Welcome to our practical guide to the best dirt bike plastics 2020. When you are riding offroad, bumps and crashes are inevitable. This is all part of the thrill and experience of dirt bike riding. Your plastics will get broken. Over time even if you are skilled (and lucky) enough to never crash, plastics can become brittle and faded.
More regular riding will mean new plastics more often. It’s an expense and necessity we expect as dirt bike riders. However, dealer replacement or OEM parts can be expensive. So what are the alternatives?
This article will highlight:
- What to look out for in aftermarket plastics
- The top three aftermarket plastics
- How to restore dirt bike plastics
- A step-by-step guide to refurbishing faded or scratched dirt bike plastics
- Products to help with restoring dirt bike plastics
You’ll be surprised at how a few upgrades and small tricks can make your bike look showroom-new again.
What to look for in Aftermarket Plastics for Dirt Bikes
With lots of options available, you’ll want to ensure you’re buying good quality materials. A quality plastic will stand up to everything the rigors of track and trail can throw up. Something cheap will probably crack, bend and fade (or all of the above). As with all dirt bike products, buying the best you can afford ensures longevity.
New, quality plastics should be resilient to UV, wear and tear and general ride conditions. Quality plastic can also ensure graphics align correctly. Plastics should fit well to your bike; with all pre-drilled holes at correct dimensions and in the right places.
A poor-quality plastic may cause your graphics to bubble. Cheaper plastics may also expose a different color such as a white underneath when scratched, bent or refurbished. They may even show signs of premature cracking.
Some aftermarket dirt bike plastics may be more well suited to different factory brands, so don’t be afraid to ask potential suppliers lots of questions.
It’s really down to research around the choices available. If you pick a supplier that’s reputable and known to care about the dirt bike game, you can be more confident they will deliver the goods.
When your plastics arrive, un-box all items ensuring everything aligns with your bike. Check that they are right for your bike model and not damaged.
When happy, you’re ready to fit!
Top Three Aftermarket Dirt Bike Plastics
1. Cycra Dirt Bike Plastics
With over 20 years in the business, Cycra is constantly looking for ways to improve designs. With most riders using expensive OEM products, Cycra saw an opportunity. They aim to make plastics lighter yet stronger than OEM parts.
Patented technology includes a PowerFlow air scoop, a channel on the front fender. This takes high-velocity air and forces it toward the radiator and fuel tank, to help cool these by up to 33%.
Other innovations such as stadium plates with extra covers for the triple clamps; a full-armor all-plastic skid-plate, and a one-piece back-panel (as opposed to two) ensure they remain market leaders.
Cycra is often developing new colors such as a sought-after lightning yellow. Fenders come with slab nuts replacing pop rivets for a more secure fit. They also boast an airbox lid with removable vent plugs. Front fork guards are reinforced on the bottom for launch-device applications.
Their high-end product range is available for most two and four-stroke bikes and Cycra oversees the whole process from research, design and manufacture all under one roof in North Carolina.
Their website is very user-friendly and includes videos to help with installation, while customer service is said to be great.
2. Acerbis Replacement Dirt Bike Plastics
This means they’re a great option for those who drop or knock their bikes regularly. The lower cost also means a great option for those who often like to upgrade the look of their bike.
You may sometimes need to trim plastics a little, but on the whole, panels fit the factory locations. Lower-quality material may mean scratches are more common, so you may wish to consider graphics to protect your Acerbis plastics.
The Acerbis chain slider and chain block is will even outlast more expensive OEM versions.
Overall, Acerbis plastics may be thinner but this means they are more flexible, and more flexibility isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With the fenders especially, this can mean less snapping than firmer plastics from other suppliers.
Acerbis is a great option for those who like to ride hard and often on the tracks and trails. They have a range of colors and options available to suit your style or for kitting out multi-rider teams.
3. UFO Replacement Aftermarket Plastics
UFO plastics are thicker and stiffer than other aftermarket plastics. Some say they are identical to stock or OEM plastics you’d get with the bike. Many even report they favor UFO plastics over the more flexible Acerbis. This could mean the UFO plastics are more suited to your particular bike model or needs.
UFO plastics certainly offer more bang for your buck, so if you like to upgrade your plastics regularly, UFO could be a worthy consideration.
While the company makes all their own molds, there have been some fitment issues reported and this could mean more fettling. Spider cracks can also be common, so care is advised if you are new to dirt biking.
Available for almost every dirt bike, UFO plastics are available in a wide range of colors. The plastics are also easy to modify and install, with pre-drilled holes.
Beware though, as you sometimes get what you pay for. Always consider your options and check what’s best for your bike model, experience and riding style.
As with Cycra, UFO is known to put money and research back into the dirt bike industry, with a customer service team who are great to deal with.
But what if your bike is not worth the investment of new plastics? Or, you own an old classic and want to keep the original parts?
Read on for our top tips on restoring older plastics.
How to Restore Dirt Bike Plastics
Our step-by-step guide has everything you need to know about refurbishing, restoring and giving your old plastics a facelift.
How to Repair Damaged Plastics
Your plastics may have scratches or have become sun-damaged over time. The first thing you should aim to do is bring the surface of the plastic back to a smooth and even finish.
You can do this by using a few household or hardware items, for example a razor blade (or box cutter) and sandpaper.
Sun Damaged / Faded Plastics
Faded and damaged plastics will often have good, colorful plastic underneath the surface. Using a razor blade, we can essentially ‘shave’ the damaged outer layer away.
When working with cheaper plastics, ensure the color is the same throughout all parts. For example when working with red, you’ll want to reveal red as you work. To check this, you may wish to scrape an inconspicuous place to begin with, somewhere out of sight.
1. Start with your new, rust-free razor. The blade should be near vertical but leaning in the direction of motion. For example when pulling the blade away from yourself, tilt the top of the blade away and pull the sharp edge along the plastic. Caution: never have the edge of the blade moving towards the direction of motion, as this may gouge the plastic.
2. Starting in larger areas such as fenders, scrape gently in long sweeping strokes. You’ll see faded plastic begin to flake away, revealing the original color underneath.
3. Depending on the attention your plastics need, it can be a long process. But it is more than worth it as, apart from time, this method is completely free. For any edges and tighter areas work the blade in smaller motions. You want to create a smooth surface, not more scratches. Take your time!
4. Once this process is complete, you may have ‘flat spots’ where you created grooves. To smooth these out, simply move the razor across the surface in opposing directions. For example, if you went along the length of the fender, now come lightly across the width of it. Be sure to stop and check how it looks as you go.
5. With the faded layer removed, you should now have a colorful matte surface. If you appreciate a vintage look can stop here. To restore to a gloss finish, read on.
6. Next, take some alcohol and a clean cloth. Wipe the alcohol into the surface to remove all impurities.
Allow THE ALCOHOL to dry completely, before applying heat.
7. Now apply some heat. Working with your heat gun, hair dryer or blowtorch, in very small strokes, keep the heat moving over the plastic. Don’t get too close as the plastic could melt right through.
8. And hey presto, your plastics should already look much better.
For scratch removal, the above process is also effective. Simply clean the whole plastic and work around the scratch to remove any protruding barbs. Next take a layer off in the same way, following the above steps, to smooth out the whole surface.
Sandpaper or Blocks
If a razor blade is unavailable, some prefer sandpaper and / or a sanding block when restoring their plastics. Sandpaper and a sand block can be a worthy stand-alone method for restoring the plastics in place of a razor. Blocks can be useful for tighter areas or uneven plastics.
You can of course use a combination of sandpaper, block and a razor for different parts plastics. It’s always good to play around and see what works best for you.
When using sandpaper, start with a 220 grit and work your way down through the grades to the finest, ending with 400-600 grit.
We recommend you don’t go lower than a 220 grit, as this may be too coarse and damage your plastics.
Work in an X pattern, moving back and fore the plastic. Finish the job with the finest grit available to you, before treating the surface with your heat gun.
When smoothing back any ‘flat spots’ as mentioned in point 4 of our step-by-step guide, a multi-grit block can help with this job too. Use some water to create a wet-sand, again working in an X motion to knock back any ‘flat spots’, before applying heat.
When purchasing sets, there are many wet and dry sandpaper options available for purchase, such as this:
Razor Blade Tool
If you’d prefer to use a larger tool for the job rather than a small, fiddly razor blade, you can always purchase a scraper, like this. These come with an ergonomic grip and may be easier to hold when accessing nooks and niches.
Dry buffing wheel
Another option to treat faded plastics is a dry buffer wheel. You can use this after a sanding or razor treatment to bring the plastic back up to a natural shine. Caution is advised, however; use these lightly and in sweeping motions. A buffer can cause the plastic to become overly hot and cause unintentional damage.
Motocross Advice Top Tips for Dirt Bike Plastics
Tips for using heat guns
Following the razor blade, sandpaper or buffer methods, heat is always your next step to ensure the surface is smoothed out.
When using a gas blowtorch, a great tip is to have a pot of cold water ready next to your work area. Once you’ve gently melted the surface, quickly throw this water on to the plastics. This cools the plastic instantly and preserves the gloss look that you’ve created. If left to cool naturally, the plastic can return to matte.
When purchasing a heat gun, there are many options available. We recommend this model with variable temperature control from Seekone.
When happy with your job and the plastics are nicely restored, we recommend a final grade using Solvol Autosol available here. While it is a metal polish, it also works as a high-quality fine grade and plastic polish.
Dirt Bike Plastic Restore Products
There’s a wide range of plastic restorers you can try for your final grade. These include Plastic Renew or Turtle Wax.
Apply to clean surfaces only, using a clean, dry cloth. These are especially effective on blacks but can also be used for most colors. Be sure to check your chosen product on an inconspicuous area of plastic, before applying all over.
Caution – due to the nature of these kinds of products, they are NOT suitable for fuel tanks or areas more prone to prolonged rubbing, such as from your kit or boots.
So there we have it. Everything you need to know about aftermarket plastic purchasing or restoring your old plastics. These options could be an ideal solution if you are on a budget or for your very first dirt bike.
Adding aftermarket plastics to a brand new bike serves another purpose. You can remove OEM stock plastics and replace them with aftermarket plastics before your first ride. When it comes to reselling your bike, simply take off the worn aftermarket plastics and replace the original OEMs, which may help to sell your bike. People often buy on looks!
None of these methods may be completely perfect, but they will certainly save you money.
So if you are looking for that showroom look, we recommend that Cycra have the best quality, fit and longevity. But if you are on a budget and have time at your disposal, you can also have fun restoring your old plastics.
We’ll be back with more advice soon. In the meantime, have fun out there!