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THE WHEEL TURNS: Customizing that motorcycle

Considering the fact that most bikes come ready to ride these days, why would anyone modify the perfection of factory technology? Well, any number of reasons really. Most modifications are in the nature of bells and whistles; trick little do-dads like custom grips, pegs, sliders, and maybe crash bars to protect all that plastic. These items do little to affect the performance of a motorcycle, but in the eye of the beholder, make it look way cool. Nothing wrong with that. Bike shops love selling this stuff, even more so if you let them put it on for you. Personally I do my own modification work when my skills match the project. Otherwise, wrenching is best left to the pros.

John with his 'baby'

John with his ‘baby’

Case in point. Owning an 05’ DL 650 V-Strom by Suzuki, the original V-Strom, has been, by far, my best motorcycle investment to date. The brand new bike had everything I wanted with the exception of a lower seat height. At 5’8”, it was necessary to tippy-toe at every stop. Not really a problem, though it is more comfortable and secure to able to flatfoot when not moving, especially when on a slanted road surface. A few years went by without incident, then I heard from a friend, who is also a short rider, about the Kouba lowering links. The links would lower the rear end about 1½ inches. This sounded good to me. Still I wanted to learn more before altering the factory specs.

Simply by lowering the rear, the bike would make it slower in cornering. And it did. You could feel it. To compensate for this loss, it is recommended that you lower the front a corresponding amount. In my case, I was able to lower the front about 1/2 inch, which put the cornering ability back to my liking.

Okay, I did everything that was recommended and liked being able to plant my feet. What I didn’t like and had to learn now – was that my kickstand was too long, leaving the bike precariously vertical in a parking lot and impossible to park in many locations. Hmmmpf!

Well, one thing leads to another. I removed the kickstand and took it down to one of the local chopper shops to see if they could chop off ¾ of an inch. They in turn sent me to the local welding fabricator. It occurred to me that a friend could do the job over a six pack. But, being that the V-Strom is my baby, I didn’t want to do a hack job. It cost thirty dollars to have it done professionally. Money well spent. A day later, the stand was shortened and ready and I was confident about the welding job. They even cleaned it up and painted it. Now installed, I am a very pleased rider and stopper.

The next project will be to replace the front sprocket with one that has a few more teeth, giving me more top end. V-Stroms are geared rather low. Since I don’t do off-road, there shouldn’t be an issue. So when the chain comes due for replacement, I’ll look forward to giving it a try, but not without a fair amount of research first. I don’t want to change one thing only to discover that something else is wearing out because of the alteration. Live and learn, but don’t make foolish mistakes because you didn’t scope it out. Costs too much.

The point of this blog is to help other riders to think things through before changing anything structurally on a motorcycle. One thing leads to another. It could get expensive, with a lot of down time, when you’d rather be riding. Plan out your project, have all the stuff you need before you begin, and most importantly – read the directions and talk to folk in the know. What is easy for one person can be a bitch for another.

Ride safely, be considerate and enjoy.

Riding with Aloha from the Big Island, john g

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About john g rees

John g rees is not your average horror writer. Not your average martyr either. After the death of his father and that of a close friend, john found the release he was loooking for and started writing. Born in the Midwest some half-century ago to two soon-to-be morticians, one can see where his ‘dead pan’ humor truly came from. Playing amongst the caskets and his catholic school upbringing underscore much of his work. He went through many types of employment. Moving west first to San Francisco, finally making his home in the Hawaiian Islands, john g rees has worked in many diverse, yet tangent fields: from the repair of Ferraris to the repair of underwater dock pilings; painting houses to painting ship zincs; general construction to general salvage diving on many sized ships - working out of Pearl Harbor for a while, on Navy vessels, some top secret. He has traveled the world looking for work and play in out of the way places. Never finding what he expects. He likes it that way. He has been happily married for 20 years.

2 responses to “THE WHEEL TURNS: Customizing that motorcycle

  1. Great post… Been there done that… I understand perfectly… Here is my customizing story http://www.thetexasrambler.com/2012/05/14/customizing-my-2000-kawasaki-vulcan-nomad/

  2. seems we all do it texas. after many a frustration i finally learned. now i’m sure there is something else to learn, cest la vie, aloha

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