As 80s and 90s sportbikes become more collectible, completely original bikes will likely command a premium. Of course, even the most unmolested motorcycle is still subject to the ravages of time: materials like rubber or plastic are often hit hardest and can affect both the function and the aesthetics of a classic sportbike. They’re easily overlooked, but the translucent brake and clutch fluid reservoirs can age badly and develop significant yellowing from exposure to both the sun and to the corrosive fluids inside them. Unlike body panels or shiny metal parts, this damage obviously can’t be fixed by a respray or replating.
Of course, you can still get a variety of aftermarket or modern-style parts and fabricate or modify existing brackets to work with them, but if you’re looking to keep the bike as original as possible, it’s only going to get harder to track down OEM reservoirs, and used parts are still likely to have some yellowing. Plus, why spend money you don’t need to spend if your original parts function perfectly well? Today’s Iconic Restoration Tip should help you restore your reservoirs to like-new condition, using a bit of simple chemistry, $3.50 worth of beauty products, and some time. It’s sort of like making sun tea, but in reverse…
After just ten years in the elements, your bike’s reservoirs are going to look noticeably aged and after twenty, they’re likely to look like these nasty-looking items that were removed from a 1983 Honda CB1100F:
The solution will require a quick trip to the local beauty supply store and a few days for your little chemistry experiment to do its work. This trick is extremely simple, and the hardest part may be to get you hypermasculine types to walk into a beauty-supply chain and not feel uncomfortable. If it’s your first time in a store like this and you have no idea where to start, don’t feel awkward, just ask an employee. Trust me: they’ve been asked much stranger questions.
What you’re looking for is called “creme developer,” also commonly known as “peroxide crème.” It’s a chemical used in the hair coloring process and typically comes in three strengths: 15, 25 and 40 volume. For this application, you’re only interested in the 40 volume and 32oz should be enough. Expect the bottle to look something like this:
In addition to a bottle of hair-bleaching chemicals, you’ll also need a one-gallon Ziploc or similar style plastic bag, preferably the type with the plastic slider.
Before you begin, make sure the weather forecast calls for at least two or three days of bright sunlight and sustained temperatures above 65°F or 18°C. This is critical for the chemical process, so if you live somewhere with seasons other than “hot” and “really hot” you should plan ahead and do this during whatever months you’re most likely to get those kinds of conditions.
Remove the reservoirs from the bike, being careful not to drip hydraulic fluid on any exposed paint, then wash them thoroughly with dish soap in warm water to get rid of any residue, dry them, and let sit overnight. Note: this process should not be used with the black plastic caps, so set them aside. We will be covering a different process to restore those in a future post.
The following morning, take your clean, dry reservoirs and place them in the one-gallon Ziploc freezer bag, along with two cups of the 40 volume developer, and seal it. Slosh them around in the developer to make sure the parts have been completely coated inside and out and then place the bag in an area that will be in direct sunlight for as much of the day as possible, then just walk away.
At the end of the first day, you’ll notice that the bag has blown up like a balloon because of oxygen released by the chemical process, so open it up to let the gas escape. Then seal it again and slosh the fluid around to make sure the parts are thoroughly exposed to the chemical. Repeat this process for three full days.
After day three, pour the contents of the bag out into the sink, rinse your reservoirs completely with water to remove the peroxide, and you should end up with reservoirs that look like this:
Who says chemistry is boring? Next time, we’ll look at another simple, inexpensive process to restore the reservoir caps you set aside, along with other black plastic and rubber.