A Suspension of Disbelief

After the last exciting installment where I started work on the wheels, things have moved on a bit. Originally, I’d planned to sort out the engine and electrics before worrying about wheels and suspension. And in an ideal world, that’s exactly what I would have done, as obviously there’s no point spending money on fork seals if the thing runs a big-end as soon as I start it up. However, the world is not ideal. Actually, let me caveat that. I’m exceedingly happy with my lot in life. I have a beautiful, happy family, a roof over my head, and can put food on the table every day. This makes me very contented indeed. However, if I was to choose one part of my pink and fluffy world that isn’t ideal, it’s my garage. It’s too small. Because of this, when I have one bike up on stands, it makes it a bit of a pain to get the other one in/out, so I can go to work to keep that roof over my head and food on the table.

Admittedly, this is a very small fly in a very large jar of ointment.

But, it does explain why I decided to sort out the suspension on the SV, rather than dive into the engine and electrics. I needed to be able to wheel the bike around the place. I think we left things last time with the wheels all cleaned up, and it was a simple matter then to clean up the brake discs and refit them. I was planning to replace all the disc bolts with something new and shiny, but in the end the old ones polished up OK, so they went back in. One thing to note if you’re doing this yourself: don’t put copper grease on the disc bolts… normally I’ll put a small smear of the stuff on just about any fastener that gets installed, but on the disc bolts you don’t want them to loosen accidentally. With the discs refitted, and all the wheel bearings checked, cleaned, and regreased, it was time to look at the suspension.

Rear suspension first then. As previously mentioned, I have some incredibly generous friends, to the point where a lovely GSX-R750 shock was donated to the project, thanks to my mate Druid. This is a large improvement over stock in terms of build quality, and also adjustability. It is slightly longer than the stock shock, but this is actually OK, as a slight increase in ride height is not necessarily a bad thing. Well, it’s not a bad thing if you have stock suspension tie-rods anyway. Of course, one of the previous owners of this bike had made some shorter ones out of a lump of pig iron using a tin opener. So, when I fitted the GSX-R shock, it fouled on the swingarm at first. This was sorted out incredibly easily, when the lovely Alex at Darvill Racing sent me a stock pair from his spares box. With these fitted, the rocker arm bearings cleaned and regreased, everything bolted up nice and easily. That was suspiciously easy…

The front was altogether more involved. As already ascertained, a new fork leg was going to be needed. eBay to the rescue for this one, as one turned up reasonably local, for fifteen quid. Well, that was easy, and when it turned up the very next day, it was lovely. Beautifully polished, and spotlessly clean. Which was a lovely surprise, but did mean that I’d need to clean the other one to match. However, things were about to take a bit of an unexpected turn… I drained, and stripped the forks to replace the seals (they were both leaking anyway, so this needed doing) and gave everything a good clean up. The bottom bolts came out reasonably easily by the simple act of leaving the springs and caps in place when initially loosening them. This helps to stop the damper rods rotating in the fork legs. It’s always a messy job replacing fork seals, but it’s one of those jobs that’s pretty straightforward, and quite satisfying when everything goes back together. Surprise #1 bit me on the arse when I pulled the caps off the forks to drop the springs out – the spacers were different lengths, badly cut out of a crappy old bit of poly tube, and about 200mm shorter than they should have been. The springs then came out, and were about 250mm longer than they should be. hmmm. No idea what bike they came out of, but for sure it wasn’t an SV. Now, one of the rules of messing with suspension is only to change one thing at a time – obviously I’ve replaced the rear shock, so having completely non-standard fork internals wasn’t in the plan at all at this point. No matter, funds are tight, so I just cleaned everything up, installed the new seals, and fitted it all back together into the new fork leg. Surprise #2 then stood up, and delivered a massive boot to the gentlemans veg area at this point. The new fork leg was bent. It was a beautifully polished bent-ness, but it was very much bent. So that got thrown in the corner along with the one that I’d hacked up with the angle grinder. Safe to say, that if I had a cat, I would have kicked it at this point. But, rather than sulk about the whole affair, I devised a cunning plan – I’d pick up a set of bent forks from a breakers, reuse what bits I could, and throw the rest away. And within 10 minutes, I’d found a set of very lightly bent forks on eBay for 20 quid, and hit the buy it now button. When they turned up a couple of days later, I couldn’t have been happier. The lowers (which is what I really needed) were in perfect condition, and black, rather than silver. The uppers were only slightly bent, so, with very little trouble at all, they came apart, and a complete, undamaged, and totally stock set of fork internals fell out. This made me very happy indeed, as it was then a simple matter to rebuild them using my straight stanchions to give me a very tidy set of forks with new seals, and stock internals. So, with the wheels bolted in, things are looking good now:


And more importantly, I can now move the thing around the garage again. I will, probably, fit cartridge emulators at some point in the future, as they worked so well on the TRX. But remember what I said about only changing one thing at a time? Yeah, that still holds. It’s not *all* beer and skittles though. To use the GSX-R shock I need to modify the tank fitting brackety-wotsit. This isn’t a real problem though, as I’ll be relocating the battery when I install a new subframe at some point in the future. The subframe on there at the moment is only there to make it easier to move around. It’s not staying.

All in all, it’s a bit of a milestone really. The bike is back up on its wheels. Admittedly, it’s turned into a bit of a Triggers Broom to get to this point, with new frame, forks, swingarm, shock, tie-rods and yokes. But given the biggest single expenditure so far is the replacement V5 for the new frame, I’m not worried by that. Still a long way to go, but I think this is a nice place to end the year. Current thinking for the next step is to sort out the loom and refit the electrics – but right now, I’m going to go and pop the kettle on rather than stand in a cold garage any longer.

Running total

  • Bike: £250
  • Starter solenoid: £11
  • Resistors: £1 (for 20)
  • Frame, yokes, swingarm: £11.50
  • Fork lower (bent): £15 (wasted)
  • Scrap forks for spares: £22
  • Air filter: £0
  • GSX-R shock: £0
  • V5: £25
  • Fork seals: £12
  • Tie-rods: £0
  • Rear brake hose: £0
  • Various carb screws: £0
  • Assorted allen headed fasteners: £3.50
  • Front wheel spindle: £10
  • Fork oil: £11.25

(Note – not included delivery charges where I’ve bought stuff online, as I’d have paid petrol money to go and pick stuff up anyway).
Shopping list

  • CR8E spark plugs
  • Battery
  • Carb heater (optional)
  • Choke cable (optional)
  • Clutch actuator
  • Brake pads
  • Brake hoses
  • Brake fluid
  • Rear caliper
  • Oil
  • Oil filter
  • Exhaust gaskets
  • Exhaust clamps
  • Chain
  • Sprockets
  • Rearsets
  • 41mm Clipons
  • Controls
  • Clutch lever
  • Brake lever
  • Tyres
  • Bodywork
  • Paint
  • Exhaust studs (42 x 8mm)
  • Alternator cover gasket
  • Disc bolts
  • Number plate


Plan of action

  • *Initial stripdown
  • *Prove viability of engine
  • *Complete strip and inspection of chassis
  • *New frame registration/SORN
  • *Engine checkover as far as possible
  • *Install engine in frame
  • *Clean, and install shock and swingarm
  • Install carbs/fuel lines
  • Sort out ignition switch
  • Install loom
  • Rebuild pipes (May need to have them test fitted first).
  • Install pipes
  • Install cooling system
  • New subframe and battery mount/tank mount
  • New alternator gasket
  • Oil/filter/coolant/plugs (basic service stuff)
  • Test run
  • *Overhaul wheels
  • Overhaul brakes
  • *Fork rebuild
  • *Install forks
  • *Install wheels
  • Install brakes
  • Fit chain
  • Controls
  • Clocks
  • Bodywork
  • Paint
  • Tyres
  • MOT/Tax
  • Gravel trap