If you asked most scooter, or bike owners what their pet hate is it will invariably be rusty exhausts. Manufacturers build them from mild steel because it’s cheaper than stainless. In warmer drier countries it may well last quite well but in the UK our machines tend to get wet on a regular basis, so what can we do?
The obvious choice is to swap the standard exhaust for an aftermarket stainless system, great in theory but it depends on your personal preference, state of tune or your own particular bike. If you’re running a tuned two stroke a stainless pipe may not be the best choice to make best use of the power. If you’ve got a classic scooter (or bike) you may well want to keep your original system but you’re no doubt tired of spraying it every couple of months with high temperature paint. Thankfully there is another option, ceramic coating.
We saw Zircotec displaying their newly developed motorcycle coatings at Motorcycle Live last December and were impressed at their claims of longevity, cooler running temperatures and even power gains. Zircotec have been coating exhausts for Formula One teams, race bikes and race trucks for a while, they’re also well known in the sports car market but have only recently delved into the road bike market.
We sent the firm a standard Vespa GTS exhaust and a two-year-old Vespa PX expansion pipe made by JL. The JL pipe had already been sprayed a few times and was looking quite tired; the GTS exhaust was in good condition but hadn’t had much use. The GTS is used for lots of long motorway journeys and runs very hot, it discolours most exhausts, I’ve used Akraprovic, Remus and Scorpion exhausts in the past, all have shown signs of heat damage. The PX also runs quite hot; it’s a tuned Malossi 210 engine so is quite quick.
The ceramic coating process begins with the exhaust being checked for damage, then photographed. It gets blasted and checked again for any cracks or damage. Minor damage will be repaired before the next stage and if the damage is too bad the customer will be contacted. Once Zircotec are happy that the exhaust is in good enough condition to continue and areas you don’t want to be coated (name badges, threads etc.) are masked before the exhaust gets a thermal heat bond applied to provide a key for the ceramic to stick to.
The ceramic coating is plasma sprayed at a temperature of up to 10,000ºc and a colour coat is sprayed if needed. The final coat is a protective layer to seal the ceramic and stop it being porous. The finished item is inspected and posted back to the customer ready to fit.
We chose the Endurance Finish in graphite grey, (metallic black and matt black are also available, as are other colours). The finish is quite rough to the touch but feels different to an ordinary painted exhaust. It took a couple of weeks from sending the pipes down to us receiving them back and Zircotec try to turn things around in a fortnight if at all possible. Costs vary depending on the exhaust but ours were around £175 each. That sounds expensive but compared to buying a new standard GTS exhaust at around £400, or a new PX performance pipe at around £350 it’s money well spent.
Since having the exhausts coated the scooters have both done plenty of miles in all weathers and be ridden hard. They both still look as good as they did when they were first fitted and have only needed washing down, so it looks like we’ve waved goodbye to those monotonous resprays once and for all. The exhausts are still hot to the touch after a ride but are nowhere near as scalding as a standard exhaust. Zircotec offer a fit and forget solution to those rusty, tired looking exhaust problems we’ve all suffered over the years. Give it a try over winter…
If you’d like to see the full range of Zircotec finishes, want more details or want to send an exhaust to be coated simply visit www.zircotec.com or give them a ring on 01235 546050 and tell them that we sent you.