Riding is Life


Joy Rides: Asteroid Colour’s custom-painted BMC Kaius

Bikes are a canvas.

Matt Wikstrom
by Matt Wikstrom 23.06.2023 Photography by
Asteroid Colour
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The story behind this bike goes back to 2017 when the organisers of the Tour of Margaret River in Western Australia started working on an epic one-day event. Those efforts led to the first edition of Seven in 2018, a 135 km gravel race that bumps up, down, and around the forests and farms of Nannup, a few hours south of Perth.

Seven’s popularity has grown rapidly since 2018, thanks in part to its gruelling reputation (the seven sectors that make up the route provide 3,200 metres of climbing). The event is now part of the UCI Gravel World Series and will be hosting the Gravel World Championships in 2026.

For the 2023 event, the Australian distributor of BMC started thinking about a special version of its Kaius gravel bike as part of its display in the event village. That’s when Asteroid Colour stepped in to offer its vision for this unique bike.

“Life is too short for boring bikes” is both a mission statement and mantra for Asteroid Colour, a small one-man operation based in Perth, Western Australia. The company doesn’t have a website, relying instead on social media, word-of-mouth, and the presence of its work in local bunch rides for promotion.

Asteroid Colour is not a conventional commercial enterprise, though. It was created by Thom Perry as an artistic endeavour and outlet where bikes serve as canvases for the work. “I am very much an artist who happens to paint bikes rather than a professional painter who does art,” he said. As such, Perry is very selective about his projects and requires a generous amount of creative freedom from his clients. That freedom must also extend to the production timeline so that Thom is free to power up the paint booth only when inspiration strikes.

A loose mock-up was required before Asteroid Colour was given approval (and a bike) for the Seven project. “The brief was super open – make it reflect Kaius (chaos) in some way – so I chose some materials and methods where I had less control over the outcome,” explained Perry. Hence the chaotic blend of blue and green alcohol inks that provide the bulk of the finish. “I used compressed air and extra isopropyl alcohol to push the ink around, letting the colour go wherever it wanted.”

The resulting swirl and blend of colours immediately recalls the ocean on a clear, sunny day.

“I was inspired by the land and sea around Nannup, a region I know quite well,” said Perry. “I chose the ink and copper leaf because of an urge to mash the two together.” The latter might be one of the most unusual choices for a bike, but it perfectly serves to emulate the colour and texture of the orange pea gravel that is found on unpaved routes throughout the region.

A stock Kaius 01 TWO served as the canvas for this project. The first task was to remove the factory finish, an arduous and labour-intensive process that must be carried out by hand to protect the integrity of the carbon fibres and resin. “I’ve been doing woodwork for as long as I can remember so I can confidently machine sand the flat surfaces of the frame and fork to save a bit of time, but all of the tight curves have to be pulled back by hand,” Perry said.

The next step was to prime the frame and fork, then a foundation of gloss white was applied. Since this would serve as the surface for the inks, Perry used two-component (2K) paint, which contains chemical hardeners and is alcohol resistant. “I couldn’t use a one-component (1K) paint because it soaks up ink too quickly and I wouldn’t be able to push it around for the effect I was after,” Perry said.

After sealing the ink with a coat of clear, the frameset was ready for the copper leaf. This delicate material is a very fine foil that is created by hammering copper into sheets with a thickness of around one micrometre (i.e. one-thousandth of a millimetre) that can then be glued to a variety of surfaces. Gilded shapes and patterns are created by using a stencil when applying the glue (formally known as gilding size) so that once the leaf is applied, the unadhered portions can be brushed away thanks to the friability of the material.

Perry used adhesive masks when applying the glue for all of the logos on the Kaius, then resorted to freehand application (including flicking) for the rest of the frameset – another chaotic touch to do justice to the theme of the finish. “I was striving for a rustic effect when applying the leaf,” said Perry, “to provide a nice contrast for the soft textures of the blues. I’ve used leaf on bikes before, but this time I wanted a rougher finish, like polished grunge.”

Three thick clear coats were applied over the leaf and the rest of the frameset, which were then sanded flat in preparation for the last flow coat and final polishing. The extra sanding may seem counter-intuitive, but it ensures that all surface imperfections are removed to yield the kind of glassy finish that defines custom paintwork.

The Kaius was completed in the space of three weeks and then it was sent south in time for the opening of Seven, where it had the desired effect. It is now part of BMC Australia’s travelling roadshow and will appear at other events throughout the rest of 2023.

As for Asteroid Colour and Perry, the Seven project was an important first step towards a much bigger goal. “My ambition is to do more work for bike manufacturers,” he said. “I firmly believe that art and creativity can do amazing things for a brand, and what Doktor Bobby has done with his special edition Tour bikes for EF/Cannondale is proof of that. His work is amazing and one of the main reasons I got into bike painting, and I would love to follow in his footsteps.”


Joy Rides is a series that serves to share unique bikes from around the world. Sometimes Joy Rides will cover drool-worthy customer bikes from the bespoke world. Sometimes we’ll use this series to cover bikes from an era or two ago. Other times, we’ll look at production bikes that serve as a paint canvas for some incredibly talented artists. On occasion, we’ll even cover everyday bikes that offer a unique story.

If you’ve got a Joy Ride you’d like to share, please get in touch at editor(at)escapecollective.com.

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