Enduro Mag’s Jim Buchanan goes DIY
After featuring Rockguardz frame protection and mudguards then running them on mine and several test bikes over the past months, I was more than happy to give the head quarters a visit to see how it’s all done. There’s something special about carbon fibre, it just screams hi-tech and all things bloke-ish and bling. How many times have you had people point out a certain part of something is carbon with a big smug grin on their face, when you bear in mind that it really is just such a simple product, it’s quite amazing how people get so excited about it really. Being a very local company for me, it was a quick 20 minute drive over to owner, Ian Walker’s place, where it all began.
Ian originally started out racing Super Bikes, he was all over the country doing it in a national series, and with the vast costs of original fairings he had the idea of making them out of carbon. He made one for himself, his mates liked it, he made one for a mate, then another, and as these things happen, he was soon supplying them to a vast number of racers. Ian gave up the Super Bikes and made the cheaper move over to the MTB world, where (like in the Super Bike world) he saw an opening with the frame protection guards and repeated the same procedure of rapid growth after making one for himself. Now they are just going from strength to strength with ebay and the website sales, with vast numbers of orders coming through, especially with their new mudguards now in full production.
It all starts with having to take a mould off any bike to make the frame guard, this has to be done for every model out there, a laborious task, if ever he had to repeat it. At first Ian was getting mates bikes over for this, now he visits the local bike shops to take moulds off all the new models. Each carbon piece is made up of a carbon sheet for the stiffness, a sheet of diolen is added to give it its’ versatility, so it’s not too stiff and if bent will go back to original shape. These products are placed on the waxed (so it doesn’t stick) mould and fused together with use of a polyester resin painted onto a glass fibre sheet. The carbon is made to overhang the mould, but the diolen has to be within it, as any diolen overhang can not be cut with a tidy finish. I had a go on a nice simple one, and it’s surprising how much work goes into each one and how tricky it is to make a tidy one without making the weave of the carbon out of shape. The resin (once mixed with the hardener) has a shelf life of half an hour before it goes rock hard, so Ian and the several people he has elsewhere making these, tend to do the process on about five at a time. After about 45 minutes the guard is tacky enough for a razor to be used to cut off the excess, then after total drying the edges are sanded and the guard has a quick polish, job done.
Ian told us how he now seems to sell a lot of the mud guards after some good press and getting free ones out to some well known riders, plus with them being trick carbon little numbers, riders don’t seem to mind leaving them on their bikes come rain or shine. He also showed us a couple of his latest projects, being the small fitted rear mudguards, offering shock and linkage protection, but these, like the frame guards, need to all have moulds done before production. The other feature of these short rear guards is a longer piece which will fit onto the shorter, more permanent piece for the shittier winter rides, as Ian says “its difficult to make a rear mudguard that doesn’t look fugly!”
Thanks to Ian Walker for sparing me the time and letting me do the DIY thing, I’m now considering making myself a full size jet fighter with my new knowledge on hi-tech aerospace products!!
For all details on the Rockguardz products go to http://www.rockguardz.com
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Doc Ward (http://www.doc-photography.com/)