Spider webs, scripture verses, spinning CDs, blowing water that turns to ice then turns to fire… If you can dream it up, Jack Kane can carefully paint the design onto your bicycle or wheels.
Every week Three for Thursday highlights bike culture as celebrated by bike shops around the country. In this installment we check in with The Bicycle Shop in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where owner Jack Kane has made a name for himself with his custom paint jobs refined over four decades.
1. The coolest thing in the shop is: the custom paint program
Like any retailer, Jack Kane can sell you a stock bike, but many riders come to him for his custom work, whether that is repairing carbon or painting intricate designs on a frame or wheels. Kane got into painting in the 1960s, first learning on vans, and when he opened The Bicycle Shop in 1973, it just grew from there.
Kane builds about 150 frames a year — he began years ago in metal, and now can do carbon — but he also does paint work on existing bikes.
“You can’t believe what people ask for,” he said with a laugh. “I had one guy who wanted grass coming out of the bottom bracket, water droplets blowing across the top tube turning to ice, and at the rear wheel he wanted fire.”
The front of The Bicycle Shop looks like a normal bike store, but the rear of the building houses Kane’s machine shop and paint studio. There, Kane has painted on a Citadel, scripture verses and sports teams’ logos, among other things.
“A pastor wanted grapes and grapevine. Most of the custom bikes are my frames. But people do send me frames to have their dream paint jobs put on. A lot are carbon repairs. One week we had four Cervélos, two glossy and two with flat paint. The guys who had glossy finishes wanted them painted flat. The flat guys wanted them glossy.”
Kane did a bike for Endurance Film with a DVD painted on the rear disc and a film reel illustrated on the 85mm front wheel. When the bike rolls, the front wheel looks like a spinning film reel.
“A guy with a 20-year-old Trek wanted it painted to look like a new Madone,” Kane said. “And a man from Lego in London wanted a Banesto Pinarello paint job in Carolina blue.”
The minimum paint job is $550, plus shipping. “Good paint is expensive,” Kane said. “And every frame gets DuPont high gloss.”
Kane estimates that he repairs at least 200 carbon frames a year, each of which gets a paint job.
“I don’t want to grow too much,” said the father of five, who does all the shop’s carbon repair and painting. “I try to have a life. I am still an active athlete. I love riding.”
2. Our bestseller is the Cannondale Synapse carbon road bike
“We are selling tons of these carbon road bikes, mostly at the Shimano 105 level,” Kane said. “For people getting into cycling, this is a great starting bike.”
The comfort and the light weight impress riders, Kane said.
“We like it when people come back with the wow from test rides,” he said.
3. Right now I am loving: electronic shifting
“I love the new Shimano Ultegra Di2,” Kane said. “It is amazing, it’s great. I have a lot of military customers who can’t hear very well after years of firing weapons. And now I don’t have to ride alongside them listening to their front derailleur rubbing!” (Di2 automatically trims the front derailleur to match the rear derailleur position, which eliminates the user error of a poorly adjusted derailleur.)
But being an individualist, Kane will probably put Campagnolo’s EPS electric system on his next bike.
“I like to have stuff that people have never seen before, and I ride a Campy bike now. I’m from the old school.”
As to what the frame will look like for his EPS bike, he doesn’t know — but chances are it will be something that no one has ever seen before.