rdpsychoby Lee Meyer

Early Winter Hysteria…

Repairing the Damage

Updating the outdated


Well, well, the deep freeze is upon us. There is no denying it now. All hope is gone. We’ll have no decent riding weather until April or maybe June, if next spring goes anything like the last one. But don’t forget about the machine that gives you the grins all summer. Now is the time to be giving it some attention to prepare for the many miles to come next year.

What to do? What to do?… If you are a hard core rider (ten thousand miles or better per season), your bike has been telling you in its own little ways. “What to do” is more like “when to do it.”

This year, I managed to log about six thousand miles on my ZX-11. These are considerably fewer than my usual, but they were brutal miles. I rode this thing as hard as I could and as often as time would permit. It is time to pay the piper.

Due to a little low-speed mishap involving antifreeze, the road and a locked-up front tire, I need a wee bit of body work and a paint job. As long as I’m at it, I may as well powder coat the frame and swing arm and change my standard white-on-black gauges to black-on-white like the cool, Euro-bikes. Neat-o. I located a gauge guy who is fairly sure he is up to the job.

As long as the thing is in a zillion pieces, I think I’ll rebuild the forks installing new springs and better valving. An Ohlins rear shock is also the subject of deep thoughts.

Brakes are a good thing. Better brakes are a really good thing. The summer of torment left its mark on the ZX’s brakes. Aggressive sport riding and drag racing have turned the front rotors into warped scrap metal. They must be tossed. Aftermarket cast iron rotors are the best choice. They have exceptional stopping power and are nearly impossible to warp. At about $500.00 for the set, they are not cheap, but they are really not too much more than factory parts.

This is, of course, a tad more than I really planned on doing this winter, but, oooh, I’ll have a practically new bike this spring!

Okay, enough gibberish about my ordeals. Let’s go over something you can and probably should do this winter. Factory brake lines on nearly every bike made just plain suck. Rubber lines are soft and spongy–ick. The older these lines get, the mushier they become. Give that old KZ1000’s lever a squeeze and see what I mean. They gotta go. Stainless steel braided lines end the mushiness forever.

Aftermarket lines are available for many bikes, especially Harleys and sport bikes. Check your local shop for lines that fit your model. If nothing is available, you can have stainless lines custom made. Midwest Cycle Supply is the one spot in town that does this.

If you plan to install these yourself, use a brake bleeder or vacuum pump to drain the brake system of as much fluid as possible before you disassemble the works. This will minimize the chance of fluid spills. Brake fluid is very corrosive and will ruin paint in a speedy manner.

If you are going the custom made route, you will need to bring your old brake lines into the shop to be copied in braided stainless. Measurements alone will not do. Stainless lines are stiff and will scarcely flex or twist. The fittings must be installed perfectly, or the new lines may fit poorly and bind. To get the best fit possible, bring your machine into the shop and have the new lines laid in next to the old ones on the bike.

You do have some choices in new brake lines: plain braided stainless or vinyl or plastic coated braided stainless. Raw, uncovered stainless braid looks pretty cool, but if it rubs against anything, it will saw right through it. Coated braid solves this problem and gives you a choice of colors. I chose black for my ZX. They look nice and won’t hacksaw spendy body work.

Installing the goods is as easy as disassembly. Use new crush washers on the fittings and don’t over-tighten the bolts. A stripped-out caliper is no fun.

Brake bleeding is a bit more difficult. A vacuum pump or power bleeder will make this task much easier and save you lots-o-time. If you don’t have access to such an animal, plan to spend and hour or two and do it the old-fashioned way. Attach a piece of aquarium air line or other clear tubing to the bleeder valve on the caliper. Drop the other end into a can or jar. You will be able to see any air bubbles coming out of the lines in the tubing. Fill the reservoir or master cylinder with the correct brake fluid for your bike; pump the lever a bunch; hold the lever, and crack open the bleeder valve. Don’t release the lever until you retighten the bleeder valve. Keep the reservoir full and covered, or it may squirt fluid in your face. Repeat this whole process until you achieve a good brake feel and no more air comes out of the bleeder.

If you are a Twister® champion, you can accomplish this all by your lonesome. If you can’t even touch your toes or you have a chopper with an eight foot fork, get a buddy to help. Be prepared to buy beers, because this may take a while. Be patient!

This little project will cost about $35.00 per line if you install them yourself. Installation at a shop will cost about $40.00 per line.

Your brakes will be much better, but be careful on your first ride next spring. Don’t grab a huge handful of brakes and go sailing over the handlebars! Take it easy, and get used to them.

I have work to do, and, now, so do you. I’ll keep you up to date on my project. Don’t freeze to death. See ya.



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