How To Install A Dirt Bike Graphics Kit
Ever purchased a dirt bike graphics kit to freshen up your motocross bike, but been too scared to put it on for fear of destroying it in the process? Here are the secrets MXstore staff members have been using for years to get graphics on quickly and easily.
What are the options?
The old saying goes there are a few different ways to skin a cat, which also applies to sticker kits as there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do this. We have suggested the following method as it has ended up being the easiest way we have experienced while getting good results, and can be cleaner than some other ways involving soapy water to assist getting the graphics on straight.
Other alternatives for applying graphics to the bike using nothing but elbow grease, which can work out fine, but if you haven’t applied graphics before we wouldn’t recommend it! The downside is the graphics are sticky and not very malleable, so you will have to get them straight the first try or you could damage the kit trying to rip them off to get them straight.
Another method is the wet application using soapy water to lubricate the plastics and the sticker kit so you can place the graphics on and slide them around until you have them in the correct place. The downside is some believe that even though the soapy water dries, there is always soap residue the remains beneath the dirt bike graphics kit, compromising the adhesive strength and making the kit more likely to peel off over time.
How we do it:
At MXstore we use a heat gun or hair dryer to pre-warm our MX graphics which makes them malleable and easier to apply. This prevents the need to use soap making the graphics stick on solid so wash your hands and get ready to sticker up!
Step 1: Remove the old graphic kit from areas which you want to apply graphics to, you want a clean and smooth surface for the best chance of your graphics looking good and staying on. There may be some glue residue left on your plastics which is easiest to clean off with an alcohol-based cleaner - it's important not to use any oil-based cleaners, as this can damage the glue after installation.
Step 2: When your bike is clean and dry, take all of your new graphics out of the packaging and work out where every piece needs to go, it can be confusing sometimes with similarly shaped dirt bike stickers, so a good way to remember is working everything out and then laying them on the ground in the pattern which they will go onto your bike.
Step 3: You are ready to start applying! Choose a part of the bike which is smooth and relatively flat for your first try rather than picking a rounded surface which can be tricky, we usually start on the front fender and work our way to the back of the bike from there.
Some people like to remove the plastics from the bike to apply graphics, but we have found that on a full kit, some parts of the bike won’t line up perfectly straight, so keeping the plastics on the bike will help you get everything lining up straighter. You may want to remove your seat or certain pieces of plastic momentarily as some graphics are designed to fold over an edge and stick down on the top of your fuel tank for example, which would be harder with your seat still attached.
Begin by holding the sticker to the desired location to see how well it will line up and where you want it to stick. Once you are happy, peel away a small section of the backing paper so you have a small section of adhesive exposed. We always find a straight section to start on as when you line the first part up properly the rest of the sticker should line up correctly with the plastic providing the sticker template is made well.
Once you have a small section stuck to the plastic and before you remove the rest of the sticker backing check to see if the sticker is lining up with the rest of the plastic by holding it down to see where it lines up. If you are happy you are ready to finish this off, if not you can lift the sticker off and have another try until you get it right!
This is where the heat gun comes into play:
Take your heat gun or hair dryer set on a low setting and use it to warm the motocross graphics up on the edge which is being stuck down, hold the heat gun approximately 30cm from the target as stickers are thin, so they don’t need much heat before they start to melt - take your time and be careful or you will end up with a warped mess!
As you warm the sticker up you can slowly peel the backing paper off and work the sticker down using your fingers, you will find the sticker is soft because of the heat and will mould to the shape of the plastics easily. Because of the warmth, it will be less likely to bubble and the sticker can stretch or compress easily and form to the shape you need it to.
Keep doing this until the sticker is completely on and you should have a straight, smooth sticker free from bubbles, and have no need to use a box cutter to trim the loose parts of your sticker kit.
Repeat this process on every panel but bear in mind a surface which is concave or convex will always be difficult to apply without bubbles, some stickers for these panels come with a small section cut out to allow for an overlap. You may need to trim these further so do your best and don’t be scared to trim if need be!
We have lost count of how many times we have had customers enquire at MXstore about custom dirt bike graphics, only to learn that the kit they are chasing is unavailable or will be more expensive than they were hoping for. We have put together a quick buyers’ guide to hopefully shed some light on misconceptions surrounding MX decals once and for all.
What you can and can't get:
The most common issue we come across is people wanting the exact kit their favourite athlete is running in magazines or TV, which is covered in their sponsor brand logos. The issue is these kits are always custom made for the rider as the brand logos are advertising space for sponsors as a return on investing in an athlete, but are never usually designed for mass production or retail sale.
These kits are purely made for the rider for advertisement, occasionally a large graphics company such as Factory Effex will do a deal with a big brand like Monster or Metal Mulisha to run a few replica kits for retail sale, so if you are in the market for a replica kit this can be the answer to your needs.
Companies like this produce an entire catalogue of dirt bike graphic kits to suit most recent models of motocross and enduro bikes, they are usually well priced with different options of whether you only get tank and shroud graphics or an entire kit, pricing info and stock availability is easy to get and their kits are a simple way to freshen your bike up without breaking the bank.
The alternative is having a custom kit made up for your bike the benefit being you can choose almost anything to be added to your bike decals, the downside is because a designer has to create a kit from scratch and then print it as a one-off, the cost to make a custom kit is much higher than a mass-produced one.
Please note, it remains a grey area as to whether adding a brand logo to your custom sticker kit is legal. On one hand, you are offering free advertising by showing their logo and on the other hand you may not have paid for the logo and may not have permission to use it. We will leave it up to the individual designer of the graphics kit as to whether or not they will add any brand logo’s to your kit so keep this in mind!
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