Thank the motor gods for short-lived tires.
I needed a new front meat (the rear one got replaced last fall) so the other day I pulled the wheel and off to the bike shop I went. Some guys take their bikes to the shop. I prefer to take just the wheel. I’m a hands-on kind of guy, because if there’s a screw up I prefer to know I did it.
This makes revenge simpler.
It also causes me to notice stuff. Like the nearly vaporized brake pads. I checked the little notebook I keep for the bike (I keep one for each bike) in which I record everything done, maintenance-wise, along with the date and mileage at which it was done. New pads just last year. That’s what I remembered. And because I’d put in new pads pretty recently – by the book – I’d have inclined to not even think about them at this point, had it not been for that short-lived tire, which kind of forced me to at least glance at those calipers.
Maybe one more serious stop left in those old pads. Coming down from 160-ish like a 747 with only so much runway room left eats them up pretty fast. It pays to look at them more often.
That got me to thinking about the forks. When had I last changed the oil, checked the internals? Gawd. My eyes are still good but my memory never has been. Five years, according to the book.
The job itself is easy . . . once you have the bike’s front end in the air. Sport bikes have few jacking points and they like to tip over, too.
Be seriously careful, if you’ve never done this before.
On my bike, there is one possible jacking point underneath the bike, ahead of the center of gravity – important, so that when you (gently) raise the nose, the weight transfers to the rear wheel. Otherwise, the rear end will rise – or both ends will rise – and then you’ve got several hundred pounds of bike with both wheels off the ground, precariously balancing on the jack . . . an almost sure-bet guarantee it’s going to topple over and ruin your day.
Using a small floor jack (it fits in tight places more easily) and small block of wood – to cushion between the hard steel jack and the soft aluminum of the engine’s cases – find that sweet spot forward of the bike’s center of gravity. Look for a flat spot on the underside of the engine. Do not place the jack under a bolt or any portruding thing that might get crushed.
But, first, know your support points. And have a pair of jackstands at the read, on either side of the bike. When you raise the bike with the jack, it will get wobbly. Ideally, you’ll have a helper on hand to stabilize the thing, to keep it from falling over. I’m a long-armed geek, so I do this – jack the bike up and hold the bike steady – all by myself. It’s probably not smart, but – so far – I have managed to get away with it.
Raise the front end up just enough to fully extend the forks and get about two inches of air underneath the front tire. Now, slide those jackstands underneath something solid on either side of the bike. On my bike, I’ve got aftermarket frame sliders on either side, just ahead of the gearshift lever/rear brake lever. These are perfect places to slide jackstands under and support the weight of the bike while the front wheel’s off and the front end disassembled.
You’ll want – you’ll need – something like this in order to do this deed without a by-the-book motorcycle lift. Don’t begin until you’ve planned – and have the whole thing laid out in your head, along with every tool you’ll need. Most especially the jackstands – and a place to put them under.
That done, pulling the forks is a simple matter of loosening the triple tree clamps, then grabbing the tubes (not the lowers) with both paws and rotating them as you exert downward pressure. They ought to slide right out. But before you do this – loosen the clamps – you’ll want to loosen the top cap, which may otherwise prove to be very hard to loosen once the forks are out of the vise-like grip of the triple trees. And you’ll need them loose – and off – to refill the forks with fresh oil. If your bike’s like my Rex, you’ll need the caps off to drain the forks, too. Because there’s no drain hole built into the lowers (other bikes I’ve got do have drain screws on the lowers).
From here forward, you’ll want to consult the shop manual for your particular bike, paying particular attention to fork oil capacity (make sure you get it exactly right, using a graduated beaker) and also because there are lots of small parts that come off and have to be re-assembled in exactly the right order – and exactly according to procedure. Disassemble one fork at a time – and you’ll have one fork still assembled as a reference. But don’t guess or improvise. Screwing up one or both forks could result in a very evil-handling ride.
Once you’re sure everything’s been put back together the right way (double check your work), slide the tubes back into the triple trees – making certain they’re exactly even – tighten the bolts and you’re ready for the rim with its new tire (in my case) and (again) those new brake pads.
Which will not last long in my hands . . . but isn’t that the object of this exercise?
Throw it in the Woods?