Learn to paint your motorcycle!

This guide is courtesy of Glenn Merideth from Bridger, Montana. Glenn learned to paint mostly on his own and was kind enough to put together this concise page on the basics of what you need and how to do it.

Step by step automotive/motorcycle painting for beginners

OK  first things first, the "must have" equipment and supplies;

Air Compressor. I cannot stress enough just how important having the proper spec'ed air compressor is. For this application at least, you are going to be using an "HPLV" paint gun. That’s short for High Pressure (60PSI) Low Volume.(A small amount of paint is being supplied to the tip, along with a higher pressure which gives nice light, but even coats, especially metallics).

When you go to purchase that HPLV gun, take ALL the specs of the compressor with you! I recommend using a Sears Craftsman pressure regulator mounted between the tank pressure gauge and the air hose. With the regulator mounted there, you can limit the exact air PSI in the hose itself, instead of adding the extra weight and bulk of having it mounted on the bottom of the gun grip, which makes it much easier to control the guns’ angle to the work!

I can supply pics via email for those who want an exact picture in their heads of what I am talking about, yes, it is that important!

The compressor that I used when I sprayed that Pearl Metallic Gold paint and one that was designed with automotive HPLV guns in mind, is as follows; Compressor model # 919-167620, 120V, 33 Gallon, 150 PSI, permanent.lube.These next specs are the MOST IMPORTANT; 6.3 scfm @ 40PSI, 4.9 scfm @ 90PSI. With those two specs in hand, and knowing the other specs, when you go to purchase an airgun for shooting automotive paint, the sales pro will know exactly which guns to show you. (and remember, that compressor will power any airtool there is, as well as lots of other stuff!)

If you only plan on painting about 2-4 bikes a year, and just basic painting, no flames or "ghosting" or murals etc., then Harbour Freight has a nice set of HPLV guns that actually do a very good job in laying a very even metallic coat for about $100 on sale! If you plan on painting a lot of bikes, like 15-20 a year, then you had better step up to the pump and be ready to fork over $250-$1500 for very high end guns!

Next we need personal protection, as we want you alive to show off your work afterwards! You will need a painters’ gas mask. Preferably one that is re-usable with changeable filters, as the fumes from this paint is deadly. And you will also need a box of toss-out non-latex exam type gloves, sold in any paint shop! For painting a bike in ONE color, I used a 2X12ft board on waist high workhorses (you can hang your pieces from a rack using wire as well) and had the tank, 2 side panels and both fenders set a little over a foot apart, upside down. After I shot 6 light coats, and let it set up for 30 min I flipped them all over, having the gun now set perfectly for the visible top side. Then did 6 more light coats, waiting 10 minutes between each coat. The instructions that came with the paint called for 3 coats, but I have personally found that with single stage paints, many light coats give a much better final finish, as the pictures will attest). After 24 hours, it was set hard enough to put my bike back together. However, you cannot wax it for 6 weeks! It takes at least that long for all the chemical reactions to set up properly.

Ok, now your thinking,"this is all good and well, IF you know how to shoot paint!” Well, I had no experience at all before this first attempt, but, I DID have some good advice, and was instructed on how to practice and learn on my own. Here is how it is done. First, you obviously need the equipment. Then like I did, go down to a good junk yard, and buy an undamaged car hood or trunk lid for cheap. These are your "practice objects" as well as some large cardboard sheets and a gallon of paint thinner. Use the thinner to practice shooting a liquid out of the guns against the cardboard until you learn how to hold the gun right.

Shoot at 90 degrees to the object AT ALL TIMES! You ask “why”? Take your hand and move it from side to side. Notice how it actually moves in an arc? If you do that you’ll have a thin coat on each side and a too-thick, runny coat in the middle. Hold the gun at a perfect 90 degrees to the work about 12 inches away and move your entire body from side to side. Practice with the paint remover on cardboard until you master this important movement 100%. You CANNOT shoot paint until you have that down pat!

Now you will learn how to prepare the surface to be painted! Take a rough grit paper (about 300-500 grit) keep it wet, and keep sanding until all blemishes that you can feel with your bare hand are gone. Then take 800 grit, and smooth it down more. When it it almost as smooth as the proverbial "babies bottom” you are now ready for the 1500 grit final smooth down. It should feel like the smoothest pottery you have ever felt! Any imperfections that you miss will be magnified greatly with any darkish color!

At this point, you are now ready to try your first practice PAINTING! Start on the hood or trunk lid and keep moving. Most people move WAY TOO DAMN SLOW!!!! When I shoot the side of a pickup, I am walking about as fast as I can from front to rear with each coat! So, speed is another item that you will need to learn. If you get a run, STOP, wipe it down fast, then resume the painting, giving a very light coat over where the run was wiped down until you have finished the whole layer.

It is easier than you think, and it does not take long to master holding the gun right, moving at the right speed, and knowing when to stop! Painting two colors, like on a Harley Davidson tank, will require more skills and knowledge, but after you have mastered the basic painting skills, buy one of the many "how to” books out there. It will give you all the info on which color to paint first, how to mask off , and how long before you remove the masking tape so it does not pull up paint with the tape!

Right before you start to paint your own pride and joy, there is one more practice that I would recommend. Get a junk yard tank, and when you can paint THAT tank without any problems and you are pleased with the final outcome, then, you are ready to tackle your own stuff! I have written this guide with NAPA's "Crossfire" Automotive "single stage" paint in mind. It comes in no less that over 500 shades/colors, and if you have the manufacturers paint codes for your bike/car, then they can get an awful close match. Close enough that you cannot tell any difference! The clear coat is already blended in, which is why it is called single stage. I had a 35 MPH slide on a mountain switchback curve where the road was covered in loose gravel, and me and the bike went for a 25 foot slide into the mountain side. My helmet was scraped up pretty good as was my leather jacket sleeve and my chaps. The only damage to the bike was scraping up the baffels real good, and shearing off the right footpeg. Not a mark to be found anywhere on the paint! That is just how hard it sets up!

And another good piece of news. The paint starts out at about $65 a quart (for tractor colors, like John Deere green) to about $200 for pearl/metallic mix which is what mine is, as well as more exotic colors. If anyone who is reading this, and is seriously wanting to attempt to customize their own bike would like to have a talk about any aspect of this, or there is a professional with some better learning techniques, then, by all means, speak up in an email!

Contact me at glenn.merideth@gmail.com . Here is my photobucket site: http://s481.photobucket.com/albums/rr176/montanaghost/ .

Hope this was helpful in SOME WAY for SOMEONE!

Glenn "Casper" Merideth

90 Golden LN Bridger, MT 59014

Classic Japanese Motorcycle Books

How To Build a Cafe Racer...

contains a number of different tips and tricks that you can use in order to take an older motorbike and convert it into a Britbike that everyone can be impressed with. Take it anywhere on the planet and you will feel like you’re the king of the road. You can’t deny that café racers, when put together correctly, are very attractive. They look very smooth, and they can move pretty quickly if you put the time into the engine. Even with the small amount of horsepower that they have, they look and drive better than any other rice rocket that you see on the roads today.

Honda Motorcycles 1959 to 1985: Enthusiasts Guide...

is designed to aid the non-professional motorcycle collector decide whether or not to buy and restore Honda motorcycles produced between 1959 and 1985. For each of these models, author Doug Mitchel provides four to six paragraphs describing the bike in general terms including difference and similarities between the model being discussed and other similar models.

In addition, bullet points for each model will include the following information: cost to acquire the project; value when finished; which bikes/models should not be restored due to declining value; and where to find the frame and engine numbers. This new book will also include what to look for when checking the condition of items like the paint and decals, chrome, seat, rubber parts, and suspension.

A general section at the back of the book will offer the reader help deciding where to buy classic bikes, where to get parts, who to call for help, and which parts of the restoration should be farmed out to experts with specific skills.

The 1970s and 1980s were wonderful eras for the motorcycle...

with their assortment of crazy two-strokes, and the first multi-cylinder superbikes coming thick and fast from Japan. It was a time of fast-paced engineering advances, and a time in motorcycle history that is unlikely ever to be repeated.

Those over-budget motorcycles that we longed for then are now available well within budget ... and just waiting to be restored. This book will guide you, in detail, through every stage of classic motorcycle restoration. From sourcing a bike, to outlining each of the techniques, tips and tricks used by experts, this guide will save you time, money, and - best of all - show you that you don't need expert knowledge or a fully-fitted workshop to restore your dream bike.

Packed full of photographs, and with detailed instructions, this book is the perfect companion for any classic motorcycle restorer.

In The Build, Robert Hoekman Jr...

compiles insights from today's best builders to help you plot out your own beautiful beast. Loaded with photos, The Build features firsthand advice from the masters of moto design, including John Ryland (Classified Moto), Alan Stulberg (Revival Cycles), Jared Johnson (Holiday Customs), Jarrod DelPrado (DP Customs), and the legendary Max Hazan (Hazan Motorworks). The Build is as much a 192-page motorcycle art book as it is a blueprint to building the perfect custom bike. The book is the bible of custom motorcycle design, starting with an explanation of all the different bike styles, and then moving into a concise, easy-to-read guide that takes from finding a donor bike to figuring out how to alter the lines to your liking. The book also covers selecting and building parts, painting and finishing, and what kind of performance modifications might be appropriate. It's time to do it yourself. Get The Build.


Classic Motorcycle Mechanics looks at maintaining, restoring and rebuilding the modern classics of motorcycling. Ground-breaking 1970s, 80s and 90s machines from the likes of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki are road tested, reviewed and discussed in detail. There’s news and views too, and readers’ rides ranging from fully faired racing machines to single-cylinder road bikes are put under the microscope.

The pitfalls of purchasing modern classics are outlined in handy buyers’ guides, and there’s advice on the best bargains to be had today. Particular parts are profiled and essential workshop procedures are explained in full.

So don’t miss out – get involved and take out your magazine subscription now!

The Kawasaki Triples Bible...

covers the entire production of three cylinder two-strokes from 1968 to 1980, featuring a year-by-year breakdown of bike specs, including the KH250, 350 S2, KH400, H1 500 and H2 750 models. Illustrated with hundreds of archive photographs and period adverts, plus personal memories from some of the racers and tuners who got the best from the fearsome H1R 500 and H2R machines in Europe and the USA, as well as road riders who owned the triples back in the 70s.

There are technical tips and advice from experienced Kawasaki triple enthusiasts and club members worldwide, plus information from some early dealers in the Kawasaki marque. The book also contains useful advice on spares availability, tuning, future market values etc., and tries to capture the essence of what made the Kawasaki triples the most rebellious, kick-ass two-strokes of their time. This unique book is an invaluable resource for any collector, restorer, or just a fan of these fabulous two-stroke motorcycles


I was contacted by a college student with an offer to add a resource link here to the wide ranging subject of motorcycle safety. If you click on the pic above you will be given no less than 30 MORE links covering everything from riding safely, courses that are available for doing exactly that, and motorcycle safety gear from the helmet to the boot.

Here is the text...

"Motorcyclists face many challenges to remain safe on the road. Avoiding accidents by driving safely and wearing safety equipment can greatly reduce one’s chance of injury or worse. Owning a bike can be a real adventure, as many feel like there is nothing like the open road and the world around you. While you’re exposed to the world, however, you are also exposed to many dangers. Ninety six percent of motorcyclists are injured when faced with an accident.

When deciding to own a motorcycle you’re almost thirty five times more likely to be killed in an accident than anyone in a passenger vehicle. These statistics are not meant to scare you, but rather to give you an honest idea of what is against you and how you can prevent injury or death while riding.

Consumer Reports – Ten Motorcycle Safety Tips For New Riders

Esurance – How to Stay Safe on Your Motorcycle

Mirror – Four Ways to Stay Safe on Your Motorbike

Transport for NSW – Reduce Risks for A Safer Ride

Discovery.com – Top Ten Ways to Stay Safe on Your Motorcycle

Motorcycle Views – Ten Ways to Be Safe on a Motorcycle

DMV.org – Tips for a Safe Ride

Business Insider – 10 Motorcycle Safety Tips I Learned Riding A Harley Davidson Through The Mountains

Motorcycle Safety Course

In order to drive a motorcycle, it is no surprise that you will need to prove your skills before you are given a license. Depending on state you live in, you may not be required by law to go to a safety course before you get your license, but based on the statistics above, it sure couldn’t hurt. In order to find the safety course that is right for you in your area, visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

They work together with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to educate and test the millions of motorcycle riders on the road today. With over one thousand five hundred locations available across the country, there should be one available near you.

Discovery – Top Ten Reasons to Take a Motorcycle Safety Course

Vespa Motorsport – Should I Take a Motorcycle Safety Course?

DMV.org – How to Lower Insurance Rates with a Motorcycle Safety Course

American Motorcycle Association – Getting Started: 5 Things Every New Rider Should Know

DMV.Org – Benefits of Taking a Motorcycle Safety Course

Connelly Campion Wright – Motorcycle Safety Course Can Reduce Your Monthly Rate

DMV – Consider Taking a Safety Course

Harley-Davidson – The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy New Rider Course

The Advantages of a Motorcycle Helmet

It only makes sense that you should have to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. You had to wear one when you went roller blading and you were only four feet away from the ground then. Now that you’re one a motorized bike surrounded passenger vehicles, a helmet is just a good idea.

In most motorcycle fatalities, the victim lost their life due to brain injury simply because they weren’t wearing a helmet. The intention of a helmet is to absorb any impact to the head and protect the brain, and so the material used to make the helmet is critical. Look for helmets that are lightweight, crack resistant and strong. Even though they might be a bit more expensive, they’ll be worth it in the long run.

The next important thing to consider is comfort. If you aren’t comfortable, you’re less likely to wear it and that defeats the entire purpose. Find a full face helmet (as that is the safest helmet you can find) that fits tightly around your head. Although it is snug, it shouldn’t be squeezing your brain out of your ears. It should still feel soft enough around the circumference of your head. Find one that you like and looks cool. Just make sure it has that DOT approval sticker on the back .

MSF-USA – What You Should Know About Motorcycle Helmets

Street Directory – Motorcycle Helmets – Why Are They Important?

Rush University Medical Center – Helmet Safety: Keep a Lid On It

Governors Highway Safety Association – New Study a Reminder of Importance of Motorcycle Helmet Use

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Motorcycle Safety

World Health Organization – Why Are Helmets Needed?

John Hopkins Medicine – Motorcycle Helmets Reduce Spine Injuries After Collisions; Helmet Weight as Risk to Neck called a ‘Myth”

Safe Clothing All Motorcyclists Should Wear

Of course your helmet is the most important thing to wear while riding your motorcycle, but there are other things you should put on your body to help prevent cold, damp, burns and invisibility. For instance, if you’re riding in cold weather, you will want to dress in warm layers including some thermal underwear.

Topping it off with a windproof jump suit will help shield you from the high winds hitting against you while you drive. You can also invest in a winter riding suit, which can go easily over top of your current wardrobe and help prevent hypothermia.

Whatever you decide to ride in, make sure it is bright. The stereotype is to wear a black, leather jacket but a black jacket in the dark is hard to see. As you are already smaller than other cars, so you are at a disadvantage. Pair that with a dark outfit and you are practically invisible. Wearing bright colors with reflectors can look just as cool and will keep you safe.

Motorcycle Safety Foundation – Personal Protective Gear

Department of Transportation – Protective Riding Gear

Motorcycle Blog from JAFRUM – Motorcycle Protective Gear – What You Absolutely Need to Have

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles – Motorcycle Safety

Foremost Insurance Group – Motorcycle Safety Gear

Motorcycle.com – What to Wear When Your Ride and Why

Motorcycle Blog from JAFRUM – Why Should I Wear Protective Clothing On My Motorcycle?

About Autos – Motorcycle Gear 101

That's a LOT of info folks. Check it out. And a big thanks to the aforementioned mystery student who sent us all this stuff!