Have you been thinking of a graphics kit or maybe some numbers for you bike? If you have ever tried to put a sticker on and then made a mistake you know what a nightmare it can be. When it comes to installing your own graphics it doesn't have to be like that. Even though they can be a little intimidating, graphics are not all that hard to install if you have the right tools and take your time. Here are some tips to help you get started.
First off, have your tools and supplies ready.
- A can of brake cleaner (non-chlorinated)
-Clean paper towels (I prefer the heavy duty shop type)
-Windex or similar glass cleaner
-Hair dryer or heat gun
-Plastic spreader (bondo spreaders work well), no sharp edges!
-Comfortable place to work, a stool to sit on, etc.
-Plenty of time
Before you begin here are some things to consider; first make sure you have a clean work area, plenty of time and limited distractions. The key to being successful is being able to focus on the task at hand and keeping your area clean, dirt on your graphics glue can be fixed but it is a huge pain. Also, be very careful to NOT allow the graphic to fold on itself, the adhesive used on these is very strong and it likes sticking to itself more than anything else.
Work on one panel at a time, I recommend you start with the most flat panel (like the number plate) so you can get a feel for it before you take on lots of curves.
1) Clean the panel thoroughly, be sure there is no dirt, oil, etc. If you have any serious scratches or "pokies", smooth them out with some sand-paper.
2) Spray the panel with non-chlorinated brake cleaner and wipe off, do this as many times as it takes until the towel does not show any dirt. Don't worry if the panel itself still looks stained.
3) Completely cover the area where the graphic will be applied with window cleaner.
4) While the panel is still wet from the window cleaner, peel the backing off the graphic and start placing it, don't worry the window cleaner will not wash off the adhesive.
5) Using the bondo spreader and your fingers start smoothing out the graphic working from the center out (if you can). The window cleaner will allow you to move the graphic around as you work so it's okay if you don't get it in the exact right spot the first time.
6) At this point I like to start applying a little heat to the area that I am working. This helps to dry the window cleaner as you work and it keeps the adhesive pliable. Be careful not to burn the vinyl (or yourself) and carefully start working the graphic into position. You can mold the vinyl quite a bit with heat so don't get to worked up if it's not looking like it's going to fit. The heat will allow you to both stretch an compress the vinyl. This is the part that you have be patient and take your time. It's important that you don't leave any air bubbles as you go.
If you find that you are way off on your placement use heat and slowly pull up the section that you are having trouble with (don't pull of the entire thing if you can help it) apply a little more window cleaner to that area and keep going.
7) Keep in mind that graphics often do not fit exactly. Once you have all the air bubbles out and the graphic in position for the various holes you might find that it is over hanging here and there. You can either use heat and try to get the graphic to go around, but my experience has been that it won't stay, which will allow dirt and water to start working it's way in at those edges. I prefer to use an exacto knife and very carefully trim the vinyl so it lays flat and does not need to make a sharp bend at the edge.
The real key to this process is to take your time, try to work in a comfortable position and relax. The first time you put graphics on it can be frustrating. It's generally a good idea to do it when your kids are not in the garage, mainly so you can expel your frustration and use colorful language freely if the need arises.
One of the hard things about owning equipment is when it gets old. I always struggle with when an older piece of equipment breaks is trying to decide if I should fix it or scrap. It doesn't matter if it's a lawn mower or a motorcycle. If you are like me you don't like to spend any more money than necessary, but it's also really cool to get a new toy. Personally, I tend to lean toward fixing what I have rather than getting something new. But it all depends on the piece of equipment, how well it's been taken care of and what else is getting ready to break. In most cases the reality is that you are better off fixing and keeping what you have rather than replacing it.
The first question you should ask yourself is "why", why are you thinking of replacing that bike, mower, chainsaw, etc. Is it because it is really old and worn out, or is it simply because it looks old and worn out and you want something shiny? Is something new actually going to be better? Here are some things to keep in mind when making this decision. First off, in most cases when it comes to equipment there is not much difference between a fifteen year old riding mower and new one. The only real difference is how they look. For the most part, most equipment has not undergone any significant change in design or technology in many years. In fact, in my opinion, when it comes to equipment, older is often better. So maybe instead of junking that old mower, consider giving it a tune-up and getting it painted.
When it comes to bikes and ATV's believe it or not you can make much the same argument. Unless, however, you are talking about going from a carbureted machine to fuel injected. But even then the differences are not as huge as you might think. The biggest changes you will see in dirt bikes since the 1990's is the change in suspension and fuel delivery. The last few years have seen some pretty big changes in the dirt bike world with fuel injection becoming more and more popular, new suspension designs and so on. But, again, if you are thinking it's time for a new bike, stop and ask yourself why? If you are happy with the performance of your current machine, but it's looking a little dated my suggestion is to not get rid of it, rather give it a face-lift. With a very small amount of work you can pretty much put any front fender you like on a Japanese bike. I really like the look of the newer YZ front fender. I like it so much I put on an old 1993 Honda XR250l. It looked natural and gave the bike a whole new look. For most Japanese bikes there are lots of relatively in-expensive replacement body parts and graphics kits available. The real trick to saving money on these is buying in the off season (like now) since there are lots of sales and clearance deals available. I am in the process of fixing up a 2002 YZ250f, by buying clearance I was able to get a set of shrouds and a graphics kit for what I would have paid for just the shrouds last summer.
ATV's are not quite as easy to upgrade the look since fenders tend to be very model specific. But, there are ways to restoring faded fenders to make them shiny again, and there are some aftermarket alternatives that are going to be cheaper than OEM if they need to be replaced. Graphics kits and numbers are also a way to go. Keep in mind the vynil used in modern graphics is tough stuff, you would be surprised how much abuse it can take and still look good.
I will admit that there is a time to let it go. Sometimes you can get just too much time on a machine and it has too many problems to make it practical to fix anymore. So when you get to the point where you need to make a decision always try to look at it objectively and honestly. But, if you really want a new bike, mower, chainsaw, etc. then do it and be happy!
Normally this time of year we still get out and ride a bit. But this winter has proved to be a little more stubborn. Most of our winter riding areas have managed to get more snow than we have (which is very unusual) and then the temperature decided to drop below zero (-14 according to the car thermometer). So, needless to say the bikes have been hibernating waiting for a break in the weather. While we wait for it to warm back up to, you know..20, what can we do in the meantime? This time of year is actually the perfect time to go through your gear and make sure it is ready for the riding season, also doing those little things on your machine like checking the valves, replacing body plastics, tires, etc. The reason I say that this is the perfect time of year is not because you are not riding anyway, rather it's all about money. Many places that sell parts and gear need to unload old inventory or last year's gear. Which means that they start marking things down dramatically. For example, I have an older YZ250f that needs new radiator shrouds. Normally a cheap aftermarket set is about $45.00, thanks to a clearance sale I was able to get them for $12.00, along with a discount set of graphics I was able to give this old bike a facelift for about what I would have paid just for the shrouds. Over the years I have gotten some great deals on all kinds of things like hand guards, gear, parts, you name it. If you wait until spring (when many people start looking at their bike and gear again) you will be paying full price and may have to wait longer to get your stuff. Not to mention, if you are taking your bike in for someone else to work on it you will probably end up paying more and waiting longer to get it back.
Some other things to keep in mind about your machine in this cold weather. If it is not stored somewhere heated you should make sure that your anti-freeze is up to snuff and if you have a battery bring it inside. If you try to start your machine make sure you crank it over several times before you actually start it. The oil in your crankcase is very thick from the cold and is going to be practically non-existent in the top of the engine. Cold starts are probably one of the worst things for an engine. Even better put it somewhere warm for a bit (if you can), give it some hot chocolate and say nice things to it (okay that last part might be a little extreme).
I do recommend starting your machines at least once a month through the winter and let them at least warm-up. Doing this will help make sure that the gas in carburetor does not go bad and plug jets, helps remove the condensation in the engine and exhaust and circulates oil to the top of the engine. Going months in between starts is not good for the machine or your sense of peace when you finally do try and get it started.
One of the growing trends here in Central Washington is the Tubliss Tire system made by Nuetech. In case you haven't heard of them, the system essentially allows you to convert your tradition tire and tube combination to a sort of tube-less system like you see on atv's, cars, trucks etc. I say "sort of" because there is a still a tube involved, but it has a very different role than a traditional tube. Essentially the tube is very skinny, like a bicycle tube and it along with a special liner seal the center of the rim and act like a big rim lock. You can find lots of videos online about the mechanics of the system if you want to know more. There are some big advantages to this system over the tradition tire and tube combo. The biggest is tire pressure. Since the tube and liner act as a giant rim lock you can run your tire at very low pressure or even flat. Which in turn allows much more flex in the tire and gives better traction. And you don't have the issue with pinch flats. If you ride the desert, this can be real problem. The ability to run with no air is really nice as well. If you have ever had to ride out on flat you know how tough this can be, not to mention the damage it can do to your bike. The other advantage, is that if you do get a flat it can be repaired with a plug and does not require the tire removed. Again, if you have had the fun experience of fixing a flat in the backcountry this feature might get your heart rate up a bit.
I, being the eternal skeptic, did not immediately jump on the bandwagon. The system runs right around $90 per wheel and you have to install a new tire. My worry was (and still is) that the liner will only last a few tire changes and then you have to buy the whole thing again. After reading lots of reviews and personally talking to several people that have them I finally decided to give it a try. The installation was a little nerve wracking for me since it is similar, but not the same as a regular tire change. I was nervous about damaging something and pretty much throwing money out the window. But, fortunately, Nuetech has good instructions with the product and Youtube videos. Of course the video makes it look easy, and I suspect when I do my next one it will be. After some choice words that may have left marks on the garage walls, I was able to get everything installed. Unfortunately we still have several inches of snow on the ground it’s hard to get a feel for traction, but a couple of low speed runs around the track seemed like it was gripping nicely.
The next step was to get out and do some real riding, so off we went to Mattawa. After riding for the day in snow, mud, loose rock, sand, etc. I have to say I did notice a difference. In fact on one loose hill climb it hooked up almost too good. I noticed that goosing the throttle over whoops was much more effective and made hopping some of those giant dips much easier. Only time will tell, but I am excited to give it a try in the mud next month when we head to Northern California for a few days, assuming the snow doesn’t follow us south that is!