Monday, March 9, 2009

Black-to-Silver Wheel Transform

My stock 650 V-Strom was black in too many places - including the wheels. It stripped the bike of personality and a degree of visibility, which I have made a priority since Day One. A fellow Strom forum member had done this treatment to his bike, so I finally found a weekend to turn around this transformation on mine.

Prep was typical automotive de rigeur with 400-grit sandpaper removing the majority of the original black paint without scratching up the cast wheel surfaces. Taping under the wheel lip at the tire joint and across mating surfaces for brakes and sprocket parts came next. A newspaper masking 'wrap' around the exposed tire had me ready for the fun stuff.

I placed a paint-ready wheel on some clean cardboard atop a fullsize plastic garbage can - a perfect height for spraying around the wheel without moving it. A simple flip and both sides can be painted in just minutes. Changing out the cardboard after both the primer and paint cycles kept dust and other issues to a minimum.

A thorough cleaning with paint prep solution got me ready for priming. Duplicolor's Etch Primer went on first in several light coats before a few 'wet' coats were applied. Within 30 minutes I was prep-washed again and applying color - Duplicolor's Silver Wheel Metallic. Similar light-then-'wet' coats were down in another 30 minutes.

Lastly, several coats of Duplicolor's Clear Coat polished off the project. An hour later, I was peeling off the masking materials and placing the wheels where they would safely dry for the next few days. Results? My HD-riding next door neighbor said they looked factory - can't get a better compliment than that, huh?

It was really pretty easy as long as you follow Duplicolor's paint instructions, which means my errors are basically invisible and anyone else can pull this mod off with some patience and close attention. Better get started, though - spring is almost here!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

SparX Corsa Full Face Helmet Review

Along with full face protection, I wanted a little visibility for my money and a splash of color to add to my black jacket and metallic gray bike paint. My SparX Corsa full face helmet is one of their 2007 S-07 street series models. As a $79 closeout with free shipping from Revzilla, it was a slam dunk decision but not before reading up on its qualifications. The Corsa's classic red/white color scheme is a cool Italian throwback - the other S-07 models are highly attractive, more contemporary black/grey graphic designs.

The SparX S-07 lineup was given the thumbs-up for price/quality by many reviewers/owners. Other than a thinly disguised slam by an unidentified rival, they challenge the price points of many helmets which is good news for the rider who cannot justify a $300 Shoei - and can live without the added features.

A thermoplastic design, the SparX S-07 line is lightweight but rugged. I detected no flex or cheapness in its build. Fit and finish were excellent with quality materials and workmanship clearly evident. The Sparx S-07's are made with a removable liner, D-rings and snapping neckstrap, clear visor and mouth/brow/forehead ventilation, as well exhaust vents at the rear. The mouth vent sends air up in front of the visor - not at your face. This worked well with additional brow vents just below the visor's top edge. At speed, this design is above average for a tightly filled space with your head in it.

The visor received a low score by some on ease-of-operation with just one small side tab for opening it. I anticipated some aggravation but had no trouble cracking it open to the first clickstop easily with a gloved thumb/forefinger manuever.

What bugged me more was the neckstrap being placed aft of an ideal location under my chin and that the strap snap is in a tight spot under the padding. Truthfully, the strap location wasn't a big issue and the strap end is short and doesn't necessarily need to be snapped up.

There is also an elastic retainer for your earplugs to keep them handy - a nice touch and noble effort toward ear protection advocacy. A substantial helmet bag finishes this quality product's features.

Internal fit was spot on and very comfortable with good padding all around. The cheek pads were much more comfy than I anticipated and felt fine throughout the afternoon - they will get better over time. One thing I will miss is being able to take a drink of water or pop some chocolate in my mouth while riding (note to self: get a squeeze bottle). Overall, the SparX is a huge improvement over my more spherical HJC open face CL model which is now officially replaced.

SparX's are DOT and ECE 22-05 safety rated - for a nice read on the Snell vs. EC 22-05 controversy, read this test report for further insight on US and European performance standards.

As my first full face, I was initially hesitant about crammin' my heads into one of these designs, but the Sparx cured me almost immediately. On my trial run with the Corsa, I rode for 4 hours and enjoyed myself immensely - having springlike weather was a plus.

I tried the Corsa out three ways - without earplugs and cracked at the first visor opening, without earplugs and visor closed, and then both 'cracked and closed' with ear plugs. To be honest, any of 'em was fine with me on a cool day. The SparX Corsa was sufficiently quiet open or closed, but earplugs and a closed visor gave me the serenity needed for truly enjoyable riding.

SparX offers a 5-year warranty and free helmet replacement with a submitted police report in the event of a crash - a unique approach to developing brand loyalty! For my first full face, the $140 retail-priced SparX Corsa is a great choice - and a response to the demand for cheaper, high quality head protection in the 'new' economy.

SparX's Customer Service (800.595.0080) will confirm an accurate fit based on your existing size and brand - give 'em a call.