23 November 2011

FZ1 Mod: Front Suspension

R1 Fork Conversion.  It's been a long time coming but it's finally happened.  Back in August, I posted about sourcing parts to do this year's mods.  At the time I was planning one way but as the doing came about, my plans changed.

When I decided to do this back in February, I optimistically said I'd be installing it around this time.  I thought I was lying when I said it but it sounded real good.  It also turned out to be truth!  I'll start this from the beginning so it's all in one place.  

Logic.  I can't say that I'm completely convinced that my forks need upgrading.  I think they perform fine the way they are, especially after I made sure they were both set the same.  With nearly 40k on Baby, if anything, they could use some refreshing with new oil and whatever else one does when they service the forks.  That said, it's the perfect time for me to be thinking about this.  I'm approaching 70k or more miles on two wheels.  I should be thinking about these types of upgrades.

There are several ways to improve the FZ1 forks (or any for that matter) including shortening the fork springs, commercial options such as upgrading the internal components, and the fork swap.  I chose the swap because of it's aesthetic appeal.  As TheMomma said when we discussed it, "The bike looks prettier that way."  

In this case it turns out that aesthetics will mean better performance.  Why?  Up Side Down (USD) vs. Conventional Right Side Up (RSU) forks.  It breaks down to the USD forks being stiffer than RSU forks.  Other than that, with equal components, the difference is something a racer would be able to feel more so than the average rider.

USD Forks
Fork Comparison.  Motorcycle forks are not only a part of the suspension they are a part of the chassis. Both the FZ1 and R1 have telescopic forks that work with the frame to handle the loads generated from braking.  

RSU Forks
USD forks usually have larger diameter outer tubes that are held by the triple clamps creating more resistance against the forces generated when braking or turning.  A RSU fork has the outer tubes that are at the axle.  This "stiffness" allows the bike to maintain its course better.  As a part of the suspension, USD forks have longer inner tubes that are attached to the axle vs. RSU's that are held by the triple clamps giving the USD fork more overlap.

Since I'm a visual person, I created a table that explains the differences between the FZ1 and R1 forks:
I didn't realize how close the specs were on the FZ1 and R1 forks.

Decisions.  As stated elsewhere on this blog, the best how-two on the R1 Conversion is Falcon269's Guide.  His is not the only way but it is the easiest guide to understand.  While making my decision, it was his guide that convinced me this was something that I could do.  I also looked through the various threads on the FZ1OA about it while deciding how I wanted it done.

I hadn't decided if I were going to buy some tools and DIY or take it to a shop yet so ultimately I wanted this to be simple.  To use 2004 and up R1 forks, the entire front end is needed because of the radial brakes.  I don't think there's anything wrong with the FZ1 brakes and the idea of trying to get an entire R1 front end was un-appealing.  It's one of the things that put this mod on my Wish-but never think I'd do-list.

When I learned I could do this with only the forks, fender, and axle I started thinking maybe I could do this.  I read Falcon's thread about once a month until I was convinced I would do it--someday.  I searched eBay because I knew they'd have pictures of most of the forks.  The crash earlier this year made me start buying parts.  What was stopping me from getting the things I needed so when someday got here I'd be ready?

I knew I wanted black forks.  After reading the guide I knew they had to be 2003 or older so that I could re-use the most components.  Searching eBay I learned the only black forks were from 2002 and newer.  My decision was made.

Someday is now.  Most of the parts for my fork conversion have been purchased.

5pw Forks,  Lower Triple, and Axle (not pictured)
5pw Upper Triple
5pw Front Fender 
Extra FZ1 Lower Stem (not necessary)
Steering Bearings Kit (not necessary)
2" Extensions (not necessary)
It didn't take me as long to acquire all the parts as I initially thought I would.  I don't actually have the extensions yet, I will, but with all the other essential parts I couldn't see waiting just for those.

While I was buying parts, I had time to think about diy vs. taking it to a shop.  Falcon's guide makes me think any idiot could do this as long as they could read and understand everything in the guide.  I know I'm just that kind of idiot unfortunately there were some things in the guide that I just didn't want to do.  The stem swap is one of them.

With that in mind, I talked to the guys at OTC about doing the stem swap and servicing my leaky forks.  When I told Cruzman I was going ahead with this mod, he told me that I would get the forks serviced before I ever put them on the bike.  At that point it didn't matter if the forks were perfect or leaking because they would be serviced anyway, they only needed to be straight.

Labor.  So far all my work has been in front of my computer and manipulating my budget.  When I first talked to OTC, I had the idea that I'd take the serviced parts and do the rest myself.  Then I saw eflyguy's steering.  

Last winter, he took his Gen1 apart and did all kinds of service.  One of those things was the steering bearings.  I followed his thread closely because I knew at some point I'd have to do all those things.  During the ride up to the Rally, I learned that he hadn't done something right with the steering install and as of then no longer had use of his steering lock.  I hadn't understood all the stuff he detailed (around post #75 in that thread) and thought I didn't have a chance to get it right if he got it wrong.  Wrong might not be the right way to say it.  His steering works, the bearings are doing what they should but he didn't get something pressed in far enough.

Not long after that, Falcon posted a how to do the steering stem swap yourself.  That's when I knew I didn't understand what I thought I understood and I might as well take full advantage of my resources.
Garage looks empty without Baby.
Last month, I dropped the forks and steering stems off at OTC for service and to have the steering stems swapped.  I purposefully haven't detailed all the steps for this mod because they basically followed Falcon's guide.  I will say what we did different.  

Starting with the steering stem.  Instead of letting the FZ1 stem protrude through the r1 stem, they pressed it flush and will use a spacer at the top to account for the difference.

This is how the stem should look when using the method in Falcon's guide
My FZ1 Stem pressed into the R1 Lower
The shop welded a bead along the bottom and ground it down to make up the difference rather than using a circlip or pin and sleeve to secure the stem.  Please go to this post for more details about insuring proper fit on the bike.
New Lower with spacer shroud
New Trees
When they saw my upper, they suggested I powder coat the lower triple to match.  I agreed and wished I'd thought of it so I could see it already done.  I don't have pics of it before the install (I left to go home so I wouldn't get in the way).

My Stem is flush in the lower triple.
Instead of keeping my Gen1 upper triple clamp like I mentioned in the previous post, I learned it was better to use the R1 or Gen2 FZ1 upper triple because the design of the fork extension adapters would interfere with the turn radius.  While I'm waiting for the fork extensions, I'll have 2" shorter forks which increases turn in.
Not exactly factory looking but not fuggly either.  You can kind of see the spacers used to install the risers.
Closeup under the upper.  Seeing that makes me wish I could have gotten a Gen2 upper.
Baby was sitting outside when I pulled up at sunset to pick him up.  I couldn't wipe the grin off of my face.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture in front of the shop.  Lorne took me inside and explained what all he had to do which sounded a lot like what I expected. Unfortunately, my aux lights brackets don't work with the new front fender so I'm going to need a different mounting system for them.  

Without the extensions, he sits a little upright on the side stand and getting him on the center stand is a tad more difficult.
I stopped at a gas station on the way home so I could get some pics.
I'm going to have a black front fender for a while.  Maybe early next year I can get OTC to match it to the rest of the blue or do another Wish-but never think I'd do-list item and get the blue painted to the darker blue like one the Euro FZ1s or the gen2 (heresy I know) midnight blue.

The GPR muffler looks great with the black forks.  I've toyed with the idea of blacking out the other silver parts but I've decided to leave them the way they are.  I don't want too much black.

Black fender doesn't look bad from this angle.
Initial Impressions.  I've only got 17 miles on this setup.  Lorne said that he set the forks to be firm based on the settings from my old forks that were "really firm" according to him.  Well, really firm is relative because R1 firm and FZ1 firm are in two different neighborhoods.  With these settings, I can feel the road.  Is that feedback?  If it is, it's tremendous.

Earlier I said I didn't expect to notice a difference.  Well I was wrong.  I noticed a difference as soon as I hit the brakes the second time.  The only term that comes to mind is more stable.  It felt more solid when I was on the brakes whether I braked hard or not.

I took the winding route home so I could get a feel for how the bike turns and corners.  Again, everything felt more stable.  I can't say I noticed a huge difference on turn in but I did notice the difference in the corner.  The thing is on rails!

I did hit a couple of bumps that unseated me so I know I need to soften things up a bit.  Over all I'm very pleased with the swap.  I love the way it looks.  It's exactly what I hoped it would be and now I can't believe this is my Baby!

***Update: fork extensions installed.***

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

Back at home


  1. Cool mod! My brother just crashed my FZ1 and bent the forks. If you still have your old forks would you sell them to me? thanks. If not where do you recommend that I find them? I don't see them on ebay.


    1. Ebay or the fz1 forums are your best bet. There is one part out on the fz1oa right now. Plus a couple of recent converts. Naturally i recommend the r1 conversion. Any r1 forks before 04 fit using the front wheel. Since you're buying less parts, this is the more budget friendly conversion. I don't have my forks, sold them about a month after I did my conversion to offset costs. I do have a drilled r1 upper triple if you decide to go conversion.

  2. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
    Tynor Mallet Finger Splint Universal

    Keep Posting:)


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