The joy of chrome


What distinguishes the cruiser rider from his sports-riding and commuting peers? Apart from the smile and the laid-back attitude? That’s right, chrome…

Just so you know, chromium is a first-period transition metal with the atomic number 24, an atomic weight of 52 and a melting point of around 1900 degrees centigrade. It’s a touch less dense than iron, very resistant to corrosion and named after the Greek word for colour, chroma, because many of its compounds are brightly coloured — red, green, purple and gold.

Its corrosion resistance makes this metal a big hit for plating, in thicknesses that can range from 1 micron (a millionth of a metre) up to 1mm; it can even be anodised. All of this makes chromium extremely useful stuff for motorcycle customising.

Adding accessory bling is an easy way to add personality and style to your bike without the need for an abundance of mechanical skill or engineering nous. There are plenty of outfits offering gleaming off-the-bench accessories in chrome (or aluminium, or stainless steel) and several local crowds who will chrome-plate (or anodise, or polish) items from your bike or components you want to fit. But let’s look at the retail end of the market to begin with.

As you’ll no doubt recall if you’ve boned up on one or two of our earlier customising features, what has grown into an entire industry for Harley-Davidsons is now spreading, with plenty of shiny gear being offered for Vulcans, VT750s, Intruders and so on.

Küryakyn, for example, is a relatively new name in the customising business of an outfit that’s been quick to grasp the potential of the Metric cruiser market. This American crew caters for everyone and fields a genuinely staggering array of products covering every imaginable part of the bike. Yes, there are chromed air filter shrouds and clutch covers, as you’d expect, but Küryakyn also offers chromed brake rods, fuel tap covers and caliper covers, brake rods and gearshift linkages.

There’s decorative stuff as well for the swingarm, forks and frame, number-plate holder and indicator mounts.

For a little extra stylistic clout, there’s a smart line in mudguard trim way different from anything you’ll find in any factory catalogue outside Harley-D. It’s a truly impressive list: all up, Küryakyn offers more than 650 chrome doo-dads, gew-gaws and gadgets for Metric cruisers alone. It even has its own section on GoldWings.

Chromeworld, a dinky-di Australian outfit, likewise has plenty to offer, with bags of kit for Metrics, and for all five of Harley-Davidson’s principal model ranges.

If you happen to own a DynaGlide, for example, Chromeworld can equip you with items as diverse as chromed axle-nut covers, timing and clutch covers, spark plug covers, handlebar clamp, fork brace, headlight visor, spinning axle cap, flush-mount fuel cap and a good deal more. And the range is even more extensive for Softail and Tourer (Electra Glide etc) owners, with trim for those barndoor fairings and chromed accents for mudguards front and rear leading the way.

ZPower is another Australian outfit picking on the growing community of Metric cruiser owners. After garnering an early reputation for supplying Z1/Z900 Kawasaki bits and pieces to restorers, it’s been steadily widening its appeal with a solid range of kits for a broad range of bikes. And you can get chrome figures prominently here. Should you own a Suzuki VZ800 Marauder, for example, ZPower can furnish you with chromed number-plate holders, horn covers and even a radiator shroud, complete with a smart Suzuki emblem.

Triumph and Harley-Davidson stand apart from many other manufacturers in offering their own comprehensive ranges of accessories, with plenty of chrome in evidence in both camps. At the launch of the thumpin’ Triumph Thunderbird in September last year, a complete range of alternative hardware for the bike was unveiled at the same time, from exhaust systems to luggage. And, according to the Triumph website, there’s chrome aplenty, from handlebar risers and levers to fog lamps, seat racks and fork leg lowers. And what’s true for the T-bird is likewise the case for the Speedmaster, the America and all the variations on the mighty Rocket III.

Across the road at Harley-Davidson, there’s a vast tradition of customising to explore and chrome is, of course, an essential and attractive ingredient. Buried deep in various sections of Harley’s awesome 796-page accessory catalogue there are various sections devoted to “Decorative Collections” — and here you can find handgrips, footpegs, covers of cases, bolts and much else; there are Eagle Wing taillight and indicator visors, hand controls, switch blocks … Harley has more stuff than you can make sense of in a month of Sundays, which is why it offers an online guide to customising complete with video footage and an “inspiration gallery” on its website to get you started. Nobody does this kind of stuff like Harley-Davidson, and it’s impressive to behold even if the whole customising deal is not your barrel of tadpoles.

Both Harley and Triumph offer an online customising subprogram: “The Genuine Motor Accessories Customize” and “Create My Triumph”, both of which enable you to choose a base-model bike and then pretty it up with whatever takes your fancy from the factory range of gear.
They’re both good fun and well worth exploring.

So there you go: one aspect of the customising experience that’s almost as simple as buying groceries and a stack more fun. Choose, pay, take home, fit and forget.

In a forthcoming yarn we’ll take you deeper inside the realm of fancy coatings and explain what’s involved in plating chrome and other metals, anodising, polishing and even powder-coating. In the meantime, check out these websites for more on some of the components we’ve been looking at: