Alistair ‘Ali’ McLean and his partner Rebecca ‘Bex’ Booth are the airbrush aficionados behind Fatcreations, one the UK’s leading custom paint companies.
Situated on England’s south coast, the pair have painted everything from Steve Peat anniversary one-offs to Lance Armstrong replica frames for the film industry.
Their story is a familiar one in the business world – Ali painted a helmet for himself, some friends saw it and wanted theirs done, and his work has been in demand ever since.
In fact, if you’re after a boutique paintjob for your bike, you’d better be the patient type, because the waiting list for Fatcreations is long and gets longer still during events such as the World Championships, when teams often request something special.
Here are six of our favourite pieces from these professional pigment pushers.
Peaty’s Last Orders
High-flying Santa Cruz V10 for Steve Peat’s last World Cup
In 2016, Steve Peat announced his final season of World Cup downhill racing with a spectacular exit plan that involved some head-turning custom bikes, matching kit from his sponsors Royal Racing, and a farewell knees-up after every round.
The Santa Cruz V10 frame he raced in Vallnord, Andorra, sported an RAF theme, with Supermarine Spitfire livery and a matching Fox 40 fork.
Fatcreations went to town with this one, adding subtle details in every nook and cranny. How about the names of Steve’s sons, Jake and George, tucked away under the grips?
A bomb decal for every DH victory, in true fighter-pilot ‘notches’ style? Check. Bullet holes on the rims? Present and correct.
Even the coil shock’s spring was painted in camo to match the bike’s ‘fuselage’. Steve’s ‘Last Orders’ bell and crown logo was placed on the bottom bracket. While it was standing in the Santa Cruz pit, the bike drew a drooling crowd.
“That was a great one to do, because the Santa Cruz Syndicate team gave us complete free rein,” says Ali.
“The first one we did for Steve was the Tartan Special for Fort William. By the time we got to this one, they knew what we were capable of and trusted us. Because I’ve known Steve for a long time, I wanted to add loads of personal touches.”
“For example, MTB legend Jason McRoy’s ‘Ride Free’ tattoo is on there, but you have to look really hard for it, and some touches can only really be seen when the frame is raw.”
Peaty finished 44th in Andorra (perhaps he spent too much time in his own Last Orders bar!) but was easily the best-dressed and flashiest-mounted rider of the day – and of the whole season, for that matter.
The Bowie Bike
A Kinesis FF29 with some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Beneath the layers of paint and lacquer on this frame is a Kinesis FF29. It was bog-standard black when it arrived in the hands of owner Geoff Waugh (the author of this article), and he decided something had to be done.
A long-time fan of David Bowie, Waugh contacted Fatcreations and showed them a thumbnail of one of Bowie’s jumpsuits. The design was a futuristic pattern, reminiscent of a computer circuit board.
“Geoff said, ‘I’m not sure you can do this, it looks really tricky’, which is the wrong thing to say to someone that enjoys a challenge as much as I do!” Ali recalls.
Within days, Bex had done her research and made the stencils, and the airbrush compressors were revved up.
“The stencils were tricky, because we had to keep all those right angles going around the thin stays of the frame’s back end, over the curves and welds.”
“On a scale of one to 10, if Peaty’s tartan bike was a 10, then this job was about an eight,” says Ali.
“And Bex has to take a lot of the credit for the work she put in to perfect the design.”
Song lyrics, originally in yellow but later changed to white, in a retro computer font, were placed around the frame, which really nailed the look.
A deep, sparkling green glitter paint was used to write ‘Starman’ on the down tube, then Ali added the iconic Aladdin Sane lightning bolt to the seat tube.
Zwift competition prize with some tiger-striped bite
“This Scott Spark was a commission from [home-training app company] Zwift as a prize for one of their users,” explains Ali.
“We painted it many months before it was seen by the general public, but that’s often the case in situations where the build-up and the surprise of the reveal are crucial.
“It’s basically painted in Zwift colours, and the overall design came from them. The idea was to tie it in with South Africa’s Absa Cape Epic stage race.”
The RockShox SID fork has Fatcreations’ ‘sunburst’ fade finish, which is trickier to paint than it looks, says Ali. “It’s important to get the transition between the two colours spot on,” he explains.
“This is now Bex’s speciality, after plenty of hours’ practice in the spray booth.” Bex adds: “The striped pattern was pretty involved. Just the stenciling alone
took many hours.”
It may have been painstaking work, but the result is an absolute stunner that must have made the prizewinner’s year, let alone day. But Ali and Bex will never know who that was.
“The bike went straight back to the Zwift offices and we never heard who’d won. We’re painting a similar one for them now, and probably won’t know the outcome of that competition either!” laughs Ali.
Chunky, funky fatbike that’s large and in charge
“I bought this fatbike when I was first diagnosed with a heart condition, and I called it ‘The Excuse’ because I could go out with my mates on their lightweight race steeds and never be expected to keep up,” explains Ali.
“I wanted to try a lot of different things, paint-wise, with this frame. It was a blank canvas. Hope was kind enough to custom-etch some components for us, and the hubs and orange-anodised cranks, stem, bar and pedals really add to the look.”
“Bex made the bullet holes on the tubes, and the whole build has a look of ‘don’t mess with me’ about it. So much so, in fact, that I’ve converted it into an e-fatbike.”
The Excuse is all about small details. Look closer at the crazy urban-camo paint scheme and you can see exposed aluminium sheets and rivets hand-painted along the edges.
Bullets appear to have torn through the metal of the extra-wide rims. This machine has seen some frontline action! “It isn’t a bike for shrinking violets,” says Ali.
“You can see it coming from miles away, and I suppose a big part of its design displays the feelings I was carrying around at the time. I’m very competitive and could no longer race, so the colours are loud and vivid.”
Military-themed motorised masterpiece
Like The Excuse, this Cannondale Moterra is one of Ali’s personal rides. With its electric motor, it’s allowed him to carry on riding after suffering years of harrowing health issues.
It started life as another blank slate, which stood in the studio for a long time while he was wielding an airbrush and a head full of ideas.
Based around the British Army’s camouflage pattern, the paintjob again features loads of small touches that need to be seen up close to be fully appreciated.
Ali explains: “With this one, I wanted to try a matt finish. I actually dislike matt paint in general, but needed to experiment with it because I got asked for one by a customer.”
“It was important to me to be able to tell them what I know, rather than what I think I know, about flat paintjobs.
“I also wanted to play with sanding back a finish. My idea was for the bike to look worn, like an old army Land Rover that has seen some life.
“So, I sanded my original green and brown camo finish down to the primer. The frame is aluminium, but I didn’t go right down to the metal, even though it looks like I did.”
The result is a bike that’s way more understated than The Excuse, but demands closer inspection.
Its ‘fatigued’ look is stunningly accurate – so much so that if he ever came to sell it, Ali would have a task on his hands convincing a buyer of its true age.
Sleigh of the dead
Super-spicy Mexican-flavoured Santa Cruz
Another bike that was painted for a lucky competition winner, this time in collaboration with carbon fibre wizards ENVE, this Santa Cruz Nomad looks plain from a distance, but up close you can see myriad details amid all the glitter.
“This guy was into calavera [Mexican sugar skulls], so we made sure there were some along the top tube, behind the seat tube and on the fork,” Ali remembers.
“The rest was a cool, classic paintjob, with anodised parts in complementary colours. The ENVE logos on the wheelset are purple to match the frame, and the shock body likewise.
“While the head tube looks stock, turn it to face the sun and boom – the details light up!”
The Fatcreations duo know who this bike went to, and what it meant to him. “Sadly, his partner was receiving treatment for cancer at the time, and he badly needed a pick-me-up,” explains Ali.
“There’s no way he could have bought a bike like this under the circumstances, so to bring him some joy was hugely gratifying. Seeing his face when we presented the bike to him was incredible.”