Honda 919 Custom Wheels

August 2002

The solid black wheels on the 919 were a little bland for my tastes.  I had seen other bikes with parts of the wheels polished and thought it looked great.  I decided to try this on my 919.  The process is very tedious and takes a lot of time so be prepared.  You'll need a can of Aircraft Remover that is made for aluminum.  I used low odor to keep from knocking myself out.  This will strip the paint without harming the finish on the aluminum underneath.  You'll also need a various sized cheap paint brushes with natural hair bristles, some painter's tape, plenty of paper towels, and some wheel polish.  The aluminum under the paint is already pretty shiny, but a little polishing cleans them up nicely after all the stripping.  I used two small artist's brushes and one larger 2" cheap paint brush to apply the stripper.  On the larger brush I cut about 1/2 inch off the bristles to make them more stiff and more easily managed while applying the stripper.

Raising the motorcycle is preferred as this will save a lot of time rolling the bike around.  I wouldn't even attempt this without some type of stand that gets the wheels off the ground.  I used a Pitbull swingarm stand for the rear, and placed a jack under the the engine to lift the front.  Clean the wheels really well, and then wipe them down with rubbing alcohol.  The rubbing alcohol removes any grease and insures the tape sticks well.  Next, tape the areas of the wheel you don't want to strip.  The tape needs to be painter's tape in order to resist the stripper.  Make sure you get the tape straight on the edge and that you firmly press the tape down so that no stripper seeps underneath. 

I used the small artist's brush to get up close to the taped edge, and the larger brush to slather on the stripper.  Put the stripper on thick and give it about 20 minutes to work.  The paint will bubble up and come off in large pieces.  Only do about half the wheel at a time.  If you do the entire wheel, the part that is on top could drip on the spokes and ruin the job.  Wear gloves when taking the stripper off.  This stuff is hot and burns skin in seconds.  I know from experience.  After the 20 minutes has passed, I used a plastic putty knife to scrape off the paint.  Popsicle sticks will also work.  Finally I came back with some Q-tips to touch up any places up close to the tape.  Dipping the tip of the Q-tip into the stripper will allow you to use it like a pencil eraser making fine detail removal pretty easy.  Don't be surprised if you have to come back a second time with the stripper on a few spots, especially the edge right next to the tire. 


I did the rear tire first, then moved to the front.  The entire project took me about 8 hours and 30 minutes with two 30 minute breaks for snacks and water.  It might not be a bad idea to make it a two day job as sitting on the floor in a contorted position for 8 hours scraping off paint is no fun.  The job is not difficult, just tedious and time consuming.  It is definitely worth it, however.  This totally changes the looks of the bike and makes it much more sporty.  This is also a cheap mod.  My buddy Matt let me borrow a quart of stripper, of which I only used about 1/2 pint, and the artist's paint brushes.  All I had to buy was the 2" brush which set me back $1.00.  The wheels under the paint are already highly polished from Honda, so just a wipe or two with some aluminum polish to remove and stripper residue is all that is required.


Update June 2003

One of the questions I'm most frequently asked is if the wheels tarnish and require a lot of polishing due to the paint being removed and exposing the bare aluminum.  It's been 10 months since I stripped my wheels and I've only polished them twice with a little Eagle One Aluminum Wheel Polish.  On those two times the wheels weren't tarnished, just dirty from road grime.  So in my experience the answer is no, the wheels do not tarnish.  I do however keep my bike garaged and don't ride it in the rain.  If your ride in salted roads in the winter I'd suspect some polishing would be necessary, but no more than your aftermarket polished aluminum car wheels.