New rider: how can I tell if bike is set up well?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Yakima, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. Yakima

    Yakima DL 650

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    I rebuilt my bike, an 85 honda Nighthawk. 650 with shaft drive. It's enough bike for me and my budget.
    I've rebuilt the top end--no more burning oil--and installed Progressive springs front and rear.
    I've been riding three years and have a couple long trips under my belt. (1000 and 3000 mile journeys)
    Here's my question:
    How can I determine if things are properly set up on my bike with nothing to compare to and so few miles of experience to draw on?
    For example, tire pressure or shock preload: just experiment? Even then I don't have enough experience to say "That's better" or "That's worse."
    Suggestions?
    #1
  2. andmoon

    andmoon Long timer

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    Ballpark is to get sag to about 1/3 of total travel.

    80's non sporting bike....if she doesn't weave you're in the ballpark!:D
    #2
  3. bluegreen

    bluegreen Adventurer

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    People on here are going to argue about a ton of stuff in this thread, it may involve Rossi, Stoner etc.

    Here's my 2 cents:

    http://www.amazon.com/Techs-Motorcycle-Suspension-Motorbooks-Workshop/dp/0760331405

    Buy it, read it , learn from it. Leaning how things work is a big step towards getting them to work better. After a while, you will know when your bike is set up well. What's it's doing good and what needs improvement.
    #3
  4. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    Look at your manual and set your suspension according to it. If you have adjustable suspension, pick sport settings. Later on you'll have a better sense for what you want.
    #4
  5. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Long timer

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    What adjustment capability do you have on that bike? I have no iea, but I can't imagine the suspension is very sophisticated.
    #5
  6. KG6BWS

    KG6BWS Been here awhile

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    IMO, if you like the way it rides and handles....its setup well.
    #6
  7. JRP

    JRP Old guy

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    I would guess preload is about it. 30mm to 35mm of sag should be about right.
    #7
  8. Dan-M

    Dan-M Long timer

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    What bluegreen said.

    Study and do as much set up as possible. Unfortunately there is not much adjustability on that bike.
    If it is sprung for your weight and sag is where it should be, I think you have done all you can.
    A lot of older bikes used to benefit from a fork brace if you can still find one for it.
    #8
  9. O.C.F.RIDER

    O.C.F.RIDER Loose nut behind h/bars

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    Try to talk to some crusty old fart that's been riding forever (NOT Harley's), and see if he'll take a peek at your bike and give you his 2 cents.

    Chris
    #9
  10. kimber45

    kimber45 I'm over it.

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    does it handle well and feel comfortable?

    if so it's set up right. :1drink
    #10
  11. hippiebrian

    hippiebrian Long timer

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    You've done 1000 and 3000 mile trips. Comfy? Happy? You're set up! Less thinkin', more ridin'!
    #11
  12. Moronic

    Moronic Long timer

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    ^^^ This.
    #12
  13. PT Rider

    PT Rider Been here awhile

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    Sag is the amount the bike settles down on it's suspension when you get aboard loaded and ready to ride. As said above, set the sag at about 1/3 of the total suspension travel. The purpose is so you're riding in about the middle of the suspension travel to minimize the chance of topping out or bottoming out. Sag is set with the preload adjustments. Preload does not change the suspension stiffness. If there is no external preload adjustment on the forks, then you need to change the length of the spacers atop the springs to get the right sag for your weight.

    Tire pressure is a subject good for eternal debate. The lowest allowable pressure is the recommended pressure on the original sticker on the bike, if the sticker is still there, or if you can find that data somewhere. Many think this, or a couple of psi higher is the correct pressure. The highest allowable is the max pressure listed on the sidewall. Many think this is the correct pressure, and it can be used, but it actually is the minimum pressure required to carry the max load that tire is rated to carry. Start with the original factory recommendations, try that, raise it a couple of psi, try that, raise again, etc., and see what gives you the best result. Tires must flex a bit to get warm for good traction. Too low air lets them flex too much, wear fast, maybe flex way too much get too hot and fail. To high might not let them flex enought in cold weather to warm for good traction. The tire is your first bump absorber, and max air on a rough road gives a harsh ride. Cornering feel and traction will vary with pressure, so see what feels good to you.
    #13
  14. tvpierce

    tvpierce Been here awhile

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    Does your '85 have air-adjustable front forks? If so, proper adjustment makes a HUGE difference in handling. It's also quite difficult to get correct because it's very low volume and pressure -- practically impossible if you're only source of air is at the corner gas station.
    #14
  15. Yakima

    Yakima DL 650

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    Helpful suggestions. Thanks guys.
    Yes, the front forks take air. If memory serves (it sometimes does) the max is 6 PSI. Guys on the nighthawk forum are almost uniformly against adding air. No serious rationale for that.
    My problem is I don't know "good" from "gooder." I've taken trips, but have no basis of comparison. My first bike was a 74 Suzuki two stroke 250, upon which I also did multiple-day journeys. Compared to the Suzy my Nighthawk is fantastic in many ways. Could it be more so, and, if so, how can I tell?
    I don't know any riders around here except a couple of HD guys. THey ride when the sun is out, in full costume/uniform, and look away when I ride by. The FJR rider I travel with knows about the same as I do about bikes. He likes stock. I like tweaking.
    Just ride the bike? That's what I'm doing. But I do wonder if it can be made better.
    Thanks again for the suggestions. I'll chase them down.
    #15
  16. tvpierce

    tvpierce Been here awhile

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    In my experience that's very bad advice. On my previous '81 CB750, '85 Interceptor, and my friend's current '85 1100 Sabre, if there's no air in the forks, the bikes feel extraordinarily heavy, and will "dive" into turns: meaning once you start a turn, you have to apply pressure to the bars to keep the bike from turning in harder. And God help you if you encounter a bump mid-corner -- that's a show-stopper. Get 6 - 8 psi of air in the forks, and it will feel like a different bike altogether: like you trimmed 100 pounds off it, and it will handle nicely.

    The tricky part is getting just 6-8 pounds of pressure. A hand pump works best.
    #16
  17. tvpierce

    tvpierce Been here awhile

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    Oops... duplicate post.
    #17
  18. Dan-M

    Dan-M Long timer

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    I agree with typierce here. The trouble with air assist is the air pressure squeezes the seals on the tubes and increases stiction.

    IMO proper sag outweighs some increased stiction.
    If the installed springs allow good sag without air you don't need to add it. Usually though, bikes with air assist were undersprung from the factory.
    #18
  19. Yakima

    Yakima DL 650

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    I've put new Progressive springs front and rear. But my problem persists: I can read about how a bike should handle, but my butt doen't know the difference.
    #19
  20. O.C.F.RIDER

    O.C.F.RIDER Loose nut behind h/bars

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    I've got a '84 1000 Interceptor with the dreaded "air forks" and I beg to differ with the previous poster regarding air pressure in the forks. I put in stiffer springs and I run ZERO pressure at all times. In fact, I very often will bleed the pressure that naturally builds in them, just like I do on my 525. There are "bleeders"made just for that! The stock springs in these older bikes were VERY lame, and they tried all sorts of (at the time) cutting edge BS like the air and the not so fondly remember "anti-dive" set-ups.

    Chris
    #20