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Aug 26, 2008



Federico Minoli, the former president and CEO of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A., upon leaving the company after leading it for a decade, has generously decided to offer his entire private collection of souvenirs, relics and gifts accumulated in his time at Ducati in a charity auction.


The proceeds from every piece auctioned will go directly to Riders for Health to buy vehicles, spare parts and necessary maintenance equipment for the bikes used in health operations in Zimbabwe.

Since 1989, Riders for Health has managed a system of periodical maintenance for motorcycles and other vehicles in rural Africa.  Continual maintenance in Africa is not easy, but this is the difference when trying to save a person’s life.  Riders for Health has developed a network of local technicians that reaches the vehicles in the zone in which they work, and together with riders/drivers, they apply the maintenance program studied at the International Academy of Vehicle Management in Harare.

More than one hundred rare or completely unique pieces will be auctioned on, starting from Monday, May 28th, 2007.  Some of the most interesting, to only mention a few, are:


  •  Ducati Minimoto with a stroke engine, donated by the father of Daijiro Kato, perfectly functional and legal for racing on the track

  • Rear fairing and seat of the Casey Stoner’s Desmosedici GP7 used in Qatar for the first win of the GP World Championship 2007, autographed with a dedication

  • Damaged fairing which Loris Capirossi used during the Fakisa (South Africa) race in 2003.  Before the race, Capirossi bumped into Troy Bayliss, who was stopped during the warm up.

  • Helmet of world champion Troy Bayliss, used in the 2002 season

  • Helmet of world champion Carl “King” Fogarty, used during the 1998 season, with which he won his third world championship

  • Original color draft of the Ducati Hypermotard from Ducati’s Design Department

  • Legendary “Superman” leather suit worn by Troy Bayliss during the Brands Hatch race in 2006 to celebrate the release of the new film dedicated to the Man of Steel and Ducati’s 250th Superbike win

  • Prototype of the Ducati snowboard produced with Burton

This is an opportunity that every passionate Ducatisti cannot miss: a chance to acquire a symbol of Ducati’s history while at the same time helping people in need.

All of the various pieces on auction will begin at one euro and will stay on auction for seven days.

Mercedes Benz SL600

The aftermarket modification was done by the custom car accessory company Garson/D.A.D to highlight the company’s Mercedes accessories. Not only did the crystals cover every inch of the car’s exterior, but were also prominent inside covering parts of the center console, door trim and even the rearview mirror. The DAD Mercedes Benz SL600 presented by DUB Magazine, which is crusted with over 300,000 Swarovski crystals and whos glamorous look is completed by the Bavarian White mammoth skin seat covers.

expensive mercedes benz

swarovski mercedes benz

Aug 22, 2008

Tools For Repairing

My Tool Board

Tools. You have to have lots of tools to work on motorcycles. So what does that mean ? Do you have to go out and buy
a $2000 master tool set to do good work ? No, not at all. A basic tool kit is all you need. You can add tools as you need them.
It's always nice to have pretty, shiny, new tools, but hey, the bolts don't care. They'll come apart with old tools, same as new.
Start looking around... garage sales, 2nd hand stores...tell your friends you're looking for some tools. Most mechanics start out with
old, junky tools and upgrade as money allows. This means there are lots of old tools floating around. Maybe they will sell cheap or even
give them to you, so keep your eyes open for them !

If you are really new to tools, a good place to learn about what is out there is a tool catalog. Sears Craftsman tools put out a free one that is a
good place to start. Almost all my tools are Craftsman. There is a good reason for that...they are guaranteed forever ( well, maybe just till
they go out of business. ) If I break one, I just take it back to Sears, and they give me a new one. I've fished them out of dumpsters, bought
broken ones from junk yards and take them back and I get a new one. There are others who give a lifetime warrenty, but I always know where a
Sears is. I don't always know where the other guys are.

To start with you're going to need some wrenches. Wrenches come in lots of types
and sizes.Wrenches The handiest ones are Combination Wrenches. You will need sizes 6mm through 14mm, 17mm and 19mm to start. Two sets are nice, one for
the nut and one for the bolt head. A set of small, open end ignition wrenches is handy. Especially if the bike you are working on has points.
A set of inch (US) wrenches would be good too.

Screw Drivers
You will need lots of Screw Drivers. Small ones, large ones, big, long ones, small,short ones, short big ones and long small ones.
Well, you get the idea. There are all kinds of weird screw heads. Besides the ones we all know, Straight and Phillips, there are Allen, Torex, Square
and others. You will also use them for all kinds of unauthorized prying, chisling, levering and such. As Red Green says " Any tool can be the right tool."

Impact Driver
The Impact Driver is a must have tool. The steel Phillips head screws used on a large number of motorcycles really lock onto the threads in the
aluminum crankcases. You must have an Impact Driver to get them out. Impact Drivers come in both 3/8" and 1/2" drives. You can use screw driver bits
or sockets with them. To use an impact driver first select the right size of bit, then put it on the driver and onto the screw. Turn the body of the
driver in the direction you want to turn. This " cocks " the tool, so to speak. Now hit it on the end, with a hammer, good and hard, and off it comes...
the screw, that is. Remember to back up the part. If the part with the screw in it is not strong enough to take the hammer blow, it will break.

Sockets come in 6, 8, and 12 points and 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", and bigger drives. The points refer to the way the socket grips the bolt or nut.
6 and 12 point work on hex head bolts and nuts. The 6 point has a very strong grip on the hex head. the 12 point has a weaker grip
Socket Drivesbut allows the
socket to go on the bolt easier. I always try to get 6 point sockets. I don't think the 12 point are that useful. The drive refers to the
square that is used to drive the socket. 8 point sockets are used on the square nuts seen on farm machinery. You will need sockets in the
same sizes as your wrenches. Sockets below 10mm will use 1/4" drive handles. 3/8" drive goes from 10mm up to 19mm. 1/2" drive goes from 10mm
on up to 36mm or so. 3/8" seems to be the drive to use for most bike work.

Socket handles
The handles for these sockets come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and styles. T-Handles are handy, as are rachet handles. Just pick the ones you like.
Socket Extensions
Socket extensions come in all sizes from 1 1/2" long on up. Get several. You can hook them together to get any length extension you want.

PliersPliers are useful for holding things tightly. They come in lots of shapes and sizes. Vice-Grip types are very useful. If you only have one make it a medium sized Vice-Grip. Better yet, get a whole bunch of them, you will use them.

Crescent Wrenches
No good mechanic ever uses a Crescent Wrench...but we all have a good selection of them hidden in our tool box ! Now you would think that with as many
tools as I have, I would always have exactly the right wench for every nut and bolt. But, you would be wrong. I am always running across
bolts that nothing fits. For those bolts, I keep the trusty Crescent Wrench. So tell everyone you never use a Crescent Wrench and keep a good supply of them !

Wrench Size Referance
If it's a British bike like Triumph, BSA, Norton and the like, it will have nuts and bolts that are British Standard. These are also called Whitworth. You will need a set of these Wrenches if you work on British stuff.
Speaking about funny sized bolts, from time to time you will run across bolts and nuts that are rounded off or it's a weird size. If you measure the
bolt and compare it with this chart, you will be able to select a socket or wrench that is pretty close in size. Print it out and put it in your toolbox. My thanks to Flanders Co., a motorcycle parts distributor, for giving me permission to reprint this chart from their catalog.

There are lots of other tools out there and the ones you will want will depend on the job you are doing. If you are just starting your tool box, here is what I would consider a good start.

  • A good hammer
  • Impact Driver and Bits
  • Set of 6-point, meteric sockets, 6mm-19mm,
  • Set of 6-point, inch sockets, 5/32"-7/8",
  • 1/4" and 3/8" drive rachet
  • 1/4" and 3/8" drive T-Handles
  • 3" and 6", 1/4" drive Extentions. 1&1/2", 3", 6", 12" 3/8" drive Extentions
  • Metric Combination Wrenches, 6-19mm
  • Inch Combination Wrenches, 5/16"-7/8"
  • Small, medium and large Phillips and Sloted screw drivers...Hey, just buy a set !
  • Set of allen wrenches in both inch and metric.
  • A Two foot long prybar. A real BIG screw driver will do.
  • A two foot long piece of Brass round stock in both 3/8" and 1/2" diameter
  • A really big Crescent Wrench
  • A pair of Needle Nose and Slip-Joint Pliers
  • A pair of wire cutters, also called Diagonal Pliers
  • A small, medium, and large Vice-Grip type pliers
  • A long, hollow, piece of pipe, big enough to fit over your rachet handles. For leverage. A Cheater !
  • A metal box to put everything in !

    The list is endless, but at least now you have a place to start !

    Someone requested an easy way to print out the wrench referance and then my computer crashed and lost all my E-Mail so I could not send him this PDF file. Here it is, a bit small but printable. I hope he gets it ! Remember to right click and left click "Save Target As..."

  • Carburator Theory and Tuning

    Carburator Theory and Tuning

    Carb Jet Range

    For some reason everyone seems to think tuning a carb is just real easy. Change a jet or two and boom, your there. Yeah, right ! There are quite literally millions and millions of jet combinations. A rough check on Bing carbs shows there are at least 13,860,000 different combinations of jets. If you are going to change carbs you'd better be prepared to spend some time and money on the job.

    Carb VenturiMain Jet SectionedIf you look at a carburetor, you will notice a rather large hole going from one side to the other. This is called a Venturi. Air passes into the engine through this hole (Venturi). As the velocity of the air entering the carb (and then the engine) increases, it's pressure decreases, creating a low pressure or vacuum in the venturi. This vacuum moves around in the venturi, as the throttle is opened, and sucks gasoline through the different jets in the carb. The gas then mixes with the air going through the venturi. The way the jets are made causes the fuel to vaporize as it goes into the venturi. Where the jets are placed in the carb and where the jet's outlet is located in the venturi, determines what part of the throttle opening that jet controls. The idle jet system (comprised of pilot air jet, pilot fuel jet and pilot fuel screw) controls from 0% to about 25% of the throttle opening. The throttle valve controls 0% to 35% of the throttle opening. The needle jet and jet needle control from 15% to 80% of the throttle opening and the main jet controls 60% to 100%. This means that when you open the throttle about one eighth of the way open, all of the gas/air mixture going into your engine is controlled by the idle jet. As you can see, the different jets over lap the operating range of each other. That is, the jet needle starts to effect things before the effect of the idle jet ends. This is something to remember when working on carbs... everything is interconnected. Change one thing and it will effect other things.

    OK, let's go over the different systems in the carb and see what they do.

    1. Fuel level. The fuel level is controlled by the fuel floats and the fuel float valve. The floats are hollow or made of something that will float on gasoline, such as cork. Part of the float presses against the float valve, sometimes called a needle and seat. Most times the part of the float that touches the float valve needle is bendable so you can adjust the level of the fuel in the floatbowel. All plastic floats are not adjustable. If this level is way too high, gas can leak out the carb overflow tube or into the engine. If fuel gets into the engine it will thin out the engine oil, ruining it's ability to lubricate. This will, sooner or later, blow up your engine ! If a full tank of gas in the evening turns into a half tank by morning, check your oil. If it's thin and smells like gas, change it and replace your float valve and/or check your fuel level. If the oil is OK, check under the overflow tube. If it's OK, then check where you are parking your bike 'cuse someone is walking away with your gas !

      If your fuel level is just a bit high, the mixture will tend to be a bit rich. If it's low, the mixture will tend to be a bit lean. This is because a high level takes less vacuum to suck fuel into the engine and a low level takes more vacuum to do the same.

    2. Pilot or idle jet system. The idle jet controls the idle and on up to quarter throttle, give or take a bit. On some carbs, like Mikuni there is an air jet too. In conjunction with the idle jet there is an idle jet air screw. This screw leans or richens the fuel mixture for a smooth idle and on up to one quarter throttle. From the idle jet, there are little passages cast into the carb that lead to holes just in front of the throttle valve or plate. There can be just one hole or there can be several, depending on the carb design. They effect the mixture as long as the vacuum, in the venturi, is over them. As the throttle opens further, the vacuum moves to the needle jet and jet needle.

    3. The Throttle Valve. The big slide that opens and closes your throttle has a bevel angle cut in one side of the big round (can be flat, too) slide, toward the air cleaner. This angle comes in several sizes and helps control the fuel mixture from idle to about 35% open throttle.
    4. Needle Jet. This jet doesn't really even look like a jet, but it is ! It controls the fuel mixture from 15% to 60% open throttle. It sets in the center of the carb, right over the main jet.
    5. Jet Needle. This is the needle that rides in the throttle slide and goes into the needle jet. This needle controls the fuel mixture from 20% to 80% open throttle. It can come in many different sized tapers. Sometimes, one needle can have several tapers on it. The top end of the needle has grooves cut in it, usually five, and you can move the little clip on the end up or down to lean (down) or richen (up) the mixture. Most late model bikes have needles with only one groove cut in them. This is so you can't richen the mixture, thereby keeping the EPA happy.
    6. Main Jet. This jet controls the fuel mixture from 60% to 100% open throttle.

    We want nice clean acceleration from idle to full throttle, with no stumbling or flat spots. This can be quite a tall order if we are starting with a new carb. Actually, it can be a real challenge to get things to carburate right after something as simple as an exhaust pipe change.

    Now, I wish I could tell I'm the great carb man, but, well... no one has ever been dumb enough to hire me to really work over a carb. Well, there was that one time with that Kaw 650 and aftermarket pipes. It had some kind of weird stock carbs that looked like Mikunis but really were not. It had TDK or KDT or DTK, something like that, carbs. It had aftermarket exhaust pipes and was running too lean, and stumbled at one point under acceleration. Worthless pig ! The jet needles where not adjustable, so I put little washers under the needle clip, to raise the needles. The main jet only came in one size, so I drilled it out with ity-bity, expensive, jet drills. I could move the miss around, but I could not get rid of it. From the beginning I told the guy it wouldn't work and that he was wasting his money, and that at the least we needed carbs we could get parts for, but nooo. Just rise the needles, drill the jets he said... $200 later he finally gave up. I guess I shouldn't complain, I did get paid... but !

    But you want to try it, don't you ? OK, the drill really isn't that hard. Simply run the engine at whatever throttle opening you want to test, for a mile or so, and look at the spark plug. Is the spark plug reading lean or rich ? Now look for the jet that controls that particular throttle opening and exchange it for a richer or leaner one. Now that doesn't sound very hard, does it ? Oh yes, the throttle transition from one jet to the next must be smooth too ! Go back over the areas that each jet controls. They overlap each other. Some a little, some a lot. Make sure you have a good selection of jets ! Most carb manufacturers have tables of specifications on the jet needles and needle jets, and other jets that you will find very useful. With these specs you can make a better guess as to what jet will work best. Some places use motorcycle dynamometers for testing.
    Old Carbs
    These can be a big help to get real close to the best jet setting. Working out the best main jet for a 170 MPH bike can be quite unhealthy if you only have a freeway to test on ! Just remember one thing. A dynamometer is not the real world. A fact more then one factory has found out the hard way when their super hot, dyno tested, race machines didn't run so fast in the real world, on real pavement, in real air with real bugs on the windscreen !

    Anyway, what I'm trying to get over to you is that just because your buddy said he got new carb, changed a jet or two and now his bike gets 100 miles per gallon and has double the horse power, doesn't mean you can too ! It just might require a lot more work than you bargained for.

    Look on the bright side. Carbs used to be real simple at the turn of the century, but they didn't work as good as today's carbs.

    Oh, one last thing, seeing how we are talking carb theory. When an engine is cold, like when you first start it up. It doesn't evaporate the gas well. Liquid gas does not burn, so you have to put in lots of gas, because a lot of it does not vaporize. The choke helps the carb to put into the engine a very rich mixture, and at least some of that mixture will vaporize and burn.

    I had one guy tell me that the reason for a rich mixture when starting was so the pistons would be lubed by the raw gas and spin the engine over easier so it would start ! He felt very strongly about this, so I didn't say a thing. Like the Bible says, don't cast your pearls before swine. (Matthew 7:6)

    Aug 12, 2008

    ENGINE : CDI Coils

    CDI Coils

    Aug 11, 2008

    Replacing the Fusebox

    The XS11's fuse block is a notoriously weak point of an otherwise fine motorcycle. So I decided to replace my fuse block. It looks and works great and fits in the same place as the original fuse block while giving you two additional fuse connections.

    The place to buy an Auxiliary Fuse Block is J.C. Whitney. (Part No. 03dh7115w). It costs about $24.95 + shipping and uses spade type automotive fuses. Don't get any of the other fuse blocks from JCW because they won't work for our application. This is the only one they sell which has independent in and out leads. All the others have one input and multiple outputs. Great if you're adding a ton of accessories but inappropriate as a replacement for our fuse block.

    You don't have to know anything about electronics but you do have to work methodically. Don't remove any wires until you're ready to do the whole job. Even then, only work with one wire at a time so you don't connect things incorrectly.

    Parts you'll need:
    - Auxiliary fuse block from J.C. Whitney (part number 03dh7115w)
    - 8 ea female spade connectors (pref. insulated)
    - Crimping tool (my favorite crimping tool is a pair of Vice Grips)
    - Wire cutters
    - Wire stripper
    - New automotive type spade fuses (matched to the same values as the tube type fuses)
    - Small piece of 1/8 aluminum to be used as a backing plate for Auxiliary fuse block. 1.5 x 4.25
    - 2 small nuts, washers and bolts to attach fuse block to backing plate. (You'll need to keep the bolts which hold the existing fuse block to the frame)
    - 2 rubber grommets (as standoffs to fill gap between backing plate and frame.

    -Unscrew the bolts which hold the plastic fuse block in place. Leave all the wires in place in the old fuse block at this time.
    -Take the aluminum backing plate and trace the holes from the original fuse block onto the plate.
    -Now trace the holes from the new fuse block onto the aluminum backing plate. Make sure the holes aren't too close to allow clearance for the mounting bolts.
    -Drill holes in backing plate.
    -Using a new razor blade and a delicate touch, cut back the wrapping on the wiring harness about 2 inches. This will give you more of the wires to work with.
    -Take a roll of masking tape and make little marker flags for each wire coming into the old fuse box. Make sure the flags are about 3/4 inch above the connector. Label each pair of wires (Ignition, Headlight, etc.) so that you don't screw up the connections.
    -Carefully remove the wires from the old fuse box. I used a small screwdriver to release the old fuse holders from the plastic box.
    -With wire cutters, cut off the old fuse holders as close to the crimped connection as possible.
    -Strip off about 1/4 inch of the insulation and crimp on one of the female spade connectors for each wire. (I know that Doug likes soldering these connections and that's fine but it's kinda hard to work with wires which are so close to the bike.) Using Vice-Grips to crimp these connectors has worked much better for me than the special crimp tools they sell for that job.
    -Don't use the sheet metal screws that come with the new fuse block. Instead, use appropriate sized bolts to attach it to the backing plate. I chose to have the heads of the bolts on the back side of the backing plate to make sure the extra length of the bolt doesn't dig into the frame plate.
    -Use the rubber grommets on the bolts on the back side of the bolts which attach the backing plate to the frame plate to make sure that the assembly mounts securely.
    -Attach the wires to the connectors. I found that having the wires come around the right side of the fuse block (instead of having the wires come around the left side in the stock fuse block) puts less stress on the wires. I did have to change the order of the fuses and wires because one pair of wires seemed a little short to provide a stress free connection.
    -I used a drawing program to create a label to attach inside the clear plastic cover. I glued it in by "painting" the front side of the label with white glue and putting it in the inside of the plastic cover. (don't worry that you can't read it right now - when it dries it will be clear.) make sure you glue it in right side up as the cover will only go on one way.
    -Plug in the appropriate fuses and place the clear cover over the fuse block. (You can remove the masking tape flags if you'd like to make it look prettier.)

    JP Honeywell

    TLC For Your Motorcycle Battery

    by charter member Oak Okleshen #35
    22637 S. Ridgeway
    Richton Pk. IL 60047

    Personal inquiries to Oak must include two first class stamps.

    The subject of "How To" with motorcycle batteries has probably been beat to death dozens of times in past tech articles, and we may mutter "There ain't anything new we can learn about this mixture of lead, acid, and plastic". Taint so! Most of the damaging enigmas of batteries are not only passed by in the writings, but they are often contrarily understood. When you consider that the replacement cost of a battery is about a C note, careless treatment of your volts supply can be rough on the pocketbook.

    This essay was prompted by a recent R75/6 battery failure. It was just 3 years old and well maintained. The battery had been properly prepped when new, and checked out as good as new only 3 months ago.

    A battery is a living electro-chemical device and starts dying the day it is born, or more precisely, the minute it is activated from dry charge status. During the course of its use, it deteriorates gradually. Under the best of circumstances, will last approximately 5-7 years given optimum care.
    What in particular damages the battery and limits its life?
    Internal Heating

    During the course of starting a vehicle, the starter draws tremendous current, in the vicinity of several hundred amperes. All batteries have internal electrical resistance. Some of the energy that is intended for external use (starting etc.) stays within the battery itself and produces internal heating. We know that the 12 1/2 to 13 volts at the battery drops to perhaps 9 volts under starting. Assuming 3 to 4 volts is dropped internally at a current of let's say 250 amperes, the internal heating power loss is approximately 3 1/2 times 250 or 875 watts. That is the same amount of heat produced in a good sized kitchen toaster. Excessive heat conditions produced internally are very damaging to the lead plates, the separators, and other internal structures within the battery. It can cause a certain amount of warpage and with it, loosening and loss of some of the plate material as it falls to the bottom of the cells. This in turn causes a loss of battery capacity, and additional internal heating in subsequent usage in a cumulative and increasing manner. Eventually, one or more of the 6 cells can short out, or lose enough capacity to cause total destruction. If one cell fails, the entire battery is ineffective.

    Summer high heat conditions aggravate internal heat and can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. In the recent midwest heat wave, battery failures were so numerous that the subject made the front pages of the Chicago newspapers. Many stores were sold out of batteries!

    The motorcycle battery undergoes rougher vibrational treatment than its automotive counterpart. Vibration also causes plate material to dislodge from its support grid causing a loss of battery capacity which in turn aggravates the internal heating effect. The degree of vibrational damage depends on the motorcycle engine's vibrational level, and the road surfaces to which the motorcycle is subjected. Vibration is a highly variable factor in the determination of battery longevity.
    Too Low a Battery Charge Level

    Autos are generally used at frequent enough intervals and for long enough duration to keep the battery charged. The matter of a favorable charge level is somewhat of a tightrope act but is generally considered to be 95-98% of full capacity. Monitors to indicate their exact needs are not incorporated into charge systems as a study of cell electrolyte would be necessary. The charge needs are therefore based on calculated conjecture coupled with expected usage recycling. Voltage regulation is the extent of charge level control.

    With motorcycle usage, the subject of battery charge can be a vexing problem. All batteries are subject to a natural self-discharge rate due to their inherent properties. Like marriages, they are not perfect, but beat whatever is in second place. The self-discharge rate is about 3 times greater in the heat of summer than in the cold of winter. Chemical reactions tend to revert to hibernatory status as temperatures drop, so while cold temperatures may cause batteries to lose capacity, they also reduce the rate of self-discharge.

    If a rider lays his machine up in summer, self-discharge can take place in a matter of 3-6 weeks, especially if the battery was not fully charged before it was laid up. This can result in two battery detroying possibilities:

    Internal overheating when starting is again attempted. Usually the starter will stall or nearly stall. With a stalled starter drawing high currents, severe heat damage occurs inside the battery.

    Possible irreversible sulphation. If the charge level gets too low, the cells will undergo a partial to total chemical sulphation, depending on just how low the charge was. This kind of sulphation, with white crystalline deposits, is irreversible. The end result is partial to total loss of battery capacity and refusal of the battery to take a charge. Chemically, the battery has locked itself into a discharged condition. This kind of damage frequently occurs to folks who put their cars "up on blocks" before leaving for an extended trip, especially if it's over the course of a summer. The fix unfortunately, is a new battery.

    The primary concern with cold weather storage, the kind everyone frets about in winter, is freezing of the electrolyte. But electrolyte freezing is not a concern in America if the charge level of the battery is 65% or greater. The best treatment for wintertime storage is to charge the battery to near full as possible, then keep it outside where it is cold. The very worst thing to do is take it inside and keep it warm and unattended next to the furnace. That will quickly cause it to develop the summer death syndrome.
    Too High a Battery Charge Level

    Yes, there are those who overcharge the battery. The usual belief is that during overcharge, the battery may lose some water which can then be easily replaced. Not so exactly. During overcharging, there is an abundance of oxygen gas released from the decomposition of water in the electrolyte. That passes through the cell areas and oxidizes the positive plates of the battery. This oxidation impairs the conduction of electricity and reduces the capacity of the battery.
    Low Electrolyte Solution

    This is usually an owner induced problem due to neglect and will subtract from battery longevity. It can also happen from long trips where the battery is continually fully charged and yet continues to charge, decomposing the water into hydrogen and oxygen gasses (called gassing). When the level of electrolyte drops, the upper part of the plates become inactive, further causing a reduction in total battery capacity. It also causes further heating due to an increase in internal resistance of the cells, and resulting heat damage.

    I should mention that higher-voltage regulators (as some advertise) are not always a good idea. For short rides and commuting, maybe the higher voltage regulators make sense, but they do not see the higher voltage until the battery reaches a minimum charge level, so the reasoning justifying their use is superfluous to some extent. Batteries will charge just fine with as little as 13.5 volts applied to them, it just takes longer. BMW's standard voltage is 14.0 and it would be best to stick with that (using the standard regulator). Higher voltage regulators can easily cause additional water consumption and increased internal battery heating and result in the problems listed above.
    Poisoned Electrolyte

    Only distilled water should be used in the makeup of the electrolyte. One heavy dose of a high mineral content water can contaminate a battery and cut its life in half. High mineral content reduces battery electrolyte effectiveness as the minerals are foreign to the needed chemistry. Self discharge rates will increase along with sulphation and internal heating.
    Overfilling the Electrolyte with Water

    Clearly this is a man-made virus, as the temptation is to practice the theory that more is better. Absolutely not so. Overfilling causes two damaging problems:

    During charging, gasses are generated within the electrolyte and will raise the level of the electrolyte , which is normal. But when it is too high by overfilling, the excess will spit out the vent, possibly causing corrosion on the motorcycle, and dilution of the electrolyte, which reduces battery capacity and causes excessive internal heating.

    Overfilling can under extreme circumstances, also cause a liquid short circuit between each of the cells and create havoc with the heat so generated. This may destroy the battery and under some circumstances, cause it to explode with the high heat conditions generated.

    So when they say don't overfill, they mean it. All that is really necessary is to insure that the top of the separators are covered with electrolyte. The level admittedly, is hard to observe. To ease that problem, shine a light through the battery from rear to front (bike on centerstand).


    By Wes Cameron from the Concurs Owners Group

    The mercury switch for my alarm is glued (silicone) on top of a small beeper/buzzer. If you plan on using a buzzer or siren, it's convenient to have the mercury switch close by but not necessary. My switch w/ beeper is installed in the middle of the bike close to the battery. If you plan on using the bike's horn, then I suggest you glue the mercury switch to a piece of plastic or something that can be moved and adjusted.

    The mercury switch must be installed with the wire connections facing the direction the bike will be moved (away from kickstand position). As you tilt the bike up (away from kickstand side), the mercury will move to the other end of the switch and touch the two wire connections causing the alarm to sound. When the bike is moved to rest position (w/ kickstand), the mercury moves away from the contacts and breaks the connection which cuts off the alarm. Can you steal a bike without moving it off it's kickstand?

    If you wish to have the alarm sound longer, substitute the mercury switch for a shock or spring loaded switch. With this type of switch, vibrations from the movement of the bike will cause a spring loaded contact to move inside the switch and will sound the alarm until the vibrations die away. (This may give an additional 5-30 seconds of warning).

    If you wire the alarm to the battery, then I suggest using an in-line fuse.

    The push button on/off switch which cuts the power completely off to the alarm should be wired in a location that is easily accessible but out of sight from potential thieves. The switch could be placed inside the storage compartment, but having to open and close it every time you ride will get old. The push button on/off switch could be substituted for a keyed switch. The only drawback is you'll have one more key to carry.

    I tried using two small buzzers glued back to back but I liked the beeping sound better. Cost of mercury switch was $3.50. The job took about 4 hours but a lot of time was spent looking for a location for the mercury switch and on/off switch.

    Aug 6, 2008

    Brighter tail/brake lights

    Date: Sat, 27 Jan 1996

    On bikes that use a 1157 tail/brake combination bulb, a simple
    and inexpensive upgrade in the brake light illumination is
    readily available.

    A 2357 tail/brake combination bulb, available at any auto parts
    store, will produce the same brightness for the tail light (3
    lumens), but will produce 25% greater brightness for the brake
    light (40 lumens vs. 32 lumens).

    The volts required to power the 2357 bulb are the same as the
    1157, but there is a slight increase in the amps required (2.1
    for the 1157, 2.2 for the 2357). The resulting increase in
    watts used is only 1.28 watts, or a 4.76% increase over the
    standard 1157 bulb.

    The only draw back to using the 2357 bulb is the rated hours of
    service for the brake light element is much less (400 hours for
    the 2357 brake light element vs. 1,200 hours for the 1157 brake
    light element). The tail light element in both the 1157 and the
    2357 are rated at 5,000 hours. Assuming one rides 4 hours per
    day, 365 days per year and uses his/her brake 25% of the time,
    if the brighter 2357 bulb is replaced annually, there should be
    little chance of in-service failure.

    Cost for a 2357 bulb is about 97 cents.
    In an effort to provide too much info on brighter tail/brake
    lights, the 1157 (standard), the H1157 (halogen) and the
    2357(newer version of standard), I have the following info:

    Tail/brake lights: A comparison



    " (low)


    " (low)

    Amps (high)

    " (low)



    " (low)


    " (low)

    Average life(high)

    " (low)





































    The H1157 (halogen) is manufactured by Candlepower, Rockville,
    Maryland (301) 340-0224.

    You can order the H1157 for $10.95 from Nichols Distributing,
    (800) 323-4488.

    The biggest concern is the increase in amps and watts (heat)
    when switching to a halogen bulb. The H1157 brake light element
    produces 86% greater watts (heat) than the standard 1157 brake
    light element, the 2357 brake light element only produces 4.8%
    more watts (heat). [What this means is that if you're not
    careful, you could easily melt your taillight by using
    the halogen bulb.]

    Note: "Heat" is measured in "watts", hence, they are the same.

    The other concern with using the H1157 or the 2357 is the
    shorter service life. The H1157 is rated to last only 400 hours
    on low (tail) and high (brake) elements. This is drastically down
    from the standard 1157 and less than the 2357 low (tail)
    element. Depending on your riding, this problem can be avoided
    by scheduled replacement.

    Hope this info helps for safer riding.

    Changing to Stainless Steel Brake Lines

    by James Ho

    Owners wishing to improve the stock XS’s braking power should consider a switch to braided stainless steel brake lines. Although designated for off-road use in SOME localities, SS brake lines are commonly used on street cars, trucks, and of course, motorcycles. Check your local laws regarding street legality.

    This upgrade is most effective when the master cylinder/calipers/pads are in good working order.

    Benefits of SS brake lines include decreased stopping distance and firmer brake lever feel, due to the inner lining’s resistance to swelling and deterioration. The XS’s stock rubber corded brake lines, if original or over 5 years old, should be replaced due to normal wear and tear. The stock lines swell when pressure is applied, reducing the amount of pressure available to force the caliper against the pad and the pad against the rotor. Stock lines also become contaminated over time, as "spooge" in the master and wheel cylinders travels up/down the lines.

    SS brake lines can be ordered directly through companies such as Earl’s or Russell, but most XSives opt to use mailorder houses.

    Update 3/14/00
    XSive Chris Rawson is now making XS/XJ stainless brake lines. Contact him for details.

    Prior to ordering, there are a few questions to answer regarding the set up:


    Will the stock configuration be retained (1 line from the front master cylinder, 2 lines from the splitter to each front caliper)? Or,

    Will 2 lines be used (both lines attached to the front master cylinder via a single banjo bolt and then to each front caliper), bypassing the splitter?


    Since the rear line feeds a single caliper, it is not necessary to use multiple lines. Replacement is straightforward R&R.


    Measure each hose from the center of one banjo to the center of the other.

    Note the orientation of one end of the banjo to the other. This is important, as the inner lining does not tolerate moderate bending or flexing. Many banjo fittings are 90 degrees from one end to the other.

    Then, measure the angle of the banjos; some are straight, others are 35 degrees or more. NOTE – this is for purists only; it only affects asthetics, not performance

    All stock banjo bolts will be retained (unless they show signs of corrosion or damage - you'll have to take them all the way out to be sure); however, obtain 12 new crush washers.


    Using the measurements from the stock configuration above, add an additional 2 – 4 inches to compensate for the splitter and any custom routing.

    A dual banjo bolt will be required to attach the dual lines to the master cylinder. 7 new crush washers also are required.

    When the new lines arrive, blow out each with compressed air prior to fitting them. Before removing the old lines, cover the gas tank (brake fluid LOVES to eat paint). Drain/Siphon the front master cylinder brake fluid, and remove the banjo bolts and brake lines, recording the banjo angles. If you haven’t cleaned and inspected the master cylinder, calipers and brake pads, now is the time to do it.


    Remove each brake line, one at a time, and replace it with the new SS line. Match the new banjo’s angle to the old one. Install one crush washer on each side of the banjo and lightly tighten the banjo bolt. After ensuring the line is not twisted or bent, torque each banjo bolt to the specification listed in the GYSM/Clymer’s/Chilton manual.


    Using the new dual banjo bolt, attach both lines to the master cylinder along with new crush washers. Route each line to its respective caliper (it doesn’t matter which line goes to which caliper). After ensuring the line is not twisted or bent, torque each banjo bolt to the specification listed in the GYSM/Clymer’s/Chilton manual.

    Add brake fluid and bleed the system. A pressurized pump such as the Mity-Vac makes this an easier, one XSive job. Alternately, SpeedBleeders (one-way bleed screw replacements) will also work.

    Recheck all fittings, then go for a slow test ride. You want to make sure you don't have any bubbles or leaks in the system at a speed that won't kill you (or someone else) if you can't stop as fast as you think you can.

    Jul 15, 2008

    How to Extract Stuck Screws.

    Here's a guide to un-sticking stuck fasteners.

    Imagine this: You're doing the first tune-up on your newly acquired bike. To get the oil filter cover off you need to remove three cross-head screws. You apply your trusty $1.89 K-Mart screwdriver to the first screw, and turn. The screwdriver slips out, so you try again, pushing harder. It slips out again, rounding the screw head a little. But you've got your trusty Vice-Grips in the tool box, so you clamp them onto the screwdriver's shank and really bear down on the screwdriver... this time stripping the head completely. Arrrgh!

    If you've worked on bikes at all you're probably nodding your head right about now, saying "yeah, I did something like that." Bikes today have higher-quality fasteners than they did 10 or 20 years ago, but still the various forces of entropy conspire to stick fasteners together a little stronger than they're designed for. If you've worked on bikes at all you're probably nodding your head right about now, saying "yeah, I did something like that."
    Here's a guide to un-sticking stuck fasteners. If you've worked on bikes at all you're probably nodding your head right about now, saying "yeah, I did something like that."

    Impact Driver
    The best remedy for a stuck screw, or one whose head has been stripped, is the impact screwdriver. An impact screwdriver is essentially two weights held apart by a spring. The bottom one holds screwdriver bits. You smack the top one with a hammer. In between them is a spring and a circular ramp. The ramp makes the bottom weight with the bit in it turn. So when you hit the top weight, giving it momentum, it compresses the spring and hits the ramp which turns the screwdriver-bit-holding bottom weight. The beauty of the design is that the force you impart to the impact wrench by hitting it with the hammer is forced into the screw, helping the screwdriver bit bite into the screw head (or what's left of it). Most impact drivers will let you set them for left and right turning, to loosen or tighten screws.

    The high-quality, hardened screwdriver bits that come with impact drivers usually fit the screw heads much better than even the best screwdrivers, which helps all by itself. So at the first sign of a recalcitrant Phillips head screw, reach for the impact driver! Impact drivers are commonly available and cost about 15 (American) dollars - check your local auto supply store.

    Some cheap impact drivers have (relatively) stiff springs which require a heavy hammer to compress and get the ramps to turn the bit. Be warned that the force needed may be damaging to the assembly in which the screw is stuck, or may be difficult to counteract on an awkward piece. These impact drivers can benefit from being disassembled and having the springs shortened slightly (no more than 25 percent) to reduce the spring preload. After this modification the driver will not require as much force but may not work quite as well on really badly buggered screws.

    Screw Extractor

    When an impact driver can't remove a screw, or there's not enough of the screw protruding to grip, the next step is to drill off the screw's head and then use a screw extractor.

    Screw extractor bits are made of very hard metal, so they are very brittle. It is very easy to break one off inside the screw. When that happens you are screwed...

    A screw extractor is a very hard reverse-thread bit. You drill a hole into the screw, then carefully tap the proper extractor (which has a smaller initial diameter than the hole, and quickly flares out) into the hole, and use it to twist out what is left of the screw. The reverse flutes on the extractor cause it to bite harder into the metal of the screw as you put more force on it. Screw extractor bits are made of very hard metal, so they are very brittle. It is very easy to break one off inside the screw. When that happens you are screwed (sorry for the pun)- the extractor metal is harder than any drill bit, so you can't drill it out. The only recourse will be EDM (see below). To turn the extractor you should use a tap handle commonly used to turn threading taps. The screw extractor has a square end to fit into the tap handle. Using a regular wrench to turn the extractor is almost guaranteed to break it.

    You should be very careful when drilling the hole in the screw. Obviously you don't want to drill into the material surrounding the screw, so be careful to line up the drill in the center of the screw. Use a drill press if you have one and the part is small enough that you can set it up solidly in the press. Drill slowly and stop often to check your progress. Drill a small pilot-hole first, using a punch to mark the spot before you start drilling.

    Many times, drilling the hole in the screw will be enough to loosen it as the pressure is released, and you will be able to ease it out with little force on the extractor.

    Drilling out screws

    If that doesn't work, the next option, depending on the design of the cover that the screw holds down, is to drill out the screw head completely. Often times, removing the head of the screw releases the pressure of holding two parts together, and again will come out easily, unless of course it is rusted or frozen. In this case, if there is enough of the screw-shank sticking out after the cover's removed to let you file flats on it, use locking pliers to turn it.

    Use a drill bit that is just large enough to take out the screw's head; it should be slightly larger than the shank of the screw so that when you drill through the head and get to the shank the head will come completely off. Obviously you need to have the hole exactly centered to do this without touching the surrounding material. If the buggered screw head is irregular this is difficult to do with a hand-held drill, as the drill will catch on the protruding bits and go off-center. You may be able to even out the screw head with a small file or a pointed grinding-stone in a dremel-tool (small high-speed hand-held grinder) then center-punch and drill.

    Other Methods

    Sometimes you can grasp the head of a screw with a pair of locking pliers and use their better grip to get enough torque on it to get it started. Or you can carefully file flats in what's left of the head, or on the threaded portion itself if it protrudes.T his obviously will require that the screw be replaced after it's removed, but it can help you to get it out so it can be replaced.

    A couple of tricks for short screws: you can heat the screw with a torch. Often heating and cooling threads loosens them. If the screw is held in with a locking agent (e.g."LockTite") heat will destroy the bond and make it easier to remove. You need to be able to heat the threaded part of the screw; long screws with their threads deep inside the engine cases will not be affected by heating the screw head. Don't use anything stronger than a propane torch; an oxy-acetylene torch can burn through a set of aluminum cases in short order. Even with a propane torch, don't hold the torch on one section of the cases for more than a second, play it around a small area near the screw. Don't heat the cases too hot; hot enough to sizzle when a drop of water is put on them is hot enough.

    A second trick is to use a dremel-tool to grind a flat on the periphery of the screw head, and then use a hammer and punch on the flat to turn the screw. This works on the tiny short screws sometimes used to hold gear box bearings into crank cases.

    Stuck Nuts and Bolts

    Bolts get stuck just like screws do, the difference is that bolt heads are usually sturdier so rounding off the head is not so much of a problem.

    If you do round off a bolt head the methods to remove it are similar to the ones used to remove screws.

    However the usual problem is that you just can't turn the bolt. The first thing to try is more leverage. If you're using a sturdy breaker-bar for sockets you can slip a length of water pipe over it to use as a cheater bar. A regular ratchet handle isn't up to the stress that you can generate this way. For nuts and bolts over 13mm you should use a 1/2" drive bar.

    With a long cheater bar the limit to how much force you can apply is determined by what it takes to move the entire assembly. For instance to remove the rotor nut from an RZ350 crankshaft, a four foot cheater bar is required. If the engine is out of the bike you will need to strap it to your workbench and get a friend to help hold it and the workbench in place.

    Impact Wrench

    One caution, an impact wrench shouldn't be used to tighten nuts or bolts on motorcycles (except perhaps those RZ350 rotor nuts) as their torque settings, if they exist at all, are very approximate. It's easy to over-tighten a nut or bolt with an impact wrench.
    An alternative to cheater bars is an impact wrench. These are available in both air-driven and electric models. The air-driven type is what the local car tire shop uses to remove car wheels. Impact wrenches work by using air or an electric motor to turn a rotating weight which slams repeatedly into a lever connected to the socket drive. Since they hammer the socket drive around a small step at a time, there is very little torque reaction, so it doesn't take much effort to prevent the shaft that the nut or bolt is attached to from turning. Most 1/2 inch drive impact wrenches can deliver 75 ft-lbs of torque or more. Air impact wrenches cost from 35 dollars up and require an air compressor. Electric impact wrenches cost more, they start at 80 dollars, but do not require air. They're useful for racers who compete at tracks with electrical outlets in the pit area.

    One caution, an impact wrench shouldn't be used to tighten nuts or bolts on motorcycles (except perhaps those RZ350 rotor nuts) as their torque settings, if they exist at all, are very approximate. It's easy to over-tighten a nut or bolt with an impact wrench.

    Desperate Measures

    Another way to remove stuck nuts is to use a nut splitter. It's not as painful as it sounds. A nut splitter is a steel collar which slips around the nut. One side of the collar has a hard steel wedge which is driven into the nut to split it by turning a bolt on the side of the collar. These are only needed to remove really badly rusted nuts, usually on the under carriage of cars. Their use on motorcycles is rare, but if you have a nut that's hopeless and can't be removed any other way you should be aware that this tool exists.

    Another option is a small cutting wheel in a dremel-tool. It will spray hot sparks and bits of grit all over, and will generate a lot of heat, but it can cut through the ugliest frozen nut... if you can get to it. If it's buried deep inside aluminum cases, there's one last possibility: EDM.


    The Option of Last Resort is Electrical-Discharge Machining.

    EDM can be used to electrically machine a hopelessly stuck steel bolt or screw out of aluminum cases or heads. The equipment is not generally available in the home workshop; you will need to take the entire assembly to a shop that does EDM. Certain hard-core home shop fanatics have constructed home EDM machines of varying capacities, and plans for them do exist, but given the infrequent usage for motorcycle mechanics it is more economical to farm out the work.

    EDM, also called spark erosion, uses an electric spark to remove metal. An electrode is moved close to the work piece and sparks are repeatedly struck between the two. The gap has to be controlled very closely, so EDM machines are electrically controlled. EDM can machine to fine tolerances, but the closer the tolerance, the slower the machining.

    EDM is becoming more popular and available. If you've broken off a stud inside your cases, it might cost 50 dollars to get someone to use EDM to remove it. You will probably need to drill out the remains of the stud and use a thread insert ("heli coil") in that hole, but if it saves a 500-dollar set of crank cases you're still way ahead.

    How to Lower a cruiser Motorcycle

    How to Lower a Motorcycle

    How to lower the seat height and profile of a cruiser motorcycle by shortening the suspension. But watch out below! From the June 2001 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.By Jerry Smith.

    To some, a cruiser is a motorcycle. To others, it's a blank canvas. Often, the ink on the sales contract is barely dry before this second group bellies up to the parts counter and orders an armload of aftermarket goodies to make their new bikes look shinier, sound better and go faster. Most of these modifications won't make a bike any easier to ride, and a few actually make it harder. There's one increasingly common custom touch, however, that not only adds style, but also can make a bike easier to handle, at least if you have trouble reaching the ground.

    Lowering a bike doesn't just give it that long, low custom look, it also allows shorter riders to put their feet flat on the pavement at stoplights. And if you've ever found yourself on a too-tall bike at a slippery intersection, you might be willing to trade in all the shiny chrome in the world for secure footing. (Though we know very short riders who have adopted to tall motorcycles.) "Probably more guys are after the look," says Progressive Suspension's Larry Langley, who estimates the ratio is approximately 60:40 in favor of lowering for style. "But more and more vertically challenged riders are doing it these days, too."

    Regardless of your reason for lowering your bike, it's not a task to be taken lightly, and if you're unsure about the dynamics of this type of modification, consult a suspension specialist to avoid safety problems. Over the years, countless bikes have been lowered by backyard mechanics who took a hacksaw to the fork springs and bolted on a set of cheap lowering blocks to the rear shocks. Most of the perpetrators of such hatchet-jobs were happy with their work—until they rode it for the first time, and discovered that, in addition to cool-looking, the bike had become ill-handling, uncomfortable and unsafe. Langley gave us some guidelines for doing the job right, along with a few caveats to keep in mind, even if all goes well.

    Lowering the Front End

    "First, as a general rule, never lower the front without lowering the rear," Langley says. "You can lower the rear without lowering the front, and what it does is give the bike more of a chopper effect. But if you just lower the front, you unbalance the bike the wrong way." Many bikes can be lowered by approximately an inch in the front fairly easily by modifying or removing the stock preload spacer. Some bikes come with preload spacers that compress the fork springs an inch or more when the fork is unloaded. Shortening the spacer drops the front end of a bike an amount roughly equal to what you removed from the spacer. But be careful not to go beyond the point where there is minimal pressure on the spring when the suspension is fully extended. If you go beyond this point, your bike will be effectively springless when the front extends completely, as when the front wheel drops into a dip in the road at speed. Not a pretty scenario.

    If you want to lower your front end more than an inch, says Langley, probably you'll have to do it mechanically. "What we do is put a spacer, which is really a short spring, under the damper rod. That fools the fork into thinking it's shorter, and doesn't let it come back up to full extension." If the fork has a preload spacer on top of the spring, you also might have to remove or shorten it, or the spring will be too compressed when the fork is at rest. Depending on the bike, you may need shorter main fork springs because you've taken up so much travel that the springs will not let the fork compress fully before the coils contact each other, preventing the fork from compressing.

    Cartridge Forks

    The preceding methods work for any bike that has damper-rod suspension. "If it has cartridge forks," Langley says, "it's a much bigger problem. For example, we don't even make a lowering kit for the [Honda] Valkyrie, which has a cartridge in one leg and a dummy cartridge in the other." A cartridge is like a rear shock internally. Consequently, there's not an easy way to shorten it. If the design allows, you can slide the forks up in the triple trees; make sure, however, the fender doesn't hit the triple tree when you compress the fork completely, as when hitting a large, sharp bump.

    Lowering the Rear End

    If you only intend to lower one end of a bike, the rear end is the better choice. And it's all some riders need, since lowering the rear end also lowers the seat substantially, making it easier to flat-foot a bike at stops. The backyard crowd has a quick fix for this—lowering blocks, which are machined spacers that relocate the rear shock's bottom mounting point several inches to the rear. They're cheap, easy to install and their net effect is to lower the back of the bike. But there's another consequence of using lowering blocks which is not so obvious—they drastically change the rear shocks' lever ratios.

    Lever Ratio

    A shock's lever ratio is determined by the angle at which it's mounted. To better understand this concept, picture a bike's rear suspension, including the swingarm pivot, the rear shock's lower mount and the rear axle. Next, imagine the rear wheel moving though its travel, which describes an arc, and draw that arc. The distance the rear axle travels typically will be farther than the distance traveled by the shock's lower mount. At the extreme, the shock might be moving two inches, and the rear wheel four inches.

    This disparity can have unintended consequences if you decide that in order to lower your bike an inch, you only need to fit your shocks an inch shorter than stock. "On a bike like a Valkyrie, which has a 1.5:1 lever ratio, a one inch shorter shock will lower the bike an inch and a half," Langley says. Most bikes have a lever ratio greater than 1:1, and on a single-shock bike such as Yamaha's Road Star, the lever ratio may be as high as 3:1. "The only bikes that have close to 1:1 lever ratios are Harley FLHs," Langley points out.

    The drastic change in lever ratio that results from using lowering blocks essentially makes the shock stiffer, reducing ride comfort. So why not just go to a salvage yard and yank some shorter shocks off a wreck? Langley warns, "Shocks are engineered for a particular model. For example, a [Harley-Davidson] Dyna Glide shock will not work on a Sportster because the lever ratio is different. The shocks on a Dyna are moved way up, and they have heavy damping and 300 pound springs. The spring on the Sportster shock is a 100-pound spring and the damping is lighter. Switch them and they'll be either too soft or too hard on the wrong bike. The spring has to be right, and the damping has to match the spring. You have to buy by application, not length."

    Effects on Handling

    Even if you lower your bike by the book, handling can be affected to some degree. "When you lower a bike, you also lower its center of gravity, so it'll handle a bit better in certain circumstances," says Langley. "The negative is that your initial ground clearance is decreased. Things you used to clear, like curbs or speed bumps, might now be a problem."

    And that's not the only thing you'll notice during your first ride on your just-lowered bike. You've given up travel, so your comfort will suffer. As Langley puts it, "The more you lower it, the more ride quality and comfort suffer. Two inches of travel won't do the same job as four inches of travel." Why? The springs must be stiffer to keep you from bottoming out, and the shocks usually need heavier damping to match the heavier springs, which leads to compromises that might force you to re- consider lowering in the first place.

    Cornering and Braking

    Here is the major drawback of lowering your bike. It will no longer lean over as far as it did before, which could get you into trouble when a corner tightens up or you mis-judge its arc or if you simply have to tighten your line to avoid an obstacle.

    If ground clearance is affected, how about cornering clearance? Common sense tells you a bike's lean angle should be reduced, too. While Langley (and most manufacturers of these kits) says lowering a bike seldom reduced enough to make a difference, practical experience has shown the Motorcycle Cruiser staff that cornering clearance is noticeably altered. If you drag pegs occasionally at the stock ride height, you will do so more frequently if the bike is lowered. Also, if your bike tends to drag solid mounted parts, such as its pipe or sidestand, lowering is not for you.

    Braking is a performance category where few riders will notice a difference. Theoretically, lowering a bike should result in less forward weight transfer under braking. But cruisers' long wheelbases should make the difference negligible. However, if you find the fork bottoming out under braking, consider a set of progressive rate springs to stiffen up the front end in the bottom of its travel. The shorter travel may also make the bike chatter more over bumps under braking.


    So far, we've seen that when you lower a bike you give away some ride quality. Langley says you also should be prepared to give up some load capacity: "You can't make a bike low and have the same load capacity. That's because you lower the bike at the expense of suspension travel." The reduced travel means the bike can bottom out easier. Those planning on extended two-up riding should forego lowering. If you want to make your cruiser a show bike and troll Sturgis, go for it. But if you want to pack some gear and a passenger and ride across the country on a lowered bike, you're not going to be happy.

    There's one more way to lower a bike, which is to fit smaller wheels, lower-profile tires, or both. (Of course, you can simple cut the seat down by removing foam or replace it with a thinner saddle.) The wheel change approach is an option that seems appealing, especially with the advent of a wide variety of aftermarket wheels currently available for metric cruisers. Today, you don't just see Harley customs sporting enormous rear tires and low, wide wheels at bike shows. While that setup might lower the bike, Langley suggests you bear in mind that most of those customs aren't ridden much, if at all. "Now you're into an area that drastically changes geometry and how the bike handles," he says. "You'd better really know what you're doing." We recommend changes of this type be made carefully—with the guidance of builders who have performed this type of modification before.

    The Lowdown

    Langley offers some final thoughts on lowering: "The more you lower it, the more ride quality suffers. That's the first thing I tell anyone considering lowering a bike. What I generally recommend is going an inch lower front and rear, so you'll still have enough travel to give [yourself] a good ride. That's a pretty good compromise, but anything over that and you're giving up a good ride."

    Regardless of whether you want to lower your bike for good looks or peace of mind, resist the quick-and-dirty fix, and remember that lowering unavoidably involves compromises, no matter what some backyard customizers say. You can live more easily with those compromises if you do the job right and don't take it too far. Just don't forget the idea is to get down...not hit rock bottom.

    Jun 11, 2008


    Vehicle Part

    Items to Observe

    Air Filter

    Check the air filter every other month. Replace it when it's dirty or as part of a tune-up. The air filter is located right under the big metal "lid", in a carbureted engine; or in a rectangular box at the forward end of the air duct hose assembly.


    Use extreme caution when handling a battery since it can produce explosive gases. Do not smoke, create a spark or light a match near a battery and always wear protective glasses and gloves. Cables should be attached securely and be free of corrosion. If battery has filler holes, add distilled water which you can purchase from gasoline stations.

    Belts and Hoses

    Inspect belts and hoses monthly. Replace worn, glazed or frayed belts. Tighten them when more than 1/2" of slack can be depressed between the pulleys. Vehicles with spring loaded belt tensioners require no adjustment. Replace bulging, rotten or brittle hoses and tighten clamps. If a hose looks bad, or feels too soft or too hard, it should be replaced.

    Brake Fluid

    Check brake fluid monthly. First, wipe dirt from the brake master cylinder reservoir lid. Pry off the retainer clip and remove the lid or unscrew plastic lid, depending on which type your vehicle has. If you need fluid, add the approved type and check for possible leaks throughout the system. Fill to mark on reservoir. Do Not Overfill.

    Engine Oil

    Check engine oil every other fill up. To check engine oil, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, insert it fully and remove it again. If it is low, add oil. To maintain peak performance, change oil every 5,000 kilometers. Replace oil filter with every oil change.


    Look underneath for loose or broken exhaust clamps and supports. Check for holes in muffler or pipes. Have rusted or damaged parts replaced.


    A well maintained exterior is a sign of good maintenance and goes a long way in increasing its resale value. Wash regularly using car shampoo to keep rust at bay. Use chamois to wipe all the spots dry.


    Use a vacuum to clean the car interior and prevent the deposition of any kind of sand, dust, grime or salt from damaging the floor surface. Wipe the dash, seats, instrument panel and the rear parcel shelf. Use special car cleaners and not household stuff for cleaning.


    Be sure all your lights are clean and working, including brake lights, turn signals and emergency flashers.

    Oil Filter

    To maintain peak performance, change oil every 5,000 kilometers.

    Power Steering Fluid

    Check power steering fluid level once per month. Simply remove the reservoir dipstick. If the level is down, add fluid and inspect the pump and hoses for leaks.

    Shock Absorbers

    Look for signs of oil seepage on shock absorbers, test shock action by bouncing the car up and down. The car should stop bouncing when you step back. Worn or leaking shocks should be replaced. Always replace shock absorbers in pairs.

    Radiator Coolant

    Check the level weekly. Fill to level marking with 50/50 solution of radiator coolant and water. Caution: Do not remove the pressure cap when engine is hot.


    Keep tires inflated to recommended pressure. Check for cuts, bulges and excessive tread wear. Uneven wear indicates tires are misaligned or out of balance. For tires to last longer, keep rotating the position of the tires and balance them at intervals of around 10,000 km

    Washer Fluid

    Keep windshield washer fluid reservoir full. When topping off, use some windshield washer fluid on a rag to clean off the wiper blades

    Wiper Blades

    Inspect windshield wiper blades whenever you clean your windshield. Do not wait until rubber is worn or brittle to replace them. Wiper blades should be replaced at least once per year, and more often if smearing or chattering occurs.