A Street Rod is a vintage frame which has been fitted out with modern components. Frames of this type, being made of carbon steel with function following form, are quite weighty, compared to modern road bikes. There are those who take pride in propelling these things around with the use of a single drive ratio, but that's pretty much a jock attitude. The more technologically inclined prefer to improve the efficiency of the machines. Adding multi-ratio gearing makes it easier to launch a weighty bike through a lower gear ratio, and to achieve higher and less strenuous cruising speed through higher ratios.
A usual practice is to replace as many steel components with aluminum alloy as possible. This includes rims, hubs, cranksets, handlebars and stems, etc. This lightening further improves the efficiency of the machine's performance. The fenders usually are dispensed with or truncated for the same reason. In reality, there are no fenders to start with on frames of this type, which is why the original donor bike was affordable in the first place. The donor's original youthful owners discarded them for the same reason. These same original owners would then proceed to paint them, usually by hand, quite often with a brush. This is the despised creative action which effete bicycle collectors/preservationists refer to as "housepaint". We find it ironic that modern Street Rod bikes are, quite literally, overhauled, reworked, and refined OG Street Rods of the '40s,'50s, and '60s. Those young punks and vandals from back in the day would be thrilled to see the levels of glory their beloved rides have achieved in this class.
Traditionally, vintage bikes of this type came with a single coaster brake on the rear wheel. This would usually suffice, as the bikes were slow, being heavy, and driven by adolescent children, who weigh less than adults. Braking power requirements are based upon velocity and mass. A heavy bike driven by an adult rider at higher speeds than consumer bike designers from the original period would have envisioned, is way beyond the capabilities of an original coaster brake. Improved braking is pretty much mandatory on a bike of this type. As front-wheel braking is of vital import on any bicycle, that is usually a priority. This is most often accomplished with some type of rubber shoe engaging the wheel rim. Drum and disc brakes are quite popular, though, and will be seen more often on Street Rods in the future, especially as disc brake prices continue to become more reasonable. In the rear, modern internal multi-ratio gearing is usually available with more effective drum braking. Builders who prefer derailleur shifting, normally add rim brakes at the rear, although discs will become more popular for that application, also.
Street Rod bikes share a common heritage with Mountain Bikes, as these same frames were also the basis for the OG downhill machines. MTB activity has spawned much exotic and attractive component technology since then, which has been eagerly embraced by the Street Rodders of today, as a large part of the Street Rod aesthetic is that components should not only function well, but look really kool while doing it.
Modern Street Rod bikers are no more constrained by factory paint and decals than their OG BikePunk
forebears; however, the quality of "housepaint" jobs has risen considerably. The standard now is that of a perfectly smooth and glossy finish, with none of those classic brush strokes so common back in the day.
There are currently three methods of finish application practiced by Street Rodders. Newest is powder-coat finishing. In this process, a bare metal frame is suspended in a chamber and misted with a colored plastic powder, drawn to it by electrostatic attraction. The frame only accepts as much as it needs to consistently cover the surface, all else falls off. The coated frame is then placed into an oven. Heat fuses the plastic powder to the steel frame. The resulting coating is smooth and perfect, and is incredibly resistant to chipping and scratching. It is also available in a wide range of colors and visual effects. Not so many as with the more traditional finish methods, however.
Many feel that lacquers and enamels are much more attractive, and there are certainly more creative possibilities with traditional spray-paint technology. Imron and other hi-tech binary finishes are much sturdier than older finishes, which helps close the durability gap with powder-coating. Painted finishes will always be much more labor-intensive than powder coating, due to the many stages of preparation, priming, and painting; each stage punctuated by a bout of wet-sanding. It is possible to spend days doing a nice job on a bike frame paint job, but it is generally not unpleasant work, and many enjoy it. When it comes to finish application, many builders take the frame elsewhere to have it done, by a powder-coating service, or a vehicle paint shop. Others have access to a compressor and spray gun, and do it themselves, in their garages or backyards. Some do-it-yourself-ers use the third method of finish application: Spray-Can.
A lot of that stuff purist bike preservationists refer to as "Housepaint" is actually spray-can applied. While
it didn't bear brush-marks like the cruder methods and media of OG Street Rod painting, it was usually not done very well. The OG Bike Punks, being youths, were not very conversant with quality painting techniques, so their work was pretty sloppy-looking, even with spray-cans. Sloppiness is not an inherent part of spray-can technology, however. By following the traditional methods of priming, sanding, painting, and polishing, the home painter can achieve a level of finish every bit the equal of any other method, in appearance. The range of colors and effects is more limited, granted, when you can't mix paint components; but there are still many choices which may be made within the spray-can color pallette, which also encompasses, kandy kolor, pearl, metallic, day-glo, and chameleon color-shift.
However it is applied, many Street Rod builders are content with a glossy monochromatic paint job.
Others, though, in the true hot-rod/kustom spirit, go further. Flames, airbrush accenting, scallops, and pin-striping are all popular paint details which can make a bike kooler-looking. These paint details serve the same function as the frame's original decals and screen-printed accents in adding visual texture to the basic monochromatic frame finish.
Judging Criteria For Street Rods:
Overall Design 1-5
Paint and Detailing 1-5
On Bicycle Painting