Motorcycle Customizing Dos and Don'ts

Tips on customizing your bolt-ons, saddlebags/leather, wheels, bodywork, and paint

Customizing you bike is what makes your motorcycle yours, and sometimes you might end up getting intimidated with all the options out there. With all the bolt-ons, saddlebags/leather, tires, custom bodywork and paint jobs out there it could be a little intimidating. Here are some dos and don'ts for when you go to create your two-wheeled embodiment.

Customizing your bike- bolt-ons and chrome
All that glitters is not chrome, but sometimes it may seem that way.Photography by Fran Kuhn

Bolt-On Dos and Don'ts:

  • Consider mixing different kinds of metal finishes. Chrome, polished aluminum and stainless steel all shine with slightly different tones.
  • Make sure the styles of the accessories are complementary.
  • Be careful when installing chrome parts, they scratch easily.
  • Wash and wax bolt-ons regularly.
  • Don't chrome everything, hiding ugly parts can be more effective.
  • Don't clean chrome with abrasive cleaners.
Customizing your bike - saddlebags and leather
If it isn't shiny, perhaps it's leather.Photography by Fran Kuhn

Saddlebag/Leather Dos and Don'ts:

  • Make sure all leather accessories incorporate compatible styles.
  • Be sure throwover saddle­bags are securely attached to the bike.
  • Remember that light-colored leather is more susceptible to the elements.
  • Periodically treat the leather with a high-quality conditioner.
  • Don't overload leather bags. Overladen fork bags can cause handling problems.
  • Don't allow bags to swing into the rear wheel.
Customizing your motor
Go for the nifty whitewalls or the rubber-band-on-a-big-wheel-look.Photography by Fran Kuhn

Wheels/Tires Dos and Don'ts:

  • Mount all wheel hardware before installing the tires to be sure everything will fit correctly.
  • Check with both wheel and tire manufacturers when performing non-standard installations.
  • Bleed brakes and bed in pads carefully.
  • Don't ignore a tire's recommended rim width.
  • Don't chrome the swept area of brake discs.
Customizing your motorcycle fenders
If you're tired of stock fenders then step up to custom bodywork.Photography by Fran Kuhn

Fender Dos and Don'ts:

  • Fit the bodywork before painting it.
  • Allow for rear suspension travel, particularly with oversized wheels and tires.
  • Since most bodywork arrives raw and unfinished, the time spent sanding will pay dividends when the parts are painted.
  • Don't forget to secure the wiring harness to the rear fender or frame rails.
  • Don't limit your imagination. If parts aren't available for a particular model, get creative and modify the stock bodywork or graft on another bike's fenders.
Customizing your motorcycle paint
It isn't really a custom if it's still wearing factory paint. Spice it up a bit with a nice, new paint job.Photography by Fran Kuhn

Paint Dos and Don'ts:

  • Visit shops that specialize in motor­cycles.
  • Ask to see a portfolio and finished bikes.
  • Select a painter whose style suits your own.
  • Ask about a warranty.
  • Don't select your painter based on price alone.
  • Don't trust a painter whose paint booth is dirty or dusty.
  • Don't use lacquers—fuel can damage them.