2 Articles by Brian Fornton
I have spent the past 20 years or so wrenching on everything from the in-laws Oldsmobile to my friend's $30k Heritage Softtail(nothing soft about it). I have blueprinted and built small blocks for the quarter mile and fixed the neighbor's lawn mower. I don't have a big old butt-load of money to show for this, just some spare parts, lunch money, accumulated knowledge and some good friends. More recently, I have been retro-fitting my VT1100C with the good cheap parts you find on American iron, devising new ways to install these parts so I don't wind up with something that looks like a Japanese horror flick on acid. I've fabbed, welded, ground, polished, plated, painted, bent, smashed, cussed, thrown tools, busted knuckles, bled and maybe I can help you have as much fun. I don't wish to change your mind, offend your abilities or manipulate your thoughts. I can share my experiences, take criticism and need be I can go away, but for now, read on if you dare.
It's that time of year for most of us to perform the ceremonial ritual of winter storage and being the warped individual that I am I look forward to this evolutionary period as much as the riding season for all the upgrades and mods that are in my sick little mind. The following steps would be my baseline for winter storage, you know, in my opinion the least that needs to be done.
When you have taken just about all the cold you can handle and your digits are looking for a new master take another ride to get the engine oil to operating temperature. Then promptly drain the oil and remove the filter. As you ride there are byproducts that appear in the oil and they are acidic to the metals in the power plant. If you make a practice of leaving the oil in over the winter these acids will tend to have lunch inside your engine. Next spin on the new filter and fill the puppy with fresh oil, but don't do what I did once in haste and leave the drain plug in the parts tray as I did a lovely job of lubricating the shop floor. Now start the motor and run the fresh oil through for a moment. Then I lift, hoist or jack it off the tires and suspension and fill the tank with gas (keeps out the condensation) for the cold duration. I have never used fuel stabilizers and frankly never needed them. Then pull and shelve the battery for later recharging. This is the point in time where you can clean, polish, tighten and change what you like.
When the snow starts to melt its time to turn dreams into reality by filling, charging and installing the battery. Get it started and provided its running and all the big parts are on the bike run it up and down the street. No, not to piss off the neighbors but to heat up the oil for, you guessed it, another oil change. Most people only change their oil when the odometer tells them to! This is a dangerous practice if you don't flush the oil at winter storage! You might find the spring oil change a bit extreme and I am not a chemist but I am just not comfortable with that lubricant sitting in the crank while the temp gets below -20 and I believe that engines can never get enough fresh oil . If you don't believe the manuals when they suggest changing the spark plugs just try this: run the bike with the old plugs from last year and take note how the bike performs, then change them and if you feel a difference, and I think you will, you make the conclusion. There's a whole lot more in this long-hair's brain with all that I have done on Shadows and ACE's and I hope that you'll want to here more of the same, so let me know what's on your mind at
Until then *Work to Ride, Ride to Work*
"NOT JUST FOR SHOW"
It's ok to customize your ride and shine and chrome everything in site. Hell, take off the tires and seat and dip the whole bike if you want. If you don't upgrade the stock performance, one day you or your loved ones will wish you had. Don't mistake the word performance for *speed* unless you come from the shallow end of the gene pool. Perform = *to carry out; execute any skill or ability; to fulfill a command* I hope to share with you what I have found to work on my VT1100C and the fleet of ACE's that have been through my shop. If your looking to get more horsepower out of an 1100 with two carbs, may I offer my condolences in advance. Don't get me wrong I like to rotate the earth now and then but when I do I would like to feel the eye-popping negative G-force of stopping power just as well.
So, lets dive into the brake-ability or anti-acceleration of your machine, shall we. Brake it down (no pun intended) into two pieces, 1.suspension, 2.binders (or brakes for the college boys). Suspension you say? That's right, suspension plays a bigger role in stopping than most think. For you folks in Darwin's waiting room who haven't taken the MSF ERC (Experienced Rider Course) lets think about weight transfer. As you apply the binders up to 90% of the mass of the bike shifts to the front wheel. My first ACE test ride left me disappointed at the stock front fork springs and their ability to dampen and handle the weight transfer. Of course the first thing I did was to perform a panic stop. When I felt the front forks slam and hit the bottom of the fork sliders it prompted me to offer any ACE owner free installation of Progressive Suspensions fork springs (parts cost $30/40 mail order). My Shadow, when stock, was not quite as bad but still left a lot to be desired. This upgrade will give you a weight transfer that's smooth and fights back when you need it most. If the fork bottoms out you can imagine that this eliminates smooth resistance when you need to hit the binders hard for that day care mom in the minivan on the cell phone with ten screaming kids that *just didn't see you* (not that all minivans drivers or day care moms are brain dead drivers but cell phones are distracting).
Installation is simple. 1.Just jack and support the frame, not the fork, with the front wheel just off the ground. If you don't do this and you pull the fork nut the bottom will fall out of the suspension and the bike, well it could hit the ground.
2.Do one tube at a time completely start to finish to keep the same parts on the same side. Using a lot of down force you should remove the 22 or 24 mm nut on top of the fork. Caution, when you reach the top of the threads the pre-load still on the spring will launch the nut in your face so hold on to it.
3.With long pliers or magnetic tool remove the stock fork spacer, washer and fork spring. Keep the parts clean.
4.Slide the new spring according to manufacturer specs. On the Shadow the tightly wound end of the Progressive spring points skyward. This was in my mind backwards but nonetheless I put it in tight side up.
5.I then used a laundry marker on the nut/socket where the threads start mating so I could line the nut up and get the threads started while applying pressure to the pre-load. This will help eliminate crossing the threads during installation.
6.You may want to trim the spacer as suggested by the manufacturer but I kept the VT1100C at the stock length. The ACE's I trimmed way down because the owners wanted it that way.
7.Install the spacer, washer and line up the marks you put on the nut and torque them down.
When all is tight put the bike back on the road. If you haven't changed your fork oil in two years it would be a good time to replace the stock oil (probably tranny fluid) with a good 10 weight. The new oil will improve rebound dampening. That's the stroke opposite from the compression of the spring. If you feel that the new setup pops up to fast go with a 20 weight.
You may give up that nice floaty, cushy boulevard cruiser ride to something a little harsher but I guarantee that this will increase the down pressure on turns, the resistance on hard braking and overall handling performance on the Shad. I am not bragging but in the ERC my VT1100C had a shorter stopping distance than any of the three soon to be organ donors that were riding crotch rockets. It had the best quick stop distance of the 20 bikes in the class. Part of this was the equipment and part of it is my constant execution of the panic stop. You never know when you'll be called upon to avoid that collision and if it is second nature to stop quick, you may live to ride again my friend. I eventually replaced the rear shocks with Progressive Suspension parts when I had the cash but found that the front fork upgrades were more bang for the buck. Your time is up but the next time we will finish with brake equipment upgrades that I have found.