Coating your dirt bike or ATV with a heavy dusting of talc or corn starch (aka baby powder) is a popular way to protect any metal finish.
The frame, handlebars, wheel rims, metal covers and swingarms...
You can smooth the crinckle on your forehead now. Powder coating has nothing to do with baby powder. According to our resident expert powder coating (in a nutshell) is:
A process where a powder, basically a colored plastic powder is oven baked on to a part. The part itself is grounded electrically while the sprayer is electrically charged at the tip. The powder, as it's sprayed, is charged with electricity so it looks for a ground and adheres to the grounded part.
Powder coating any metal part on your dirt bike or ATV should not be taken lightly. It's a highly involved process requiring special ovens and sprayers. And that's the easy part. Lots of prep work is involved to ensure removal of all oil, dirt and debris. The bike is often disassembled and it's not something done at home. Oh, it ain't cheap, either.
Metallic Granny Apple Green Kawasaki Frame
Why Powder Coat?
Powder coating gives your dirt bike or ATV an outstandingly slick stylish look. When you ride to the gate, people notice. If the race is won by getting into other rider's head pre-race then you're a bike length ahead but otherwise that's pretty much it as far as performance gains.
As far as protection, powder coating stands up to the elements like nothing else, but is pretty defenseless when banging bars or hitting the dirt. Powder coating is not going to prevent dents and dings from other riders, rocks or trees.
Time is also not a good friend (though powder coating certainly outlasts paint) as eventually the coating chips off and once that occurs you've not only lost the showroom look but also any protection. Now you either chip all the old powder coating off or apply a new coat.
The other chink in powder coating's armor is the weight. Granted it's not a lot, but when pros spend hundreds of dollars on titanium screws and bolts just to shed a few ounces there's simply no reason to add a couple of pounds in powder coating of you're a serious contender. Motocross racers generally do not spend the money on powder coating because of the cost, the added weight and the protection is more or less meaningless at this level.
Frame in the oven
Advantages of Powder Coating
Yes, powder coating has some negatives but that's not to say the process doesn't bring advantages. Powder coating prevents rust (of course so does paint), it won't scratch and stands up better than paint. You can also powder coat with any color. Sleek black look? Check. KTM Orange? Check. You can really think outside the box and add whatever color personifies you.
Dune riders, especially those on ATVs, represent the biggest powder coating customers. Sand poses little threat to powder coated parts and the bike looks fresh all day. Clean-up is a cinch.
TRX250R ATV Swing Arm in Matte Black
The other popular market for powder coating is vintage bike owners and those restoring an older dirt bike. These bikes generally don't engage in track battles so powder coating is a great way to showcase a pet project. Additionally, some dirt bike owners enjoy the ride and feel of their 2-stroke or 4-stroke on city streets so powder coating provides the necessary protection from rain, grease and grime. Moreover, don't be surprised if you get looks of approval from passersby.
All of this is not to say no one powder coats their Motocross bike. If you've seen the final product you'll know why some invest the money. There's nothing like it and if you can find a professional powder coater who knows what they're doing, the finish lasts a long time, it helps with clean-up and you'll be the envy of everyone on the track. Most people in this camp powder coat the wheels and/or the frame.
Word of advice: Don't powder coat sprockets. It wears faster than the air filter.
But you'd be a rare breed if you just dropped several months of mortgage on a brand new 450 (fill-in-the-blank) and before getting home dropped the bike off for powder coating.
Written By: AndrewT