That ain’t a cheap oil change, but as expensive as it is,
it’s way cheaper than rebuilding a motor.
In a previous life I was an automotive technician and then service manager at a Quaker State shop. For a few years there I was right up on my lubricants. That background makes me very conscious of my motorbike fluid habits. One of my standing rules when I put away a motorcycle for the winter is to change the oil before I do it. You watch someone like Nick Sanders ride up and down the Americas for tens of thousands of kilometres and you wonder how his Yamaha looked like it had barely been used at the end of it:
Engines are designed to be running. The very worst thing you could do is start and stop an engine over and over again (like we all do every day). In the case of Sander’s epic rides from Alaska to Argentina and back, while what the Yamaha did was astonishing, the fact that the engine was in good shape shouldn’t have been a surprise. It was barely ever allowed to cool down. Oils become acidic and moisture seeps in as things continually heat up and cool down. Leaving old oil in your engine over the winter isn’t doing it any favours. Swapping out contaminated oil for clean oil before you put it away is a great idea, so your engine isn’t soaking in the bad stuff. Swapping it again in the spring is just a waste of money. Oil doesn’t go bad sitting, but once you’re into the heat up cool down cycle again keep an eye on your mileage, and keep up on your oil changes, your engine will appreciate it. Chemistry is where the big advances are happening nowadays. Today’s oils have astonishing temperature ranges and abilities. Here are some links on what’s going on with lubricants: ift.tt/2foVjAW ift.tt/1XixINJ ift.tt/1aUeBGc ift.tt/2f713eK ift.tt/2foVlc2
Dave Hatch’s Motorcycle Experience is doing a series on how to store a motorcycle over the winter (or for any extended period). The first bit is on how to prepare and look after your tires while the snow flies outside:
So, make sure they are clean and at maximum pressure when you put the bike away, and move the bike every once in a while to prevent the tire from settling on one spot. It was interesting what Warren Milner, the tire expert, said about what super sticky sport bike tires can do in extreme cold. It’s an issue with all super sticky tires evidently.
I’ve never monkeyed with the suspension on the Tiger, but since I’m a 250lber and I ride 2-up with my son who’s an easy 130lbs, I thought I’d look into setting the suspension before our 1500km round-Huron trip. A kindly Dubliner on Triumphrat had a copy of the owner’s manual page that explains how to set the Tiger’s rear suspension. A two-up loaded bike should be spring pre-load set to the highest setting (5), while the rebound damping should be set three clicks out from all the way in.
Making the changes was pretty straightforward. The spring pre-load adjuster is easily accessible under the seat. The numbers on it are bit tricky to see, but you can quickly set the pre-load to the desired setting once you find them at the bottom of the cylinder. The rebound damping adjuster is at the bottom of the shock and easily accessible. Turning it in until it was snug was straight forward and the clicks are loud and easily detectable. Turning it out three clicks was an obvious process. I took the bike for a ride today to get gas and prep for the trip. It feels firmer, less bouncy and taller than before. I’m enjoying the change. Once back I set the tyre pressures to 36psi front and 42psi back and looked over the tires for any issues. I’ve spent the rest of the day packing as if for a portage canoe trip (packing for a long bike ride is similar). While out and about I stopped in at Two Wheel Motorsport and picked up an Airhawk. I’d been thinking about getting one anyway after the nasty case of monkey-butt I got riding it to The Bruce last week. The gel pad I was using gets moved to the pillion seat, so everyone gets a seat upgrade. Airhawk pricing is a bit baffling. The tiny dual-sport seat (11.5″ deep x11″ wide) cost $230, the much larger medium cruiser seat pad (14″ x 14″) costs $148. We tried out the medium cruiser sized one and it fit the Tiger seat better anyway, so I saved myself eighty bucks and purchased the larger pad. (?) I’ll give an update after I put an intensive 1500kms in unbelievable heat on it. While I was under the seat I found the height settings on it, so I moved it up one from minimum. It might quickly find its way to the top setting, but middle with the Airhawk has already relaxed my knees dramatically, just in time for a Great Lake ride-around.
Now that I’m off a shaft driven bike, I’m back into the black magic that is chain geometry! A trip to Gearing Commander has me working out the details of an ’03 Triumph Tiger 955i’s chain and sprockets. The stock set is a 18T (eighteen tooth) front sprocket and a 46T (forty-six tooth) rear sprocket. The chain is a 530-50 114.
A number of riders suggested a 19T (nineteen tooth) front sprocket to calm the bike down a bit. The chain and sprockets are happy right now, but when it finally comes to a change, I think I’ll go the 19T way. Motorbike sprockets run backwards from bicycle ones – the smaller sprocket is attached to the engine, so the more teeth, the bigger the gearing.
LINKS & CHAIN INFORMATION
The 530 114 chain on the Tiger has a pitch of 5/8 of an inch (the 5 is 5 x ⅛” – a 4 series chain would be 4 x ⅛” or half an inch of pitch). Five-eighths pitch chains have a roller diameter of 0.400″. The 30 part of the 530 refers to roller width, which in this case is 3 x ⅛” or 3/8th of an inch. A 520 chain would have a roller width of 2 x ⅛”, or a quarter of an inch. If you want to understand chain sizes, get a handle on that rule of 8 (all the numbers refer to eighths of an inch).
The 114 refers to the number of links in the chain (its length).
A fifty dollar US ($300CDN) magnetic oil drain plug.
Triumph magnetic oil drain plugs. M14x1.5×16 (that’s a metric 14mm width, 1.5mm distance between the threads, 16 mm long drain plug). Entertaining Triumph oil drain plug banter (and the idea to put hard drive magnets on your oil filter, which is what I’m doing instead of ordering an expensive custom drain plug from The States). The Tiger has been using a bit of oil (which is evidently within spec) but I don’t know what the previous owner’s mechanic put in it – putting in not Mobil 1 Synthetic (which Triumph states is the preferred oil) would be a great way to make money on an oil change. If I swap in the good stuff, then I know what’s in it. I’m also putting on a K&N oil filter with a higher spec than the stock one and putting a couple of hard drive magnets on the bottom of it to catch any metal shavings dancing around in there. I did the oil change yesterday. I’ve done thousands of oil changes (it put me through university). If that oil was changed last fall I’m a monkey’s uncle. The Triumph filter on it had rust on it, the drain plug didn’t look like it had been taken off any time recently. Either the previous owner didn’t do it, or his mechanic lied to him. The oil was black and punky too, looking like it had been in there a long time.
With that all done I’ll now look to see how much oil I’m missing every thousand kilometres (it’s 3-400ml at the moment – but goodness knows what was in it or for how long). The moral here is change the oil when you buy a used bike – you can’t trust what happened before it was yours and oil is vital to keeping an engine running well. I’m looking forward to seeing what new, correct oil does for the bike moving forward. Other than keeping it shiny and lubricating cables and controls, there isn’t much more needs doing. It’s supposed to be a beautiful long weekend. I’m hoping to get out for some time on my very orange Tiger in my very orange Tiger shirt.