Why CarbonTec? Why can this team do what others cannot? It’s all in the materials; It’s carbon fibre, but not as you know it.
KEITH HOEY is repairing carbon fibre frames and not building from scratch. He’s dealing with weakened areas, so he has to compensate. Just using carbon fibre in three or more layers would do the trick for areas that are not intricate or crucial for weight-bearing.
But Hoey’s not content with that. CarbonTec wants to be able to fix absolutely anything on a carbon fibre bicycle frame, so it’s hunted out a stronger material.
“We have a tougher product called kevlar carbon, kevlar being what they use in bullet proof vests,” Hoey says. “It’s still a cloth. It’s mixed with resins and you have different ways to mix the resins to get the right flexibility and strength.
“At the beginning it was like, ‘woah, what do I do with this’, but the guy I buy the products off, from a company that produces resins and adhesives, is good enough to even say, ‘that’s the mix you should use’, if I ever need a second opinion.”
Using this material Hoey can now restore much more. His latest triumphs have been rear dropouts, but he’s well down the line on his bottom bracket portfolio too. Though he takes great pride in being able to bring most frames back to life, he has lines that will never be crossed.
“I won’t fix handlebars, forks, stems or seatposts – you can buy new ones and they don’t cost you the frame, which is what I’m interested in saving,” he stresses. “I won’t repair a bike that I wouldn’t ride myself.
“If I can’t make it safe, I won’t repair it. Some people send me pictures of bikes that are like jigsaw puzzles – I mean, they’ve gone under a height-restriction barrier and shattered their bikes.”
He adds: “They way I work is, a repair I’ve done is guaranteed forever. If someone is unfortunate enough to have another crash on a bike I’ve repaired I’ll inspect the whole bike free of charge – and I’ve no qualms about taking paint off where I’ve repaired before to do that inspection if I need to. Safety is paramount.”
Perhaps oddly, CarbonTec’s wish list doesn’t include an x-ray machine. Hoey is adamant that it would not be worth it because there will always be areas that have to be inspected without it, and with it, you might lose the ability to see the damage.
He’s got a point. Without practicing such a precise skill, it would be easy for it to slip away.
“It’s a bit like bike-fitting,” he says. “There is guys that have cameras that can go down a tube and I could got out and buy one tomorrow, but you won’t get it down every tube.
“Being at the cars so long, means I tend to be able to see where the paint has been lifted a bit, the tell-tale signs that something’s not quite right.
“I really like to think we can get all the issues found before we start. I’ll always send the customers photographs, a lot more than you’d see on our Facebook page.”
PAINTING for Hoey is not just about covering up the new carbon fibre. Each bike presents a challenge; how do I ensure you cannot tell I was ever under the paint?
Hoey enjoys the painting so much that he offers it as an added service; you don’t need to have a broken bike to have it resprayed – and it doesn’t need to be coloured in the way it was before either.
“We learnt a new technique the other day,” he beams. “We got a Basso in. The guy wants to give it to his son and he wanted to respray it in matte black and put shiny black decals on it, like the new Basso.
“So, we painted the tubes glossy black. We let that dry, scotched them down, then painted over it in matte black with the Basso decals underneath on the gloss. It’s amazing. The bike is so stealth-looking.
“It’s a nice effect and opens up a huge window of possibility. We’re not just doing standard paint jobs. We can do something special and I’m also thinking about going in to airbrushing too.”
He adds: “I’m thinking of getting my own decals machine. They are the bane of my life at the moment, trying to get the ones I want. I walk up to a guy in the National Sign Company. who is extremely obliging, and he goes, ‘how are ya Keith’, but I know deep down he’s rolling his eyes at what I’m going to ask him to do.”
Finishing the piece properly is what takes the time. Layering the carbon over three or more sessions, allowing everything the time to dry, matching the paint, matching the decals, matching the curve of the tubes – the Italians are a nightmare!
Hoey and his partner Scott Kinsella, the VeloDoc, have time though. These are not guys firing out jobs to pay the bills. If it takes a week longer, so be it. If the paint is sanded off and the damage is too much to repair, so be it. CarbonTec and VeloDoc just want to restore bikes. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get it perfect, that’s the whole point.
“I have a Cervelo and it’s full of stone chips,” Hoey smiles. “I’ve got to go in like a little tattoo artist with an airbrush and repair them individually.
“The guys over in Crystal Coatings are breaking their back for me. I’m going in buying tea cups of paint, but they put great effort in to match it exactly.
“You’d swear I was going in buying enough to paint a plane. It’s an intricate piece, but that’s what keeps me going.”
PS When Keith picked up my bike, only a couple of weeks after finishing the famous Trek Madone in September 2014, he couldn’t fix it. The fork was binned, having taken the brunt of the impact into a BMW’s front wheel, and the rear stays were badly damaged near the bottom bracket.
However, it is now in the CarbonTec workshop. Standby for the recovery story; it’s going to be emotional.