22 February 2010

There's a reason the suspension is adjustable.

20 Feb 2010

Recently I'd been feeling a little discontent about the handling on my 2005 FZ1 (Baby). For some reason, when hitting the twisties hard, the front end no longer felt stable. I didn't notice it unless I was pushing it and then the front felt as if it were going to slide out from under me. I'm sure my corrections seemed comical to anyone watching as I tried to compensate.

Reading the forums, I knew the bike should perform better. Before I replaced my front tire last spring, I thought it did perform better. Could it be the new tire? I wasn't sure it was so I started searching the forums.

I've read wonderful stuff about improving front end suspension from Ravenrider's $14.99 mod to the R1 front end conversion. This is my second bike and my mechanical knowledge is more theoretical than practiced. That is, for the most part I understand what I read but I have yet to get my hands really dirty. Ravenrider's mod best fit my budget but far exceeded anything I feel comfortable doing. So I decided to go simple and asked a friend with a little knowledge to help me get things set right, maybe even raise(?) the forks in the trees.

This morning, we got to work. He explained just what raising/lowering the front forks would do. Raising (so the forks are a little higher than the tree) will put more weight on the front end, Lowering (so the forks are recessed in the tree) will make the front end light--and assist with wheelies. I decided to raise the forks.

When he went to adjust the fork leves, he noticed a couple of things. First, one of the bolts was loose. Second, the left side was set softer than the right. He thought that might explain some of what I was feeling then suggested we wait to lower/raise (I forget the correct terminology, but I'm sure I'll be corrected) the forks and adjust them instead.

In our discussions, he remembered that I'd dropped my bike on one of our rides and suggested that might be why the bottom bolt on that side was loose. I've dropped my bike two or three times, each time on the right side--the same side as the loose bolt.

I noticed the difference less than a mile from his house. I was amazed at how a half turn of a screw could affect the balance and feel of the bike. I wanted to test out my initial feelings before our ride tomorrow so I took the long twisty way home. Well, as twisty as one can get in the suburbs. Baby handled better than I remembered in the fast sweepers and the few tight curves I could find.

A simple half turn changed my mind about what I needed for my suspension. I don't need a new new front tire, I don't need a front end conversion (although one day I might just for the looks), I don't need new springs or fresh oil. I needed properly torqued bolts and the front end settings aligned so both forks responded in the same manner.

I'm dangerous now. I got my new camera to test tomorrow so hopefully I'll have some video to post soon.

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