Nobody likes it, but broken bodywork is a reality with today's sportbikes. Even if you baby your motorcycle, it is bound to accumulate at least a stress crack or two due to vibration or over-tightened fasteners after even just a few years, not to mention the inevitable bumps and abrasions that stress the relatively brittle plastic beyond its flexible limits.
In the past, your options were limited to bonding broken bodywork together with bubble gum and curtain rods, or perhaps epoxies and resins that were not exactly compatible with the type of plastic that most motorcycle manufacturers use. While some shops perform plastic welding, duct taping or sewing parts together using lock wire became more common (especially on race day).
More recently, to our benefit, new refinishing products have become available to support the larger automotive industry that has found applications for plastics. As a result, repairing broken bodywork just got easier.
Typically, body panels are made of one of three categories of plastics:
*Flexible (Polyurethane and thermo-plastics primarily used on dirt bikes.)
*Rigid (Polycarbonate, polypropyleneand some types of thermoplastics. ABSfits in this category, and is commonly used on sportbikes.)
*Extra Rigid (Rigid polymer alloy and nylon alloy. Fiberglass reinforced poly-ester is frequently used on race bikes, and also by aftermarket manufacturers who are able to recycle Andrew's old suits.)
Each type of plastic requires different materials to affect a proper repair, and although you may be able to use whatever you have available, often the results are less than professional or failure prone, with cracks reappearing to spoil your fresh paint job.
Since most sport bikes come equipped with ABS (Acrylontrile Butadiene Styrene, for those of you who want to be the hit of the party), the following steps apply to these types of fairings.
Remember: Work in a well-ventilated area, and wear gloves to prevent your hands from absorbing the chemicals. Many of the chemicals mentioned can be found at auto supply shops. Look for repair kits containing the items you need rather than buying large, individual containers.
If you are planning to do track days and haven't scratched your bike's skin yet, hang up the stock bodywork for safe keeping while you fit up a replacement fiberglass fairing. It is much less expensive and far easier to repair.
Special thanks to Jamie Richardson at St. Boniface Arts and Technology Centre, and MPS, for technical assistance.