A check of the paperwork revealed that a few weeks ago, literally 13 years to the day that I first got the front end for my FXR back from Race Tech, I ‘d sent it in again – for the same thing – a soup to nuts rebuild. The truth is, if you keep a machine long enough, you will wind up going back over your original work, refreshing some of your modifications… because most everything on an older machine is a ‘wear” item and in time will require replacement.
The year was 1992, I’d had my FXR for some time and wanted to make some changes. The bike had started off an 1986 FXRS-SP – and I felt the urge at the time to lower it, the look we were all going for. Retrospectively, it was a bad move – the bike handled as sharp as a razor with it’s OEM height sky-high suspension, but it looked pretty toady.
I was younger and appearances (vs. performance) was more important to me than it is today and so I lowered the machine – front and back – 2” up front, if I recall and 2 out back. Pupkin had a set of Koni’s he’d peeled off an FXR he was flipping and the fork tubes I used were by Frank, and at the same time I installed an aftermarket progressive spring set. The bike looked good – exactly how I wanted it, but now I had to torch and bend my kickstand to accommodate the lessened lean angle when parked… the first of many lessons.
Well, we know how things go. Lowering the suspension also diminished the bikes handling characteristics. Removing travel wasn’t so smart and the spring set I had was a little pogo-y, but I put up with it for a season, I was cash and time strapped and was just happy to ride. I tried a bolt on “tweak” bar, but that just created stiction due to the fact it wasn’t a perfectly precision part and anything but perfect in that application causes stiction in your front end, hurting handling even more… I think I still have that part in a milk crate somewhere.
So about that time I had heard of this company Race Tech, their magical work and specifically a product they had which was possibly a cure to my front end woes. This gadget was called a Gold Valve Emulator. As it turns out, after installation, the product absolutely cured my front end issues and all was well in FXR-land. When I asked Race Tech to put this front end back together, I installed what was to become a signature piece – fork booties – that worked amazingly well in protecting my fork seals, but also had the appearance I wanted. Since then booties have become commonplace, but back then it was something different.
I wound up getting a second bike, a dresser in 1997 and time went on. The FXR was relegated for local duty and I never really noticed the slow diminishing of the bikes handling. Once a year fluid changes helped cure the blahs and thicker fluid compensated didn’t hurt, but by the end of last season, I just knew I couldn’t push my luck anymore. I had ground off the bottom of my exhaust, my Johnny Chop pegs were getting mauled by the low stance of the machine and the front end was banging and clanging –time for a fix.
I went back to the folks who had set me up so perfectly in the past – Race Tech. Now normally, you’d have chewed through two sets of fork seals in this time and probably fork tubes too, given the state of our roads, but the booties really did an amazing job of keeping things clean, tidy and lasting. Impressive to think my fork seals and tubes had lasted 13 years – no leaks.
I simply pulled the fork legs off my machine and shipped it to the Race Tech facility – as simple as that. Working on the FXR is easy, simple and fun as compared to the laboriousness of dealing with a modern era dresser or big bike with its inherent complexities. I drained the legs, zip tied them together and sent them off as a unit for a rebuild: springs, seals, gaskets and a thorough inspection. Since the original work was done so long ago (pre computer), I filled out a Race Tech form to give them all of the machines particulars, measurements and geometry and also included a copy of my paperwork from 1993 for reference (and amusement).
So, it didn’t make sense to go through front-end work and not deal with the rear at the same time. I wanted to lift old saggy ass up by about 1/2″ inch to get the bike level. I knew the Koni’s were dogged and I knew that the bike wasn’t going to be seeing much in the way of heavy two-up touring, so I had some decisions to make – and I went decidedly sporty. I asked Race Tech to build me a set of their G3S shocks for my machine the way I anticipated using it….up in twisty squirrel country, one up with a semi light load. Valving and spring decisions were left to the experts. In terms of the front end, all bushings and inner fork wear parts were inspected, replaced if they didn’t meet specs, reassembled and the unit as a whole, tested, filled and packed
Like magic – a big box arrived at my door – my front end, rebuilt to a modern spec, completely freshened up. I was psyched! Accompanying the front end was a box with some beautiful G3S shocks, looking all business. I was excited to bolt all this gorgeous hardware on the carcass of my machine, sitting on its H-D Maintenance lift. The fork tubes had a cool hone finish and I could see that the seals were ultra fresh – yes!
I reassembled the machine, over the course of a relaxing Sunday morning with Chucky. One item that needed some tending to was clearancing the shock eyes on the shocks so they would fit the swingarm shock mounting brackets, not a big deal with a belt sander. New parts on old bikes, it’s the way it goes – you have got to figure something is going to give you pause to reflect, as this is the real world we at 45dgree live in and things do go wrong.
Getting the fork caps on is always a treat, but even that didn’t prove a pain. I put the front end of the machine back together, time to go for a quick ride (its still cold here, so no extended ride for me today). So how does the refreshed suspension on my FXR work?
In a word, the change is a revelation, it is so much better, I feel guilty for letting this job go as long as I did. Both ends of my machine are in synch and the handling feels taut without being harsh or jarring – exactly what I was hoping for. Controlled is a word that aptly describes the sensation – compression and rebound are noticeably more controlled and my noises have abated. I will report back as time goes on, but out of the gate – this is outstanding!
If you have a machine that is not behaving the way you’d like, is old and saggy, needs to be refreshed or you just want it setup specifically for the manner in which you ride – give Race Tech a call. All these guys do is suspension work and they know how to put that smile back on your face. Take your fork legs with sliders off, pack them up and send them to the pros – easy as pie. One delivery later – you’re back in the game
In closing, I’d like to thank Race Tech. …….. stephen berner (images & words)
RACE TECH (use logo)
Corona, CA 92880