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Old 02-27-2011, 03:10 PM   #1
desmodab OP
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Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
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Installing Gold Valves and new fork springs on DL1000 V-Strom

I bought a 2008 DL1000 V-Strom new, and as I have gained experience both as a rider and with this bike, I have learned that the suspension has a few shortcomings, especially for someone big like me. I should point out that I am new rider (3 years) and although I have done extensive mechanical work on car and marine engines, and I'm a mechanical Engineer, I have never worked on bikes before and had never taken a fork apart.

First, V-Stroms are known for front end dive. When you add to that that I am 6'-7" and weigh 290lbs, the stock suspension is woefully inadequate for me. I have been unable to get the sag on my bike set anywhere close with preload maxed on the front so wanted to do something about it for this riding season. Before Christmas I replaced the stock rear shock with a custom, fully adjustable Elka (see thread here: Now it's time to tackle the front end.

I read about two upgrades that could improve the performance of the front shock - new, stiffer springs and Race Tech gold valves to aid with fork compression. You can buy a RT rebound kit for the V-Stroms, but I have read it doesn't make much difference with the limited V-Strom forks, so decided to do springs and gold valves.

First, let me say that I could never have done the gold valves without the great posts from Peter and Johnofchar on Vstrom Riders International ( - post,2494.0.html). Race Tech's instructions for the gold valves are vague and focussed mainly on the valve, so this thread helped immensely - thanks Peter! To get this done, you really need a combination of the Suzuki manual to remove, disassemble, re-assemble and re-install the forks, Race Tech's instructions to build the valve stack and Sonic's instructions to install the springs.

For springs I looked at both Race tech and Sonic but decided on Sonic for 2 reasons. First, I read many posts by Rich Desmond from Sonic and just really liked the guy - he seems to really care and even when posed adverse questions he handled it well I thought, and second the cost - they were considerably less than RT. To add to my comments about Sonic and Rich, he actually answered my emails on Sundays, and even helped me figure out Race Tech's catalogue - Great guy!

Ok, on to the installation:

Here's the bike minus forks - removing them was easy - I just followed the manual and it took about 20 mins:

I put the bike up on it's center stand and lifted the front off the ground with my jack using the Givi engine bars, then put a jack stand under to keep it in place like this. Easy-peasy:

Here are the parts I'll need - gold valves and springs, plus the factory manual. Note the 19mm allen socket - you need this (or equivalent) to get the front wheel off a Strom and they don't include it in the stock tool kit :

Step 1 is to dis-assemble the fork. I started by removing the fork cap then drained the fluid into a suitable container. I noticed the oil in my right fork was much dirtier than my left for some reason - will watch the seals. Here is a close-up of the cap and the parts in the fork above the spring. Note that these are different on a DL1000 from a DL650 - the 650 has different preload spacers:

Once the fork cap was off, I removed the spring, wiped it off and set it to the side. Then I drained the oil by pumping the fork a few times, then clamped it in the vise inverted and let it continue to drain (this is a good time for a break as it takes a while to drip out). While it was draining, I undid the bolt that holds the rebound cartridge in from the bottom of the fork. It's a 6mm and is in the little hole here:

Loosening the bolt with the ole' wrench and allen key trick!

Be careful you don't just wind it out without your hand at the the top of the shock tube, or the cartridge will fall out (not that I did that or anything, no, ahem).

On both of my forks, I found the aluminum "cap" that goes on the end of the cartridge stayed in the fork when I took the cartridge out. I had to get a long piece of welding rod and peek through the hole in the bottom of the fork and using the rod guided it out. I did this while the fork was still clamped in the vise in the inverted position, so when I got it "lined up" and over the lip between the inner and outer fork tube it just dropped out into the oil pan I had catching the fork oil. I have read in other posts that some guys had to heat this cap up and pull it off - I had no such issues, it fit perfectly and was not frozen or pressed on…

The cap is furthest on the right in this photo:

More shots of what's inside:

Once the cartridge was out, the fork was as disassembled as I needed it to be. If you need to replace bushings and seals you will need to disassemble the inner and outer fork tubes. My bike is only 2 years old and has 17500 km and has never leaked any fork oil, so the seals and bushings should be fine. If your bike is older and you want to do seals and bushings you'll have to continue to take the inner and outer tubes apart and replace them. The Race Tech gold valve kit includes a DVD and it shows how to do this - it looks easy, but you need a reinstallation tool for the seals that I don't have.

Now you have to clean all the parts and get the oil off them. Again, in the Race Tech video they refer to "contact cleaner". I did not know what this was, so I emailed them and asked, saying I had been to 3 or 4 Napa's etc. and nobody here had heard of it. They emailed back something along the lines of "contact cleaner is contact cleaner, you can find it at any automotive store". Thanks for reading my email! I went to another store and found electrical contact cleaner which is used for cleaning electrical contacts in motors, switches, etc. so I bought some used it. On the can it says to keep it off the rubber parts, so this isn't real easy on a fork with o-rings and seals, so I was careful. It did a good job of removing the oil though which I guess is the point. Once cleaned with contact cleaner the parts were clean and dry, no film whatsoever which I think is why they suggest contact cleaner.

Once all the parts were cleaned I laid them out on new, clean, low lint shop towels in the order that they came out. My objective here was to be able to see clearly what was stock and what was being added by the RT gold valve kit:

I then turned to the Race Tech instructions for building the valve stack. This sounds daunting, but all it is is a stack of washers - more washers the heavier you are. When you open the RT gold valve kit there is an "internet code" in it. You go to their website and run what they call a Digital Valving Search or DVS. You select the model of your bike, enter your weight, riding style, desired stiffness and what components you are installing (compression GV or both compression and rebound) and it gives you a table with a recommended valve stack. Their stacks are numbered c31-c39. Being a giant I was told to use a c37 with 1.1 kg/mm springs.

Then the fun begins - you have to open the 4 little bags of washers they give you and measure each one and stack them up to form your valve stack. For me, it was a c37, so that meant 7 of the big ones (17mm dia x 0.15mm thick) followed by 1 each of 15mm x 0.10mm thick, 13mm x 0.10mm thick, 12mm x 0.10mm thick, 11mm x 0.10mm thick, 10mm x 0.10mm thick and last 9mm x 0.10mm thick. One thing to note is all of the valve stacks were the same except for the number of 17xx x 0.15mm thick washers. A c31 was 1 of the 17mm washers, a c32 was 2 of them and so on until 9 for a c39. Pretty straight forward.

Here is a side by side of the what was in the original valve stack (above where it says Factory on the blue towel) with the gold valve c37 stack parts beside it:

Now that I had figured out the valve stack, all I had to do was re-assemble everything. Again I made sure that everything was very clean before assembly, then starting with the bolt I stacked up all the pieces of the valve stack on the bolt shaft. I the inverted the whole thing dropping the complete stack on the valve body. I started the bolt into the threads, pushed everything into place, then slowly backed the bolt out while maintaining pressure on the cup washer to keep the spring compressed and pressure on the valve stack. I removed the bolt with my left hand, set it on the bench, put some RED loctite (271) on it and then threaded it back in. Because I keep the pressure on the stack nothing moved and the bolt threaded right in. I tightened it, paying special attention to keeping the cup washer compressed and making sure that the shaft on the underside of the cupped washer "straddled" the recess in the gold valve. You can feel it "click" in and it moves down once the hole is centred and it enters the recess. Per the RT DVD this is something to pay attention to since V-Stroms run Showa forks. Also be sure to torque the bolt with an inch-pound torque wrench to 33 in-lbs. Not everyone has an inch pound torque wrench so make sure you have one before you start.

Here's the valve body in the vise. I should mention that I stole my father-in-law's plastic vise jaw guards - this is so when clamping forks and the valve body in the vise they don't get marred up by the steel vise jaws.

Here is the completed gold valve assembly. Note how many more washers are in the valve stock - way more than stock (It had 3 big ones and 2 teeny ones):

And for reference here's the stock one:

Once the valve assy is completed, it's just a matter of re-assembling it to the cartridge. One of the hardest parts of this for me was when I inserted the gold valve assy into the bottom of the cartridge tube you need to push it past the internal retaining ring groove so you can re-install the retaining clip. There are some holes in the side of the tube (where the GV "breathes" the oil through). The o-ring on the GV wanted to hang up on these holes and I was worried that forcing it would nick the o-ring. I tried to pull it back but was not able to without similar concern, so effectively had the gold valve assy stuck with the o-ring squeezing out these holes a bit making it bind. I wiggled it with my fingers and squeezed some more assembly lube through the holes onto the o-ring then gently rocked the assy back and forth while pushing on it to get it past the holes. I then re-installed the clip and rocked it back and forth, this time while pulling on it to move it down to seat against the retaining clip. Whew! Now I just had to re-assemble the cartridge into the fork. I used BLUE loctite (242) on the bottom fork bolt and torqued it to 14.5 ft-lbs

Now it was time to fill and bleed the forks. I clamped mine vertically in the centre of the vise and stood on a chair to fill it. I found putting my head lamp on helped me see the bubbles come out as I bled it. With the fork in the fully compressed position, I poured in 1/2 litre of 7.5 wt fork oil. RT recommended 5 wt but Sonic recommended 7.5. With being so heavy I thought 7.5 is better, and I may even increase that to 10 - we'll see how it rides. Bleeding is a simple process of pulling the rebound rod up and down until no air bubbles come up, then moving the inner shock tube up and down until it no bubbles come out. The manual says do it about 10 times. On the right fork it took more like 15 times, on the left 10 did it. Not sure why the difference. The manual also suggests waiting 5-6 mins after first bleed then check it again, so I went to get a cup of coffee and came back.

(Update - the 7.5 wt oil was too heavy and I should have gone with the recommended 5 wt...)

I devised this little aid for pulling the rebound rod up when bleeding - it's just a piece of 14ga solid copper wire bent around and under the nut at the top of the rod:

Once no more bubbles came up at all then I set the oil level. This was confusing because the factory manual says 133mm, Race Tech's DVS said 130mm and Sonic's instructions said 150mm. I am not sure how crucial it is, but I decided to go with 130mm because that's what RT recommended and they own the "hydraulics" piece of this, so I thought I'd start there and see how it is. I used a length of clear tubing on the end of a turkey baster to set the level. The basic procedure is overfill the fork then suck out the extra to a known level with the baster. I marked 130mm on the clear tubing, stuck it into the fork to the 130mm mark then sucked out the excess and double-checked it a few times to make sure it was right. As a precaution I marked a clean piece of wood at 130 mm and stuck it in and just the very bottom had oil on it, so good enough for me.

Next I installed the new spring. Note the difference in the new 1.1 kg/mm spring compared to the stock 0.7 kg/mm spring - way more windings and bigger diameter coils:

The last assembly step is to install the washer, spacer and cupped washer into the fork and put the cap on. This was easy on the 1000. I left the wire on the rod for the second fork as it made it easy to thread the washers and spacer over the wire, then pulled the rod up, locked it in place with the cupped washer and removed the wire. Last I threaded the cap into the inner fork tube being very careful not to cross-thread it. I also used assembly lube on the o-ring to help it slide in more easily.

I gave them a final cleaning, applied some Sonic and Race Tech stickers and re-assembled the forks onto the bike. It was easy, just the reverse of removing them. In all it took me about 8 hours, but I could probably do it in half that time now having done it once, but I took my time and was careful.

I'll post an update when the snow melts and I can get some miles on them to let you know what difference(s) I observe.

desmodab screwed with this post 05-04-2015 at 02:48 PM
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Old 02-27-2011, 05:37 PM   #2
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First of all, nice write up.
Second of all, wow, you're a big guy.
If we ever meet in a dark alley, I hope that we are friends.

Let us know how the new suspension works out for you.
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:01 PM   #3
Mr. Canoehead
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Great write up. This should give others the courage to take on the project. Sorry I wasn't there to help with the install.

One question - how are we gonna keep up with you this year? Last year I had the Elka advantage. Now the playing field is even.
2006 FJR1300A, 2005 GS1150 Adventure, 2002 DR650 SE, a fortune in Farkles.

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Old 03-01-2011, 09:06 PM   #4
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Great write up David! I may need to get you to help me tweak the shim stacks in my forks
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Old 03-02-2011, 06:13 AM   #5
Greg the pole
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Thumb fork feed back

good choice on the fork upgrade, did mine last year, here is what I found: the fork has a tendency to dive less, and recovers much faster, it doesn't see to 'dwell' on pot holes and wash board. Your next upgrade should be the 4 pot pistons for the front brakes, did mine, and quite like it,
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Old 03-02-2011, 07:20 AM   #6
desmodab OP
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Your next upgrade should be the 4 pot pistons for the front brakes, did mine, and quite like it
Thanks Greg - funny you should mention the brakes... that's next on the plan!

Great write up. This should give others the courage to take on the project. Sorry I wasn't there to help with the install.
No worries, thanks Canoehead!

Second of all, wow, you're a big guy.
If we ever meet in a dark alley, I hope that we are friends
Of course we're friends Q! besides, big guys are all pussies (unless you get between them and their beer or bikes!

Great write up David! I may need to get you to help me tweak the shim stacks in my forks
Ha ha! Love to help anytime Oso - let me know, but I dared doing this only AFTER reading your excellent how-to posts for your F8GS - thanks!

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Old 08-02-2011, 11:17 AM   #7
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Thumb dl1000

GREAT STUFF, I will do it real soon, Nice pics too,
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:29 PM   #8
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I am very happy with my 06 DL1000 after stiffer springs and lighter/less oil in forks and after Sasquatch rebuild and re-sprung shock. My plan was to modify fork valving only if needed after other mods and now I will most likely never modify fork valving. I am 6'-0" and 200 pounds. Stock suspension was horrible for me.
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Old 08-05-2011, 07:31 AM   #9
desmodab OP
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Thanks Homere. I find the new ride is MUCH better than stock. One thing I will change - RaceTech recommended 5 wt oil for my weight/spring combo and I used 7.5 b/c I wanted it stiffer. in retrospect that was a mistake so I'm going to change out the oil and put in the 5 wt. Other than that, happy camper.

Cheers, dab
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Old 08-05-2011, 09:12 AM   #10
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(Sorry, impending thread hijack, though only mildly...)

Originally Posted by oldturtle View Post
I am very happy with my 06 DL1000 after stiffer springs and lighter/less oil in forks and after Sasquatch rebuild and re-sprung shock. My plan was to modify fork valving only if needed after other mods and now I will most likely never modify fork valving. I am 6'-0" and 200 pounds. Stock suspension was horrible for me.
Hey, Turtle: I wanted to ask you what springs you got? I am very similar is size/weight as you (6' 1", 175 pounds, but w/ ATGATT I'm right a 205), still on stock suspension on my K4 kilo Strom, needing to go through the forks and based on what I've read, stiffer springs and lighter oil.

Please share your setup: brand/rating of spring, oil weight/height.

Thanks in advance, Mark P. Horvat, aka "MPH"
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Old 09-12-2011, 10:26 AM   #11
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I think you have too much oil so becareful of hydrolock and overly progressive

BIG SPRINGS have a significant greater VOLUME and I am sure take up the missing 20 MM

Good luck

I am trying to find someone who tapped the legs so you could drain them without dissasembly like back in the day
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Old 11-19-2011, 04:23 AM   #12
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Great write up on that valve and spring job! I need to do the same on my '09 for sure - the OEM set-up sucks without any doubt...

Honda - '05 GL1800/A3
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Old 07-10-2014, 07:22 AM   #13
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Sorry to raise this from the dead, but folks could still be using this as a guide. I wanted to elaborate on what stromper is saying...

Oil level is determined by the spring/spacer volume.

From what I'm finding RaceTech uses shorter springs than stock (requiring fabricating new longer spacers) while the sonicsprings are closer to factory length: designed to use the unmodified factory spacer. Less spring volume may be the reason RaceTech suggest 130mm oil level. Since Sonic springs are longer than reacetech and use larger diameter wire than the factory springs they take up more space than either of them, hense the lower oil level.

So in short: use the oil level suggested for the springs you are using, not the valving manufacturer.
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Old 07-18-2014, 09:44 AM   #14
desmodab OP
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For what it's worth I agree and think you are 100% correct - follow the oil level recommendation for the springs and you should be okay.

Desmodab (formerly Snowstrom and OP)
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Old 07-26-2014, 10:14 AM   #15
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This thread got me to change out my springs. Old but good and appreciated.

I was 280 pounds when I got the DL1000 and needed the upgrade bad. Did the Sonic 1.0 springs only with new oil. Huge improvement.

I've lost weight down to 250 and still like it, just use less preload.Added a 13.4kg rear spring from Procycle and my loaded sag is always less than 2" with preloads at position 1. Hard bags on with a light load and 1 1/2" sag makes the bike corner carve very well. Add in the adventure tech fork brace and some alloy handle bars and feel a new bike. Light load sag is 1 3/8" with nothing in the bags. Still rides good so I don't bother reducing preload for the occasional light load, almost always have loaded luggage.

Springs are around $250 shipped.

Fork oil is about $10 or use ATF or Hydro oil etc..

Fork brace is around $60

Equals a very pleasing ride if you choose the right rear spring rate. My forks are doing fine, front tire doesn't even cup anymore. Being mostly on pavement I guess there is no need for gold valves. The front sticks well as is, but I haven't needed more than two lines of preload, more weight or more off pavement could make me want gold valves I guess. I'm happy with just the springs so far. Nice well planted firm ride. Haven't had any cupping issues, but I haven't gone through a rear tire with the new spring yet. So far, it looks like the tires are wearing great.
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