High on the long list of things to be done to the bike in preparation for the trip was upgrading the suspension, since it is one of the components that is going to suffer more due to the weight the bike will be carrying and the condition of the roads and dirt tracks I will be travelling through.
I had had a crash nine months ago and as a result of that the fork had bent. A friend of mine who had just opened a workshop managed to straighten it again and it was fine for on road riding, no vibration, no strange behaviour, but the repair was noticeable and I did not want to take the risk of putting a fork in such state to the test on the roads in Mongolia, so I decided to replace the bars, and since I was going to take the whole thing apart in the process, replace the springs as well.
I had originally intended to get all this suspension work done at the workshop, but I was lucky enough to find a pair of second-hand bars through the owner’s website in Spain, and then I thought that by doing the work myself I would save a lot of money, so I studied the service manuals and a good tutorial I found on the internet and got down to it.
I got a set of stiffer, progressive springs made by HyperPro from Touratech. It included front and rear springs and fork oil. Annoyingly, it only included a litre of oil, and a V-Strom needs 538 ml of oil per tube, so a litre was not enough and I had to buy another litre… I also bought inner seals and dust seals.
Taking the fork out of the bike was quite a straightforward task. I put it on a few blocks of wood under the engine block to lift the front wheel off the ground and proceeded to remove all the necessary parts, which was easier than I expected. The front wheel comes off after loosening the bolt at the bottom of the right bottle and removing the axe/bolt, The brake calipers are held in place by four bolts that came off easily, leaving them hanging on the brake lines and then I just had to remove the rest of parts attached to the suspension bottles, which included brake lines, speed and ABS sensor cables and the mudguard.
The former were a matter of removing a few small screws, the latter took a bit more work. It is possible to remove the front mudguard of a V-Strom without removing the fork, but it is hard and you risk scratching or worse, cracking it. So the easier way (and the one recommended in the workshop manual) is to loosen one suspension arm and remove it while holding the mudguard to prevent it from falling on the floor, and then it comes out easily.
After that I removed the other arm and had them ready to be taken apart and rebuilt.
Once they were out I saw that the accident damage was very obvious and I was glad I had decided to change them.
I unscrewed the suspension preload assembly from the top of both arms, took the old springs out and poured the oil into a plastic tray.
Then I removed the dust seals with a couple of small screwdrivers and the rings that hold the inner seals in place.
After that, the only thing left to do was to remove the bolts that hold the bottom of the suspension arms in place and prevent them from coming out. I had read that this was the hard part, as sometimes the arm might turn with the bolt, making it necessary to introduce a special tool into the bottle to hold everything in place (you can’t clamp the arm, as it is aluminium and therefore very easy to damage), but I had no problem and both bolts came out without offering any resistance.
Now the arms were ready to be taken out of the bottles. It is just a matter of pulling out hard and suddenly. I had previously taken apart the second-hand fork I had bought, so I just had to take the arms from that one, fit all the seals and put everything back together.
The other hard part is pushing the seals into place, and again, a specific tool is required, but I just manufactured one using a PVC pipe. It worked great!
Once everything was in place and well screwed together, I filled each tube with the required amount of fork oil, pumped the air out, dropped the new springs inside and put the preload assembly back on top of everything. Now they were ready to be put back on the bike!
However, since I had removed the brake callipers, I took the chance to replace the brake pads as well, as they were quite worn out and it was something I did not want to have to carry with me on the road, so I changed both front and back brake pads.
And as usual, one thing leads to another… Both tyres needed replacing as well, and trying to find a good deal on the internet, I ran into a guy from the owner’s club who had had a write-off with his almost new bike, and I got a pair of Michelin Anakee 2 with only 3,000 km on them. As I was also looking for a new rear brake disc and the guy didn’t feel like removing the tyres from the rims, I got the whole assembly thrown into the deal, which was great! I also bought a fuel pump from him, just in case, as it is not the kind of thing you can easily find in the middle of nowhere and they are quite expensive. I still have to find the time to fit it and test it. I’ll report when it’s done.
One last thing I needed to do was to replace the rear spring, but since my bike has quite high mileage, I also wanted to do something about the shock absorber. This is the part that will suffer more on a trip like this, so I started looking at what choices I had. Replacing it for a better one was horribly expensive, so I got a new spring and found a guy that rebuilt it for a fraction of the price. Now it is as good as new and with a stiffer spring. Removing the rear shock and preload adjust set from the bike was not an easy task though. To do this you’re supposed to remove the preload adjuster knob, but the bolt was in very bad condition and it was impossible, so I had to take half the bike apart and then twist, push, swear and swat to make it fit through the rear sub-frame.
Once it was out I was able to put it on a proper work surface and replace that bolt. Putting everything back in was a much easier task.
At this point the bike had been off the road for over a week and as you can imagine, I was itching to go for a ride and test it. It was bound to feel completely different with new tyres, suspension and brakes! It did not disappoint, it feels like a new bike.