Setup Guide to Setting the Sag

No, we are not referring to your poor posture after a long day in the saddle. Rider sag relates to the amount that a motorcycle’s suspension compresses when you sit on it, and there is generally an optimum setting for different motorcycles and applications.

To work out rider sag we must first determine if the static sag is in the correct ‘zone’ (around 5 to 10mm). Static sag is how much of the suspension travel is taken up by the motorcycle’s weight. Then we check the sag with the rider on board.

It may sound complicated but it’s not, and we’re going to give you 10 simple steps to check this at home – all you’ll need are a few tools and a couple of willing helpers. Not only does this procedure assist your motorcycle to operate in optimal range of its suspension travel while riding, it also reveals whether the spring rates on your motorcycle need to be changed to suit your weight.

We’ll start with the front end, so the wheel needs to be off the ground with the front forks fully extended.

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The Importance of Spoke-Tightening

Spokes are so often forgotten and over looked, yet there are so many of them that there is a good chance one or two are beginning to work loose and could cause a problem.

To illustrate how important it is to check your spokes for tightness, pretty much every professional mechanic that deals with spoked wheels will check every single spoke every time the motorcycle comes in for an inspection or checkup.

But you can’t just go wrenching on your spokes willy-nilly or the wheel will come out of true. To make sure you tighten the right amount we suggest using a spoke torque wrench set at about 48 inch-pounds (5.42 Nm).

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Steering Geometry of your Motorcycle

When discussing steering geometry people often only think in terms of rake and trail, but these are related by other parameters as well. Specifically, tire rolling radius and the offset of the wheel axle from the steering axis. Wheelbase should also be regarded as part of the equation, too.

Tire radius and trail are the two most important factors which affect how we perceive the steering feel. Trail is determined by the rake, offset and tire size.

I am often asked if there are optimum values for these parameters. The short answer is no; values have varied over time and each type of motorcycle. Sports and racing motorcycles need quick steering bordering on instability, touring motorcycles are concerned with stability.

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Does your Motorcycle Handle like a Shopping Trolley?

Let’s look at the science behind getting the it right. Of all motorcycle engineering’s dark arts, chassis tuning is the most transformational, the most useful, and the least understood. Power, they say, is nothing without control. Control is only gained when a motorcycle’s tires are firmly in contact with the ground, And the components that maintain this critical union of rubber and road are what’s known as a suspension system.

Now, although this will instantly conjure mental images of a fork, shock, swingarm and the related springs and things that let them compress and extend in a controlled manner, they’re not the only parts that affect bump absorption and road-holding.

The motorcycle in its entirely is a suspension system constantly yielding to impacts and rider inputs through flex in the frame- tires, wheels, triple-clamps and even the engine. The suspension components are just the last line of defense in the battle for wheel control and chassis stability and are, generally, the only element of ‘give’, which can be adjusted for resistance and rate of movement.

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Painting Plastic Use the Right Primer

Repairing the damaged plastics of a motorcycle is one thing; painting them to a satisfactory level is an altogether different matter. Unless you have the facilities to properly spray it’s arguably a job that is best left to the professionals.

However, should you wish to take the plunge and have a go there are almost limitless tutorials online that will take you through preparations, operating conditions, paint types and numerous other key areas. One thing to be aware of with plastics is getting the right primer; without this vital first step, paint is unlikely to adhere to the plastic properly.

The hardest plastic to cut in terms of paint adherences is anything regarded as a polyolefin. If the panels you’re working on look and feel like a washing up bowl then they’re almost certainly polyolefin in nature. Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) are the most common and are typically found on step-through leg shields and mudguards.

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Motorcycle Plastic and Bodywork Repairs

A damaged panel can cost a fortune to replace. Therefore we decided to tell how to repair plastic panels as good as new with just a few tools and cable ties.

Small scrape, an embarrassing drop or an errant boot can all damage your motorcycle’s paintwork. Motorcycles can be much trickier than cars to repair – they have a variety of different materials, have intricate curves, often use transfers over paint, and even the paint codes to get the right color match can be tricky to find sometimes. And if your motorcycle is an older model, replacement parts can be elusive.

After checking a replacement part isn’t an economical solution, your next choice is to repair the damage. It’s easier than it sounds – so let’s have a look at how you can repair plastic for as little money as possible using heat, filler, cable ties and a little help from some friendly professionals.

Assess the Damage and Sort your workspace. Our panel had taken the brunt of an impact around the clutch area, with scrapes through the paint to the plastic, and two holes. We built a makeshift bench to hold the panel, with packing foam to prevent scratches. This gives us a nice height to work from.

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Lubricating Your Cables

Cables are fast disappearing on the larger modern motorcycles, but there are still plenty around and most riders ignore them until they break or cause a problem. This is partly because modern Teflon-coated cables have an amazing lifespan and need very little maintenance.

But there’s still a substantial gain in performance and durability available from steel-wound cables if they’ve lubed regularly, and there’s still plenty of steel-wound cables in use. You'll be amazed at how much lighter a throttle or clutch will feel if it’s given a good dose of lubrication, especially if it’s been allowed to gunk up.

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Wire Stripping Pliers and Ratchet Terminal Crimps - Simple Electrical Tools

If you have a older motorcycle that’s on the edge of 10 years old or that can be classed as a project motorcycle, you should arm yourself with a wire stripping pliers and ratchet terminal crimps, this simple electrical tools make repairs and modifications so much easier.

The wire strippers are satisfying to use – neat, with easy exposure of the copper strands for fitting connectors or splicing in joins every time. The jaws have a variety of sizes to suit common wire diameters on Japanese or European motorcycles. Then you bring the ratchet crimps in to play.

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Repair a Flat Tire While Touring

Have you ever had a flat tire while touring on your motorcycle? Should it happen, I’d prefer finding a tire flat when I came outside in the morning, as opposed to getting a flat while riding. That said, I have seen riders fall after simply jumping on their motorcycles in the morning and taking off. That first corner or stop sign is not where you want to find out that your front tire is flat, so it’s smart to check your motorcycle over each morning, and after each fuel or food stop. I pointed out a flat on a buddy’s motorcycle one morning, but he didn’t appreciate my humor when I informed him of the good news. ‘It’s only flat on the bottom,’ I said. He had the last laugh, though; he didn’t know where the air went in or how to keep it there, so I ended up fixing the flat.

If you’ve never experienced a flat tire while riding, it can feel like the wheels wants to wash out. If the tire’s low, steering will feel heavy, and if it’s flat, it will wobble and return a mushy response to steering inputs. Should you experience a flat on pavement, it’s best to slow down, carefully using the brake on the good tire, and stay on the pavement and continue decelerating carefully. Don’t move onto a soft shoulder at speed and then try to brake or you may end up with more than just a flat tire. Try to move as far off the road as possible so you can safely work on the motorcycle. Turn four-way flashers on if you have them, or leave the lights on if it’s dark.

I always carry the tools and parts I need to perform basic roadside repairs, but for more complicated repairs I always try to contact a repair shop in the nearest town or village.

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The Problem of Buying a Modified Motorcycle

As a rule, I tend to avoid modified motorcycle and scooters. Generally, this is because they are changed to one particular person’s idea of what they should be, do or look like. Another reason is because so many are bodge jobs and few people are capable of significantly improving a manufacturer’s product.

Yet another is that they increase your parts hassles, unless you know exactly what has been done.

Changing things like rear shocks and other service items is one thing. But say you buy a Suzuki Bandit 1200 (which is not officially available in Thailand) that’s had a Suzuki GSX-R1000 front end fitted after a serious accident. What model? K5? K7? And what are the brakes from??? And that master cylinder doesn’t match anything you’ve seen from Suzuki. And after some serious searching and asking around you find that the calipers are from a Yamaha…

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How many times have you crashed your motorcycle in the last three years?

  •  Never
  •  Once
  •  Twice
  •  Three times
  •  Four times
  •  Five times
  •  More than 6 times
  •  More than 10 times
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