Jump to content

Tales from the Bike Shed

V4 Heaven

Recommended Posts

Well, the winter came and I thought it’d be time to take a look at some of the jobs that I’ve been putting off for a while on my RD500. I had been waiting for the weather to warm up but come the end of Jan there seemed to be no change, so I decided to get stuck in. A woolly hat and 3 layers of clothing were needed in my cold, dim, north facing garage. Surely a heater is a good idea. Erm, yes, but as I had brimmed the tank on my bike to keep any condensation out, any variation in heat meant that the fuel expanded and dripped petrol on the floor! The wife doesn’t like the smell of petrol seeping into the house and next door doesn’t really appreciate it either. No-one asked them to convert their adjoining garage into a dining room did they? And obviously the builder that did the job didn’t carry out any form of leak proofing/soundproofing as the fumes seem to pass through the wall quite well; you can hear every word that is spoken in there too!

Basically the bike needed new headrace bearings, tyres, headlight cradle, fork oil change, new bearings in the rear shock and the brake pistons/seals checking over.

I thought it best to tackle them in some sort of order, starting with the rear shock. I had replaced all of the bearings and bushes in the rear linkages a couple of years ago and all they would need is a squirt of grease via the grease nipples (remember them?). I had bought a WP rear shock last year which I had paid to be refreshed but after a couple of months’ use and a dramatic reduction in handling it became apparent that the bearings were shot. So I duly inserted the Abba Stand (Xmas prezzy), propped the front up with wood under the pipes to raise the front end off the ground for later and whipped the shock off. I decided to bite the bullet and save time (but not money!) by taking the rear shock to MH Racing near Chippenham to fit some new bearings.

OK that’s the rear end for now, time for the front. Headrace bearings were ordered, fifth cup of tea downed that morning and tools at the ready. Starting with the cowl, the easy-to-find bolts were undone and a gentle wiggle of the cowl showed that some more were hidden. Very hidden. In fact, you needed double jointed hands and wrists to get to them but finally off came the cowl. There’s something a bit raw and aggressive about a bike with no cowl. Like the pics of racebikes in the pits that are about to be tested and assembled by race technicians. They look purposeful, mean and wanting a piece of the action. I found myself slowly drifting off into my own little world!

Anyway, back to it, all of the wiring and existing (crash damaged) headlight cradle were removed and put to one side revealing a shiny set of rwu forks. Off came the front wheel which was put to one side. All nuts and bolts were put in plastic tubs that you get from the local Chinese takeaway in some sort of order and put aside leaving the brake callipers and forks.

I had completely stripped the callipers before, fitted new piston/seal kits all round and had them painted so I was keen not to let the brake fluid ruin my new paint. At that time (which I later discovered was 6 years ago – time flies!) I had to do my brakes because I could barely push the bike around the garage! A bucket of warm soapy water was on standby to wash off any brake fluid. The easiest way that I find to pop the pistons is by pumping them out with the brake lever, so I gently clamped one side of the calliper, shoved a wooden bar in the other calliper and pumped the brake lever. Slowly piston no 1 popped out and leaked brake fluid into the container that was on the garage floor ready. The piston was a bit mucky but had no marks on it, so I gently prised the seals out. They, too, were dirtier than expected but I wrapped a cloth around an appropriate sized allen key and slid this around the grooves left for both the fluid seal and dust seal. Muckier than expected. When I did my brakes 6 years ago, I noticed how much crud was in these grooves. Crud had crept in behind the seals which were forcing the seals onto the piston, preventing the piston from moving forwards and backwards like it should. There was only light crud this time, so it was all cleaned out, red brake grease (25p from the local motor factors, not £1 from the bike dealers) was slapped over the seals and piston and it was all put back together, ensuring that the seals were straight (not kinked) and that the piston went in square. Then it’s a case of bleed the brakes back up, clamp the clean piston and allow the piston on the other side to pop out. This was repeated for all four pistons on the front and, while a mucky job, is extremely satisfying to do, knowing that your brakes are working 100%.

The brakes were washed down to remove any excess, paint stripping brake fluid, hoiked out of the way and suspended by bungies to reduce any stress on the brake hoses and the forks were dropped out of the bike.

This was new territory for me. I’ve never done fork oil before! “How hard can it be?” I asked myself. Not that hard in fact. I couldn’t use the drain holes (remember them?) as the forks had been professionally overhauled, fitted with WP fork springs and powder coated (again by MH Racing) back in – hold on – back when? Yep 1999. That makes the fork oil, yep you guessed it, well old. Remove the caps, remembering to apply pressure so that the caps don’t spring off into the air, and observe as graphite grey oil slides down the, now visible, spring. Yuck. Remove springs, noting orientation and put them on end in some takeaway tubs. I up-ended the forks and poured the oil into an old measuring jug. 300mm should come out. It never does, does it? Whether you’re changing engine oil or whatever, there’s always less than there should be. A quick check of the fork stanchion and there isn’t any visible sign of oil on the outside, so the seals should still be good. I pumped the forks a few times to get the last of the oil out and then put some paraffin in the fork leg and pumped this up and down to clean the fork out. All of the above was drained and put in a bottle to be taken to the council tip later. A litre of 15w fork oil (as specified by the WP leaflet) was purchased and a 170mm air gap was left in each fork, calculated by a ruler and a bent clothes hanger. I love technology, me. Once done I bounced them up and down a few times, satisfied in my own little world that I had done something new (and long overdue) then put the forks to one side.

OK, front callipers done, forks done, now to the headraces. I remember reading an article in PB many moons ago where one of the staffers had done this very task. He remarked that he would rather pay someone to do this next time. This didn’t fill me with confidence but as the bike was in a non-transportable state, hanging there in mid air on an Abba stand, I had to try. “How hard can it be?” I asked myself. Friends had confidently said that there would be a notch underneath the headrace cups and all you do is drift them out. You just know that when someone uses the phrase “all you do is” or “drift them out” that this will not be easy. Well it all came apart easily…..to a point. Read workshop manual. How to remove the bottom race from the steering pivot? No luck. Phone a friend. “They need to be pressed out. Do not use a screwdriver to prise them out or you’ll damage the yoke”. Bugger; I’ll just put my screwdriver down then. “No problem” said friend, “bring it around here tomorrow and I’ll press them off for you and fit new ones”. “Friend” came about by me buying some RD500 parts off him via eBay approx 3 years ago. I love the way that bikers whose paths may never have crossed give each other support and technical know how freely. Well that was tomorrow and this is today. I’ll try and drift the cups out. Stick finger into headstock, locate notch. There isn’t one. Check again. Nope. OK, try the lower race. The lower race seems to drop away from you making access even harder. Feel stressed. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders right now. Never mind, it must be possible as people have said so, so I get big screwdriver and tap away. There’s virtually no grip or purchase and the screwdriver is frustratingly slipping off what amounts to about 1mm of visible cup. After trying a multitude of tools, the races are still there and still looking at me. I am now proper stressed but realise I have to calm down. Besides, another mate is playing in a band tonight so I can go and see him and have a cider or two. He and his wife are confirmed petrol heads and aren’t scared of a challenge or short of a bit of technical ability so I mention it to them in the bar. “No problem, we’ll be round on Thursday”. Love it. The band was absolutely fab and played in a top music pub that night better than they had played before. What a good night. If you can see the Faux Fighters in Wiltshire, especially in Riff’s Bar in Hook nr Wootton Bassett, then you must go!

Tomorrow arrives; lower headrace time. Pop round to “friend” who is in fact Dazzer. A trip to Dazzer’s house is always worth it if only to drool over his RD/RZV road/track bike. When I meet Dazzer I note that he looks different. It turns out that the last time I saw him was 18 months ago and he has lost weight since. 18 months? Where did that go? It only seems like yesterday and his enthusiasm to assist remains undiminished. Now I’m OK with spanners and stuff but electrics leave me in the dark…so to speak. Dazzer’s RZV has an Aprilia banana swinging arm, programmable electronic ignition, different carbs, Swarbrick pipes and (I think) Suzuki forks and wheels. Yum yum. He now has a sister bike to this which will be for trackdays only. He shows me the work that he has done by personally tuning the barrels (100 hours of work has been put into the engine already). I can’t wait to hear this baby running in the summer! Out comes the press. About 7 tonnes of pressure later (yes the steering stem did not want to shift) and half an hour later the new bearings were installed. After another brew and much two stroke chat and words of encouragement regarding removing the headrace cups, I jumped back into my car and drove home.

I needed to order some tyres as my Bridgestone BT45s were not only square on the rear and triangulated on the front but were 10 years old. I’ve never got on with them but used to get away with loads of hairy riding on my old Avon Supervenoms. A few phone calls later and Supervenoms are hard to find, especially in old fashioned 16 inch/18 inch wheel combination. Check Avon website and see that Roadriders are the modern replacements. Ring a few places and they cost as much as a set of modern rubber! Yes, the internet’s cheaper but it works out the same cost when you take lose wheels to a dealer to be fitted. Bugger. Order some locally and get back into the garage.

Time for take 2 on the headrace bearings. These bad boys are not shifting. I’ve used screwdrivers/round bars/square bars/titanium drill bits and all sorts but they ain’t shifting. I have an admiration for the way that they aren’t even marked by my hamfisted attempts at removing them. “They can’t be that bad can they?”. Dark thoughts of fitting new bearings into old cups are going through my head. “I can’t do it, I can’t do it”. It’s not right and I can’t allow myself to be so gash. Wife and daughter arrive home from trip up north. This signals the end of my weekend in the garage. It’s great having the family back but I can barely contain my frustration and anger at those headrace cups. The remarks of the PB Staffer are ringing in my ears for the rest of the evening! The RD is sitting there in a state of rude undress with no front end and some gleaming bits of metal smiling at me from the headstock.

Now I think I’m quite fit but am buggered and turn up at work on Monday yawning my head off and feeling like I haven’t had a weekend! It’s going to be a long week. Thursday comes and with it the promise of friendly assistance. Much tea is prepared and friends turn up with ‘superdriver’ (their term for an eff off great screwdriver that does every garage task apart from turn screws). It’s 7pm and they get to work. They can’t find the notch. Yep, there isn’t one. There’s nothing left to do apart from twat the thing repeatedly. 5 minutes passes. More tea is followed by more twattage. 10 mins later we wonder if we are making any progress and suddenly we can see the top race has lifted by about 1mm. Spurred on by our success, well their success, the high levels of twattage result in a high pitched tinkle as the top headrace cup breaks free and rattles around ‘superdriver’. I like superdriver. Ok, the bottom race needs to go now. Once again, there is bugger all purchase and 5 mins of twattage hasn’t made any difference. Friend no 1 goes home to collect Dremel while friend no 2 and I have more tea. Now I’m not a bad neighbour but it’s now 9pm at night and, as mentioned, my garage adjoins next door’s. I pop round and apologise for noise, saying that we’ll need another hour. Next door is overjoyed that I even thought about apologising for the noise so I have a full green light! Wife is ignoring the noise. Friend no 1 returns with Dremel. What are these cups made from? Dremel and sanding thingy won’t even mark them. I saw a diamond cutter for a Dremel in B&Q for £25 which I avoided buying a week or two earlier but I could see this could be the only (expensive) option. Friend no 1 decides that the inside of the headstock area will be softer metal than the cup and makes a notch all of her own. This allows superdriver to have some purchase and brick shithouse friend no 2 applies super twattage to superdriver and the cup breaks free. I’m nearly in tears! The headraces have been defeated. I’m not going to be gash and have to mix and match new and old. I’m so happy I have to celebrate with another brew. In the time I have taken to make a brew, friends have installed new cups, new bearings and grease and torqued the whole thing up. That’s ‘Friends’ with a capital ‘F’ and the light at the end of the tunnel is now blindingly bright. I sleep well that night.

The new weekend dawns and I pre-warn my long-suffering wife that I need to spend another “couple” of hours in the garage. I need two new tyres so take the loose wheels to my local Ford garage (yep, they do bike tyres!). I also take my spare front wheel which was purchased off eBay some time ago. I’ve always thought that due to my bike’s history and its 10 previous owners that the front wheel may be a bit buckled. I proudly take my wheels and eBay purchase with me. I ask the man to fit the Avons to the wheel which is least buckled! The original front wheel is straight and the eBay purchase is buckled. Hmmm, thanks eBay. Avons on and one happy customer. Once home, the forks go back in, new headlight frame installed, electrics connected and cowl back on. That headlight cowl is more of a git to fit than it was to remove, and then I find that I’ve connected up some of the wiring incorrectly. Grrr! I squeeze my hand into the headlight cowl and manage to make amends. All electrics now working as they should. A couple of hours has turned into a full day. Oops.

Next day, fit callipers, paraffin chain clean, grease any visible bits of wheel bearings, fit wheels and bleed brakes. Sweet. I’ve just got the rear calliper to strip and clean. When I did this some years ago the dust seals came out in about 10 pieces and the calliper was so gunged up that I’m amazed that the bike passed any MOTs. What I wasn’t ready for this time was how gunged up it was again. Seals and pistons were OK but the amount of crud that had crept in behind the dust seals was amazing. Anyway, using the cloth and allen key method this was all cleaned out. Time to replace the seals.

I was a bit bike-weary now. All I wanted to do was ride the bloody thing. I wanted to see if my choice of Avons would be vindicated and if the handling would be improved by the new tyres/new rear shock bearings/new headrace bearings/new fork oil combination. The dust seals were a horrible job. There was less space to work with compared to the fronts and the seals felt like they had doubled in size as they just would not fit in the grooves. I had to hold as much of the seal as possible in the groove using two fingers, then try and feed the remaining rubber seal in with another finger. It was like trying to catch a bar of soap in the shower! I may have been tired but I was certainly frustrated and so far this had been going on for 30 mins; I had the other side of the calliper to do afterwards. Through desperation and frustration I decided that an eff off great glob of brake grease around the groove and the seal would go some way to holding the seal in place. About another 5 mins later the seal finally went in. Shiny, lubed piston fitted squarely in place. I thought the other side of the calliper may have pity on me and fit easier but no! Yet again, another 30 mins.

Wife arrives with morale boosting cup of tea but clearly isn’t impressed that my whole weekend has been spent in the garage. Oops.

Next weekend arrives and it involves a quick check of all nuts and bolts, re-bleed brakes as they’re a bit spongy still, add another turn of preload to the rear shock and refit fairing. Take bike out onto drive, set fuel to “prime”, choke on and 15 kicks later SHE LIVES! Fuel to “run”. Damp roads and new tyres ‘do not inspire any confidence’ © MCN, but 2 days later it’s a dry day. It’s MOT’d and taken for a spin. Every man and his dog wants to race but I politely decline any open invitations. Not with new tyres, not with new headrace bearings, not after all that time in the garage – I’m not going to throw it all away! The “hinge” in the middle appears to have been sorted out. I now realise how bad the old headraces were and how solid the 10 year old tyres were. I should have known better.

It actually feels good, damn good. Roll on the summer! :eusa_whistle:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

some good work completed there, tis definitely worth it in the end.

im currently mid battle with my rd500. been stripping and cleaning the carbs along with some other jobs and finally got it ready to take it up the road only for it to start running like a dog again so need to investigate whats going on.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, If it's standard I'd just check the jets etc are the correct size and the float height is set correctly. I've found that mine is a bit fuel-sensitive in its old age and deffo runs a bit cleaner on the super unleaded.

If you're adjusting the carbs and oil pump, a top tip is to ensure that the throttle adjuster (by the twistgrip) is set in the middle or maybe a bit further out...threads showing at least. If you set the carbs with the throttle adjuster wound right in, ie no threads showing, when you're cruising the oil pump isn't really opening and the cylinders could be starved of oil. Once all set up make sure that the oil cable by the servo moves immediately as you open the throttle.

You may know this already so apologies if you do but remember the sequence of setting up the oil pump. It's carbs first (with the throttle adjuster set as mentioned), YPVS valves, then oil pump. Mine runs quite cleanly now. I only ever used to adjust the oil pump on its own previously and it used to billow out blue smoke all day!

Also why is Silkolene Comp 2 Race now 14 quid a litre? I'm sure it used to be about 8-10 quid last year?!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...