Greasing the Rear Suspension Linkages


Manufacturers used to fit grease nipples to swing arms pivots and shock linkage bearings. As part of the endless weight reducing quest and money-saving, grease nipples on road motorcycles are becoming a thing of the past. Now you're going to have to do it by hand.

First, check for bearing play by supporting the chassis of your motorcycle then then take up the bearing's free play by gently lifting the back wheel. A tiny amount of play in the typical six bearings adds up, so generally, a small amount of movement is acceptable, but it's worth making sure there's not any bearings which are much worse than the rest.

If your motorcycle is less than five years old and it's never seen a pressure washer, there's a decent chance that a re-grease is all it'll need, but bear in mind that the factory use only the minimum of lubrication, so after a couple of raining seasons and hot summers riding, and multiple jet washes, it'll be worth getting in there. Prevention is better than cure after all. In any case, be sure that you've got alternative transport to go and collect any parts you may need when your motorcycle's on stands with nothing to hold the rear wheel and shock in place.
After a good clean, pop the motorcycle on a paddock stand and remove the rear wheel and fairing lowers. You'll then need to support the motorcycle without interfering with the swing-arm or its pivot point. In this case, utilizing the solid footrests, axle stands are ideal, but supporting the motorcycle from a garage roof beam is fine as long as you have enough straps and a good plan as to how to make it stable enough. A strap or cable tie to hold the front brake on with also help.

Carefully lower the motorcycle off the paddock stand onto the axle stands or straps, then loosen all shock linkage bolts and the swing-arm pivot spindle nut. Supporting the swing-arm, remove the bolts and remove the rocker and link rod, then the shock. After the first bolt or two are removed you'll be able to use the paddock stand to support the weight of the swing arm.

Remove any rear brake hose clips from the swing-arm, and anything else which is attached. Swing the rear caliper out of the way. There will be an adjustable spacer on the pivot which controls swing arm side float which you'll need to slacken: a special tool may be necessary so look into this before you start. Don't use a big hammer and a punch.

You should now be ready to remove the swing arm pivot spindle. A gentle tap with a rubber-headed hammer should be all that's needed to get it moving. Supporting the weight of the swing-arm, remove the spindle and gently slip the arm away from the chassis, keeping an eye out for any shims or spacers which are doing there best to escape. With a braced swing-arm, unless you split the chain, this will be the limit as far as how far the arm will move from the rest of the motorcycle.

Clean any dirt, grit and chain lubrication away from the bearing seals, starting with the rocker link, then tie bar, shock, and swing-arm. Now slide the inner bearing races out of the bearings, one at a time to avoid getting them mixed up. A quick wipe with a clean rage should be enough to clean the grease from the inner race. Check for any pitting, rust or signs or wear. A general rule of thumb is that if you can feel damage by running a finger nail across the surface, the case hardening is damaged and it'll need replacing. If there's a lot of wear/play you'll need seals too.

Get rid of as much of the old grease from the bearings as you can then, after making sure the bearing is clean, dry, and undamaged, re-grease with some proper, thick bearing grease. Make sure you work the grease right into the bearings so there's no air pockets for water to get into and do its worst.

Re-fit the inner bearing races to the bearing being careful not to damage the seals. Make sure everything rotates as it should, and doesn't feel gritty. Some grease in the swing-arm outer seals will help stave off wear and water ingress. Lightly grease the swing-arm pivot spindle and re-fit the swing-arm making sure all spacers seals and shims are in place, again using the paddock stand to support it. Adjust the spacer so it has firm contact. Over tightening will tension the chassis, the results of it being too loose are obvious. Check swing-arm movement is smooth, tighten the spindle nut to the recommended torque then check movement again.

It's now time to fit the shock and linkage. You'll be able to fit all but one bolt with the swing-arm supported by the paddock stand, but don't tighten them yet. Remove the paddock stand and jiggle the last bolt in. Now you should be able to use the paddock stand to support the motorcycle. Tightening all linkage and shock bolts to the correct torque with weight on them will mean that they are pre-settled.
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