Black Doves Tank Graphic

Story by David Booth// Photos by David Booth
October 31 2023

Just follow the guidelines and some common sense and it might look better than new.

It turns out the Twaron — i.e. ballistic Kevlar — in my favourite PMJ single-layer riding jeans is good for more than just protecting my fragile self from road rash. It also does a fairly good job of acting like sandpaper on my big Suzuki’s pretty yellow gas tank. Okay, very fine grit mind you, but sandpaper nonetheless.

A bad back has me standing up when riding quite often. Stretch the lower lumbars, rotate the hips kind of thing. Which means my tougher-than-cotton-clad knees often come in contact with my painted gas tank. Which, in turn means that, in just the right sunlight — especially when I am washing the bike and specifically perusing for dirt and imperfections — I started noticing some very fine scratching. What to do?

The obvious solution was some form of graphic sticker. Ostensibly designed to enhance looks, I suspect that most, like mine, are really there to hide already-existing imperfections. Whatever the case, I went online and found something called Black Doves Graphics.

I was attracted to its admittedly complicated (more on that in a minute) design for two reasons. One: it is colour matched to all DL1000s; and, two — and more importantly — the sticker itself is made of thick PVC vinyl, the same stuff used in the stickies designed to prevent your jacket and its zipper from scratching the back of your gas tank. This means it could offer long-term protection from Italian jeans. If the pictures don’t do their thickness justice, unlike the thin stock graphics, these are truly 3D. Overkill perhaps, but I was pissed that I hadn’t noticed the damage before. “Not happening again on my watch” was the purchase’s motivation.

I won’t bother with an evaluation of something so straightforward other than to say this particular design is exceedingly attractive, impressively durable and clings to the gas tank’s clear coat. I am extremely pleased. Expectations exceeded.

What I find more impressive — and, in fact, why I am writing a review on something so simple — is that I got it on there without seriously messing it up. No wrinkles. No bubbles. And, as you can see, everything lines up. Almost perfectly in fact. For some — maybe even many — that would seem no great feat. I, on the other hand, normally have the manual dexterity of a drunk chimpanzee. I have never ever stuck anything to any surface and had it align with any angle. I truly am a clutz. I have rebuilt entire engines with less trepidation than I had putting on this freaking sticker.

The difference this time came down to two simple instructions gleaned — where else — online. The first is to use two pieces of tape to hold the sticker’s key graphic point. The second, and this was from multiple sources, was to work out from that inflection point.

The key then was to figure out what that point was. After all, if you look carefully at the pic, there are so many places that require the add-on to match up with the original graphic if the result isn’t to look amateurish. The upper half of the new stickie has to match the upward slant of the original; the lower half has to angle downwards at the same rate as Suzuki’s four bars; and, more subtle but no less important, the periphery has to match the outer creases of the gas tank. In other words, to make it look right, all the above has to blend in with the existing lines.

As important as that all was, the brain trust — myself, our own mechanic/technical writer Costa Mouzouris and ex-BMW PR manager/self-taught auto tech, Robert Dexter — quickly zeroed in on the “vee” of the sticker, matching the pointed end of the pointed bit of the original sticker. Get that wrong, was the consensus, and you might as well have a pointer labelled “numpty” stuck to the gas tank. Get it right and the geometry says the rest should be a doddle. So taped right below and above that crux, we followed instructions and simply worked outwards from the middle and, if I do say so myself, it doesn’t look like I was three sheets to the wind when I did it.

So, besides the normal “clean the entire area with alcohol and heat the stickie with a hair dryer” guidelines that are common to good adherence, I’d say the most important thing about installing any graphic — especially ones with many and complicated angles — is to determine the one point of inflection that all the others depend on and then use that as your taped-to-the-surface starting point.

As simple as that may sound in this reading, even Mouzouris— definitely no clutz — was impressed. So, to paraphrase perhaps the oldest repair adage of all time, when you’re installing a graphic, choose your key inflection point twice because you’re only going to get to stick it once. More importantly, if these seemingly obvious instructions can allow me to do this with some degree of competency, then they are wise words indeed!

Black Doves Graphics are available at blackdoves.store and this DL1000XT sticker cost €35 (about CDN$50). Yes, they ship to Canada.


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