Stripping The Paint Off The VFR800 Wheel Rims
I have always liked the looks of the VFR's with silver rims. Unfortunately, they cannot
be bought that way here in the United States. Then last May (2002), while in North Carolina, I met
several VFR listers at the first annual ReVolt VFR rally, and they had stripped their rims. I loved
James 'Jaybee' Bair 1998 VFR 800
Dane Cappobionco(sp?) 2001 VFR 800
Steve Rodriguez 1999 VFR 870 Big Bore...
So now I just have to get around to doing it to my bikes... And we all now how that
goes ;-) So here it is, December 2002, seven months later and I have finally started getting around
to it. I decide to do Beth's 98 first because her rims have had more tire changing abuse than my 2001
and are looking pretty bad. hehe.
My VFR list and occasional riding buddy, Mike Guillory has just recently done the rims
on his 94 VFR 750 (pre-stripping) and
that provided the impetus to get me going. After conferring to find out what kind of
stripper he used and what steps, I set out to do likewise.
Finding the stripper was a bit of a chore. Most Wal-Marts carry it, but ours was out and the next nearest Wal-Mart was also out of it. Home Depot had every kind of stripper except what I wanted. Beth suggested we try the local autoparts store, BINGO!Our local Auto Zone had tons of it. They also have brushes, gloves and everything else you might need. I get some gloves, a few of the 1" polyester brushes and
two cans of stripper. I have no idea how much will be needed, but with two bikes to do, I want to be sure I have enough.
I decide to do the rear wheel on the 98 VFR first. The tire is not far from needing to be replaced so if the stripper has an adverse affect on the rubber, I can just put the new tire on while I have the wheel off the bike, and I don't risk ruining a perfectly good tire. The same is true for the front tire.
I removed the wheel and washed it with a brush and water to get the road grime off
the paint. Don't worry about using soap or scratching anything, you will be removing the paint after
all ;-) I dried the wheel and then laid it out on some newspaper in my driveway. The stripper
instructions suggest waiting for an outdoor temperature higher than 65 F or so, but this is December,
so... Beth and I started applying the stripper very liberally to the
exhaust side of the rim. It does not take long for the paint
to start wrinkling and bubbling, but the instructions say to
let the stuff sit for a minimum of fifteen minutes before testing an area to see if the paint comes
off the surface, so we let it sit.
The first coat of stripper takes off about 95% of the paint with no problems.
Exhaust side - rear wheel 1
Exhaust side - rear wheel 2
Chain side - rear wheel 1
Chain side - rear wheel 2
That last 5% is a real pain. It requires multiple spot treatments with the stripper. Even
after that, I still have to get after it with the steel wool again. Only this time, for the paint, it works
pretty good. The hardest paint to remove is the stuff on the casting finished parts of the rim. That would
be the center of the rim, the sides and backs of the spokes. Getting into the backside of the spokes is a
bit hard on the fingers. But eventually, I get 99% off, the rest is staying.
If you look, you'll notice that there is a coating of white on the aluminum. Apparently, the wheel was oxidized prior to painting, or the paint did not make a weather proof seal and the wheel oxidized under the paint. I tried using steel wool to get rid of it. The steel wool did absolutely nothing. I was using 000 grit wool because I was afraid of actually etching the metal. After spending about forty-five minutes getting nowhere, I remembered a bottle of Blue Magic Metal Polish I had used on an exhaust pipe. This stuff worked like magic, go figure. So I spent the better part of an evening with some old towels and the Blue Magic, exciting.
Exhaust side - rear wheel 1
Exhaust Side - rear wheel 2
Exhaust side - rear wheel close up
Chain side - rear wheel
Chain side - rear wheel close up 1
Chain side - rear wheel close up 2
Next comes the front wheel. I hang the bike from the ceiling in the garage using tie down straps and the rails for the garage door. With the bike secured, I remove the front wheel. The brake rotors should be removed in my opinion. It may be possible to do it without removing them, but I suspect it would be a much greater hassle. The rotors have an arrow on them to indicate the direction they should rotate when they are mounted on the wheel. The rim also has an arrow on one of the spokes out near the rim.
I placed the tire on an old tire to keep
the rotors off the ground while I work on the wheel. I seem to have a growing collection of these old tires
taking over my garage. After removing the rotors, I pulled the
spacer out of the center of the hub and taped over
both sides with Duct Tape to protect the bearings and dust seal from the stripper and water. I put the rotor
bolts back in the hub so I would not lose them, but also to keep stuff from getting in the hub and gooping
up the threads. When doing the rear wheel, I wore out my knees kneeling on the ground to do this stuff.
After taking some Geritol, my brain kicked in and I set the tire up on a
ubiquitous milk crate and sat in a five dollar Wal-Mart
chair to do the front wheel. The whole process went about the same as the rear wheel.
When it came time to remount the rotors, I got all the way to the last bolt and the head
snapped off while I was torquing it. Then I notice the manual specifies that these bolts be replaced each
time the rotor is removed! The body of the bolt is totally down in the hole. I get a tiny flat blade screw
driver and my rubber mallet and begin the slow process of tapping on the little nub sticking up where the
metal twisted free. Here a tap, there a tap, everywhere a tap tap. Slowly but surely, the bolt turned
until I had enough thread sticking out to grab it with some pliers. Whew! But now I am screwed, I have no
I get on the phone with the local dealer. They want $4.10 PER BOLT!!! And they don't even have them in stock. Grrrr! The bike is destined to hang in the garage for a week or so longer than I had planned. I get on the net and surf on over to Servicehonda.com and check their prices, only $1.70, still more than I would have thought, but a lot cheaper than the dealership. So I order lots of them as I plan on doing the whole wheel stripping thing to my 01 VFR 800.
A week goes by and the parts finally arrive. I am totally relieved because here it is, the end of January and the weather guessers are predicting temps in the low to mid seventies in the Texas Hill Country with clear skies! I leave Friday afternoon for Austin and it is now Thursday evening. So I get on home and spend the evening getting the bike put back together. This includes mounting a new front and rear tire, and replacing the chain and sprockets. I finish late Thursday night. I can't wait for Friday!
The weather turns out to be spectacular. Several of my other riding friends show up Saturday
morning and we set out North for FM 1431 to Marble Falls. Unfortunately, we are but a few miles out on FM 1431, right where it starts to get really good, and we come upon a long line of stopped traffic. This cannot be good. I know that the curve at the head of the line is sharp and can take people by surprise. We have seen several accidents here before. Sure enough, this one is a double fatality. A couple on a cruiser went over the guard rail into a large rocky hillside. I doubt if they were wearing helmets. The places marking where the bodies had been laying moments before were not very far from the guardrail so they could not have been going very fast when they left the bike. I can't help but wonder if a helmet may have made a difference. This is a definite downer on a beautiful day.
While waiting for the State Troopers to let us pass, I shot a few pics of the bikes. John
recently bought himself a beautiful BMW R1150GS that he is outfitting for a South American adventure.
The Mighty Adventurer and His Trusty Steed
The BMZilla - 1
The BMZilla - 2
Group shot and sneak peek at the rims ;-)
That is Will's 2000 Triumph Trophy 1200 and Achim's 2000 Triumph Speed Triple in the
background behind the beautiful VFR, hehe. Soon we are back on the road. We head out through Marble Falls
at a fairly sedate pace. Then we loop up around Inks Lake on Park Road 4, a fantastic ride. It is getting
late in the day so we head back down FM 1431 to US 281. We stop at a scenic overlook on FM 1431 and I get
some really good bike shots:
The Finished Product
VFR Right side 1 /
VFR Right side 2 /
VFR Right side 3 /
VFR Left side
Achim's Speed Triple
Will's Trophy 1200
A Beautiful Day!
The look of the bike with stripped rims has been well received by all of my admiring
motorcycle nutcase friends. The jury is still out on how difficult it will be to keep them looking good. I
have been considering putting a clear coat on them, but I am just to lazy now. Besides, I have to save up
some energy to do the rims on my 01 VFR! ;-)