Murphy’s Law tells us that, when you borrow someone else’s motorcycle for a photo shoot, it’s the one bike that will end up on the ground. Such was our fate when my brother, Paul, let us use his 2005 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 as a pack mule during an adventure bike comparison. When the going got rough, the V-Strom went horizontal.
There were no bodily injuries, but the bike, which slid nose-first down a gravel hill on its left side, suffered a broken saddlebag and some cosmetic damage. Replacing the banged-up bodywork would have cost about $500, but we had it repaired for half as much.
We called Born Again Fairings (BAF), based in Azusa, California, and requested a quote. Started in the late ‘80s by Chuck Frye, BAF specializes in repairing and/or repainting plastic bodywork and saddlebags, metal gas tanks, fenders and frames, as well as helmets.
BAF’s prices, which include repairs and repainting, range from $25 to $250, depending on size and complexity of the piece; a complete set of bodywork runs $850. Call for a quote, box up the bodywork and ship it to BAF, and when its done—typically within two to three weeks—BAF ships it back to you.
When I visited Frye recently at his workshop, he greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake, his skin dry and rough from a lifetime of working with his hands. As Frye showed me around, I inquired about the company’s name. Not only does Born Again Fairings give new life to bodywork, the company is built on a foundation of religious faith.
“We’re a Christian business,” Frye said. “We’re here to glorify God and help people. We start each day with a prayer, we charge reasonable prices and we stand behind our work.”
Frye had built up a large operation—“a big space with six full-time employees,” he said—but a battle with cancer a few years ago forced him to pull in his horns and downsize. BAF now operates out of a modest industrial space near Los Angeles, and it’s a family business. His wife, Christine, and his granddaughter, Haley, manage the office. Brandon, his 20-year-old grandson, is an apprentice, learning the specialized arts of plastic welding, repairing, sanding and painting. Another young apprentice, Chris, is also learning the ropes.
When bodywork comes in, it’s cleaned and examined, cracks are welded with melted rods of ABS plastic, broken attachment tabs or clips are replaced, and any rough surfaces are made smooth with a grinder. Welds are visible on the inside, but the outer surfaces are ground smooth, and they are stronger than the original plastic. “When cracks occur after a repair, it’s almost never at the weld,” Frye said.
Next the piece is wet sanded, sprayed with a primer coat, sanded again, sprayed with a base coat, sanded a third time, and then finished off with a top coat and a gloss or matte clear coat. According to Frye, “Every piece is massaged eight to 10 times—they’re treated better than I am! We cut our own vinyl, we apply replacement graphics and logos, we do custom paint jobs and we can color-match just about anything.” BAF also paints helmets to match bikes.
The paint room, which is sealed and has its own exhaust system, is cleaned and vacuumed regularly to keep out dust and other contaminants. “When I suit up, put on the mask and turn on the fan, I enter a new world,” said Frye. The interior has large banks of fluorescent lights that are used for reflection. Each piece is held by hand and turned in every direction as paint is sprayed on to make sure the finish looks good from every angle.
Not surprisingly, BAF works on a lot of sportbikes, especially entry-level bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 250, which are prone to being dropped by new riders. BAF also works on touring bikes, cruisers and pretty much anything else on two wheels. The workshop has an upstairs loft with dusty shelves full of miscellaneous bodywork dating back to the mid ‘80s. When Frye downsized, he limited his overflowing collection of surplus plastic to hard-to-find pieces. Frye repairs what customers send in or he gets replacement pieces from salvage yards and color-matches them to customers’ bikes.
After we got a quote from BAF, we removed the V-Strom’s damaged bodywork, packed up it up with bubble wrap to prevent any further damage during transit, and shipped it to Azusa. Upon inspection, the bodywork had no cracks or damaged attachment tabs. All it needed to look as good as new was sanding and repainting. As several Rider staffers have been over the years with their personal bikes, we’re very satisfied customers—not only with the quality of work but also with the price compared to replacement bodywork.
The future looks bright for Born Again Fairings. Frye takes great pride in teaching his craft to a younger generation. As Brandon and Chris have become more proficient at fixing bodywork, Frye has been able to devote more time to restoring classic soda machines—another hobby-turned-business that’s been a sideline since the early ‘90s. With fresh paint and new wiring and compressors, the decades-old machines look and work like new when he’s finished with them. Frye also serves as a volunteer technical advisor for the Duarte High School Solar Boat Team, which builds and races solar-powered boats. He helps the team design and build the boat’s electronics, and he brings the students to his shop and teaches them how to sand, paint and apply graphics.
If you have some bodywork or a gas tank that needs to be repaired or repainted, give Born Again Fairings a call. It’s open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9am until 2pm Pacific and some Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. Call anytime, but in-person visits are by appointment only.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Born Again Fairings, 738 N. Loren Avenue, Suite 4, Azusa, CA 91702; (626) 733-3852; bornagainfairings.com