Polishing the Lower Forks

All right, you’ve added all those chrome accessories to your bike and you look at your lower forks (sliders) and you want to spiff them up. Whether you just don’t like that dull, swirling, satin pattern &/or you have nicks and/or scratches – you want them to gleam like the rest of your bike.

You find out that to chrome them is not only expensive but you won’t be riding for nearly a month (maybe more) because you will have to remove them and send them out. Can’t handle the expense or the down time?

You can polish them to a lustrous sheen – almost chrome like. This is manual/hand labor – quite a few hours. Your hands will get real tired. If you want a perfect job/end result, you’ll wind up spending two afternoons doing it. Plan on a total of 5 to 8 hours, depending on your endurance and what shape your sliders are in before you begin.

Road nicks and scratches will be sanded out and require extra time. (Mine were nicked up – this is what prompted me to do this.) Some people have told me they used a Dremel. I did not. My theory was that the Dremel sanding drum is a cylinder and so are the sliders – minimal contact points – most likely leading to furrows and ridges. Even on a flat surface (like the brake reservoir cover) the Dremel will sand in uneven rows/furrows. An orbital palm sander will finish a flat surface much better. This is not the case when doing the sliders. So, I opted for hand sanding, curling my fingers around the sliders and going at it with a graduation of finer grits.

You start off with dry sanding and coarse grit, working up to wet sanding and finer grits to achieve a silky smooth finish. It’s that simple in theory – and it works – but you have to put a lot of manual labor into it. I am not trying to talk you out of it. I am a realist and want you to know this is not a quick fix. Yet, it’s worth it and comes out looking great! You have a few options to make your work easier. You have to remove the fender because there is no clearance to sand between the fender and the sliders. Once you do that, you are free to follow the procedure listed below. You could remove the sliders (but that’s a pretty big job!) so you can work on a bench (faster and easier). I only removed the fender, got my camping stool and went at it. You also could apply a (toxic) stripper (now, now) to remove the clear coat from the sliders but I did not want the mess and any possible damage to the rims or spokes.

To remove the fender, here is a hint from my mech. Jack up the bike to raise the front end, remove the wheel and use a scissors jack to push/seperate the forks to a wider position (don’t over do it, just enough) to allow the fender to come out easily – w/o scraping/scratching the paint. Don’t tweak the forks out of shape and damage them – you only need a little extra clearance supplied by the scissors jack!

All that said, here’s what I did:

Starting off with DRY SANDING: 3M Aluminum Oxide for metal

  1. medium grit – # 100 – to remove clear coat & smooth out nicks/scratches
  2. fine grit – # 230 – to lessen marks of the 120 & the last of nicks/sratches Proceed with WET SANDING (get a pail of water)
  3. medium grit – # 400 – really work it, eliminate nicks/scratches and all previous dry sanding marks – only now see #400 abrasions.
  4. medium/fine grit – #600 – you’re heading for the finish, smoothing it out
  5. fine grit – # 800 – keeps getting easier, you are attaining a finished surface
  6. finishing grit – #1200 – now you are getting the silky/final surface
    Optional step: Rubbing Compound (yeah, I’m a perfectionist)
  7. tearing up an old T-shirt, creating a “shoe shine boy’s” cloth, liberally apply compound to cloth, wrap it around the slider, and pull back alternately on the ends to work the complete surface of the slider to a “glass” smooth surface. Polish the sliders (your choice, Mother’s or Simichrome or whatever shines best)
  8. using a clean section of that T-shirt, apply polish (I used Mother’s) and work that “shoe shine” rag over the complete surface of the sliders.

When you stand back to admire your work, you’ll be amazed. You’ll forget about all the cursing of me that you did. You’ll grin or laugh or say something out loud – it’ll look that good – and you’ll forget how tired your arms and hands are.

The jury is still out for me on whether or not to apply a paste wax to the sliders to protect them. I did not. Other people told me that they did. I feared the wax would discolor my labors over time. I did my sliders in December of 98. Five months later and three or four washings, they still look great and shine. I am a low maintenance type of guy as far as cosmetics go. I ride, I don’t spend time washing/polishing. I keep my bike garaged and covered – which helps a great deal. I ride to work whenever I can but it’s a short commute (darn). I ride every other weekend because I have my kids every other weekend – so I average about 400 miles on those weekends. I mention all this so you understand why I did not put wax on the forks and why I wash the bike only once a month.

Hope all this helped and you are completely happy with your polished forks/sliders! I am sure you will be. I hope the maintenance is little and you get to ride that shining beast a whole bunch! Happy motoring…

Submitted by Crazy Charley