Painting for Poppi: A Black Metal AWOL for Ultraromance – Erik Nohlin

Painting for Poppi: A Black Metal AWOL for Ultraromance
Process photos by Dylan Buffington, bike photos by Beth Welliver, words by Erik Nohlin.

Painting for Poppi: A Black Metal AWOL for Ultraromance - Erik Nohlin

Painting a bike is equal parts preparation, painting and cleaning. With a good mise en place, strategy and focus, things will go more smoothly but hardly never 100% according to plan. Especially not if you’re an explorer in paint like me. The outcome of a paint proccess, in my eyes, is much about sticking to your initial vision but be prepared for some professional improvisation. I love to see shows like How it’s Made, Mega Factories or any behind the scenes show and I’d thought should walk you through the steps of my latest paint creation: the over- the-top, worldclass weird, Black Metal informed, Manowar infused Heart of Steel AWOL Comp for our friend @ultraromance (Poppi).

On a crappy phone connection from a desolate south eastern Mojave desert town, the conversation started something like this:


P: Gentle tidings Erik. It’s Poppi, You available for a call in 10 min?

E: Ho ho ho, out riding, will call you this PM

P: I’ll be out of communication. But maybe not. Next 2 days look pretty desolate for me.

P: I forget the days. Sunday. Uncle Mike doesn’t make you work on this day of the Lord. I’ll hollure when I’m out of the desert.

E: Sweet, no rush, I’m shining the paintgun while I wait.

P: Are you perhaps shining that paintgun while wearing a Bluetooth phone device.

E: Yes, will call you in 6.4 minutes

P: #cool

Painting for Poppi: A Black Metal AWOL for Ultraromance - Erik Nohlin

It took a while to establish a secure line with the desert roaming man but after a good creative talk we ended with a consensus. The paint job needed to have a few key features and inspiration: Black Metal, Manowar, Crackle paint, black, fire gradients, Ultra Mini Rainbow flake, lightning and thunder. This kind of feedback would scare the living hell out of most creatives but all I saw was an awesome bike. I made up a sheme as I usually do in Photoshop, ordered some paint, got structured for a 3 day on and off paint process and got started.
How to paint a #blackmetalawol:

1. Sand down frame and fork and make sure to use a sand paper course enough for the primer to stick. Think a Trepaneringsritualen type grit, about 400. A naked or bead blasted frame gives better primer adhesion than a painted.
2. I usually don’t mask all threads on the bike but prefer to clean and cut fresh ones after paint. I do however cover the BB, HT, steerer and any other part where I don’t want a build up to occur.

3. Prime the frame. There are many different primers for different applications. The primer seals the frame and protects it from corrosion. I used a 2k non sandable epoxi Necro Deathmort Gray primer that is bullet proof, knowing this paint will take a beating. The better suited primer, the better the paint will sit and last. Downside with epoxi primer. If you fuck it up you really are fucked. A separate gun is used for primer. Primer is left to dry over night.
4. With a non metal white basecoat, a lighter color will pop more and you don’t need to lay it down as thick to make it opaque. We now have a white canvas.

5. A metallic Velvet Cacoon Purple is layed down around the BB area, chainstays and lower fork blades as a fade towards the next color. Usually, if possible, lighter colors should go on first since darker ones cover better. Since I’m doing a gradient fade, that’s not possible here.

6. A Helheimr Orange, same gig as the purple is carefully added. The gun needs to be throughly cleaned after each separate paint. The mies en place structure comes handy with multiple colors.

7. A Flaming Church Yellow is added and everything is left to dry overnight.

8. Clear coat to seal the color gradient. Just for the fun of it, I added a subtle blue pearl called Maui Sunset, mostly because it felt like Poppi would appreciate the gesture.

9. The crackle is a tricky one to paint. To crack or separate properly, it needs to be painted on a wet surface so the clear coat was left to dry for about 30 mins before the In the Shadow of the Horns black crackle effect paint was applied. Lay it on too thin and minature cracks appears. Too thick, not only do you have the normal drip problems with heavy paint, you also get huge cracks. Painting crackle paint is all about strategy and confidence. You need to nail the perfect preassure, flow and distance to get the right effect. Any overspray will dull the effect. I did several sample tubes before I dared to cover the perfect gradient with the black crackle. Easily the most difficult paint I’ve worked with.

10. A graphic vinyl paintmask was applied and graphics painted on the frame rather than using vinyl stickers. It’ll give the job a better finish and it’s easier to color match the graphics. I painted these graphics in a metallic corpspaint white, let them sit for 30 mins before I removed the mask.

11. To lighten up the black and get some more Manowarvibes to the frame, I layed down a mist of color changing House of Kolor Blood Kameleon pigment that changes color from Mayhem Red to a Burning Witch Gold depending from what angle you see the frame. Frame was left to dry over night.

Painting for Poppi: A Black Metal AWOL for Ultraromance - Erik Nohlin

11. A rich clearcoat with added Ultra Mini Rainbow of death flakes was applied in the morning and left to harden over night. You don’t really see the death flakes indoors but in the sun it really expoldes. Like the explosion at 0:41 in Watain’s Wolves Curse on the Lawless Darkness album, especially in a full nuke golden hour.

12. All nice bikes deserves at least 2 if not 3 layers of clear coat with wet sanding in between. With painted graphics, even more so. The sanding smoothens all the paint edges and reduces Oranssi Pazuzu peal. With the crackle paint I also needed to reduce some of the canyons created in the cracks.

13. It turned out the finish was so smooth I only needed two layers of clear with wet sanding in between. I used a Blut Aus Nord semi smooth metal grit of about 777 and goat blood to get the right vibe. Looking at the frame with sceptical eyes I see a lot of awesomeness in there. I believe the bike turned out as black metal as I wanted to but maybe the Manowar influence Poppi asked for got a bit heavy. Having eyeballed the bike for a week, I regret not doing the Emperror Black graphics instead. Still stoked.

Painting for Poppi: A Black Metal AWOL for Ultraromance - Erik Nohlin

Hopefully this breakdown makes you realize the time and effort if takes for a painter to finish a bike and when You see the pricetag for a custom paintjob, You’ll get why it looks like it does. Sorry, I can’t take on any paint jobs at the moment but pls. give a shoutout to the painters you like in the comments below. More custom paintjobs to the people!

More process photos on Instagram #blackmetalawol


Follow Erik on Instagram, Beth on Instagram and Dylan on Instagram.


  • JP Coates

    So sick. I’ve been waiting for this since seeing the teaser shots on Insta. Awesome paint/bike.

    • Jon B.

      Same. Perfect way to close out Friday.

  • Logan N. Everly

    Bene with a Specialized? Oh no.

  • Jake B Sorensen

    Specialized hooking Poppi up?

  • Zac

    “Oranssi Pazuzu peal…” That shit’s priceless.

  • Zac

    Austin Paintworks did this bike for Prince Cycling recently. Paisleys on the inside of the fork and seat stays.

  • Trevor Martin

    Absolutely flawless!

  • Andy Moore

    m/ What color goat did you get the blood from, though? And was it a virgin goat? m/


    • Sacrificed a white goat, can’t stand those motherfuckers, yes, virgin

  • DopePedaler

    This is unbelievable

  • that paint looks strangely familiar…hmmmm

    • Yeah it was done all through the 1980’s

      • everything has been done before, and yet still people love to “claim” shit and point fingers (cough gradient kits cough)…personally, the more crackle the better, its just annoying to see the same mob attack one company but turn around and cheer for another, simply based on WHO is involved in the doing. show me another bike built in the last 5 years that used this technique, or we can just admit that the inspiration for this paint work came from Rudi Jung of Black Magic Custom Paint…

        • P Cochran

          Rudi <3

          • I agree! I have given Rudi props many times!

        • I didn’t attack anyone dude, regarding the “fade” stuff. Sean didn’t even attack anyone! So what mob are you talking about?

          You do recall me posting your bike, and always giving Rudi props, I just don’t think this bike was inspired by that, personally. But since you asked:

          David at DSC had been teasing that fork for months… So you see how dumb this whole thing is, right? You can point, I can point. It does no good. I’m just wondering why you came over here to “start something” when all I’ve done is support you and Rudi. Get your head straight dude, ride your bike and chill out. Ok?

  • bicyclecrumbs

    I think Eriks exploration in paint is so damn rad. His documentation makes it so much better. Everything he does is just good, sometimes ridiculous but still really good. Its a new life goal to get something custom done by him.

  • Bless the (no)Gods!

  • Talabardio

    That crackle look was big in the early 90s when I was first really getting into mountain biking – really takes me back! On another note, what are the bars on that bike? Salsa, the new Ritchey?

    • Jon Keyzer

      Pretty sure that’s a standard AWOL bar from Specialized. It’s similar to the Salsa Cowbell.

    • They’re Awol bars and come with the bike and has a smaller flair than Cowbell.

  • Spencer Vaughn

    Probably my favorite paint job.

  • Fuck me!

  • Mike Colby

    Badass paint job!
    I am interested in the front rack though, what’s with the pizza shapped bracket coming of the fork braze on? All the AWOLs I’ve seen have had the rack mounted directly to the fork.

    • Arekey

      The bracket is probably there to make it easier to adjust the angle of the rack.

      • Kevin

        I like that pizza has supplanted triangles as a principle of nature/science

    • DamagedSurfer

      The rack is a Spec Pizza Rack. My LBS told me it will finally be available again sometime in April.

      • Moosemonkey

        Last I checked it, it was pushed out to late May, I’ve been staring at the dealer screen at least once a week since October, waiting for this rack. everytime it gets past mid month, they push it out another month.

        This rack is like, a year late. I don’t know what is up. but I’m getting peeved.

        • DamagedSurfer

          Sucks to hear. I consider the Pizza Rack to be a perfect design and weight limit for my style of packing for longer trips. At this point, I may just have to go custom and forget about it entirely.

          • Moosemonkey

            I hear you. at the cost for the Soma Rack, you can spend just a bit more and get full custom. Also the Soma rack isn’t as Pannier friendly as the Pizza Rack. If the Surly rack wasn’t so heavy, I’d just run that.

          • A fresh baked batch of the pizza racks were available right before x-mas but the demand is so high they sell out directly. This time we’ll make sure to bake some more and give you heads up. It always sucks to hear folks can’t get the stuff we do. Sorry about that dudes!

          • DamagedSurfer

            No worries Erik. Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been running a bikepacking set up for shorter trips anyway. Only reason the rack comes into play is for grocery shopping and longer tours that I don’t have time for right now.

    • It’s called the Pizza Slice and not really needed on Awol’s and many other bikes but it comes with the rack and makes sure that the rack fits more bikes with non-standardized fork mount positions.

      • Andrew

        Erik, if I want to take the pizza slice off my rack and mount it directly is it just a matter of using longer bolts?

  • Scottathon


  • PNT


  • Arekey

    I can’t handle this, it’s too rad.

  • maldoror meeks

    Satanic posturing aside, everyone knows that the real prince of darkness is Mike Sinyard.

    • Yeah, I know, that’s why I really like that guy and keep working for his brand.

      • maldoror meeks

        Considering your criteria, when you get tired of bikes, consider a position at the state dept. – you’d love it there.

  • Domingo

    New life goal, earn a custom painted AWOL


    Really nice prose.

  • poweredbyramen

    Which Black Metal song you recommend for this Painting Ritual?

  • Ian Wilder

    The best kind of functional art.

  • ninja

    that is unreal, amazing paint and thanks for the insight, a true artist right there!

  • Must buy an AWOL, must move to CA.

  • ADAM

    hell ya