DO IT YOURSELF
Wrapping a Fork with RideWrap
Restored vehicles are often beautiful, but vintage machines in original but well cared for condition have a bit of magic about them. When there is some normal wear and tear that reveals its past, but it’s obvious the machine has been lavished with attention and care, it’s less like a museum piece and more like an old-timer with stories to tell. When I take good care of a bike, in a ride it all winter and sometimes use it like a toboggan down a rock face sort of way,* it’s with this in mind. I want something to last and to be well-maintained without entirely concealing its dirty past. Often this is more about maintaining the bits nobody sees, but keeping the frame and paint in good condition is pretty essential as well.
*not me but that's the sort of thing that would happen to me
I’m periodically and randomly fussy about the condition of inanimate objects, but I particularly hate it when a bike gets damaged or scratched. As near as I can determine, I picked this up from my parents, who had it drilled into them by their parents who lived through the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, and both World Wars, to name just a few of the world events that make COVID-19 seem like a mild inconvenience. My sense is that they learned to preserve their possessions because if something essential broke, it may not have been possible to replace it. And now I’m stuck with that tendency, for better or worse.
This is probably why protecting frames is so satisfying to me. It serves something elemental in my DNA which is why I thought I should learn to do it myself. Particularly because this has been my year of DIY. I repaired our clothes dryer (twice!), built a deck, installed some electrical fixtures,* and I’ve been taking on more bike-related tasks than I have in recent years. Some of these are new to me, like swapping bearings in carbon frames, doing a basic fork service, and overhauling brake calipers, but I've also been more apt to swap tires, bleed brakes, and perform all sorts of general maintenance to the bikes I have been testing. Basically I've been taking on as many tasks as possible and particularly those I don’t already know how to do, so this one was automatic. My favourite thing about all these DIY tasks is being able to buy good tools guilt-free because of all the money I've saved.
*None of these was any big deal, but each was new to me.
If you are like me - fussy but impatient and lacking talent - installing RideWrap may be a challenging task. I also didn’t start with a blank canvas because the fork I was using was used and already had some minor scuffs and scrapes. Luckily the process is relatively idiot proof and the videos, materials, and included instructions from Ridewrap are all excellent. The steps below, however, are mine, so be sure to consult other resources.
How it Actually Went
Just as I had the first piece ready to install, being careful not to grab it too tightly to avoid fingerprints, I dropped it on the floor of the shop. As I picked it up, the sticky sides began to adhere to each other enthusiastically and while trying to release this embrace I dropped it again. It was a spectacle worthy of Mr. Bean.
Luckily I had just vacuumed the floor, but it picked up some debris anyway. The solution allowed me to pull most of the bits off, after I peeled the folded sticky side away from itself, which was even more difficult than expected.
As I picked it up, the sticky sides began to adhere to each other enthusiastically and while trying to release this embrace I dropped it again. It was a spectacle worthy of Mr. Bean.
I found a bubble in my second large piece and it was too far from an edge, too big, and too late to push it out. So I left it and used a sharpened spoke to poke a hole to release the trapped solution.* Then I used a heat gun (a hair dryer works as well) to activate the self-healing properties of the film. I think this was mostly successful but then I did the same procedure to a second bubble and got distracted. There are several warnings in the instructions about overheating when using this technique but I managed to do it anyway. It wasn’t too bad though, and it only made the surface a little rough.
*This solution is not Ridewrap approved but I wanted to give it a try.
Some frames require fewer pieces than the Fox 36 fork did, while others require significantly more. The fork has very few long spans and tight spaces so overall the level of difficulty may be similar to some frames. Below is the quick version, from the world where everything goes as expected.
The 11-Step Program
Step 1. Clean whatever it is you are wrapping. If it’s a new frame, you can probably get away with a lint free cloth or paper towel and some rubbing alcohol. If not you will probably need some cleaning solution to remove any oil and grime. RideWrap provides some good wipes in the kit so don’t worry if you don’t have this on hand.
Step 2. Workspace prep. It's a good idea to clean the area where you are working as well, including the floor, in case you drop a piece as I did. You'll want excellent lighting to spot bubbles and ensure your alignment is nailed. If you are doing a frame that is entirely built up, you'll need to remove anything that will get in the way, like water bottle cages or cables and hoses that aren't internally routed. If it's a fork you are doing you can probably get away with simply removing the wheel, but it will be easier to remove the fork and clamp the steerer into a stand, or a vice with some protection in a pinch.
Step 3. Read all the instructions. I know most of you are men, and this goes against everything you stand for, but in this case it’s worth it. If you take all the proper steps, your mistakes will be reversible. If not you’ll have overlapping pieces and bubbles where you don’t want them. Your bike will still be protected, however.
Step 4. Prep a bottle of the install solution. This is essentially one drop of baby shampoo and 750ml of water in a spray bottle, but you no longer have to buy a $6 bottle of baby shampoo (like I did) because it’s supplied in a little packet. I found an empty bottle of cleaning solution around the house and rinsed it thoroughly for this task. You’ll be spraying this on every piece of film as well as your frame and/or fork. This allows you to adjust the piece once you’ve applied it or to remove it and start again. When I did this it seemed like it was too slippery for the first couple of pieces so I emptied some of the solution and filled it up with plain water to decrease the concentration. If it isn’t slippery enough, add some more of the solution provided.
Step 5. Go through the diagram outlining the installation order. This graphic is essential and you'll save yourself a lot of grief by following it.
Step 6. Figure out which piece is the first to be applied based on the diagram and spray that area of the frame or fork with solution. This is also a good time to recognize any pitfalls or details that need to be negotiated.
Step 7. Game on. Peel off the first piece, being careful to start in the correct corner. If the piece happens to have multiple cutouts, as mine did, you may need to start peeling from multiple locations to prevent damage to the film. Some rubber gloves are useful to prevent finger prints but you may also find the film sticks to them very well so it's a bit of a tradeoff. Once you've peeled the section free, spray it with solution.
From this point on it's a bit like you are in surgery; your patient is cut open and sedated and you're going to want to fix everything before closing them back up again. You could stop in the middle if necessary, but once all the prep is done and you have some momentum, it's much better to keep things rolling.
Step 8. The key to installing pieces is finding a reference point to work from. Since I was working on a 2021 Fox 36, I used the relief valves for the first two pieces, which are also by far the largest. Or I did eventually. At first I tried using the posts for the brake caliber but that didn't align everything properly. Once I centred the cutout in the film with the relief valve (it took me several tries to figure this out) the other elements lined up.
Step 9. As you apply the film start by pressing an edge or even a middle portion down so you have somewhere to work from. This allows you to push the film in one direction at a time to minimize bubbles. I often used my finger but the squeegee provided by RideWrap works better in some situations. Take it slowly here because it's much easier to prevent bubbles than to remove them, although that is possible as well.
Step 10. Once the sheet is laid, it's time to inspect for your nemesis: the dreaded bubble. Unless they are very close to the edge, it's much easier to prevent them than to remove them later, but generally that can be done as well. If it's close, find the nearest edge and use the squeegee, either angled away from or toward the bubble, depending on the location, to gradually work it toward the opening. If there are multiple bubbles, try to line them up so you can get them all in one go. If it's further away, you may have to lift the film until you get to the bubble and then re-apply the film, being careful to push air and solution in the direction of your application. When you lift the film, RideWrap recommends spraying the fluid onto the sheet as you peel it away. The bubbles are either air or solution, and it seems air is easier to manipulate, but both are equally unsightly.
Step 11. Refer to the diagram for the next piece you need to install. And repeat until every piece has been placed.
As I went on I got a little better, which was useful because some of the smaller, later pieces were very tricky. I took several swipes at placement several times. In the end I wasn't thrilled with my results, partially because the fork wasn't fresh and partially because sometimes I wasn't patient enough with placement or bubble removal, but the beauty is the fork is well-protected despite my lack of precision. The rock bouncing toward your lower leg doesn't know the gap between two pieces of film is a millimetre too small.
My RideWrapped Yeti SB150 - 18 Months Later
I usually ride more in the winter months than I do in July and August, and there is no question frames and components take a shit kicking on a rainy November day, or worse, a slushy day in February. Grit and moisture penetrates even the best seals and mineral laden soil acts like sandpaper on your frame. It's telling when you hose off your bike and it looks extra clean, like the grit took a layer off everything. You get the picture. Lots of riding in the shittiest conditions.
When my Yeti SB150 frame was new, I asked Andy (formerly of Bikeroom) to install Ridewrap to protect both frame and fork. Andy was certified by RideWrap and he did a meticulous job and made it look easy. It’s been a huge success in my estimation and while the wrap itself is damaged in a few places, there are very few spots where an impact has penetrated the film, and scuffs and rub marks have been completely eliminated. In the last 18 months my bike has travelled extensively, often packed too tightly into the back of pickup trucks, and been ridden regularly in the very worst conditions, and it still looks great.
The film itself has retained a nice gloss finish in most places and it hasn’t peeled anywhere. The only places the gloss has been compromised significantly is on the sides of the top tube where my knees come in contact, and on the chain stays because of my shoes, but it isn't unsightly and the paint underneath is unblemished.
I don't often clean my bike completely so an unpleasant line of dirt accumulates along the edges of the film. At first I didn't know if this could be removed but it came off quite easily with a little enthusiasm and some cleaner followed by rubbing alcohol.
Overall it's hard to imagine being more pleased with the results and I can't imagine getting a new frame in the future and failing to add 60 grams of plastic protection. It's worth it on every level. RideWrap has some detailed and thorough installation videos here.
The fork protection will run you 50 CAD while the frame protection is 115 CAD.