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.