A new RAT pack member asked me the other day where I got my “BarkBusters” (Hand Guards) from. As it turns out, I actually made the hand guards and the windscreen on my bike, so I figured I’d share a few details with the masses.
If you’re new to my blog, I live in Ohio, where the winters are frigid, and snow is pretty much a given. This past winter was actually better than the past, as there was at least a mid-winter lull, during which I got the bike out for a short jaunt. My general rule of thumb is that if the roads are dry, and the bike starts, I ride. Last November, I decided that hand guards would be a must to ride through another Ohio winter.
First I looked over commercially available hand guards. What I found on the web were typically bolt on affairs that were better suited for dirt bikes, and mostly guards that were too small to offer significant wind coverage. The other models I saw on the web were typically very model specific. Per usual, considering I own a Triumph Speedmaster, aftermarket parts (especially this variety) are difficult to find. Thus, having already made my own windscreen, I was convinced I could bend up some acrylic hand guards pretty easily.
In the parking lot at work in late October I actually cut up a pizza box to get a rough idea of the dimensions I would need. I folded up the cardboard into the rough shape of the hand guards I’d envisioned; grossly modeled after Triumph Tiger hand guards. It was my intent to avoid modifying the controls in any way, and avoid purchasing additional hardware if possible. The Triumph “modern classics” have “end caps” for the grips, so I planned on using those to hold the guards on. I also figured I could fasten the other end around the mirror, simply by cutting a hole in guard mounting “arm”. Once I figured out all the geometry I would need, I took my cardboard prototype back to my desk, measured the dimensions, and sketched up a 2D drawing in AutoCAD so I had a template for Plexiglas.
I realize I’ve opened a can of worms by mentioning that I used acrylic for “hand guards”. There are a million motorcycle articles debating about the pros and cons of acrylic versus polycarbonate on the web. Agreed, Polycarbonate is a “safer” material compared to acrylic; however acrylic is cheap, and in this case it was free, because it was scrap at my factory. At any rate, these hand guards are protecting against arctic air, not rocks and tree branches, so acrylic worked just fine.
Once I printed out a full size template, I taped it down to the Plexiglas and cut it out with a band saw. I intended to paint these prior to mounting them, so I was not as concerned about scratching them. If you plan on cutting your own windscreen like I did, I recommend you cover both sides of the Plexiglas with scotch tape before cutting. The scotch tape will help prevent from cracking, but most importantly it will prevent scratching the plastic. There’s a band saw, drill press, belt sander, and D/A at my office, so I made use of all of those tools on my lunch break. Once the patterns were cut, I pre-drilled the holes, used the belt sander to “rough” break the edges, and finished sanding with a D/A; then took the parts home to bend them.
I used a heat gun to bend both the hand guards, and my windscreen. There are several methods to bend acrylic from what I’ve seen, in this case I already has a heat gun, with patience and some finesse, it’s really not that difficult. If you decide to use a heat gun to bend acrylic, be warned that you can burn it, or at a minimum you will “melt” the acrylic and cause bubbles to form if you’re not patient. Keep that in mind if you’re concerned about aesthetics (I learned that the hard way…). I marked the bend points on the acrylic “blank” with a marker, then I placed two pieces of wood over the blank, outlining the first bend. I held the heat gun directly over the exposed bend for a few moments, just moving back and forth until I got the acrylic up to temperature. Once warm enough, the acrylic actually bends like gummy candy. I held it still in my hands at the desired bend, then blew on it in order to cool it sufficiently to hold its shape (it doesn’t take much). I followed this procedure until the entire guard was in the desired shape. I recommend paying attention to which direction is the front and which is the rear. I admittedly bent a piece the wrong way and needed to bend it a second time. I really recommend not doing that if you can avoid it.
Once in the desired shape, I removed one of my mirrors and grip “end cap” to fit the new clear guards on the bike. Taking mirrors on and off is a pain; not so much that it’s difficult, but mainly because I’m always concerned that I will ruin the bushings that keep the mirrors in a fixed position at speed. That is exactly what happened after taking them on and off a few times; I temporarily solved that problem with some fabric tape, but I plan on replacing those bushings this spring (about $5-10, which is ridiculous for pieces of tin). With hand guards mounted I set out the next morning (random Sunday in November) to test them out. Happy with their performance on a 36 degree day I removed them for paint. I scuffed the acrylic with 300 grit sand paper and a Scotch brite pad. Once “scuffed” I put on two layers of gray primer, and two layers of flat black paint.
Most of you have probably seen the finished product in recent blog posts. If I were to do this over again I probably would have sanded them entirely prior to bending them; that would have saved time prior to paint. In addition, I would recommend at least three coats of final paint, probably some light sanding in between. Admittedly I’m not a paint expert, I’ve heard various tips regarding painting plastic, but ultimately I’ve scratched the paint off the guards a couple time this winter. Over the summer I will probably re-scuff and put on additional layers for next winter.
I’ve definitely been very happy with the way they turned out and their ability to keep my hands warm. Until I finally break for a set of heated gloves, the heated grips in combination with the guards is completely self-sustaining right down to 32 degrees. For the colder mornings like last weekend, I still have to resort to some engine heat to keep my hands warm, but I admit that my Bike Master heated grips could stand to be a bit warmer.
After Memorial Day I imagine I will probably put my fly screen back on the bike. I’ve noticed some hairline cracks on my large screen, so I could possibly see myself working on something new later this summer. I have debating making an 18″ polycarbonate screen at some point, perhaps this will be my big chance. Do you have any home made “farkles” are your ride?