New carbon wheels for £200. What’s going on?
This bike is worth £1,000 – on a good day. So why stick a set of carbon wheels on it?
While we bang on, with no apologies, about carbon wheels and their astonishing effects on a bike and its performance, we realise that there is a limit. With prices starting at around £2,500 for a pair of BST or Dymag carbon rims, there doesn’t appear to be much sense in sticking a set on a 16-year-old hack, does there? But look what this old ZX-6R G2 is rolling on, a set of carbon spinners that look absolutely stunning – and appear to triple the bikes value in an instant. So why do it? Why treat a bike of this vintage to wheels that are clearly a few leagues above it? Why not spend that £2,500 on something decent! Well, who says we spent that much money…
LIt’s the prep work that makes the di fference. you need to work hard here...
et’s sort one thing out straight away. These are not carbon fibre rims. I haven’t dropped £2,500 of my daughters’ non existent college fund on adorning my aging ZX-6R with the best wheels in the business. What I have done, however, is used an emerging technology to its best effect, creating the illusion that I am indeed the final arbiter of style and taste!
I got in touch with a company called Aquagraphix, based in the Valleys in South Wales. The company, though relatively new to the game, offers expertise in the field of water transfer printing or hydrographics, a process often referred to as dipping. Eve Walsham and David Webber of Aquagraphix offered to dip anything we wanted, so after ruling out some of the ruder suggestions, we plumped for a set of wheels off the ZX-6R project bike and headed over the Severn Bridge to find out what the hell dipping was – and whether any sheep are harmed in the process.
The basic premise of hydrographics is the transferal of ink patterns to a solid object. It’s been around for years now, but has only recently been available commercially, as explained David, “This technology is years old, I think it started back in the 1980s with fake wooden dashes and that. The big car manufacturers owned all the patents to it, so we never got to see it. I found out about it through trying to find out how some Smart cars I’d seen were styled up and stumbled across the process. Then I found out that the patent had expired, and I was out of work at the time and thought that I could do that – and here we are, two years later.”
The process itself is relatively simple, and has spawned many people to try their hand at it, much like David started. Not all, however, have an aptitude for it and its intricacies… “I contacted a supplier, got some samples, stuck a bucket in the back garden and away I went. The basics are that you need a volume of water at a certain temperature. The print is printed on a PVA film. So the paper is PVA. It starts off as a liquid, then they make it into a film and they then print on that. It’s printed the same way newspapers are printed, on a big roller for each colour. So you need the right inks and everything like that. You then float the PVA on the water, the water hydrates the PVA to make it flexible and stretch. You let that soak for a certain time, then you put a chemical on the top called an activator. That turns the ink back into liquid. That chemical then goes into the PVA to make it more flexible, it expands out, and you then put the part in. Here, the water pressure pushes it into all the nooks and crannies. The film stops the water hitting the part first. Once that’s done, we take it out of the water, then we rinse off the PVA so all we’re left with is the ink that was on the PVA. Job done. Then we lacquer
it afterwards in whatever finish you want.”
The army survives on the mantra of prior preparation prevents piss poor performance, and the same is true in Aquagraphix’s unit. “The dipping part is the easy part,” says David, “it’s the prep that makes the difference. The more work you put in here the better, otherwise if you don’t put the effort in it’s going to look shit.”
So that preparation entails the following, “We have to sand down everything that we can, fill any gaps with primer, smooth it off, and away you go. For a set of panels, the prep is like anyone spraying it. Your wheels were blasted, etched, primed, filler primed, rubbed down and smoothed off, base coated, and dipped and lacquered.”
In terms of what pattern you want, the sky is the limit, “I’ve got a catalogue with all sorts in, thousands. One supplier has 200 different carbon fibre patterns alone.” You can even look into your own unique pattern, although set up costs push that option into the thousands.
So if you’re happy to pick from the catalogue the full coverage of a bike goes from about £500 to a grand, depending on the size of it. That includes the tank. My wheels were around £110 each, so you can see it’s very competitive compared to the other options available. I’ve had a set of tyres stuck on, and the finish survived that ordeal, so as long as they are lacquered well they should bat off knocks well.
The key to getting a great result is to know what final look you want, and to pick the right people to do it, people that know what they’re doing an haven’t just set up. Given what I’ve ended up with here, I know I’ve started a little addiction that’s going to be hard to shake.
Aquagraphix for the tea and dipping! Go to www .aquagraphix. co.uk or check out their Fa cebook page. Also, much love to Blastcoat (www .blastcoat.net 07939 825113) for the stripping and blasting of the wheels, while thanks go out to Lees MOT (01443 833 539) for getting the bearings in and out!
A new technology needs a selfie... Doin’ the dip Activating the activator... Make sure the prep work is done
Words: simon ‘rootsy’ roots p ic s: Roo t s y, Aquagr a p hi x