Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Box of Shame #3: Don\’t ride a strange handling bike…

Author: site admin
Category: The Box Of Shame

In 1995 I loaded up my trusty old GSXR (and a truck load of other bikes) and moved to the mountains of Colorado. The riding around Rollinsville, CO is incredible and since Colorado is in the middle of the country I could do some summer vacations to the west coast. As a result, the miles really started to pile up on the old GSXR since it was handling commuting, weekend sport rides and touring duties.

One Thursday evening in the summer of 1998 our local riding group decided to head into the mountains for a group dinner after work. This meant a “spirited” ride up one of the local canyons with everyone converging on a restaurant. I decided to head out with the faster of the riders so that we could do a slightly longer route with the intention of still arriving at dinner on time. My friend Todd led the group for most of the way with the line of bikes stringing out as we passed cars or just rode our own pace. At the top of one particular canyon (Hwy 7 at Raymond, for the locals) I decided to take over the lead and shot off down the road for the final stretch. The bike was feeling a little “loose” but I attributed that to the worn chain and the rear shock which was due for a rebuild.

Coming through one particularly tight left hand curve with the throttle screwed on pretty hard, I suddenly felt the bike jerk to the right and heard what I thought was the chain skipping over the sprocket teeth. Now I know the chain was worn but I didn’t expect it to be that loose, so I immediately pulled over to check things out. Todd was right behind me and had seen/heard the same thing, so he pulled over as well. We both looked the bike over and everything, including the chain tension seemed okay. Perplexed, I got back on the bike (as the rest of the group had caught up by now) and we all headed on to the restaurant. The bike did the same thing once more but when I got to the dinner spot I again couldn’t find anything wrong.

When I got back to my garage, I put the bike up on the rear wheel stand and again went over the chain, sprockets and shock but couldn’t find anything wrong. The next week, I went to the shop and bought new wheel and swing arm bearings. I already had new chain and sprockets I could install and figuring it wouldn’t hurt to replace the bearings since they were 5 years old and I was thinking perhaps a bad bearing was what was wrong.

The following weekend, I hoisted the bike up onto a garage rafter and started to dismantle the bike to replace the bearings, chain and sprockets. When I removed the plastic cover that hides the swing arm pivot bolt I got a horrifying shock…

The broken axle

…the end of the swing arm pivot bolt fell off, where it had cracked completely through. I’d been riding, and riding hard, on a bike with a swing arm that was mainly held in place by the rear shock mount. Yikes!

I bought a new swing arm pivot bolt from the local Suzuki shop and installed that along with the bearings, chain and sprockets. I then reassembled the bike, at which time everything felt and worked perfectly (though the shock still needed a rebuild). I then pulled the engine and had it rebuilt by a local race shop, but that is another story.

The moral of this one is just that if a bike is handling strange, there is a reason. Don’t give up looking until you find the problem. I keep the broken swing arm pivot bolt in the Box of Shame to remind me of the importance of that lesson.

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