11 April 2016

Maintenance: Fork Service

10 April 2016:  Fork Service Weekend.

I’d delayed, postponed it for as long as I could but the time had come when no more delay were possible. Delaying it not because I didn’t want to do it. There were some lupus reasons and other life reasons that caused them but I finally got myself moving.
Moving in more ways than one. At the end of last year I made a decision and acted on it: I finally moved out of my mother/sister’s house and into a much more affordable place. That was years and years of stuff that wasn’t all mine to organize or dispose of. But it was done. Now I live in a cheap little white house that’s not nearly as comfortable as the big white house I moved out of but now if I miss a ride or meal it won’t be because I had to pay the water bill.

Once I got settled in the new spot, I started taking stock of what I wanted or needed done to the bike or my gear so that I can focus on riding more and worrying less. I’d left the bike in Dad’s garage to keep his Star 1300 company while I got settled in. When I went to get the bike, I noticed the left (as you sit on the bike) fork looked a little juicy. I didn’t think it was that way when I parked it but there it was: leaky seal.

I’ve lost confidence in the front suspension as I mentioned I think in the post about the Fall Gather. Then I thought it was the tires or brakes. Fixing those seemed to give some of the old feel back but when it felt the most like I felt it should, I’d go hard at a curve and scare the ever living crap outta myself and back off.

I believed it was me. All these phantom issues causing me to slow down. I’m even convincing myself I don’t want to be so fast on the street, I need to save the speed for the track. I’d repeat it in my head each time the front felt funny. I’ve been reading about how to ride thinking with better tech I needed to be a better rider. It was my technique that caused the front end to feel like it was washing out whenever I pushed it in the curve.

All the while Cruzman or iluvmyfz1 (two up no less) were riding away from me. Well, maybe it’s because I’m not riding enough and once I get to ride more they won’t be riding away from me. Heck, they never used to ride away from me. It’s me choosing to ride more conservatively, I tell myself as MrsCruzman is tailgating me down hwy 28.

I should have known when I preferred to ride behind the Miata that it wasn’t some phantom thing going on, it had to be the equipment. It was the thing that made me quit talking about I want to service my forks and start trying to figure out what I needed to service my forks.

Here’s the part where I do something I don’t like doing. I’m going to say something about the quality of the work that was done on my forks for the r1 conversion. I didn’t want to say anything on the internet but if you met me in person and asked, I’d give you an earfull. I like the guy that did the work on my forks. He seemed really cool and like he actually listened to what I was saying.

I’m still convinced it was better to pay the shop to do the conversion than to attempt it myself—
without Cruzman—as I considered doing. Without Cruzman because he said he had no interest in the conversion and I had no interest in moving in with them for the week or so I guessed it’d take to do it my (our) selves. Nor did I want to be involved with making mistakes that put me in danger. So the price of labor seemed worth the added expense. Right.

Not right. Turns out I still experienced the mistakes I thought I was paying to avoid. He fixed them quickly but I paid to avoid them. I also paid for him to refurbish the forks. I didn’t know what that meant but he said he knew. I do know I told him I thought it meant more than replacing the seals. It meant being sure the internals were in good working order and if they weren’t fixing them so that they were.

Leaking fork three weeks after the conversion meant he didn’t know what refurbish meant either despite saying he did. A month after the conversion and 1st repair, the bike was back at his shop for him to fix what I thought I’d already paid him to fix but apparently had not because I paid again for a fork cap.

Fast forward to Friday Night, 8 April 2016 in Cruzman’s garage. We finally got the fender off of the bike after about 90 minutes of fighting corroded screws. Cruzman was pumping the leaking left fork to get a feel for how much oil leaked out when he pulled the left lower out. Next, I hear the hollow pop as the lower left fork slides completely out of the upper fork. The look on Cruzman’s face made me regret not recording everything like I thought I wanted to do and answered my unasked question.

Apparently the new cap was not properly installed and over time worked itself completely apart from the cartridge. It explained the “phantom” feeling I was having when pushing it in the curves. It wasn’t phantom. It was the left fork unable to do it’s job and making me feel the front end was going to slide out.

In some ways I feel this is my fault. After the initial problems I had with the quality of the conversion, I should have had the forks apart long before now. My excuse is ignorance and a reluctance to pay for more inferior work. Like a lot of people, I feel like I can do a thing better because it’s my thing and I’m doing it for me. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never done the thing or it’s my fiftieth time. My first time doing a thing with care while reading from a manual (searching the internet) is preferable to a mechanic who’s done it a million times before and yours would me the million + 1 time.
Yeah, Even I can fix that.
If you’re still reading this, you understand this mentality. In my case, I was relying on Cruzman’s 5th time in three weeks, “should only take 3 hours and we’ll go for a ride in the morning”, I’ll show you what to do. It’s worked for me since I met him and the reason why this blog is filled with “how I did” it guides. You also know it never takes how long he says it’ll take and stuff doesn’t come off my bike as easily as it did his when he did the thing the day, week, month before.

I wanted this to be one of those but my delaying to even get it done meant it was never gonna be. For those, I have prepared Cruzman on what to expect in advance: you are showing me how to do this. For this I never said those words; didn’t even hint them. Didn’t even bring the camera so I could set it up for time lapse photos that I could study later to remember wtf we did and carefully document it on the blog.

Nope, I just wanted my leaky forks fixed so that I could ride now that I have an extra $2 to ride with. I found myself in the unusual state of having the money to ride but the bike not be ride worthy. When I make a life change, I go for it!

Cruzman stared down the tube while I had catastrophic thoughts about not buying new forks when I thought to do it at the beginning of the year. As I’m wondering how MrsCruzman is going to like that the motowife has moved in, Cruzman says, “Oh, it’s not that bad. I mean it’s not supposed to do that but it ain’t broke.”

Okay? We put it down to figure out why later and got on with getting the forks off of the bike.

The right fork came off the bike like it should: whole. Both forks were disassembled within minutes. So fast, I can’t even remember how he did it. I’m going to say I was still in shock from the left fork failure and imagining how many ways or times the front end should have just slid out from under me while I went sliding into the tree or car or whatever it was that could have killed me.

I remember a big ass wrench, ratchet straps, and an axle. With the wrench, he loosened the fork cap. This allowed the upper part of the fork to slide all the way down to reveal the top of the cartridge. For some reason I thought the forks were under tension and if you loosened the cap, stuff would go flying toward the ceiling. Not true. The cap is connected to the cartridge and the upper fork. When it’s loose the upper fork simply bottoms out on the lower fork leaving the internals exposed.
source: zx-10r.net/forums

With the ratchet straps, axle, and cylindrical fork tool, the fork spring was compressed so the cap could be removed. Once the cap was removed, we released the tension slowly then took the springs out since we were going to swap them for the stiffer ones from his 07-08 forks. The cartridge stays inside the fork. That’s some other job we weren’t doing, I suppose. (Every video or pictorial I saw the cartridge was taken out too.)

With the cap off, the upper part of the fork can slide completely away from the bottom part. This is the way it is supposed to come off. Not how the left one did earlier. The old oil was dumped out and the lower fork left inverted so it could drain.

Next we remove the dust cover and old seal from the upper part of the fork. I say we when I mean Cruzman. I was the fork holder. The seal is held in with a clip. Both are removed with a flat head screwdriver—uh I meant seal removal tool. 

With the seals out, we inspected the lower fork tubes and discovered grooves. We used 1500 sandpaper to smooth them. I could see them but not feel them, Cruzman could feel them. After about 45 minutes, we made a Wal-Mart run to get rougher 800 sandpaper and more 1500. When we go back, I could feel the grooves too. Maybe I should have washed my hands to get the fork oil off of them sooner. During the groove removal process, there was discussion of how much new lower tubes would cost. 
Removing fork cap.  (source:  speedzilla.com/forums)
None of that was going to happen at 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning so we kept rubbing until we got to the “that’s good enough” point. Oddly in coincided with the temps dropping to nearly uncomfortably cold. 

Fork reassembly happened quickly. Other than noticing how the spring spacer had been modified by the previous owner (or the conversion mechanic) my forks were in great shape. The left fork went together without issues so we could only guess that the mechanic didn’t install it correctly for the rod to work it’s way out of the cap initially.
source: Diy Fork Seal Driver - coolkfiloj.ga

The cap is secured to the rod with a jam nut that snugged up without issues for us. We also took a short break to confirm the orientation of the seals. Cruzman put his in backwards because the ones he took off were that way. His were now leaking and I thought we’d replace his later that day.

After a mere 6 hours, we were done. There would be no ride the next day though. Finishing at 3 or 4 a.m. plus forecast of 30 – 40 mph wind gusts changed that part of our usual routine.

Instead of a ride, we went to the bike shop to get replacement fender screws since we’d basically destroyed the old ones. We were going to go for a ride but I accidentally left the bike on and the headlights blew when we were starting it. 

New bixenon hids were on my shopping list for this month anyway. Instead of a ride, I serviced my rearsets and installed regular halogen headlight bulbs until the replacement kit is ordered and delivered. The test ride came Sunday morning. If the work hadn’t confirmed it, the ride did. I wasn’t feeling phantom symptoms, there was something wrong with the equipment not me. 

Before I was even halfway down Cruzman's gravel driveway I could tell the difference in the forks. He took me on a few local roads so that I could get a feel for the stiffer springs and to see if we'd gotten it right.  It was more than right and now I'm more anxious than before to ride more this year.

Also wanted to give MrsCruzman a shout out.  She is the most gracious hostess and I'm sorry for the oily mess we made in your parking spot.  I'll get my moto-hubby to clean that up so it looks as good as new!  Next on my to do list is to ride around and find some land for my tiny house.  Thank you guys for rekindling that fire too.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

1 comment:

  1. Wow 6 hours to replace fork seals. You need a new mechanic... :)


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