. Finally, Scott Wickham, storied local wheelbuilder, bicycle mechanic, knot-master, and Land Rover lover suggested the winning idea: zebra stripes!

The question then became: how turn a bike frame into a zebra. For that challenge, I enlisted the help of Dirt Rag alum and artist extraordinaire, Carol Clemens. We discussed a few approaches, and finally settled on Carol designing the zebra art on a computer, taking her file to a local sign maker and having them produce the stripes from the self-adhesive vinyl that they use to make outdoor signs.

The final product came out better than I anticipated. I never did ask Carol how many hours it took her to first design and then apply the decals. I do know that Carol researched the stripe patterns of real zebras, and made the patterns of her design very realistic. She even incorporated stylized eyes and nostrils on the head tube. The end result was so life-like that I decided that this frame needed a name. Ziggy the zebra!

The next major phase in this project would be scrounging parts and building up this beautiful frame into a trail-worthy steed. But I’ll save that saga for part two in this series. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few more pieces of eye candy.

Ziggy the Zebra Bicycle

Ziggy the Zebra Bicycle

[Ed note: Click here to read part two.]

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