Tech Tips: Suspension Removal and Installation 7

Get some quick tips on how to remove and install your forks and shock.

Check out Chaparral-Racing.com for any parts or tools you may need while working on your bike.

Transcribed version:

"Hey, this is Michael Lindsay from Vital MX, we're at Chaparral Motorsports today. When most of us get a new or used bike, the first thing we do is we pull the suspension off to have it sent out to be set up. So today we're gonna show you how to get the front forks and the rear shock off. So today we're working with a 2015 KX450. The majority of how we go about this can be carried over into most current models. You're gonna want your assorted socket set or T-handles, some Allen wrenches and Allen sockets. The two main key things you're really gonna want though is a torque wrench and some digital calipers when it comes to doing the forks. So to get started, the majority of these bikes you can just take the side panel off and start getting the pipe off. You're gonna want to break your mid pipe loose. Once you get the mid pipe bolt off, you're gonna wanna go after the exhaust bolt on...this KX450, we actually have a backing net on the back side exhaust you can do on some bikes. Of course on the Honda 450, you're gonna be...and after dual exhaust, you're gonna wanna get both cans off. 

Once you have the can bolt, out you're gonna wanna get your mid pipe and your exhaust can here out of the way. Depending upon what system you have, you might have to turn 'em a little bit of course, get 'em past the shock. You can either do this before or after getting the exhaust off, but the seat also needs to come off and get outta your way. Once you got the exhaust and the seat off, now it's time to tackle the subframe. Some of these bikes it's a 10 or 12 millimeter bolt combo. Here on the Kawi, we're dealing with Allen head bolts. You wanna do your top mounts here at the top of the frame where the subframe meet, and you wanna do 'em down below. So with the Kawi and the Honda, we've got interlinking plastic. You're gonna wanna pop these up and free so when you start moving around the subframe, you don't accidentally break one.

So now we're gonna start getting the shock bolts off. My preference is to go after the bottom. The reason being, on some of the bikes, when you pull the top bolt out and you let the shock and the swing arm drop down, the shock body will hit the frame and it can gouge 'em. It's just kind of a cosmetic thing, but trying not to damage 'em is always a fairly good idea. So this is one of the main reasons why we're doing the shock first. So when you need to kinda need to pop the bike up like this and jiggle it around, front tire hits so you're not throwing the bike off the stand. But you can prop it up with your hand or your foot here and kinda jiggle it and slide the bolt out for the lowest shock mount. So last major bolt to come out here will be your top shock mount bolt. Typically, this is either a 14 millimeter or sometimes a 17 millimeter bolt. And we screw it on the backside. Then you're gonna push it through, particularly one of the bikes, the Suzuki RMZ450, you're gonna have to turn this bolt as it comes out the other side to get it to clear the shock body.

Now that the shock is loose and the subframe's loose, you'll just need to stick your foot back under here, prop this up a little bit to get some pressure off the shock. We don't even actually have to undo the air boot or take the subframe off, you can just pry this back, pull this out. This works on the majority of late model bikes. Now that we have the shock off, we're gonna move up front and get the forks off. So first things first, you gotta go after the front wheel, get the front axle out and get this outta your way. Usually having a rubber mallet for this is good. Just kinda tap it out a little bit. In my case, I [inaudible 00:03:06]. Just pop it out to a point you can reach through, grab it and pull it right out. Now, if you're sending your forks off for service or anything, it's typically a good idea to get these fork cards off and out of the way of the technician that'll be working on these later. 

Now we're gonna need to get the brake caliper off. This one's an Allen on the Kawi, some of the bikes it's a 10 or 12 millimeter headed bolt. Just two of 'em here. So now it's time to get the forks free, so we're gonna go after the triple clamps. Your top triple clamp is always your tighter, so I try to go after it first where I got both hands to break it loose. And then down low is usually easier and you can break it apart one-handed while you hold the fork with the other. Some clamps the forks aren't gonna fall out, some of them they will fall, and it really hurts if it lands on your toes. In this case, they slide right out. Of course, just repeat the same, exact thing over here on the left side. Sometimes when the forks get a little stuck, you gotta take a screwdriver here in between the clamps to kinda pry it and then you gotta twist and turn to get the forks out. 

So now we have the suspension off and it's time to actually put it right back on. We're gonna do reverse order, forks first and then shock. It's easier to put the shock on when you have the forks and the front wheel on. Now we're gonna talk a little bit about the forks because there's a couple things you gotta watch when you're putting 'em back on that actually directly affect the performance of the fork. So the fork installation is fairly straightforward. You're just gonna take a fork, slide it back up in the clamps. I typically like to take one of the lines you can see on the fork as a starting point when you're setting up. Just kinda set it there for a height and just lightly tying down the bottom. Don't really get too crazy yet because you're gonna have to set the fork height later. So we're gonna put the fork guards back on now. Reason being that we do this this early is on some of the bikes the inside bolt is actually facing inwards. So if the front wheel's on, you can't access and you can't tighten it down. Put the brake caliper bolts back in now. Typically, you can tighten these down right here or if you're kinda struggling with the forks spinning, you can wait till the front tire is back on so the lug doesn't try to spin while you're trying to tighten down these bolts.

If you're gonna need to measure the forks if you're not using one of the stock lines, you're gonna want either a set of digital calipers or a little metric ruler to measure the fork height so you set each side the same. One thing I cannot stress enough is how important it is to torque the triple clamp bolts to the manufacturer's spec. If say, you over tie the lower clamp, you're gonna run into a problem where the lower tube goes to pass through the upper tube with the bushings and it's gonna bind up because this upper tube has been compressed more than it's meant to be. It'll create a harsh feeling in the forks. So next up, we're gonna install the front wheel here. Gotta be careful, definitely if you've got a bike that doesn't have wheel spacers, that it's locked in. This can always be a little bit fun trying to get 'em in there without knocking 'em both out and successfully getting the front caliper through. 

Proper order for the axle install is to actually put the nut here on first. You do not want to tighten down the clamp bolts yet. Clean this up. Usually, it'll start to spin the axle. At this point, now you can tighten down side. Now another thing you have to watch out for is the axle lug on this side, on a floating setup, is this sometimes gets binding inwards. To fix this, there's a couple different ways, you can either put a small screwdriver in the slot to pry it open and the fork will pop back over or you can try to compress the fork on the bike and then tighten this down. If you do it correctly, you'll watch the fork settle back to its original place.

Once both axle lugs are tightened back down, now you can give your axle here one more little cinch to make sure it's nice and tight. So now that the fork install's complete we're gonna get back to the shock. It's pretty much gonna be a reverse order of what we just did, other than remembering to torque the upper and lower bolts for the shock mount. So it's important to remember when you're dealing with the shock mount bolts to keep 'em well greased and torqued correctly. Any extra friction is gonna cause, you know, a little bit of binding with the shock and it's gonna hurt the performance of a suspension overall.

And there you have it, suspension off and back on again. Remember, if you've spent the money to have your suspension set up, it's really worth it to take the time to properly put it back on to add to the performance instead of take away from it. So make sure you stay tuned for more tech tips from vitalmx.com."

Credit:

Joe Carlino

C50_profile_1424660203 ML512 7/1/2015 5:09 PM

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7 comments newest first

keep em' coming ml. the only thing i would add is torque specs on front axle nut and pinch bolts. how about a safety wire one? some of the factory bikes have some cool ideas.
kawi008,i thought of rc when he walks to the line in great outdoors." i got this boys"

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Is that a shortened PC pipe. The one I have on my Kawi looks longer

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Oh really? Cool! I have the ti-6 on mine '14 450 but this like shorter. The previous ti-6 pro was really long

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