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installing forks

what you'll need:
Time needed: About an hour.
  • Your forks
  • 12mm socket
  • 10mm socket
  • Vernier calipers
  • Rubber mallet
  • WD-40 or other cleaner
  • Multi-purpose grease

Sooner or later, if you do your own maintenance, you'll end up removing your forks. It's a pretty easy process, much more so with two people, but definitely do-able by yourself. In our example, Cat had removed the forks from her racebike in order to have the fine people at Aftershocks tweak them. I came into the story as she was putting the improved forks back on, so this write-up will skip over removing the forks and go right on to installing them (if you need to remove yours, it's rarely more difficult than just following these directions backwards).

Remove the forks. ;) Make sure that the front wheel is in a stable place, so that it won't fall over and bend a rim or rotor. Similarly, keep your brake caliper steady, and put something between the brake pads so that if you accidentally squeeze the brake lever, the pads don't squeeze together. Cat left her caliper right on the rotor, and ziptied it to the rotor so it wouldn't fall off. Seemed to work just fine!

new_forks bike_no_forks no_forks_front caliper_ziptie

Cat's racebike has aftermarket handlebar risers, in which the clip-ons covered the fork holes in the triple clamp. Therefore, our first order of business was to remove the clip-ons. This is pretty straightforward, and not usually necessary for most street bikes. However, if your bike has clip-ons, you'll probably need to loosen up the triple clamp bolts at the fork hole, which might involve loosening your clip-ons as well. Make sure to keep your right clip-on balanced on the triple clamp, as opposed to letting it dangle down; you want to keep your brake fluid reservoir upright so that no air gets into it. Otherwise, you'll need to bleed your brakes when you're done with the forks.

steering_stem remove_left_clipon left_clipon_off both_clipons_off_labelled

Now, it's time to install the new forks. Cat knew that after the forks are installed, there should be 11mm of fork sticking up past the triple clamp (this may differ for your bike -- check your service manual). So, before we started, she set her vernier calipers to 11mm. We'll use those after the fork is installed, but it's easiest to set the calipers before you have your arms full of fork. Take your lefthand fork (that's the one without the extra holes for the brake caliper), and start from underneath the bike. Slide the fork up into the fork hole on the lower fork bridge. Keep pushing it up through the fork hole in the triple clamp. Here's where you use the vernier calipers -- measure the amount of fork above the triple clamp. Pull more of the fork up if you need more, or push the fork back down if there's too much sticking up. Test the measurement all the way around the circumference of the fork to make sure that it's even. When you're satisfied that the fork is installed correctly, tighten the bolts on the lower fork bridge and triple clamp.

calipers lower_fork_bridge_lbl cat_aligning_fork cat_aligning_fork_top fork_too_tall measuring_fork fork_correct

Repeat the process with the right fork. When Cat did the right fork, she found it to be difficult to push the fork back down to the correct 11mm adjustment -- a whack with a rubber mallet did the job. ;)

right_fork_lower_lbl mallet_forks tightening_clamp right_fork_installed

The next item of business is to put the front wheel back on. Clean off your axle with WD-40 or some other solvent, and then grease it back up. Cat uses Valvoline's multi-purpose grease, which has the added benefit of being bright pink.

clean_axle pink_grease grease_axle

Insert the axle spacer if you've got one (the Kawasaki does; my Nighthawk didn't, for example) and line up your axle. Align the wheel so that the speedometer cable housing is facing the correct way (in the pictures below, the first speedo pic is incorrect, and the second correct).

axle_spacer insert_axle_spacer cat_aligning_tire speedo_notch_wrong speedo_notch_ok

Now it's just a matter of sliding the axle through the tire. Use your rubber mallet for help if needed. Screw on the axle nut on the other side, and you're all set. For your amusement, I've included the picture of the result of our using too much grease on the axle. ;)

cat_inserting_axle mallet_axle too_much_grease axle_installed axle_nut

Next up, we're going to reattach the clipons. This is just a matter of reversing the process of removing them -- Cat's clip-ons fit on over the forks, and are then held in place by bolts. Don't forget to check the sides of your clip-ons, too, to make sure that you've tightened all of the bolts.

installing_right_clipon side_clipon_bolt right_clipon_finished left_clipon_underside left_clipon steering_stem_done

Now all that's left is to re-attach the brake calipers to the rotor and torque down all of your bolts. To re-mount the caliper, just slide the rotor back between the brake pads (see why you made sure not to squeeze the pads together while the calipers were off the rotor?) and replace the two bolts that hold it to the fork. Use your service manual to tighten all of the bolts to their specified torques, and you're all done! Because Cat's bike is a race bike, she also safety wired all of the bolts after torqueing them, a step that's obviously not necessary on a street bike.

caliper caliper_mounted torque_caliper cotter_pin safety_wire_cotter_pin safety_wire