The Touchup

April may be the cruelest month, but November is surely the dullest. It is dark and getting darker, cool and getting colder, frosty and getting snowier. Its one public occasion is sombre. I would lay odds that Shakespeare wrote his “winter of discontent” phrase in November. Grumble.

However, that makes it a good time to tend to the abuse and neglect, a.k.a. stone chips, suffered by Lady CoMo.

Lady CoMo’s paint has suffered from the occasional stone, and (most aggravating) shoes that rub across the crossbar. One cannot dismount a tandem by swinging a leg over its hind quarters without kicking the stoker in the teeth. This is generally considered poor form. Rather, the foot must be lifted, retracted, and replanted, all the while balancing on the other leg and holding the beast steady. Inevitably an unintended brush of the rubber sole against her shiny paint leaves a small, dull abrasion – aye, there’s the rub!

So this November I settled down with instructions from the CoMotion web site to make right the wrongs of our dear Lady.

First step, acquire materials and equipment: fine grit (2000) wet-dry sandpaper, fine artist brushes (00, I couldn’t find 0000), rubbing compound, microfiber cloth. Oh, and paint. Paint was not an issue. I ordered some a year ago (I have had these good intentions for a long time).

Second, give Lady Como a good, careful cleaning with soap and water and a careful drying.

Third step, steel my courage. I followed instructions exactly. The wet-dry sandpaper was soaked, fitted carefully to a sander and gently applied it to the blemishes. Sanding the stone chips was straightforward, but the crossbar scrapes would not smooth out. The sandpaper was too fine to make an impression. In fact, I couldn’t really tell what the sandpaper did anywhere. But I followed instructions.

0001 (375)

Sanding with wet/dry sandpaper

0001 (376)

Next came the rubbing compound. Rubbing compound is a white paste that is applied with a damp cloth and then rubbed vigorously. I must say it does bring up the finish very nicely. But does it remove the scrape marks from the crossbar? Of course not. It makes them stand out even more than before. Sigh. No matter. Instructions are instructions.

0001 (378)

Rubbing compound after sanding

0001 (379)

Microfibre rub for a finish

Here is an interesting example of using rubbing compound only to remove a minor blemish that did not need painting.

0001 (369)


0001 (371)


And now came the climactic moment – the application of the paint. The paint bottle was opened – and inside was a pool of tar-like goop. Over the course of a year the solvent had evaporated. What was left came out as a sticky, thread-like web. There was no way that was going on Lady CoMo.

0001 (381)


Pete Stasney at CoMotion came to the rescue. He shipped out a small vial in a big box that was innocuous enough to avoid the attentions of Canadian customs.

0001 (386)

As it should be

Out with the brushes, on with the paint. The first coat was nice and thin. So thin that I couldn’t see it. Let dry. I stirred up the paint a bit and put on another coat. Let dry. Well, that was a bit better. So I stirred it again. I dipped my brush right to the bottom of the vial to get a good load of pigment in the bristles. That certainly gave coverage. This technique worked well on the stone chips. But it may have been a bit excessive on the crossbar rub marks. Maybe those little paint blobs will give better protection against future scrapes.

0001 (387)

First application

0001 (426)

Stone chip after drying overnight

0001 (429)

It looks better in daylight

The CoMotion site offers consolation. “No one will notice your little touch ups more than yourself!”

5 comments on “The Touchup”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Good work Kern. Lady Como will appreciate that. Touching up gloss paintwork is a very difficult job and almost impossible if you are looking for perfection (especially as nothing is perfect to begin with). I suppose it depends on how much time you're prepared to put in. I'm in two minds about it. Rust protection I think is the most important thing. That aside, after years of failing to 'hide the join' I've more or less given up. Instead I've adopted the philosophy that visible wear and tear actually enhances the object. I don't mean real damage but the marks of usage that can make whatever it is more personal. I once saw a photo of Don McCullin's camera (the war photographer) and the dents and scratches (and possibly bullet holes) made the thing very beautiful.

    We've had a nice November in England. I normally dislike the month but now it doesn't seem so bad. Around 13-14 degrees and sunny – on and off.

  2. Chris wrote:

    My (second-hand) tandem came with cross bar scuffs and little blobs of touch up paint.

    One cannot dismount a tandem by swinging a leg over its hind quarters without kicking the stoker in the teeth.

    When at my freshest I found it possible to swing my right leg over the front wheel and handlebars when standing to the left of the bike and facing front. Big Dave in our 'brisk' groups dismounts using the reverse manoeuvre from his solo bike. He is 72 this year 😯

    There is a firm not far from me that some of the 'lads' have been raving about. The main business is restoring alloy (car) wheels, but offer powder coating as a side line, I think. I wondered how much they would charge for a tandem frame, but realistically it would never be worth it because the bike gets so little use 🙁

    I think there is a strip of tape on my cross bar and a splodge of paint over that.

    Good, patient work, sir. So when will Lady Como be out on the roads again?

  3. Patrick wrote:

    Which reminds me... earlier this year I was searching the web for "remove scratch from stainless steel" and came across a YouTube video showing how to do it. It went on for about 40 minutes as the chap in the workshop methodically went down through twelve different grades of abrasive with a special buffing machine with pastes and burnishing hammers are whatnot. At the end, the tiny little scratch was gone but I think November isn't long enough for much more.

    Anyway, here is Don McCullin's camera:

    Don McCullin - Nikon F

  4. Hilary wrote:

    You're a brave man Kern taking a sander to Lady Como!
    Roberta managed to survive for 7 years without a blemish but this year has acquired 3 small marks on her top tube. One was from when I leant her against an insubstantial tree on a French campsite which then moved in the wind. The other 2 appeared both together but I don't know the cause, I assume it was a stone thrown up by a car. The blue flam paint is virtually impossible to touch up. I tried with nail varnish but its not that good a match. I've settled for always parking her with the chips facing away from me so I can't see them!

  5. Jim wrote:

    My 90s Raleigh Royal came through customs on the return journey from Beziers with a nice dent on the toptube. I keep looking at it. but then again it's got a fair few scratches collected on it's travels. I often think about a respray but the cost of that and taking the dent out just does not make financial sense. Especially when on the next tour all the good work could be undone.
    Oh well....

Leave a comment

Add a Smiley Smiley »