Adventures in Suspension, Suzuki Minor Meltdown and Kawasaki Electrical Healing Questions | Answers

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Adventures in Suspension
I just traded my Suzuki GSX-R750 for a BMW F800GS, which was probably the best decision I've made all year. While I have a decent understanding of how to set-up street suspension, this is the first bike I've ever owned that has any business in the dirt, so I'm trying to figure out if the pavement rules apply.

The fork feels too soft for my 210 lbs., but there's no external adjustment. Do I need new springs? Heavier-weight fork oil? The bike has street-legal knobbies, so I'll probably do at least half my riding in the dirt.
Joseph Ballard
Spokane, WA

An adventure bike’s longer-travel suspension requires a different modus operandi than you used to dial-in that GSX-R. Even with a full array of adjusters, the average adventure bike’s stock suspension is less than perfect, especially when it comes to off-road work. Paul Thede, head honcho at Race Tech ( gets this one a lot. “Your dirt setup will be slightly stiffer than what you use on the street,” Thede says, “but the truth is most of the bikes in this genre are far too soft for either type of riding. No matter which surface you favor, the setup can be significantly improved.

“We would set-up a streetbike with 30-40mm of static sag at both ends: about 1/3 of the total travel. On dirtbikes, the front gets around 60mm of static sag, with the rear at around 100mm: that’s 20 percent on the front and 33 percent in the rear. Because adventure bikes have more travel than street machines, you need to dial-in more sag. We’ve found most GS riders prefer about 45-50mm of static sag up front and 70-75mm in the rear: that’s about 20 percent of available travel up front and 33 percent in the rear; quite similar to a dirtbike setup

“Stock F800GS fork springs are .47 kg/mm, but we think you can use something around .90 kg/mm. That’s a good first step toward a better setup. Unfortunately, the stock Marzocchi fork uses sealed, non-rebuildable cartridges that cannot be revalved, so you’ll have to use replacement cartridges. The 800 is a great bike, and with just a few tweaks, it can be outstanding.”

Minor Meltdown
I have a 2006 Suzuki SV1000S and just changed the stator for the third time after purchasing a new battery in May. I checked the battery last week and found that the electrolyte had dried up, leaving sulfur buildup on the plates, so replaced the acid and charged the battery. I'm not sure if this was the cause of my problem, but I'm wondering if the heat from the rear cylinder could cause the battery to dry up, or did I just get a defective battery?
Warren Lilly
Brooklyn, NY

Extreme heat is the number-one killer of innocent electrical parts. And while that battery is certainly part of the problem, Suzuki’s tech types suspect a faulty regulator/rectifier is the most likely culprit. Your SV1000S left the factory with a sealed, maintenance-free, lead-calcium battery that carries most of its electrolyte in sections of glass mat. It would look pretty dry in there if you popped the cover, which would be Mistake Number One. The higher (1.32) specific gravity of said juice makes adding acid Mistake Number Two, although it sounds like the latest victim is an old-school lead-acid cell. Start the healing process with a fresh, properly charged, maintenance-free battery.

Suzuki recommends replacing the regulator/rectifier and stator, and testing your charging system with two multi-meters: one to measure voltage while the other measures amperage. Take measurements at initial start-up when the engine is cold, and again after it’s reached normal operating temperature. A healthy charging system should deliver about 13.5-14.5 volts DC to the battery terminals while indicating positive amperage, a.k.a. current flowing into the battery. If your SV doesn’t measure up, start looking for loose/damaged connections or a short-circuit elsewhere in the system.

Electrical Healing
We have a 2010 Kawasaki Nomad that was running just fine. Then we rode it approximately 20 miles and stopped. When we got back on, it wouldn't start. When we called the dealer, he told us to change the fuse. After doing that, I hit the starter and blew another fuse: three fuses total until we had our dealer pick it up.

He replaced the fuse and now it starts again. We were told they took the fuel tank off and checked the wiring, but found no other problems. Do you have any suggestions as to what the problem might be? We know the bike didn't fix itself.
Carol & Buddy Sours
Via e-mail

Kawasaki has no record of Vulcan 1700s healing themselves, but it could be a wire-harness issue. Remove the fuel tank again and check for pinched bits of wiring harness, then take another look at those blown fuses. If they’re blowing in the middle, it’s probably a dead short: a circuit with little or no resistance. A fuse that’s blown on the end indicates higher resistance. If your wiring harness isn’t pinched, start looking for a poor connection at any component or terminal elsewhere in the system.

What is the proper way to break-in a brand new motorcycle engine? My owner's manual says to avoid rapid acceleration and full-throttle starts for the first 300 miles, but there are plenty of conflicting opinions on the Web. What's the best way to break-in an engine for everyday street riding?

The Web is full of conflicting opinions on nearly everything, including the process of getting new engine internals acquainted without damaging levels of heat and friction. Your average owner’s manual provides more trustworthy advice. Taking it easy for a few hundred miles lets the piston rings seal against the cylinder walls, keeping engine oil out of the combustion process and vice versa. Avoid heavy loads or relentless high-rpm running, and never lug a fresh engine. Vary your rpm, shift gears and take frequent breaks to let things cool off. Those full-throttle, clutchless upshifts can wait until after your first oil change.