Part Eight – Work That Body: A Practical Guide To Installing Bodywork (NOT a buyer's guide)

DISCLAIMER Part II: This is not a bodywork review. Roadracing World has already published at least two comprehensive bodywork reviews which are probably out of date by now but the January 1998 issue featured an article by Sam Fleming which detailed the different kinds of materials that can be used in bodywork construction and their relative merits, and included a breakdown of different resins and weights by manufacturer. The February 2003 issue featured a buyer's guide by Scott Morse which included a comprehensive analysis by manufacturer of different bodies based on criteria one normally considers in deciding which body to buy. Roadracing World would be tickled pink to sell you those back issues if you want a bodywork review. On a personal note we (AOD) are happy enough with the Armour Bodies quality/durability vs. price that we have used Armour bodywork for the past several years but you should read the reviews and talk to your friends or consult your astrologer and decide what kind of body you want.

Overall win at Roebling Road brought to you by the bodywork not
falling off during the race. Photo by Kazumi Yoshida

Once you have purchased your new body you are probably going to want to paint it. An upcoming article in this series by our obsessive-compulsive painter/fabricator/machinist/mad scientist associate Eric Wallgren which explains the basics of painting race bodywork. We recommend black because black is beautiful and it's slimming.  If you're not self-conscious about your bike looking fat you can choose something else. However, we reserve the right to make fun of you if your bike ends up looking like it crash-landed in the sherbet display case at Baskin-Robbins.

Regardless of which body you choose or what godawful color scheme you design for it, you are going to need some way of affixing it to your bike.  Mounting bodywork will require some hole drilling, usually a little cutting and grinding, and some fastener attachment. The drilling and any other necessary modifications, such as cutting clearance for clip-ons, frame savers or tires, are best performed before the painting.  If you make a mistake locating a hole or you accidentally drag the spinning drill bit down the side of your fairing (it's been known to happen), you can cover up the mistakes when you paint.


You have several options when it comes to fasteners. Of the ones we've used, the easiest and quickest to install are Dzus 1/4 turn D-ring fasteners with the slip-on receiver. The slip-on receiver works like a body nut and clips onto your lower fairing. The fastener itself has a winding slot which screws onto the clip with a quarter turn twist and relies on spring pressure to remain fixed. This set-up is very simple to install and doesn't require as much hole-drilling precision as some other fastener systems.  A couple of drawbacks are that the clips can fall off a little too easily when you remove your lower, and the fasteners have a propensity for losing spring pressure and potentially falling out during lower removal or while riding. Sometimes people just tape over the fastener before a race or connect the D-rings with elastic to keep them from rattling out.  Of course, taping over the Dzus kinda obviates the whole point of having quick and convenient fasteners.

Various pieces of the quarter-turn dzus fastener kit with the rivet-on
base springs.

The quarter-turn slot in the quarter-turn fastener.

A view from the inside of an attached dzus spring with quarter-turn
fastener installed.

Dzus also offers pop-rivet receivers for a more permanent means of attaching the receiver to your lower. This eliminates the potential for the receiver to fall off, but requires more precise drilling and placement. The rivet receivers work with the same type of quarter turn D-ring fasteners as the slip-on receivers.

For dzus installation, measure the distance between the rivet mounts on
the base spring and then drill the rivet holes in your bodywork to match.

If you are unwilling to take the risk of having your bodywork fasteners pop out while you're riding, are unsatisfied with commercially available alternatives, or you just don't feel like you've spent enough time in the garage getting your bike ready for the racing season, you can make your own fasteners. You are welcome to create your own, but we've had success with the following method:

You'll need some large fender washers (McMaster-Carr part #91090A113), some 6mm bolts to cut down to threaded posts (McMaster-Carr part #91290A340), some body nuts (McMaster-Carr part #95210A150), and some cotter pins (McMaster-Carr part #98335A044). Some of those parts come in bulk so pay close attention to the quantity listed or you may find yourself in receipt of 250 pounds of fender washers as we did one year, much to the dismay of our UPS delivery man.  The nice ladies at McMaster-Carr accepted the extra washers back and even thought it was kind of funny. 

Starting with the fender washers, drill two holes about one quarter inch apart perpendicular to the center on either side of the center. "Perpendicular" as in you shouldn't have four drilled holes in a line, but two stacked holes on one side, the washer's center hole, and then two more stacked holes on the other side.

Large fender washers make excellent reinforcements for the AOD
custom bodywork mounting system. 

The holes should be big enough to fit the safety wire you'll use to attach the fender washer to the bodywork. You can gang the washers together before drilling by using a scrap nut and bolt through the center and clamping the mess into a vice, but try more than three at a time and you'll risk snapping the drill bit.

Next come the posts which are made by the highly sophisticated method of cutting the head off a bolt.

The posts should be cut long enough so that 1) at the base a thread or two project through the back end of the bodywork nut and that 2) at the top enough pokes through the bodywork for a clip to fit through a hole you'll have to drill through the post's shaft.  

Look at the body nut, the thickness of the bodywork and the fender washer and estimate where to drill through the post for the hitch pin: "Estimate" because this is all pretty rough justice and if you try to get too scientific, you'll be wrong and frustrated. Drill it, then file smooth the end of the hitch pin side of the post. The cut edge can be pretty sharp and rounding also makes it easier to get the post through the bodywork.

Body nut and post installed.

Drilling the bodywork itself comes next. Bolt, zip-tie, whatever, the upper section of the bodywork onto the bike, then duct-tape the lower to the upper. A lot of body work has dimples along the edge telling you where to drill, but having been tricked into drilling into a radiator hose in the past, we double check now to make sure the bodywork manufacturer's theoretical application makes practical sense.

Anyway, after drilling holes through both layers of bodywork large enough for the threaded posts to fit easily through, take the bodywork back apart.

Clip the bodywork nuts onto the section of bodywork that will be on the inside. For some bodies the inner bodywork will be the upper, for others the outer will be the lower. 

Then attach the fender washers over the holes on the outer bodywork section by using a scrap nut and bolt to temporarily secure the washer to the bodywork. Drill back through the washer's safety wire holes and the bodywork. Safety wire the washer to the body work through the pairs of holes on either side of center washer hole. Remove the scrap bolt and nut and repeat with the remaining washers.

When all the washers are on, screw the posts into the bodywork nuts with blue loctite and attach the lower to the upper. The first couple times it will be a tight fit, but things loosen up over time.

This set up is more time consuming to initially install but if you absolutely don't want your lower to loosen up over a 24-hour race and still have quick access, its a great way to go.

Fasteners not withstanding, you will have to embark on the voyage of discovery we call "mounting the bodywork". This is when you find out whether your bodywork of choice will fit correctly and allow enough clearance for the pipe, front tire, rear tire, clip-ons, etc. This is best done before you install frame savers.  A surprising number of well known bodywork kits on the market right now do not actually fit their intended motorcycles very well. 

NOTE: wherever drilling, grinding, or cutting of bodywork is indicated, we encourage you to dress appropriately for the job. While perhaps mounting bodywork wearing a tux with tails would make for a great photo opportunity, you are probably better off wearing eye protection, a respirator or some kind of mask, and long pants and sleeves. Fiberglass dust is very sharp and nasty on a microscopic scale, and the itchiness you feel when it gets on your skin is the result of tiny little cuts it makes. Imagine what that looks like in your lungs.

Two upper fairing mounting holes drilled and ready for mounting.
Arrows point out the pilot holes for the windscreen mounts.

The finished custom product.

Some racers choose to use aftermarket upper fairing brackets, which are generally lighter and cheaper to replace than the stock brackets, and come without unnecessary extras like mounting bosses for the headlights and such. Some after market brackets come with handy race application extras, such as the steering damper mounting boss. Before you try mounting your bodywork, make sure you have installed whatever fairing bracket you will be using at the track.

Most bodywork sets come with pilot holes or depressions to indicate where to drill for mounting points. Whether or not they are located accurately generally depends upon the manufacturer, but since you have to start somewhere, assume that the upper fairing mounting points for the upper fairing stay are marked correctly and drill those holes first. Then loosely zip tie the upper fairing to the fairing bracket, being careful to line up any ram air holes on the upper with your ram air tubes, and loosely bolt the fairing onto the bike using any other attachment points.

Next, slide the lower under the bike and hold it up to meet the upper. Check for any contact between the lower and the front tire, rear tire, exhaust pipe, and radiator. You may have to re-position the upper a little to get everything to align right. Once you have your fairings in the best position, tighten down the upper fairing bolts and zip ties. Hopefully your pilot holes for upper-to-lower fairing attachment and lower-to-frame attachment are located correctly, but if not, mark the upper and lower where you want to drill them. Then remove the lower and upper for drilling. 

Measure your fastener of choice to determine what size drill bit you need. If your fasteners require rivet attachment, measure both the rivets for drill bit size, and the space between them on the fastener so you know how far apart to drill the rivet holes, and mark the rivet holes. Then, drill your holes and attach your fairing hardware.

Mount the upper and lower to the bike using all your mounting hardware. Check your clearances again. If your lower is too close to your front tire, the tire can rub under hard braking or when the suspension compresses. Too close to the rear and the rear tire will rub as the tire grows under acceleration. If the lower is touching your exhaust pipe it will burn and may cause you to be black-flagged off the track. Check that the upper doesn't interfere with lock-to-lock steering movement and doesn't pinch your fingers. If you're using aftermarket clip-ons, make sure you check your handlebar clearance with the clip-ons installed. If you have a clearance problem you may be able to just trim the bodywork to correct it, but in severe cases you may need to get more aggressive and creative. We've seen racers cut several inches off the front of the lower and build a fiberglass dam to hold back liquid because of too little front tire clearance. Epoxying some Thermo-tec heat shielding(available from Summit Racing), or pop-riveting perforated steel sheet (from McMaster-Carr) to the inside of the lower, or using spacers between the bodywork and frame mount, can work for lower-to-exhaust clearance problems. 

Once you've got the upper/lower situation sorted out, you can install frame savers if you are using them and trim the bodywork as necessary. Then, locate and drill your windshield mounting holes, and mount your windshield. You can use a stock windshield, which is generally thicker and more flexible than aftermarket windshields and thus may be slightly more crash proof, but some advantages to aftermarket windshields are: 

1. They are cheaper than stock

2. If you're racing in superbike classes, you can get larger-than-stock windshields, such as Zero Gravity's Double Bubble windshield, for better aerodynamic rider coverage. 

3. They come in a variety of squidly colors!


Walters tests bodywork clearance between front tire and fairing lower
at full extension. Photo by Hiyori Yoshida


Unusual custom cut holes in race bodywork to allow for exhaust pipe
and waste gate dump from turbo. This AOD project bike has now
been relegated to drag racing. 8.2 without bars.