It’s Tool Time!

I’m patiently waiting on the Man in Brown to show up on my doorstep to drop off a load of (highly specialized) tools, so I can get this front suspension pain in my arse taken care of once and for all.

What did I actually put on the track at Road A? Let’s just say that I was way too trusting of a bike that my hubby had acquired for me from a dude who is a mechanic by trade and the bike in question had also been set up and raced by a local racing team.

I’m not complaining, mind you. As far as I am concerned hubby got a great deal on the R1. The added up cost of the performance upgrades alone would have set us back as much as we paid for the bike itself. I’m speaking retail cost here. When you’re sponsored you could find yourself getting these things for free. I’m sure both parties came out of this deal smiling. I know I did, and Skinny Dude with Similar Spring Rate even cut me a break and knocked another five bills off of it. But it goes to show that even though I had checked the bike over to the best of my ability, with the mechanical knowledge that I had gained thus far, some things do not become obvious until you put the beast on the track and give it as much hell as you dare. I did. At the last race of the season. Yes, the finals. I went testing at the Grand Nationals and then still entered the actual race (there are some freakishly fast dudes in A Superstock); knowing it was a really bad idea, but when did that sort of thing ever stop me? But that is a different story for a different time. Maybe I’m going to tell it someday… when I’m completely over the public humiliation I received that weekend, and deservedly so.

Candy's Fork(ed) Leg

But I digress.

Finding a rolled up piece of shop towel shoved in between the outer dust seal, the inner oil seal and the ring clip that holds the seal assembly in place was the last straw. (Somebody sneaking some leaky fork seals through Tech?) The last straw in a long line of other straws that made me say WTF!?! out loud. Every one of these straws presented me with the awesome opportunity to research and add yet another tiny increase to my MotoMech Skill. I need to develop an eye for these things, I’m starting to, but I’ve got a long way to go. Vic Fasola took one quick glance at my bike and muttered something along the lines of my suspension setup being totally fooked and my grips being a few degrees off from each other! Holy hell, I measured those clip-ons as best I could with my digital calipers, which isn’t the right tool for that job anyway. They looked even to me, hell they felt even when I was riding the bike.

Later disassembly of the front forks revealed that the preload between the two legs was differing by several millimeters between right and left, the compression damping differed by 25 clicks. Absolutely nothing was right about the front suspension setup. Not geometry, damping, preload, relative positioning, or fastening torques. Nothing. Those tubes were slid so far up the triple tree that they were in danger of giving you a nose bleed when in the race tuck. A twitchy proposition to say the least. And to facilitate this extreme lack of straight line stability it was necessary to have the upper triple tree clamp half on the skinny part and half on the fat part of the fork tube. I snapped off both pinch bolts on the right side in an attempt to loosen them. I wonder how close they were to snapping when the bike was on the race track? I don’t even want to think about that. I managed to release the left-side bolts without a snap, by backing them out alternatively a few turns at a time. The bolts showed signs of fatigue. They were bent and the threads were unevenly stretched.

No wonder the bike felt weird in the front and kind of strange in the back. No wonder I was as slow as a blob of molasses hanging out in a fridge. The bike was talking to me. I didn’t understand all this feedback I was getting through the chassis. I am slowly learning, but my lackadaisical attitude, a conditioned response to balance perfectionistic tendencies with and adventuresome spontaneity into a more sensible approach, sometimes gets in the way and slow natural progression.

I get in my own way. There. I’ve said it. I’m a brainiac klutz. Leave me to my own devices with too much time to think and too much room for self-doubt, and I’ll stumble over my own two feet and land on the mental equivalent of my JLo ass. But I own my solutions and failures. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have to own something to trust in it. I have to test a theory and be able to reproduce the promised results on my own to fully believe it. I don’t follow blindly, unless the source has repeatedly proven itself, and even then I can’t help but feel the gnaw of insecurity. I like my variables to be assigned beforehand. I like the equation’s result to be known. But this is the real world… and constants aren’t much fun anyway.

In the end I have nobody to blame but myself; which is the preferable scenario to me. When the blame falls squarely on my shoulders I can spare myself the annoyance of being upset with someone else.

I should have done the research beforehand, educated myself on the things I was unclear on or was ignorant of and check all fasteners. Set the suspension up for myself instead of trusting “it must be right, because the guy is my height and approximately my weight and he raced it.”

However, too much theoretical knowledge without any real world experience makes my head hurt, it gets me frustrated by information overload and I end up winging it half of the time for lack of patience, time constraints, not having the proper tools, or simply by saying: “Ah, screw this, it’ll be alright.” After all, I don’t want to wrench. I want to ride!

I own it or am owned by it.

Sometimes I do find myself getting a little jealous of some of my friends who can call upon the experience of trusted others to help them along their way. I do most everything myself, and I fall down a lot. Occasionally, this gets a little old and I feel like quitting. Fortunately, I have Mr. Slow to kick me square in the leather pants when I start uttering such nonsense as wanting to quit racing because it’s such a pain in the ass in between. Hubby is EXTREMELY supportive of my racing endeavors. He is my rock. His is the hand that reaches out to help me up. He is the one who puts up with all my girly insecurities and the shit I dish out when I’m stressing, smiles and says: “I don’t care how slow you think you are, baby. I still am damned proud of you for getting out there. You are doing it. You just need to do it more. That’s all.”

He’s right. I know that on an intellectual level. Sometimes it is just hard to hold on to that emotionally when you’re down, but not out. I wish he could also be a master mechanic and a pro racer instead of just playing the role of my psychologist. 😉

My stuff is here, I’ve got to go!

17 days until race day.

Chain Maintenance

I remember how confusing this topic was when I was considering buying a bike with chain drive, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into and did some research. However, the ways people clean chains — what they use to do it with, and how often they do it — are quite numerous. I gave up and just started doing it. And the regimen I came up with for myself seems to work, because my chain and sprockets are still in awesome condition after 13K. A lady, GoGreen, on one of the forums asked the following: “One topic that I struggle with is how often to lube that chain and what is a good product to use? Checked other sites and the opinions are numerous, very confusing!” I figured I’d help a sister out. Here we go:

ChainWax (or PJ1 Blue Label) and every time the thing gets wet (rain riding or washing the bike) or every 500 miles. The 500 miles is what the MoM (Motorcycle Owner Manual) says, I don’t stick to it that rigorously, but when it gets rained on (I commute, happens quite a lot) then it needs to be cleaned (with Kerosene) and lubed as soon as possible or it will start rusting. Check it as part of your pre-ride inspection, it’ll start looking dry and/or cruddy, then go ahead and Kerosene and lube… I don’t heat the chain up (with a hair dryer or by going on a 5-minute ride), even though they recommend it on the lubricant cans, so the lube has a better chance to penetrate the links… however, since I lube fairly often (most sportbike riders do this like twice a year) I’m not worried about it. I’m still on my first set of chain and sprocket (the ‘Busa has almost 13K on it) and they look brand new. No visible wear and tear. So I know I’m doing something right. The thing about ChainWax, you can clean and lube in one step. However, I still clean with Kerosene anyway. I also clean the black gunk out of the rear sprocket…. however, I’m anal (it takes me 45 minutes to clean and lube my chain). It’s probably not necessary, but I am not about to change things up, since the hardware is still looking awesome after all these miles.

Chain lubricant comes in different viscosities… from thin and clear to thick and white (no matter, it all turns to black thick grease eventually, you’ll notice that on the sprocket the most)…. I like thin and clear (the two I recommend and mentioned above are thin/clear)… less mess on your undertail, swingarm, rear wheel’s rim, due to less fling-off, however the trade off is that it isn’t as greasy (tends to not last as long, so has to be renewed more to keep friction between links to a minimum and keep 0-rings nice and lubed). Some of the stuff flings off more than other stuff. Some stuff attracts more road grime… experiment… see what you like the best. I’m sticking to PJ1 Blue Label or ChainWax, because it works for me and what I find important in trade-offs vs. ease of use and how I do stuff. And I have a white bike!

EDIT: Oh, and I do two rotations each, when cleaning with Kerosene and when lubing with my stuff of choice. I start with the master link (to mark the spot, mine’s blue) and go around twice. And I use paper towels to do it. I fold them into quarters, soak them in Kerosene for cleaning. Then, when lubing I just basically use them as a shield for overspray and to wipe off excess as I go around. I don’t like the rag idea… it seems like mopping with a dirty mop… it just seems like you would spread the gunk around more rather than cleaning it off.

How many sprockets does it take?
Now as far as sprockets go, I’ve heard that you’ll need to replace the sprockets every other chain. But this is my first chain drive (the Harley was belt driven). I’m going to cross that bridge when I get to it. Damage/wear to sprockets is obvious, pretty much, so we shall see. However, I’m not running a hack, so I can see where that would be tough on a bike and wear drive components out quicker.

GoGreen: “Miss Busa, you must live and breathe for your bike, talk about care and devotion that’s what I like!”

Umm… yes, busted. Some would call it pathological. I think I’m getting on people’s nerves. The guys at work have threatened to take up a collection to buy me a car, because I’m so hardcore that it possibly can’t be healthy. I just laugh at them. I have a reputation… I’m lovin’ it!

GoGreen: “Oh, one other thing..I may need to get a track stand for this bike as it has no center stand..makes it a bit difficult to lube the chain, guess I just have to roll it back and forth for now! Anyone else lubing this way?”

Holy Helena, girl! If I had to roll my bike back and forth to do chain maintenance it would NOT get done, and it would take me 4 hours, I’m sure. Get yourself a rear stand, heck, while you’re at it get a set. Just don’t make the mistake and buy cheap, like I did. A stand is a stand is a stand. NOT! If you have any questions about those, let me know… I did some research back in the day, BEFORE I got my ‘Busa, just to pass the time until I actually had her. LOL I actually can’t put the Fat Lady on her rear stand by myself… I don’t weigh enough. So I have to get a diff stand now anyway, one with a longish handle (in reverse) so I can do it by myself. Fortunately, I have my one-man pit crew (read: hubby).

I also have a little pocket rear stand for roadside chain maintenance. It looks like a little kickstand, attaches to the swingarm spool, then you pull up on the rear and kick it under to raise the rear wheel off the ground just enough to be able to freely rotate the wheel. That’s better than rolling it, too. Here’s the linky to the Quick Stand. It is Miss Busa tried and approved. 🙂

Spools are always a good idea even if you can’t think of a use for them. Just one more option you never know when it might come in handy. And if you color coordinate them with your bike it’s a touch of inexpensive bling. Mine are blue and they were $15. I can’t see the need for a set of track stands if you have a lift. However would the lift be portable? If not then you would still want track stands if you’re planning to do track days.

What in the world are spools?
Almost all sportbikes have little threaded holes on the swingarm. On the bottom, right before the chain adjuster block. Into those you can screw little spools… They kind of look like the ones with the thread on them… Which then accept the little U-shaped hooks on a rear stand so you can lift the back end off the ground for tire changing, chain maintenance, etc. You can also lift by the swingarm itself with the approropriate rubberized L-shaped attachments on a rear stand. However, swingarm spools are deemed safer.

And since a picture is worth 1,000 words, here’s a pic of my swingarm spools (she is dirty and I apologize ):

Swingarm Spools

Swingarm Spool (left side)

Swingarm Spools

Swingarm Spool (right side)