With Only A Motorcycle: Front Suspension Refresh & Other Updates

So it's been nearly a month since I last posted on here and it certainly doesn't feel like that much time has passed.  In truth it has been a very busy month.  A lot of my time has been taken up with prepping to "go live" at work; meaning that I am untethered and making reliability decisions that for the electric grid that can affect hundreds of thousands of people.  So a lot of my time was spent with my nose in company standards and procedures to make sure that I know what I need to do for different scenarios.  Also Anne and I had our second visitors to our home last weekend which was a nice change of pace for us; Her sister Kate and FiancĂ©e Alex came up from San Diego and stopped for a couple of days on their car tour of Northern California.  Its great to have visitors because it gives you an excuse to indulge in the finer things of life, copious amounts of wine...

    Me & Anne

    Kate & Alex

...a delicious lunch at a high end restaurant; Chez Panisse in Berkeley a delicious home-cooked dinner including an outstanding Tri-tip purchased at The Local Butcher Shop also in Berkeley and enjoying some great company!

    The FZ after a washing and sans bags.

I haven't been doing much moto-wise other than commuting and day-to-day use.  The main reason for that is an issue I became aware of when I was replacing the steering stem bearings on the FZ.  It was pretty evident that the left fork seal was shot.  There was a good amount of fork oil streaked on the inner fork tube and some  collected around the dust seal as well.  I didn't really spend a whole lot of time dwelling on it when I was working on the steering stem bearings. I didn't have the parts and I would need to order them online so there was no stopping the and running out for some fork seals, I also needed time to do some research to determine if I could even take on the task myself and there is always the fact that I need to have my bike back together so I can get to work in the back of my head.  I'm not sure if it is a valid point but the fact that the FZ has standard forks instead of upside down (USD) forks also made me feel that this was an issue that could be taken care of at a later date.  My thought process being that, "at least it's not going to be seeping out all the time just when the forks move are moving."

I have to be honest, after I did the steering stem bearings the last thing I was motivated to do was to tear back into the bike.  Plus there was the whole push to get ready to be on-shift at my job.  It was about a week and a half later before I would actually order the parts.  A disconcerting thing that I found was that  on a lot of the sites I normally go to to find parts, Partzilla and Ron Ayers; I found that a number of key parts that I needed were listed as obsolete/discontinued and were not available for purchase.

Eventually I found all of the parts I needed available in one place, PartsPak; a site that I seems more oriented towards boats.  I ended up ordering the remaining non-yamaha parts from my go-to site Motorcycle Superstore since they were so kind to send me a 10% off entire purchase code and they also had free shipping at the time:

Ratio-Rite Measuring Cup
Motul Factory Line Synthetic Fork Oil 5W 1 Liter
Race Tech Ultra Slick Grease

I also picked up a few replacement parts for my helmet as well

Scorpion SpeedView Sun Visor for EXO-1000 Helmet
Scorpion Faceshield for EXO-500/1000 Helmet

When I was recreational riding only I would have never went through a face-shield in less than a year but I think that was because my post ride ritual at back then involved draping a soft towel soaked in hot-soapy water over my helmet to soften up the bugs and grime before I cleaned them off.  Now I don't have time to do that every time I get off the bike.  I held off replacing the shield as long as possible kind of like my last Gillette Fusion blade but eventually the late afternoon sun and the night time headlights illuminating the scratches on the shield inhibited my vision so much that it was becoming unsafe to ride!  The speed screen (flip down inner dark visor)  that came with the helmet did nothing to protect my eyes from the setting sun so I decided to try the "dark smoke" version and I am sad to report that while it is better it's not as dark as I had hoped.

    The FZ in the morning after a night shift.

Everything made it to my front door quickly except for the fork oil which was drop shipped from a different warehouse and was going to take longer and it turns out that longer turned out to be never.  A product of apartment/condo living I guess... either the UPS guy delivered it to the wrong apartment and they decided to keep it or someone stole it from my front door.  Either way Motorcycle Superstore has initiated a lost package investigation with UPS where they send a guy to check other apartments for the package and he also stopped by my place to have me sign a form stating that I never received the package.  I am assuming at this point that they did not find anything and per Motorcycle Superstore's policy, I will be receiving a refund for the oil as they do not re-send another item if it is lost.  Which is just fine by me as I ended up buying some BelRay 7W fork oil from the Cycle Gear store in Fairfield the day I did the work on the forks.

    Just a nice view outside of Vacaville

Incidentally; I have two of more 10% off your entire order codes that I do not plan on using before they expire at the end of the month and I figured I'd share them here with my readers on a first come first serve basis!

Another item that I purchased off Craigslist was a Black & Decker Workmate 425 for $20 it was well worth the money and afforded me the "extra hands" i needed to get the job done.  If you decide to buy one of these you'd be a fool to pay full price for one as they have been made for years and hardly changed at all and consequently they are lots on Craigslist.  This particular one goes for around $110 new.

Back to the forks, that's what we were talking about right?  I have basically been riding for the last month with the knowledge that I had front suspension issues.  Which also meant limiting my riding only essential trips.  It's interesting that towards the end of this time I could definitely tell that they performance was dropping off exponentially as the oil level dropped continued to drop off.  You got a lot more "talk" from front end and not in a good way; too much chatter.  While commuting to work, where you merge onto the 505 from 80 the interchange is very bumpy and I could tell that instead of the fork assisting the front wheel to comply with the roads surface it was compressing and on the first bump and then rebounding into the crest of the next bump, magnifying the bumps rather than minimizing them.

Of course the day I decided would be the day I worked on the FZ's fork ended up being the third rainy day in the five months that I have been in California and the rainiest thus far (also technically the first day of fall). I took video clips of each step as I went along through the first fork leg and combined them into one video which you can see below and I'm pretty sure there are points in there where you can tell I am getting irritated with the weather.

While I did the work myself and made the video myself, I really am standing on the shoulders of others in this video and would not have attempted this job without a number of different members posts over at Yamaha FZ1 Owners Association:

RavenRider's "$14.50 Suspension Upgrade" gave me a good good idea of what goes on inside the forks:

His thread "Gen I Fork Issues Exposed." also gave me a good understanding of what can go bad on a set of forks:

arkie6's thread "Time for front fork overhaul and upgrade?" holds your hand and walks you through the entire process in detail including the special tools you need to make to do the job:

and FZeno1's post #17 in this thread re hashes some of the details of the job and tools as well as includes the parts list that I used when making my parts purchase.

So a big THANK YOU to all of those guys and I hope that this video will help to add to the collective knowledge base on this sort of work and allow for more Gen 1 FZ1s to remain road worthy and continue to rack up the miles!

As far as the end results go, the only thing that I changed from stock on this job was to go with a heavier oil 7wt vs 5wt and I have noticed on the first ride after the install that I will probably end up backing off the preload one more notch than my normal setting as the front seems a little stiffer at my basic setup but the improvement over before is a marked improvement and I am satisfied with the days work!.

For the next installment I will have an update on my "luggage rack" as it will be heading to the local welding shop to have some supports that have broken re-welded properly and now that I have no lingering maintenance issues with the FZ maybe I will actually go for a fun ride.

Thanks everyone for reading and stay safe until next time!

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