Saturday 26 December 2020

Triumph Tiger 955i Fork Reassembly and Installation

I was looking at nearly $70CAD to get the 'special Triumph Tool' for tightening the locking nut on the triple tree.  That special tool consists of two bits of machined metal the same thickness as the nuts and seem absurdly expensive for what they are (maybe they're made out of gold and I'm just being stingy).

My cunning plan was to get a set of big deep sockets ($66 from Amazon) and an adjustable slip nut wrench from Canadian Tire for $16.  For twelve bucks more than the bizarro Triumph tool I'd get a socket set of sizes I don't have (29-38mm!) and a weird adjustable wrench for thin big nuts that didn't cost me nearly seventy bucks.  I had to take a millimetre off the slip nut wrench thickness wise, then it fit like a charm.  The long socket fits over the top of the triple tree so I was able to tighten the top 38mm nut against the one underneath using my improvised kit that cost a bit more but included 8 other hard to find big, deep sockets.

It worked a charm and held the lower nut tight while I dropped the big'old 38mm socket on the top one and tightened against it.  If I ever need a big weird thin adjustable wrench I have one in the toolbox now.

The steering always felt fine but having cleaned up all the bearings and put a not-stingy-factory amount of grease on there before putting it all back together has made it silky smooth by comparison.  The bearings were in good shape after a visual inspection but the cleanup and heavy greasing have really improved things.

I put the gaitors back on the forks.  I initially thought I'd have to replace them but a soak and scrub in hot, soapy water followed by a drenching in ArmorAll seems to have brought them back to life.  They were kinking where they shouldn't and were starting to look untidy, but the scrub/soak means I should get at least another year or two out of them, which is good because they aren't cheap and they're bloody hard to find.

The rejuvenated forks with new 15 weight oil (I'm 6'3" and 240lbs) look fantastic back on the bike.  It always surprises me how dark and opaque the fork oil is when I empty it out after a couple of years use.  It might not be dealing with combustion but it's still got a tough life.  I think a 2 year rotation of fork oil is going to be the new normal.

With the top clamp out I couldn't help but want to have a go at the spotty paint on it.  I'd hand painted some flat black rust paint on it a few years ago when it started to get scabby (it has a tough life over engine heat and with keys and other things banging off it).  That flat black was a quick fix and bugged me since I see it a lot in the saddle. While it was out I was able to mask off the top clamp and paint it up - disco blue metallic.  Why be dull.  Looks great with all the cleaned up fasteners, and it'll match my repainted hand covers (which I still have to hand paint some magic back on).

Next up is installing the Hel brake line kit I've got waiting to go in (Bike Magazine convinced me that anything this old shouldn't be depending on old, factory rubber lines).  The Tiger was due a brake fluid change anyway so it's a cost cut into regular maintenance.

The Hel lines come fantastically packaged (many stickers!) and include all the bits and pieces you need to install them.  Next up will be draining the brake lines and upgrading them, then the front end can go back together.

In other news, I got the old tires off with the spoons.  I'd describe this as more trouble than it's worth - next time I'll go see Lloyd at my local motorcycle shop and have him do them.  I couldn't get the new tires on the rim so I took them in to school and our auto-shop teacher gave me a hand mounting the new ones (new inner tubes too).  That was problematic too as we couldn't get the rear to sit on the bead (it stuck on the inner one).  I was finally able to get it to pop on with 60psi and some soapy water at home.  All that to say the tires are ready to go back on too.

Once the front brake lines are on I'll rebuild the front end and it'll be fully updated and /or maintenanced.  It'll then be time to do the same thing with the back end.  It'll be my first swing arm and rear suspension service so I'll be learning as I go.

There is some good advice on Tiger servicing at   He did Hagon shocks on his Tiger (a good future project) and he has a lot of helpful tips on there too, for example: the Haynes manual suggests removing the exhaust but he suggests removing the swingarm and rear shock together, which I need to do anyway if I'm going to service it.

Those Hagon shocks can be custom built to rider size, which will help me since I'm not in the average size range.  I just had a look at the site and they'll do me two custom front shocks and a rear shock for about £1000 (about $1750 Canadian).  If the Tiger becomes a life-long bike I'll make that commitment.  It's not cheap but it's still less than three new car payments (or a new bike).  That they're customized and include life long warranties and repairs is useful on a long term machine.

With any luck I'll have the front end sorted and reassembled by the end of next week while I'm off work.  I can then get into the swingarm and rear chassis maintenance over our January COVID lockdown.  It's good to be busy in the garage when I can't be travelling and riding during this long, strange and stressful winter.

I'd rather be doing this, but working on the thing that lets me do this makes the riding gratifying as well as thrilling.  The deep familiarity I'm gaining with long term ownership is next level.

FOLLOW UP:  It all went back together nicely.  I'm on to swingarm and rear suspension maintenance next.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Triumph Tiger 955i Steering Column/Triple Tree Maintenance

I finally got the top clamp of the 2003 Triumph Tiger's steering column off yesterday.  After undoing everything it did not let go of its own volition and I had to apply some heat to the central spindle and top clamp housing to let loose.  Nothing crazy, just grazing it with a propane torch until it warmed up nicely (nothing glowing) and then I was able to spin the top clamp in relation to the centre steering pin (the forks are out).

With the top clamp rotating (if it has been sitting in your Tiger for a while don't expect it to be loose), I was eventually able to persuade it upwards off the centre spindle with a rubber mallet.  The top clamp came off and the two nuts that hold the centre rod in place were accessible (they're visible but inaccessible under the handlebars usually).  For a 17 year old bike with over 80k kms on it nothing about these difficulties came as a surprise.

Those locking nuts are big'uns, 38mm!  The long centre post they're on means you're going to have a tricky time getting a ratchet on them (38mm long socket?).  They aren't tight though and I was able to loosen them with an adjustable wrench.

I supported the triple tree (the bottom half of the steering structure) with one hand while undoing the nuts but the bottom end didn't fall out - it's a snug enough fit and what grease was left in there was holding everything together.  A gentle tap on the centre spindle and it all came out the bottom smoothly though.  I don't know the last time anyone was in there, but I've had the Tiger for almost 4 years and thirty thousand kilometres so it was high time I got in there myself.  Judging by the stingy amount of grease in there I'd guess no one has done the steering on the Tiger before (factories are famous for being stingy on grease when manufacturing bikes).

The bearings still had some grease on them (the brown/grey stuff is grease), but not much.  No one's been in there recently:

... once I cleaned it up the bearings were in good shape and turned freely:

... even the tube that holds the steering column is nice and rust free.  After a good cleanup I reassembled everything with a liberal greasing using the Mobil HP222 stuff Triumph suggests.

That Mobil XHP 222 grease is what Triumph recommends.  I found it on Amazon.

Here are some torque settings for a 955i Triumph Tiger's steering system:

Triumph Tiger 955i Steering Torque Settings:

  • Steering Stem Nut:  65Nm (50 ft/lbs)
  • Fork clamp bolts (top yoke):  20Nm (14.75 ft/lbs)
  • Handlebar clamp bolts:  26Nm (19.2 ft/lbs)
note: there is no torque setting on the two nuts that lock together under the handlebar.  The directions I'm following say to hand tighten the top nut, then tighten it down a bit more to seat the bearings, then back it off a touch.  You then lock the second nut to the first.  The idea is to seat the bearings and keep everything a set distance apart so the bearings spin freely. Making them too tight will make for stiff steering and will wear your bearings out sooner.

Some other points of interest are these bolts that hold the horn and front brake lines onto the triple tree.  They're a bugger to take off and were another part that needed some heat to get moving.

The other complication that I should probably look at as a benefit is discovering worn wiring and cabling.  The back of the clutch cable and the ignition wiring are both wearing through and would have ended up causing annoying problems down the line, but I can resolve them as part of this maintenance pretty easily.  I'm going to slip some heat shrink electrical cover over both breaks and heal them up before they become a problem.

Next steps will be to reinstall a shock to line up the triple tree with the top clamp and then do the fork oil.  Once the shocks are serviced, I'll put the whole shebang back together again and turn to the back end where I've got to work my way through a swingarm removal and rear suspension service before putting that all back together.  I hope that goes as well as this with all the parts still being serviceable.  Trying to get parts in during COVID19 isn't always a sure thing.

It's coming up on Xmas here, so if I can have all that done by the end of February I'll be in good shape for the coming riding season.

Other big-spa checklist items on the Tiger are:  a coolant change, new brake lines and brake fluid changes and another look at the fuel injection system to see if I can clean the injectors and balance them better.  My work in the summer solved the stalling issue, but the bike feels a bit sluggish, though that might be because it's being compared to a Fireblade.

An old bike that I run high mileage on it means lots of work to do while the snow falls outside.  In this winter of our Covid-discontent it's good to have a lot of things to do in the garage so I don't go cabin crazy.

Possible needed-things list:
Triumph's 'thin wrench' is a basic
thing that seems astonishingly
for what it is.  DIY is
a possible alternative.

  • A narrow angle adjustable wrench:  CT has one that goes up to 3 inches (76mm, so it'll handle the 38mm locking nut).  I'm hoping my narrow angle vice grip will hold the bottom nut while I tighten the top one.You'd need the Triumph special thin spanner tool T3880140 for adjusting it with the handlebars installed, but I'm hoping I can sort it out while I'm in there and not need it.  Paying $60 odd dollars for a bit of machined steel is a bit rich.  I suspect I could get our metal-shop teacher at work to fabricate me a couple of them for nothing (I fix his computers for him so it's a barter exchange).
  • big enough electrical heat-shrink to cover the clutch cable rub through.  I think I have it and I don't want to use tape as it looks half assed.

Sunday 20 December 2020

Bygone Motorcycle Advertising And Graphic Design

 I've been frequently digging up old pre and post World War 2 motorcycle details for THE BOOK.  This often involves advertising.  The time when something came out is as unique a culture as where it came out.  These are some of my favourites from Pinterest that present a bygone era of cultural influence...

I cleaned this one up and printed it on a poster for the garage.

Going to try and make a custom t-shirt out of this one...

Not mid-Twentieth Century, but has some cool 70's vibes to it.

There are a whole pile of good English & French ones to be found on the Old Thumpers Wordpress site.

Amazon et Machina is a series of graphic prints by Señor Mayor that uses historical motorbikes with iconic women. My fav is Diana Rigg on a Brough Superior, but they're all fantastic...