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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So, in the first "shop session" of a motorcycle maintenance class I'm taking, I got to do a few things under the eye of an experienced mechanic, with his full (and to me, awe inspiring) set of tools, greases and fluids on hand as well as his expert advice.

- I took off my rear wheel. To do this wasn't that bad at all. I put the bike on the center stand, took off the exhaust on the right side by undoing three bolts, moved the rear brake line and swing arm out of the way, took out the axle and deflated the rear tire to make it easier to wiggle out. Ta-da!

- I cleaned the splines with contact cleaner, then lubed them with Moly 60 (which I had not been able to get yet, but he had handy).

- Changed the final drive fluid. Nothing to do with taking the rear wheel off, just something I did.

- Reassembled everything, including putting air back in my rear tire (I forgot this step until I was ready to go home).

Plus some side lecturing about the common problem of treating the tightening of bolts as a "test of manhood"; the importance of getting a torque wrench and looking up the torque specs for key bolts on the bike; when to use WD-40 and when to use anti-seize grease when putting stuff back on; how to examine brake pads (mine were fine); and how shaft drives work (we also had bikes at the session with chain and belt final drives, mine was the only shaft driven one so it got to be the cadaver on the dissection table).

I did all my work successfully, or so I thought, and was already looking forward to my plans for next week's session: dealing with an overtorqued oil drain plug (which mine unfortunately is -- and my fault too), changing the brake fluid, changing the fork oil, and putting in Progressive springs in the front (the instructor suggested it even without me mentioning that I would like to do this based on the advice of this forum).

The shop session ended, and I had put everything back on in a manner satisfactory to the instructor. I sat on the bike and fired her up to ride her home.

Whoa. I was now sitting at least 2 inches lower than before, maybe three! My mirrors now showed me nothing but sky, even at the lowest angle, and gripping the handlebars felt like they were mini ape hangers. WTF did I do?

I got off and checked the rear suspension spring settings. Still set at 3 the way they'd always been.

I checked the tire pressure on my rear tire. A normal 32 PSI.

To make it even more fun, it began to pour rain... in buckets of four legged animals. Our shop work had been done outdoors in a parking lot with minimal cover, so the session was definitely over, see you all next week. I rode her home rather uncomfortably, since the grip position felt unnatural and I couldn't use either mirror for squat (not to mention dealing with the rain, but I had proper riding gear for wet weather at least).

I'll have nicer weather tomorrow to take a look at her. The instructor's last words to me on the subject were that I'd assembled everything back correctly and I'd done nothing that should have changed how the bike sat.

Given that, what should I look for? My first thought is I must have somehow let the air out of my rear shocks. I have a bike pump and will check it out in the morning. But I wonder how that could have been affected by what I did?

And, if it's not that... Any other ideas?
 

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CWO3 Navy (Retired)
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722 Posts
I take it you put the lower bolts back in the shocks, you would have had to remove the lower bolts to remove the final drive unit. Other than that, there is nothing you could have done that would lower the bike that much. Are you sure the mirrors didn't get moved? I know, stupid and obvious questions, but not ones to be overlooked.
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter #3
Yes, everything I took out went back in... And it's not the mirrors alone, the handlebars also seem high, so it's definitely something being too low but I can't imagine how or what? :confused: :doh: :baby:
 

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The Professor
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3,147 Posts
Some how your bars got pushed foreward, pull back hard on the bars and see if they move.
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter #6
If you see sky, the rear is higher than before.
But the bars seem higher too. And the way I figure it, if the mirrors are level and I'm seeing higher, that can only mean I'm sitting lower because the angle is greater. If the mirror is fixed, the sky is fixed (so to speak), so the only thing that's changed is I'm further away from the sky, i.e., moved downwards, right?

It is possible (as lance328 suggests) that one of my assumptions here is wrong; the mirrors are not really fixed because they're attached to the bars, and it could be that the reason both the bars and the mirrors seem wrong is because the bars themselves have been pushed back to less of a rake angle than before. I don't really see how that's physically possible sitting here at my computer, because wouldn't that would require loosening stuff on the front of the bike, and everything I did was on the back end?

Hmm. That's not 100% true. I did spend about 5 minutes or so trying various different nut drivers, extensions and T-bars trying to get the side oil drain plug off before giving it up as stuck and dealing with it next week. The instructor told me to order a new plug by then, which I have, presumably we're going to be drilling the old one out or something. But maybe all that jerking around I did on the drain plug shifted something on the front end out of alignment. But then, wouldn't that suggest something was loose? If I can pull the bars up or down with just my arms, I would think going over the bumps and cracks in the road that are so common around NYC would be sending my bars up and down all the time.
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
either the front went up or the rear went down???
True enough. I will look at it more closely in the morning, when it's (a) daylight and (b) not pouring rain on me while I do so, and wanted to be armed with some ideas of what could have happened and how I could fix it.

Since I was only working on the back end, that seems the most likely source of the problem. However nothing I took off and put back, could really go back on wrong in a way to make the back end go down: the axle is where it is, the swing arm too, etc., etc... So, WTF?

As far as the front end, as I wrote, if the front end were loose enough to get jarred out of position by either fiddling with the back end or by jerking on an immobile oil drain plug, why wouldn't it be shifting around all the time?

One last thought. A few weeks ago I got new tires put on my bike, the old tires were shot from sitting in a garage for 4+ years, and I brought it in to a dealership mechanic put on Metzeler ME880s. (Where I will not go to again, but that's another story.) I hadn't checked the air pressure the dealership inflated the rear tire to before letting the air out of it to remove the rear tire, and when re-inflating it, simply used the manual spec of 32 PSI for the rear.

It did cross my mind that perhaps the stock air pressure is too low for the Metzelers and maybe I needed to add more air in the back. Before leaving the shop session, I inflated it to something absurdly high, like over 40 PSI, to see if it would make a difference. Nope. Gonna have to remember to deflate it back down to 32 PSI tomorrow.
 

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and the Adventure Cycle
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The seat is attached to the frame, not the swingarm. There's really nothing I can think of that would make the bars and mirrors seem higher while sitting on the bike except for Lance's idea that the bars got pushed forward.

As for the possibility of a low inflated tire, unless you were just about riding on the rim, I wouldn't think even 15 pounds of air would make that much of a difference in what the mirrors show, and certainly wouldn't change how the bars feel.
 

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Registered
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Somehow you bars got pushed foreward, pull back hard on the bars and see if they move.

Maybe someone else moved your bars forward as a prank. If your rearend was sitting lower, and you did nothing with the front end, the angle of the mirrors would point lower and you'd be seeing ground, your bars wouldn't feel any different. Maybe somehow you didn't get the seat on right, that wouldn't explain seeing sky in the mirrors at lowest..
 

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CWO3 Navy (Retired)
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722 Posts
I'm with Lance, your bars got moved forward making them seem like ape angers and you feel like you're higher. Loosen the nuts and pull them back.

For the oil drain, put your socket wrench on it and slip a 2 ft. piece of pipe over the handle of the ratchet and you'll loosen up the nut. It's all about tourque and leaverage. (or go out and buy a long handle 1/2 drive ratchet, hint: the pipe is cheaper and works just as well, it's part of my tool box.)
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Yes, it was indeed as simple as my bars being moved forward somehow. I had never realized how easy it was to move them, but just by sitting in the saddle and pulling the bars towards me as if doing a pull-in biceps row on a weight machine at the gym, they dropped right into the expected position, yet seem pretty tight and snug in terms of pushing them around again. Huh.

It must have happened when the instructor used my bike to demonstrate how to pick up a dropped bike (without actually dropping my bike): cock the handlebars all the way to the side opposite the fall (unless the fall involved clipping the front end so the bars are skewed and would hit the gas tank), then lift the bike by the other handlebar end and "walk the bike up" in a kind of semicircle. Since the full weight of the bike was being held up by the one handlebar as part of this demo, it must have gotten shifted upwards.

[ETA: It's Method #2 as described on this web page. I had been taught a different way in the MSF or maybe elsewhere, to put my back to the bike and push it up; his point in this demo was if the bike is on its left side, you can't rely on the kickstand to catch it and could well just tip the bike onto the RIGHT side, while the squat-and-lift-from-your-legs approach has less risk of this.]

Is this normal? Should I pop the bolt covers and tighten handlebar clamps more? (I don't have a torque wrench yet so I wouldn't do this until next Saturday in any case, when I can use the one in the class.)
 

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Premium Member
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Discussion Starter #13
I'm with Lance, your bars got moved forward making them seem like ape angers and you feel like you're higher. Loosen the nuts and pull them back.

For the oil drain, put your socket wrench on it and slip a 2 ft. piece of pipe over the handle of the ratchet and you'll loosen up the nut. It's all about tourque and leaverage. (or go out and buy a long handle 1/2 drive ratchet, hint: the pipe is cheaper and works just as well, it's part of my tool box.)
The bolt head is borderline getting stripped round. My class instructor bitched a little bit about the cheap "soda can" soft metal Kawasaki uses for these parts, and how this was an example of how overtorquing a bolt becomes a big pain down the road. Even if I got the drain plug out somehow I should replace it with a new one that's torqued in properly. Metal can't be unstressed once it's been overstressed, and the bolt has a risk of being stripped or snapping after a few more uses -- and a snapped drain plug head means oil spurting out and no recourse but to push the bike home.
 

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I've (ahem) used the lift technique #2 in the field. It works really well. I'm not that big a guy either, and the bike was fully loaded. It's almost surprising how easily the bike lifts. Sort of like learning the centerstand technique- it's about lifting smarter, not stronger.

I'm glad you figured out what was going on. That must have been totally disconcerting.
 

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Search Goddess
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2,002 Posts
Glad you got the handlebar thing figured out. As far as the side oil drain plug, mine seems to seize up every time even when I just hand tighten it. Come on now! I'm the one that put in on so I should be able to get it off, right? Nope.. need my little helper pipe to loosen it every time! I think it is the difference of the metals that does it. I have even tried anti-sieze on it but same results. So maybe it is the location that just requires that extra torque to get it off.
 

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Linkmeister Supreme
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7,960 Posts
I'm with Lance, your bars got moved forward making them seem like ape angers and you feel like you're higher. Loosen the nuts and pull them back.

For the oil drain, put your socket wrench on it and slip a 2 ft. piece of pipe over the handle of the ratchet and you'll loosen up the nut. It's all about tourque and leaverage. (or go out and buy a long handle 1/2 drive ratchet, hint: the pipe is cheaper and works just as well, it's part of my tool box.)
Cliff`s suggestion for a pipe to extend handle length is a good one, and I have used it often. Just be sure to push the pipe right up to the head before applying force on the end. I bent the handle on an inexpenive rachet one time by using a too short pipe, and trying to gain more leverage by slipping the pipe on only about 3"-4".

If you have a fastener that is really tight or rusted, use a non-racheting breaker bar, or a slliding "T" handle, with the pipe, not the racheting wrench handle. I stripped the gears out of a 3/8" drive racheting handle one time too, before getting breaker bars for my socket sets.

I also have a 25" extra long, 1/2" drive breaker bar for pick-up truck lug nuts and any other really stubbon fasteners.
 

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The Professor
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3,147 Posts
Yes, it was indeed as simple as my bars being moved forward somehow. I had never realized how easy it was to move them, but just by sitting in the saddle and pulling the bars towards me as if doing a pull-in biceps row on a weight machine at the gym, they dropped right into the expected position, yet seem pretty tight and snug in terms of pushing them around again. Huh.

It must have happened when the instructor used my bike to demonstrate how to pick up a dropped bike (without actually dropping my bike): cock the handlebars all the way to the side opposite the fall (unless the fall involved clipping the front end so the bars are skewed and would hit the gas tank), then lift the bike by the other handlebar end and "walk the bike up" in a kind of semicircle. Since the full weight of the bike was being held up by the one handlebar as part of this demo, it must have gotten shifted upwards.

[ETA: It's Method #2 as described on this web page. I had been taught a different way in the MSF or maybe elsewhere, to put my back to the bike and push it up; his point in this demo was if the bike is on its left side, you can't rely on the kickstand to catch it and could well just tip the bike onto the RIGHT side, while the squat-and-lift-from-your-legs approach has less risk of this.]

Is this normal? Should I pop the bolt covers and tighten handlebar clamps more? (I don't have a torque wrench yet so I wouldn't do this until next Saturday in any case, when I can use the one in the class.)

NOT normal, tighten the clamp bolts. :beerchug:
 

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Love My Baby
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1,165 Posts
Make sure you use a torque wrench and adjust each bolt to 17.5 ft/lbs of torque.
 

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Jesus-Family-Coffee-Bike
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95 Posts
as far as removing the side drain plug... has anyone considered a 17mm lug nut wrench? I imagine you guys/gals are suggesting the extra leverage for loosening only!?
 
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