Motorcycle Tech: CB550 Fork Spring Upgrade

I recounted the tales of woe I experienced while riding this 1978 CB 550 to a two-day Kickstart Classic event in Alabama, within the CB550 rear shock upgrade. The suspension largely contributed to the woe in that tale and the ache in my back.

We upgraded the rear suspension by installing a set of Progressive Suspension 12 Series rear shocks and springs. In this issue, we’re installing a Progressive fork spring kit. The kit we’re installing is made specifically for this bike, but Progressive has tons of fork spring kits available for just about any make and model.

When deciding to upgrade the old or stock setup, there are several factors to consider: fork oil weight, progressive or standard springs (see step 8), or even rebuilding the entire fork. The front end on this bike had no oil leaks and moved nicely on the stock slides, so it didn’t require a complete overhaul. Not yet, at least.

Ride quality and perceived expectations from a new set of springs really come down to personal preference. I always refer to the owner’s manual or a well-trusted forum board to find the bike’s factory specs, then build off the stock platform. In this case, the old CB had a bouncy front end and tons of chatter. So, I wanted to slow down the rebound and soften up the forks. I used a new set of springs that were close to the factory spec, but a heavier-weight fork oil.

An important thing to note is that fork springs are under a tremendous amount of pressure, and the energy stored in a compressed spring can really pack a punch. So be aware of this and use caution when removing fork caps. Elevate the front tire and stay out of harm’s way when doing this. Enough talk—let’s get started on part two of the CB suspension upgrade.

10mm ratchet
S12mm ratchet
Adjustable wrench large

Progressive Suspension
Fork spring kit $97/#11-1106

Spectro Performance Oils
Spectro Fork Oil $12.99/SAE 10

Like we did in the rear shock installation (issue 219), prop up the bike, this time keeping the front wheel off the ground.
Remove the handlebar using a 12mm ratchet.
Remove the fork tube cap. We used an adjustable wrench to do this. The cap will be under pressure from the stock fork spring, so remove this with care, and keep your face well off target.
Remove the stock springs. The old coil should be easily accessible, no tools required.
Drain the old fork oil by removing a drain plug located on the bottom of each fork leg with a 10mm ratchet.
With the top fork cap and bottom drain plug removed, spray a fork oil cleaner like Spectro’s Suspension Cleaner in both the top and bottom of the tube, flushing out any built-up oil residue. You can also run an appropriately sized pipe brush through both tubes.
After both fork tubes have been cleaned and fully dried, reinstall the stock drain plug and copper crush washer.
Drop the new Progressive springs into each fork tube. As you can see, these coils get tighter at the top, making them progressive. If you’re installing springs like these, make sure the progressive end is at the top.
Add new fork oil. Check your owner’s manual for the appropriate oil weight and amount to add. We’re using a 10w Spectro fork oil and measuring using the bottle’s built-in graduated marks.
Reinstall the stock fork caps. This requires a bit of pressure. Take care not to cross-thread the caps when doing this; first rotate the cap counterclockwise until you feel it drop onto the threads, then tighten to the appropriate spec.
Reinstalling the handlebars with stock hardware using a 12mm ratchet.
This CB’s re-spring is completed and ready for the road. RC

Motorcycle Parts: Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

riding harley in the hills

Just in time for riding season, RevZilla has slashed prices on a bunch of lust-worthy parts and accessories.

Now that Daytona Bike Week 2022 is in the books, it’s official: riding season is here! Whether you’ve wheeled your Harley out of the garage yet or not, RevZilla has a ton of parts, accessories, and upgrades designed for you to get the most out of your bike.

If you’re tired of the same-old, same-old and ready to transform your baby into something new, RevZilla is the place to go. From performance bumps to style mods and even tools and garage gear, RZ just cut prices on a ton of products you need to make the most of your ride this year.

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save $46! Vance & Hines Fuelpak FP3 Autotuner For Harley 2011-2022

If you ride a fuel-injected Harley and are looking to boost horsepower and performance, start with a Fuelpak FP-3. This handy device is an essential tool for anyone with a modified Harley. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, making it simple to recalibrate a host of engine parameters, so if you change your pipes, get a new air cleaner, or perform any other performance upgrades, your fuel mapping is adjusted automatically. And it’s a fantastic diagnostic tool: through the Vance & Hines app you can see engine speed, RPM, fuel economy, power, torque, cylinder head temp, voltage, gear, speedo calibration, and other vital information. The FP-3 even reads and clears Diagnostic Trouble Codes and features three decel-pop reduction levels, to control backfires. Fits most Harleys with fuel injection—but choose carefully; Fuelpaks are non-returnable once opened and once connected, they become “married” to the VIN of the first bike they’re paired with, rendering them unusable on other motorcycles.

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save up to $77! Arlen Ness Smooth Stage 1 Big Sucker Air Cleaner Kit

The best-selling and most powerful air cleaner kit on the market, the Big Sucker is designed to give your v-twin maximum airflow for maximum performance. It features hidden breather backing plate technology, so the breathers are incorporated into the air cleaner housing itself, giving your bike a super-clean look. Each hidden breather has a sealing O-ring at the heads and exits at the carburetor or throttle body inlet to provide efficient internal engine pressure relief. It’s available in chrome billet aluminum or black steel, with Standard or synthetic jacketed filters. Made in the USA, there’s one to fit most Harleys, no matter the year or model.

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save up to $120! Progressive 970 Piggyback Shocks

Inspired by racers, riders, and those who demand more of their bikes than weekend coffee runs, the made-in-the-USA 970 Series shocks combine a high-pressure gas monotube design with deflective disc damping routed through two unique circuits. Designed for twin-shock Harleys like Dynas, Sportsters, and V-Rods, they’re adjustable for compression damping via an easily accessible knob and feature progressive-rate springs.

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save up to $28! Burly 1 1/4″ Jail Bars Handlebars

Get your fists up and your back straight with high-rising Burly Jail Bars. Tall and narrow, they’re constructed of 1.25-inch diameter steel and tapered to 1” at the ends, so OEM controls fit nicely. Jail Bars are dimpled and drilled for internal wiring, and the 3 1/2″ on-center uprights mount directly to your triple tree. Made with a strategically placed indent to accommodate your bike’s master cylinder. They’re available in a variety of heights, with 29″ width x 4″ pullback x 3 1/2″ on center risers. Made in the USA./

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save $24! Joker Machine Viewtech 5 Bullet Mirror

These aggressive mirrors look killer—they come in either black or chrome—and make on-the-road adjustments easy with a simple bolt-action adjuster. Once the Viewtech 5 is positioned, just a twist of a wrench keeps it at your desired setting. Convex mirror glass opens up the lanes behind you. The swivel post assembly is machined from stainless-steel alloy to ensure years of corrosion-free operation, and the mirror stems and heads are completely CNC machined from billet aluminum, lightweight, strong, and fully adjustable in every direction to fit just about everyone. Each one of these bullet mirrors can be used on either the left or right side.

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save 10%! Roland Sands Traction Hand Grips

If your Harley has a dual cable throttle—and all but the most modern ride-by-wire Harleys do; we’re talking Dynas, Softails, Sportsters, and touring bikes—now you can get a sweet grip while looking great. These knurled hand grips from RSD are CNC-machined from billet aluminum. Made in the USA with Contrast Cut, Black Ops, Brass, or Chrome finishes, they come in pairs in either RSD branded or unbranded badges. Matching Footpegs and Shift Pegs are also available.

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save 10%! RAM Mounts X-Grip Fork Stem Kit

The X-Grips kit consists of a fork stem base, short double socket arm, and universal X-Grip holder. The X-Grip expands and contracts, allowing for a perfect custom fit of your cell phone no matter its style or brand. It has a clean and clever four-leg design that riders swear by, offering great holding power without hiding your phone behind foam pads and plastic. The rubber device tether is recommended but if you’re looking for a phone-mounting solution on your Harley, you’ve found it.

Fantastic Deals on Performance & Style Upgrades for Your Harley

Save 20%! Trackside USB Outlet

It’s time to get with the times. With this easily installed USB jack, now you can stay connected—and charged—whether you’re rocking the twisties or cruising the boulevard. The single 2.1 amp output connects to any SAE lead, and mounts easily to any surface with tape, zip ties, or screws. A quick-disconnect harness is included and it even has a weatherproof cover for when it’s not in use.

Motorcycle Tech: Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips

As I write this, snow is still on the ground here in Connecticut. A thick sheet of ice covers the driveway in front of my garage. But the urge to ride surpasses anything Mother Nature may dish out, so I’m preparing my bike for that glorious day when temperatures reach double digits and the ice has melted.

Spring motorcycle prep is a great way to evaluate your machine each year before that first ride of the season. Make sure everything is in working order and hopefully get your bike ready with little cost and minimal effort.

Now, if you’ve winterized your bike by adding stabilizer to the fuel, removed or hooked your battery up to a tender, changed the oil, gave the bike a good wash, and kept it covered all winter, you’ll be on the road in no time. But not all of us are as strict when it comes to bike hibernation. If your idea of winterizing involves parking the bike and turning it off, well, a little more effort may be needed.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
New set of rubber getting scrubbed in. The manufacture date, 4517 (arrow) lets me know these tires were made the 45th week of 2117.

I like to start from the ground up, first with a motorcycle tire inspection. Look for any cracking and make sure the tread isn’t worn. Find any flat spots or uneven wear. Tires will form a flat spot in the center from long, straight-up runs on highways. Also check the date on your tire. This can usually be found on the sidewall after the DOT stamp. My tires, bought and installed just before the end of last season, are fairly new; the manufacture date stamp says 4517, meaning the 45th week of 2017. Also, check the tire pressure. Your owners manual will have an optimal psi listed. It’s a good idea to do this pressure check before every ride, as I’m sure you do.

Work your inspection up to the brakes. Check the pads to see how much meat is left. You should be able to do this without removing the caliper. Next, check for uneven wear and any warping of the rotor, plus any rust that may have formed from moisture over the winter. The rust can easily be removed using water and fine-grit sandpaper. Go easy when doing this, you’re just removing the rust, not resurfacing the rotor. Also check the brake fluid front and back and top off if needed. Always refer to your owners manual to find out exactly what brake fluid your bike manufacturer recommends.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Not too loose, but not too tight. A well-adjusted, clean, and maintained chain will make a huge impact on your bike’s performance.

Drive Chain
There are a few key checkpoints with the drive chain. The first thing to check, of course, is wear. Are the links sloppy, allowing movement side to side and front to back? Chains do stretch—well, sort of. Gaps form between the links, lengthening the chain and causing unwanted horizontal and lateral movement. If you’ve maxed your bike’s chain adjuster and the chain exhibits these issues, it’s time for a replacement. Also check the front and rear sprocket for excessive wear. If the teeth start to resemble shark fins or come to a fine point, it’s time to replace them as well. I run steel sprockets and usually replace them and the chain as a set. If the chain and sprockets are in good shape, it’s time to clean off the old grease. I use a degreaser from Spectro Oils that’s fast drying and O-ring safe. Depending on the kind of chain you have—standard, O-ring, X-ring, etc.—you’ll need to find a cleaner that removes the grime without damaging the chain. Simple kerosene works wonders at removing grease, but there are tons of available options. Finally, adjust the chain, somewhere between 1″-1.5″ of slack, but again refer to your owners manual when making this adjustment.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Critters love to find their way into air cleaners or any inviting areas that may provide shelter. Check for nesting and evict these unwanted guests as often as possible.

Air Cleaner
There are countless air cleaner sizes and shapes, but the function always remains the same: provide clean air to the motor. If a small amount of dirt or dust has built up in the fins, use an air compressor to remove the debris. If it’s a substantial amount or you see any holes in the filter, it’s time to replace. Also, air cleaners are a notorious go-to spot for nesting critters, so always check and evict any unwanted squatters immediately. Check for any damage they may have caused.

Engine Oil and Coolant
Oil is the lifeblood of your ride. If you didn’t change it when putting the bike into hibernation, now is the time. I usually change my oil before every season along with the oil filter. But if it looks clean and the fill levels are met, you may want to hold off until later in the season. If you do change the oil, let it drain for a while. The old oil is cold and thick, which will take longer than usual to drain. Check your machine’s manual for oil and filter specs and purchase a quality brand. They’ll cost a little more but keep the heart of your bike running smoothly and strongly. Also, for those of you with water-cooled bikes, check your coolant level and top off if needed. My filler and overflow tank are located under the seat and have clear fill-level markings.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Tighten your battery terminals often, not just once a season. Loose terminals are a common issue, but a simple fix on both new and old bikes.

If you’re one of the conscientious ones who removed the battery and hooked it up to a trickle charger in a warm, climate-controlled room, you’ll only need to reinstall the battery. If you simply turned the bike off and walked away, you may have to hook it up to a charger for a while, maybe even need a jumpstart, or replace the battery. A dead battery is common if left in the cold without a trickle charger for a few months. Been there, done that. After reinstalling or using a voltage meter to assure you have a strong charge, make sure your terminal connections are tight. Even brand-new bikes loose power or shut down seemingly out of nowhere due to loose terminal connections. It’s also a good practice to check these connections often throughout the season. Now that power is plentiful, check the headlight, taillight, brake light, and turn signals.

Motorcycle Spring Prep Tips -
Following these simple steps, my Honda 919 has been cleaned and prepped for another riding season.

Cleaning, Fuel & Start up
Before start up, while the bike’s still cold, wash and detail to your heart’s content. This also provides a great way to do a final once-over, finding any loose connections or other critter condos. This is a good time to check your fuel. Hopefully you’ve conditioned the fuel with an additive before putting it to bed for the winter. If not, add it now. Some additives, like Spectro’s Ethanol Fuel Conditioner, suggest using this product with every fill-up. After completing the mechanical checklist, washing the bike, and conditioning your fuel, it’s time for the season’s first start. Keep your idle low at first, let the engine components get a fresh coat of oil before increasing rpm. While the bike warms up, grab a can of silicone spray and give a shot to all hinged components, such as the control levers, footpegs, rear brake lever, and gear shifter.

Now you’re ready for another season on the road. Unless, of course, you live in a warm climate year-round, in which case you’ve read this story and now have a sinking feeling that a generation of chipmunks may live within your beloved scoots’ breather. Either way, enjoy the ride! RC

Motorcycle Tech: Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade

Back in 2011, I bought a 1978 CB550 to ride on the inaugural two-day Kickstart Classic event. The official ride started at Dale’s Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and finished at the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. This event was hosted by American Iron Magazine but open to all makes and models, so the American kickers welcomed my Honda.

This event is organized for any bike with a manual kickstart, although the lazy electric-start bikes are also welcome. In the time leading up to the event, I didn’t own a kicker, so I picked up a vintage Honda from eBay. I was told it was a gem and ran great. However, the seller’s idea of “runs great” and mine varied a bit.

I had three months to prepare the bike for long-distance travel. Steve Lita, then editor of AIM and GB, and I decided that we’d ride from AIM’s headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, to Alabama and back—all or bust.

Over those three months, I went over as many of the mechanics as I could, while bobbing and chopping the bike up into a tight little café: Clubman bars, as cool as they look, were a bad choice. That decision bit me in the lower back two hours into our six-day journey south. I had also overlooked making any upgrades to the suspension, which really should have been addressed. Live and learn.

To make a very long and backbreaking story short, the little Honda and I made it to Alabama, but the engine gave all it could on the ride down. We both rode home in a pickup truck.

It’s taken a while, but I’m resurrecting the old CB from a corner of the shop where it’s sat since 2011. I’m starting with a two-part install of Progressive rear shocks and fork springs. This is part one, the installation of Progressive 12 Series shocks and springs, a comprehensive shock and spring set that includes all the necessary hardware that you’ll need to fit a variety of bikes.

14mm ratchet/torque
Shock spring compressor
Flathead screwdriver
Blue Locktite

Progressive Suspension
12 Series shocks
12 Series springs

Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
A look at the Progressive Suspension 12 series shocks and springs before assembly.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Here are the original 1978 shocks.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Prop up the rear tire to allow for adjustment when fitting the new shocks.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Remove the old shocks using a 14mm socket or impact driver and save original hardware. Penetrating oil may be needed to loosen the nuts and bolts.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
The bump rubber and washer may need to be lubed in order to move down the piston shaft, making room for the spring assembly.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
A flathead screwdriver assists in moving the bump rubber and washer.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Install one new shock without the spring and check the clearance between the tire and fender by raising the rear wheel until the shock bottoms. There should be a minimum of 1″ of clearance.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Assemble the springs onto the shocks using a spring compression tool. This tool will be needed and many options are available for a variety of spring and shock sizes. For this installation, we used a simple lever compression tool.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
A look at the fully assembled shock with the spring retainer clip and top cap in place.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Supplied spacers were needed for this install when hanging the new shocks.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Install the new, fully assembled shocks using the original nuts and bolts, lock washers, and provided washers. A little blue Loctite can be applied to the bolts.
Honda CB550 Rear Shock Upgrade
Here’s a look at the new shocks installed and standing proud. RC