Time for a trailer…

Not to live in, mind you. A trailer to transport motorcycles is the kind I’m talking about here. I’m pretty comfortable wrenching on bikes, but sometimes you don’t have the super-duper-expensive special tool that you will need only once. And to be honest, sometimes you don’t have the knowledge to do a job properly or you can do it but adjustments will take several attempts and an expert mechanic can do the job to spec the first time.

In that case, you need a way to transport a bike without riding it. Yes, you can strap a bike into the back of a pickup, but mine has a cap and the bike won’t fit without taking the cap off. Then you have the problem of loading a bike into the bed that is three feet or more off the ground. Not fun and more than a little nerve-wracking.

I had seen ads for a Kendon trailer. They make models for one or two bikes, the two bike model made the most sense to me. The big advantage of this particular trailer model is that IT FOLDS UP. You fold it up and then you can STAND IT UP vertically in the garage. There are casters under it so you can roll it out of the way. It doesn’t have to sit outside with a tarp over it, killing the grass, and making a nice shelter for all kinds of critters. It stands up in front of my truck in the garage, out of the weather and clean. It has a small ramp to make loading/unloading easier. The tongue is short to make it short enough to stand up in normal garages, but that makes it difficult to back up. The trailer pulls very well and I’ve had only one bike on it at a time, so if it was going to weave I would have seen it. This is a really-good-to-have accessory and when you need a trailer there really isn’t any substitute.

I bought some tie-downs, 2 sets of 4 straps with neoprene covers for the rachets. I got them from PowerTye and the price was better directly from them.

Ducati suspension upgrade, part 3

Before the GSXR forks get installed, the springs inside them need some attention. The stock GSXR springs are a .95 kg/mm rate, too high for the Ducati geometry and my weight. I’ve ordered some .85 kg/mm springs from Traxxion to replace them and I will overhaul the forks (replace the oil, seals, bushings, etc.) before installing them. No need to install them and then pull them off to overhaul them later – better to do it now and be done with it for a while.

Also, the rear suspension on my Ducati doesn’t have an adjustable link in it so the only way to set suspension ride height is by adjusting the preload on the rear shock spring. But that’s not what preload is actually for – it is to get the rear suspension in the best operating range for the bike and rider’s weight. Once the sag is set, then you adjust the rear suspension link to adjust the ride height. This adjustment will not affect sag – the bike may start higher or lower, but the amount by which it sags with the rider’s weight will not change. There are two ways to get an adjustable rear suspension link on my Ducati – buy a take-off from a different model Ducati, or make your own. I choose the latter, so I will be ordering Heim joints and hex aluminum stock from McMaster-Carr and spend some time in front of a lathe. Maybe I’ll even have it anodized, maybe not. But it will fit, it will be something I made, and it will be on my bike. All of that is good.

Ducati suspension upgrade, part 2

Well, I found a good buy on ebay and I have a set of forks. Actually, I have a set of forks, calipers that are still mounted on the forks, an axle that is clamped into the forks, and the lower triple tree as well. This assembly came from a 2005-2006 Suzuki GSX-R 1000, and the fork diamaters are correct for my Ducati at 50mm/54mm. The forks are “upside down” and the uppers are gold anodized which should look nice installed on the black Ducati. I just need to get the spacers and the fender brackets and I will have the parts necessary to do the swap. There are some incidental parts like copper sealing washers and brake fluid but those should be easily found locally.

I am pretty sure this swap is a rainy morning job, especially with an extra pair of hands. Once installed, setting the preload, rebound, and compression dampening will be trial and error, at least for me. I’m not a suspension expert so I will have to find the right section of road and run back and forth until the adjustments seem correct. Not terribly precise I know, but I have to start learning somewhere.

Ducati suspension upgrade, part 1

The Ducati front forks, good as they are, are a compromise. The sag, rebound and compression dampening are set for a rider of average weight and allow no adjustments. Well, you CAN adjust them by replacing the springs, and changing to lighter or heavier fork fluid and/or altering the fluid levels. Not optimum for me as I would much rather ride than pull the front end apart because changes are needed. Never fear, there is an answer. Ducati will happily sell you fully adjustable forks for your 695 and the price tag will exceed $1200. WOW, that’s a lot. But there is another solution to the suspension upgrade question – use fully adjustable forks from a different bike.

There are two possibilities here – adjustable forks from a different Ducati or adjustable forks from a different brand of bike. Both will work but you may age significantly while waiting to find a set of Ducati forks. The best answer is to source fully adjustable forks from a different brand of bike entirely. Suzuki forks are made by Showa, just like the Ducati forks. And even better, forks from the 2002-2006 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 will fit the Ducati triple trees perfectly. Other than the forks, calipers and an axle, all that is necessary to have fully adjustable forks on your 695 is a set of spacers for the axle (the Ducati wheel is a little narrower than the Suzuki wheel) and spacers to center the brake rotors in the Suzuki calipers. The Suzuki calipers are radial-mount calipers and the banjo bolt from the Ducati brake line will bolt right up to it – just like it was made to go there.

Look on ebay for forks, calipers and an axle – they are there all the time. Expect to spend around $400 for forks, calipers, and an axle. If you have access to a lathe, you can make the required spacers, otherwise post a question on the ducatimonsterforum.org and someone will be able to point you in the right direction.

Once you have the forks, calipers, an axle, and the spacers you are ready to begin. I would expect the swap to take a half-day or so. It should be a good project for a rainy weekend day. You will need to bleed the front brakes, so be sure you have fresh brake fluid on hand. While you’re at it you may as well replace the rear brake and clutch fluid too.

You need:

  • 2002-2006 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 forks (50mm top/54mm bottom diameter)
  • calipers for the forks
  • an axle for the forks
  • spacers to accomodate the narrower Ducati wheel and to center the rotors in the calipers
  • a fender adapter to mount the Ducati fender on the Suzuki forks
  • brake fluid, a single 10mm banjo bolt, 4 copper sealing washers

Let’s get the parts together and then move on to the swap itself.

Goldwing suspension upgrade, part 3

And so, it begins – the saga of the u-nuts. I ordered some from McMaster-Carr that looked better than OEM but they didn’t fit properly so I returned them. Then, I ordered a half-dozen OEM ones ($2.50 each, ouch!) from HDL and waited for them to arrive. While I was waiting I decided to make some replacements. I ground off the protruding threads from the bottom of the OEM u-nut and drilled the hole out to match the other side. I got some 5mmx.8 nuts and jb-welded them onto the bottom of the u-nut. Now I have some u-nuts that will fit properly, and also have the added strength of a regular 5mm nut instead of 2 or 3 stamped threads. I was looking for some additional strength for the 2 middle u-nuts on each side as that’s where my Baker Air-Wings fasten down.

Today I put the top shelter back on, remembering to plug in both audio plugs and the radio antenna. Plugged in the connector for the pushbuttons on the meter panel, the two tweeter wires and pushed the meter panel into place. I left the pockets out for now, and began the preflight.

Turned the kill switch off, and turned the key. The dash lights worked as expected. I turned the kill switch to “run” and the FI light came on, the pump pressurized and the FI light went off. Started it and it sounded like it did last fall. Checked all lights, turn signals front and rear, brake lights, headlights both low and high beam. Checked the headlight adjuster – worked fine. Check the audio system, AM, FM, WX, speaker and headphones. Verified the suspension preload at “0”. Got on, tested reverse. So far, so good.

The ride height is a little higher than stock, mainly because of less sag. There was a noticeable difference when taking the bike down off the centerstand with traxxion/progressive installed than before. I didn’t measure it but I noticed the difference right away. Pulled out of the driveway and wondered what happened to the bump at the end. First impression underway – firmer but not harsher. I will play with the rear damping later – for now it’s set at the delivered middle-of-the-range. I got up to 60mph and tested the cruise and the clutch/handbrake/footbrake deactivate of the cruise. Tested above the setting, letting the cruise coast down and below the range, letting the cruise accelerate. All working well. Apparently I got everything plugged back in the way it should be. The steering seems very similar to the OEM bearings, not tighter, heavier, or excessively dampened.

Of course, I had to see if there was a wobble. I powder coated the wheels and put on new Bridgestones front and rear while everything was apart. At 60 mph, cruise off, removed my hands from the grips to see what would happen. Not a wobble to be seen, felt, or imagined. Went all the way down to 20 mph or so and pulled the clutch in and called it good.

All in all, a good-sized project, but not brain surgery. Organization is key to success. The only special tools I used were the bearing drivers and the steering stem socket. All other tools were standard and would be found in most any decently equipped garage. I do not have a table lift, I used the centerstand and a floor jack to do the lifting and supporting. Almost all of the work was done solo. Having a helping hand would definitely speed up the proceedings but is not necessary.

Ride report to follow…

Goldwing suspension upgrade, part 2

I decided to go with the Progressive 460 rear shock, mainly due to the adjustable rebound damping on this unit. The Traxxion rear shock price was within a few dollars so I chose the adjustable one. Both units use a 1200 lb/inch spring, while the OEM spring is 900 lb/inch rate spring. Since I had just finished installing the front end, I already had the top shelter off but a few more pieces are removed and bolts loosened to be able to remove the gas tank. I had not looked forward to this part of the upgrade, but it turned out just fine. The tank finally came out but the ’06 wiring harness (or maybe just MY ’06 wiring harness) had a stiff bundle of wires exiting the relay panel over the rear of the tank and it took a bit of work to get the tank out.

Once the tank is out removing the shock is easy. Loosening the right-side saddlebag and sliding it back a few inches made easy work of removing the actuator. My actuator began to labor at 5, and last year it began to labor at one, so I decided to refill the actuator while it was off the bike. I used Honda SS8 (10 weight) fork fluid for the refill. Reinstalling the shock and preload adjuster was pretty easy with everything out of the way.

While the gas tank was off, I followed the advice of others and checked the coolant hose clamps to be sure they were tight. In my case they were, but I loosened a couple, twisted them to make future checks easier, and tightened them back down. I also checked the main ground lug for corrosion and found it to be tightly fastened and clean.

Putting the gas tank back in required some wrestling with the wiring harness but since it came out it was definitely going back in. A little swearing and some silicone spray and the tank was back in and bolted in place and the wiring bundles returned to their proper location.

Somehow, while it was off the bike, I managed to break one of the tabs on the top shelter – I have no idea when or how. I used abs cement and some fiberglass cloth to repair it, and it’s now stronger than new. The gas overflow tray is held onto the tank by plastic “fingers” and when I went to reinstall it every one was broken except one. Of course that delayed things until I could get a replacement from HDL. Got that and I will not remove that piece if the tank needs to come out again – I’ll just remove the hose from it. Another item to attend to while the top shelter was off – I redid the shielding on the cruise control. I used 8 thicknesses of heavy-duty foil and I hope this is better at blocking the 2-pitch noise from the cruise control actuator.

OK, ready for final reassembly…

Goldwing suspension upgrade, part 1

After last September’s Wingstock, where I was able to ride a Traxxion-equipped Goldwing, I had pretty much decided to go forward with the suspension update. The hard part for me was the cost – it ain’t cheap. I finally rationalized that I would spend the money but that I was going to do the wrenching myself. I was going to replace tires over the winter and as part of that I was going to have the wheels powdercoated.

The first step was to disassemble the front end in order to extract the forks. Removing the fenders and calipers was fairly simple and I used a trick I’ve used for a long time – a muffin pan. I put the bolts and nuts in the muffin pan in the order I removed them and wote a note about which side of the bike and where they came from. I didn’t know how long the bike would be disassembled and I didn’t want to rely on my memory during reassembly.

With just a bit of luck, I was able to remove the forks without removing the top shelter. So, I packed them up and sent them off to Traxxion. Surprisingly, I had them back exactly 8 days after the UPS guy picked up the box. I had the rebound-damping adjustable fork caps installed. Having the forks back was great, but I wasn’t quite ready for reassembly just yet. I wanted to replace the steering stem bearings too. Since you have to disassemble the bike to this point plus a fair amount more, doing it now made a lot of sense. I removed the meter panel and top shelter and to give me additonal room I decided to remove the meter assembly as well. I know the rubber hoods on the plugs are a pregnant dog to reseat, but I decided the additional room was worth it. I removed the handlebars, the top triple tree, and finally the steering stem came out. Fred’s maintenance DVDs had entertained me to the point that I was able to replace the bearings fairly easily. The OEM bearings were in fine shape, and were well-greased from the factory. Removing the lower race from the stem destroyed it, so the OEM bearings were tossed. Reassembly was fairly easy, the most important part is to be sure the new races are seated completely. I chose to use a lower torque value than a lot of people used as I think the excessively high torque value will dampen the steering and slow the rate of left-right and right-left transitions. I chose to go with 15 ft-lbs, as that is the torque value for the GL1500 stem bearings and they were tapered roller bearings too. With the stem bearings replaced and the top nut torqued to spec, completing the reinstall of the forks and the remainder of the front end took less than an hour. The axle slipped through the newly-powdercoated wheel/new Bridgestone tire and the alignment was perfect. I torqued the remainder of the bolts and then put the front fender pieces back on. Front end work completed.

Now the real fun begins…