Over the years we've fielded thousands of questions from inquisitive bikeriders who want to know more about the parts we make for their motorcycles. Tops on the list of customer Q&A might be, "What is the name of the black finish you use on bars, pegs and risers, and how should I clean and care for it?" This installment of WTF will shed some light in that black hole, and teach you how to maintain the look of your custom motorcycle.
BACK IN BLACK
The black finish on Biltwell handlebars, risers, foot pegs, peg clevises, taillight housings and select other steel and alloy parts is called Black Electrostatic Discharge coating, or BED. Compared to powder coating or liquid paint applied by spraying, BED boasts several advantages:
- BED is more durable than liquid paint
- BED adds less thickness and surface dimension to parts than powder coating
- BED offers greater protection from oxidation and UV light than paint or powder
BED is applied to chemically cleaned and pre-treated raw steel and aluminum parts using a technology similar to chrome plating. An electric charge is applied to the raw parts, and they are dipped into a series of fluid baths with an opposite charge so that the various elements inside each fluid adhere to the surface of the part. The color, thickness and other attributes of the coating vary depending on the fluids used, and the length of time each part remains exposed in the electrostatic process. Black Electrostatic Discharge coating has a durable surface finish, good UV protection, and is thin enough not to compromise the interface between tight-fitting components like handlebars and risers, for instance.
RISE AND SHINE
Because it is so comparatively tough in terms of appearance and performance, many home builders and bikeriders falsely assume BED requires little or no care and maintenance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like its shiny sibling chrome plate, over time BED is susceptible to the same surface damage and deterioration that can occur from exposure to sunlight, rain and chemicals, road debris and good old-fashioned neglect. Poke around at a motorcycle swap meet long enough and you'll find plenty of chrome-plated headlights or black painted handlebars that look like they were stored in the bilge on the Titanic. BED is no different. Treat it like shit and it will look like you scraped it off your boot. Show them a little love and those black electrostatic coated Biltwell parts on your motorcycle will look great for years.
The obvious first step to a clean machine is a warm bath. When was the last time you washed your motorcycle? We'll bet it's been years. What did you use: a dirty Scotchbrite sponge, or a soft, soapy cloth? Using the latter will loosen embedded dirt and debris without making your black bits look like the bottom of an old frying pan. After you wash your motorcycle, dry it with a soft towel immediately to reduce water spots. Once it's dry, apply a coat of automotive wipe-and-buff polish or similar one-step cleaner. Motul brand Shine and Go or any two-step liquid car wax works great. If your motorcycle suffers constant exposure to sun, wind and rain, consider giving her the spit shine treatment every month or so. Bottom line: no metal finish—not paint, not chrome, not anodizing or BED—can be expected to shine like a diamond in a Billy goat's butthole without regular love and care.
WORD TO THE WISE
Scratches resulting from high-speed riding in harsh conditions over many months or years is another form of trauma no metal finish can be expected to endure. Our advice: clean your bike regularly, polish its shiny bits periodically, and remind yourself it's a motorcycle–not a float in the Rose Bowl Parade. If you live life in the fast lane, eventually your bars, risers and foot pegs will show the consequences. Treat them with care and they'll look great for years.
Life in the fast lane can wreak havoc on your motorcycle's shiny bits. Even rugged metal finishes like the Black Electrostatic Discharge coating on Biltwell risers, handlebars and foot pegs will show signs of wear when subjected to months of harsh conditions or constant neglect.
Sorry, neat freaks—we aren't aware of a metal finish that can survive constant pressure under foot without showing signs of wear. If you want the foot pegs on your motorcycle to remain as pristine as when they were new, you might be asking too much. It's a foot rest, not a Japanese watercolor.
The BED finish we use on Biltwell parts like these Sanderson foot pegs looks tough, wears well and takes on a rich patina over time.
Black powder coating is not an ideal finish for parts like risers and handlebars because it can compromise the precision interface between these pieces. We use BED coating on our bars and risers because it doesn't add dimension or alter fitment during assembly.