January 31, 2012

Winter Project 2011.2 Design Brief: Re-cycle, Re-new, Re-use!

The Subject:


When creating something, it's important to have vision. So many great ideas are corrupted by time, complacency, and lack of focus and/or appreciation. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted my next bike to be, but like all projects, it would be an exercise of compromises. Very rarely does anything turn out exactly as imagined, or exactly as planned. Because of this, I renewed my mental resolve to take as few shortcuts and compromise as little as possible when building my bike. I did not want to ever think, "Ahh, it's good enough.". I wanted to hone my skills further, through practice, and finish what I started. Here's the rough design brief about the bike I was to create.

My Goal:

Keep it clean, keep it subtle, make it appear factory built but lighter and stronger wherever possible. Keep the giant frame a dominant feature with its gorgeous welds. Keep the chassis/suspension all Honda/Showa, but upgrade it to current levels of performance . . . or beyond.

First things first, though. The Fireblade was leaking quite badly from it's left fork tube - so much so that the radiator was clogged with mung and the front brakes (pads and rotors) were saturated with oil. The gearing had been altered from stock, with the ubiquitous -1 +2 sprocket changes. I would have been fine with this . . . but even this simple mod was done incorrectly on this bike, with a 530 chain running on 525 pitch sprockets. All fixable, fortunately.


I rebuilt the forks one evening, and changed the fork fluid spec and height. With the front end feeling much firmer, I threw on some old SS brakelines and ground the original pads down until they were clean. I would have just replaced the pads, but I knew I would be replacing the front end in due time, and I wanted to spend the project funds in the best way possible. eBay!

The stock california exhaust was a one piece mild steel header, painted black. Owing to the elements, it had begun to show rust at the welds and was in general, unsightly. I quickly found a 49-state version from a '98-'99 model, which was stainless steel but heavily corroded. Several hours with various grits of sandpaper and some polishing compound and it was ready to be fitted.


Once I'd been able to ride the bike a bit and adjust the suspension to my liking (easier because of the very compliant carcass of the Pirelli's on the bike), I disassembled the carbs for a thorough cleaning and inspection. To my surprise, there was already a Dynojet kit installed in the bike, and I used the adjustable needles to my advantage by performing some "top secret works mods" to the bank. After the new header was fitted (with shortened Yoshimura can), I sync'd the carbs with this handy Motion Pro carburetor tool. I chopped the can with a bandsaw because the previous owner had dropped the bike on both sides and it was scraped up and slightly dented. I removed the offending bits and got a little bit of that "street punk" attitude, haha.


I then built some carbon fiber engine guards for the alternator and clutch.


They fit nicely with some industrial strength 3M automotive body molding adhesive tape, and are reinforced/backed with carbon kevlar for extra abrasion resistance.


At this point, I had also changed the grips (probably the first thing I do with every bike I come across). I rode it in this configuration for several months, feeling out the engine character and the torsional rigidity of the beautifully welded frame. What a great bike!

But would I be capable of changing it for the better? Depends on your definition of better.

We shall see :)

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