March 17 2011 by Jason Fogelson
After you have bolted on all of the handy accessories and cosmetic add-ons to your scoot, after you've tweaked the ergonomics and made your bike as comfortable as your La-Z-Boy recliner, you may still be looking for a way to make your bike stand out from the crowd.
It's time to explore the world of custom paint.
You've got three choices when it comes to custom paint: Do it yourself; hire a professional; or swap out old parts for factory custom pre-painted ones.
Even though motorcycle parts are much smaller than car parts, I wouldn't recommend taking on a motorcycle paint job unless you feel like you would do a car paint job. You need so much equipment, training and expertise to paint motorcycle parts that your paint job will wind up costing you much more than it would to hire a professional painter, and your results are hardly guaranteed to please.
That said, I have done some very small paint jobs on my bike. For instance, I've changed a few small parts from chromed plastic to flat black painted plastic with a spray can paint job. I did the proper preparation and took the time to remove the parts from the bike, give them a light sanding, priming and several thin coats of automotive spray paint. The results were great -- but the amount of work showed me that I would never take on a bigger job.
So, how do you hire a professional bike painter? Start by asking for recommendations at your local motorcycle dealer. Often, bike dealers will have relationships with local painters to do custom work, like dealership-branded bikes or special event bikes. Or they may have a custom paint shop onsite. If your dealer can't give you a recommendation, check with local automotive body shops and professional auto body supply stores. Keep your eyes open, and look for custom painted bikes on the road in your area, and talk to their owners. If you see something that you like, you'll be on the road toward finding a painter you'll want to hire.
Once you find a painter, talk with them about your ideas for your bike. Bring pictures of artwork that you like, not just pictures of bikes, but pictures of cars, buildings, nature -- anything that inspires you on your bike. Ask your painter to prepare some sketches before actually painting your parts, so that you can avoid bad surprises later. Negotiate a price and make an agreement in writing before committing to a paint job, and include details about mechanical issues. Who is going to be responsible for dis-assembly and assembly? Is the paint job guaranteed, and for how long? How much will it cost, and when will it be completed? The cost of a motorcycle paint job can vary widely, depending on whether or not your original paint is in good shape, or if the painting surface needs to be stripped to bare metal and primed again. Expect to pay $1,000 to $1,500 to add paint to an already good surface; $1,500 and up if you are starting over from scratch. The more elaborate your paint scheme, the more expensive it will be. As with most motorcycle-related projects, you get what you pay for.
If the prospect of a total custom paint job seems overwhelming, you might want to consider the third option: a factory custom paint job. In essence, you'll buy new parts for your bike, and those fresh new parts will get a factory finish in custom colors and designs, often for a lower cost than painting your old parts. The Harley-Davidson Color Shop offers a wide array of cool paint schemes and colors, and the quality is guaranteed, taking the risk out of a paint job.
Your bike can truly become a reflection of your personality, without breaking the bank in the process. Even cooler, if you're shopping for a new bike, you can have it customized directly at the factory in about 4 weeks, instead of taking delivery of a stock bike and working from there. Check out the H-D1 Customization for details.