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Chapter VII: “First Ride” Revelations – Interrupted



Working through a bike in “evaluation state” can be rewarding, frustrating, draining and entertaining all at the same time.  The key to keeping your sanity is remembering that the goal of these first few rides is not to figure out how long you can delay doing more work to the bike.  It is also not about fine-tuning or dialing in.

This is where you hope to see what the character of the basic bike is, so you know how to approach making it a long-term fit.  However, many times this stage is all about identifying how you need to prioritize your next emergency surgery.  Is that crank as in-tolerance as you thought (rod knock)?  Is that “slightly stiff” clutch beyond slightly stiff?  Does the bike need to be taken back to the start for jetting?  Did you miss anything huge, like an unexpected air leak?  Did the oil get milky on the first run?  Oh, the joys of “just getting it running to see what’s up.”

In this case, a few things popped up before the “running” phase hit.  As discussed earlier, I cleaned up the whole bike, serviced the front and rear bearings/bushings, put new rubber on the rims, rebuilt the brakes, rebuilt the clutch, added the new seat cover, plastics, graphics, cables, controls, kick-stand…and stopped.  I had gotten ahead of my top-end repair order with Eric Gorr Racing.  I am fine with waiting for good work to be done, especially in the rush-season at the beginning of Spring.

So, time to jump on the saddle and drop myself onto the seat hard to check initial suspension balance.  The rear-end dropped way faster than the front…need to add preload to the existing spring for the time being.  In the front, however, I had an initial rapid drop, followed by mid-stroke resistance that felt like binding.  After getting the forks through a deeper stroke with the front brake applied, I checked the sliders.  There was not just a residue line, but a long drip running down more than three inches from the bottom point the seals reached on one side.  The oil drip was dark, and it smelled rancid. 

I was positive the seals were totally shot.  All that filth on the seal surface and sliders was actually stopping the bleeding…would that be considered clever neglect?  The bushings were obviously worn out.  I’m sure the fork oil was never changed and was likely running low enough to damage the fork.  I hoped the internals and the slider surface were not too badly damaged.  I was also sure the shock was just as bad. 

Regardless of what else I would find with the carb, the clutch or anything else, the suspension made itself the first project after the motor.  I couldn’t afford to let the front forks get damaged, so they needed care first.  The only question would be whether I could go forks-then-shock, or if I’d have the time/coin to tackle both at the same time.

This also let me know that the one area I was thinking about most when tearing down…the frozen spokes, 19” rear wheel and beat-up rims…would need to drop on the priority list.  Fortunately, I didn’t plan to be riding aggressively enough with my little boy in our first season together to shred the existing wheels, so this seemed a safe project to schedule for Winter 2018.

Other, minor thoughts came to mind upon reassembly inspection.  The stock-shape front fender just kissed the plastic guards on the radiator…and blocked quite a bit of surface area airflow-wise.  I’ll need to look at a slotted/vented/short-back front fender to improve cooling, especially if/when I go to a deeper, double-row radiator.


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