Discovered a Great Shock Upgrade for 5th Gen

Discussion in '5th Generation 1998-2001' started by DaHose, Feb 17, 2018.

  1. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    Hello all,

    We all know that an Ohlins is the cat's meow for our bikes, but cost is prohibitive. The Jamie D. 900RR conversion was a great second alternative, but with Jamie not doing any more 900RR conversions, and me wanting to put on something nice over the winter, I decided to set off on a quest to locate an improved shock for my VFR.

    I was able to source something really interesting off of a 2016 Kawasaki ZX10R. That year Ninja runs a Showa balance free rear shock. It’s a dual tube, and functions an awful lot like an Ohlins TTX. Not saying it’s exactly the same, but reviews on the shock are good overall, and I was POSITIVE it would be a significant improvement over stock, even if it was about 20mm shorter physically. Price for the unit I purchased was $129 delivered.

    01zx10rshockpurchased.JPG


    To start, I broke the gas tank loose by removing the front two bolts, and removing the long cross bolt that attaches it at the rear. I just used a large rubber wheel chock to the keep the tank up while I removed the nut holding the shock to the upper frame. I am sure everyone can figure out how to remove the shock, but rest assured you can do so without taking off any body panels.

    With the old shock out, first I needed to figure out the mounting situation. You can see from the pictures below, that on the ZX10R shock the bearing is at the adjuster end, and the rubber filled bushing is on the piston yoke. That is upside down compared to the 5th gen. OEM shock. That is a problem, because the ZX10R shock has to be mounted with the adjuster end up to fit in the available space.

    02zx10rshockoem.JPG 03stockvfrshock.JPG


    To address this first issue, I pushed out the rubber filled bushing, and the bearing to take measurements, and order replacement parts. It turned out that both eyes on the shock are the same size ID! With that knowledge, I simply pushed the rubber filled bushing back into the upper eye (above the adjusters) and centered it. I didn’t get a good pic. of the upper eyelet, but you can see from the one below that the original lower bushing is wider than the upper eyelet, so it sticks out the sides a tiny bit. That was not a problem at all as you can see the mounting yoke fits great!

    04uppermountclearance.JPG


    Next, I needed to address the upper mounting bracket itself. You can see that the OEM upper mounts are quite different between the two shocks. The ZX10R mount is much larger OD, and the threaded part is much shorter.

    05vfruppermount.JPG 06zx10ruppermount.JPG


    Addressing this issue started with figuring out that since the ZX10R upper mount is hollow, I could open up the hole with a size “X” drill bit, and a 3/8 bolt would fit perfectly through the center of the ZX10R mount.
    The difference in overall shock lengths was addressed by flipping over the original ZX10R mounting nut, and running it all the way down snug.

    07IMG_4928.JPG

    Then I stacked a pair of stainless washers I had laying around on top, and cut the existing threads just below the flush surface of the top washer. You can see in the pic. below that the washers will slide over the threads that are left.

    08IMG_4929.JPG

    The last step was to weld in the new mounting bolt, and flatten the end.

    09uppermountbottom.JPG

    Flattening the end of the bolt is important, because you need clearance between the bottom of the new bolt, and the shock clevis. At this point, the new shock was effectively 1/4” longer than the OEM shock, but I foolishly figured that should work out fine. Below you can see the finished upper mount, next to the OEM shock mount.

    11modifiedzx10rshock.JPG
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  2. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    After much fiddling and test fitting, the well laid plan for my top mount just didn’t work with the stock linkage. I had to shorten the overall shock length to match OEM, which meant losing the top nut altogether as a spacer, and shortening the threaded stub further. You can see below, that the final piece had only ¼” of the threaded stub left, and just used the two washers.

    12shockyoke.JPG


    Another issue is that the ZX10R mounting bracket has the bolt hole for the shock slightly offset from the mounting stud, while the stock VFR mount is all in-line. To accommodate, I measured the washers and cut one edge flat. That allowed the washers slip over the threaded nub, but make contact with the frame, and the flat edge recesses into where the original mount settles up into the frame.

    Also, I had already welded in the 4” bolt I bought, but you should actually get a 3 ½” bolt. I had to cut the end off the bolt, and add some shimming washers on top because of the limited threading. If I ever take this thing apart again, I might make a top yoke from scratch, but the goal in this was to make it possible for anyone at home to replicate what I am doing with minimal fuss. So far the only thing your typical DIY’er couldn’t do is weld the new bolt to the upper yoke.


    Ok, having dealt with the upper mount, I now had to figure out what to do about the bottom clevis. The ZX10R bearing and machined cone fittings look really pretty, but they are built to fit in the top yoke, which has a recess for the dust boots AND is narrower than the lower clevis. My solution was to purchase altogether new bearings for the bottom. The lower clevis is just over 28mm wide, and I could not find a single bearing that wide. My solution was to use a pair of 14mm wide VXB NA4900UU roller bearings with 22mm OD, and an ID of 10mm on the inner sleeve for the bolt. Cost was $20 for the pair, and I got them on Amazon.

    13newbearing.jpg


    I did use my A-frame press to remove the bearings from the ZX10R shock. But thinking about a home shop and its limitations, I confirmed that taking out the OEM shock bearings/bushings, and pushing in the new bushings on the ZX10R shock could be done using my 7” bench top vice and a 5/8” socket as the drift for the new bearings. You can see below that the socket is the perfect fit to push the bearing into the lower clevis without binding. So if you have a 7” or larger vice, put some soft jaws on it and it will work just fine to press in/out the bearings and bushing.

    14bearingdrift.JPG


    Because the inner sleeve of the new bearings slides in/out, I was able to push the 14mm wide bearing shells in fully against each other, and center them in the clevis. That left the inner sleeves sticking out 1mm on either side. The original VFR lower clevis bearing measures 39mm wide, so I bought some stainless 20mm OD X 10mm ID washers to shim the inner tubes to fit things correctly when mounted into the linkage plates. With three washers on either side, the whole thing was 39.75mm wide. Now the center tube could spin freely, and the shock was ready for its new spring.

    15lowercleviswashers.JPG


    Looking around I found a couple of online calculators that indicated the ideal spring for my weight was between 1100/1200 in./lb. I have been losing weight recently (WOOT!), so I opted for a Hyperpro HYP187A1100 spring and ordered one off Amazon for $90. To install the spring I used my car spring compressors, with adapters I made from 2” S-hooks and 4” long, 3/8 bolts. The bolts are held in by the locking teeth of the compressor, and the hooks self-adjust. I used my vice to close up one end of the s-hooks so they would not fall off the bolt.

    16compressoradapter.JPG





    I re-used the linkage plates that came with the ZX10R shock as the bottom adapter for my contraption, but I could also have just used some ¼” bar stock with some holes drilled for the bolts to pass through. You need to leave things loose, so that the plates can flex to match the angles of the coil hooks on the compressor.

    17compressoradapter2.JPG


    The simple adapters worked awesome for compressing the spring safely.

    18compressed shock.JPG

    You need to REALLY pay attention and get the upper/lower mounting eyes in-line before you mount the spring. Once the spring is on there, I don’t know how you could get things to rotate in line with that much pressure on the whole assembly.

    With the shock/spring fully assembled, I was able to mount it in the bike, and didn’t even have to take off the exhaust. First I mounted the upper yoke to the frame by itself, and left it loose enough so it could rotate. Then I tied the swingarm way up high, and was able to feed in the shock in from underneath. I slipped the shock into the yoke, and installed the upper shock eyelet bolt but only snugged it down. Before I assembled the linkage plate, I pushed out the lower linkage bearing center tubes, lubed the needle bearings, then put the tubes back in, and mounted the side plates. The washers worked exactly as planned, and centered the lower shock bearing center tubes between the linkage plates.

    Next, I tightened all three bolts at the linkage plates, then mounted the rear wheel. I took the bike off the center stand, and bounced it a few times so the upper mounting bracket could self center. Then I put it back up on the center stand, removed the wheel, tightened down the upper yoke shock bolt, and the mounting bolt through the frame. Then I re-mount the wheel and torqued the wheel nuts. Last thing to do was mount the fuel tank and she was ready to ride.

    I wasn’t sure where to start with my settings, so I went to 1 ½ turns in on both high and low compression. That felt really springy on the ride, so I added another turn. That still felt off, so I went the other way and am now 2 turns back from full hard. I am also running zero spring preload. I’ll keep tinkering with the settings, but getting to the adjustments is nice and easy. They damping adjustments are the two little screws on the left "knob" looking thing.

    19mountedshock.JPG



    The core parts list to do the shock conversion was as follows.
    2016 ZX10R shock - $129
    VXB NA4900UU 22X10X14 bearings - $20
    Hyperpro HYP187A1100 spring - $90
    20X10 SS washers - $5
    30X10 SS washers (X2) - $1

    So the end result was upgrading to an appropriately sprung, modern twin tube shock with compression and rebound damping for under $250. Figuring everything out took me a couple days, but now that we all know what it takes to do the upgrade, I am confident it could be done in a single afternoon, so long as you have the parts on hand. Best of all, the process is something that I think anyone with solid mechanic skills could accomplish, using normal home tools. The one thing that is tricky (but that you should NOT compromise on) is getting the bolt welded to the modified upper yoke.

    I will update this thread as I live with the conversion, but it looks like until Jamie D. has a new version of a converted shock for sale, this conversion is the best deal going to upgrade a 5th gen. to a modern rear shock. Hope this write-up helps someone out there.

    Jose
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  3. OZ VFR

    OZ VFR Member

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    You're the man Jose.
    Now we need a ride report.
    Interested to know how the damping acts with the new spring.
     
  4. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    I had the chance to run some errands around town today, and WOW what a difference. With the damping turned up, the bike feels really planted. Although, I sort of wonder if I didn't over-spring it. It almost feels too stiff, but still I need to check the sag measurements.

    At any rate, the shock can handle the big spring no problem. The bounciness I felt seems to simply have been not enough damping dialed in. I think that it is basically right in the middle of its range which not only should help it work better, but indicates a wide range of adjustment. This is really shaping up to be a winner of an upgrade :wheelie:and a killer value! :Rockon:

    Jose
     
  5. FreshPrince

    FreshPrince New Member

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    Shoot, you're in napa? I'm in Vallejo... I'll have to check out the upgrade some time. Maybe pay you to do it on my bike since you have the know how and I'm short on time and tools.
     
  6. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    We should definitely put together a ride for our area, freshprince. Time is my nemesis too, but maybe we could do one for you to lock in the time it takes to do the upgrade with a set plan and parts list. I'm thinking that preparing the shock for install could be two hours start to finish, including the one weldment.

    Jose
     
  7. Lint

    Lint Member

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    Thanks for posting this. I'll definitely check it out. I have a friend's who's a welder.
     
  8. xanax

    xanax New Member

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    Hi, would this mod also work on a VFR750 gen4 (94-97)?
     
  9. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    Provided the eye-to-eye length of the Kawi shock is NOT longer than your stock unit, yeah I think it would work.

    Jose
     
  10. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    Took the VFR out again today since it is sunny and 63 degrees. This shock upgrade is so damned nice. If you have a 5th gen., you gotta get you some!

    Jose
     
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  11. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    Been living with this shock for a few months now, and I am SOOOOOOOO happy with it!!! Summer riding has been absolutely awesome. If I were to do it again, I might go with a slightly lighter spring, since I do so much solo riding. I still highly recommend this upgrade for those of you with decent DIY skills.

    Jose
     
    Riding a 2000 and Lint like this.
  12. Lint

    Lint Member

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  13. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    I've been eyeballin' that cartridge kit too, Lint.

    Jose
     
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  14. theMii

    theMii New Member

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    It looks so cool and cheap. Maybe this winter I will exchange my 954 shock :)
     
  15. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    Still riding it a couple times a week, and still super happy. I will happily rebuild this shock if the time comes. There are way better focused track bikes than our VFR's. I see no need to pay more for a street ridden bike, when this setup works so well.

    Jose
     
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  16. RossR

    RossR New Member

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    Great post, Jose.
    Did you compare the stroke length of the original shock vs the Kawasaki shock? Stroke length on the 5th Gen is 58mm, but I cannot find any information about the 2016 Kawasaki's stroke length.

    Ross
     
  17. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    Ya know, I didn't measure stroke length Ross. When I looked at OAL, I realized it was about the same as the 929 shock Jamie D. was selling for our VFR's. Once I was convinced the shock would work for my needs, it didn't occur to me to document stroke. If you look closely at the side-by-side shock pic. in the thread, you can see that the distance between the flat top of the shock body/tube, and the bottom of the top clevis differs by 2 or 3 rows of that textured rubber mat on my work surface. I measured the blocks on the mat, and came up with 12-15 mm. So I guess that would mean that compared to the OEM shock, the ZX10R shock is about 12-15mm shorter in stroke. However, the heavier spring and better damping result in less sag. That is actually a good thing for our bikes, as they benefit from a decrease in rake. Some folks decrease rake by dropping the triples lower on the fork tubes, but I'm a big boy and can't lose front end travel on my "squishy" forks. That's another reason the drop-cartridge setup from Jamie D. looks so appealing to me. I am REALLY wanting to do the fork cartridge kit with some new springs for next season.

    Jose
     
  18. RossR

    RossR New Member

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    Hey Jose,

    Your post fired me up to look into this Kawasaki shock a bit deeper, and it definitely a very good shock.

    Shortly after I posted here I found the Ohlins listing for the 2016-2018 ZX10-R, and guess what, it is only 1mm difference from the stroke length of the VFR.

    https://www.ohlins.com/product-item/56335/

    The stroke travel on the Ohlins for ZX-10R is 57mm vs 58mm on the VFR so you got it right with this shock.

    From where did you buy your shock? If vendor links are not allowed on the forum, could you please send me a P.M.

    I looked on e-Bay and can't find anything even close to the price that you paid, and as usual the shipping and brokerage fees to Canada increase the price substantially.

    I don't have the welding equipment, etc., but I think that I will go for this mod at some stage. I weigh between 165-175 ( depending on how many potatoes I ate that week), so I think that that I would not need to change the spring.

    Once again, thanks for sharing. That's the great thing about these VFR forums. Lot's of nice people sharing information.

    The front and back suspension was greatly improved on the 2014 VFR. I wonder if anybody has looked into a swap with those units. I see them coming up for sale at the salvage sellers on ebay sometimes.

    Ross
     
  19. DaHose

    DaHose New Member

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    Hi Ross,

    I just cruised ebay to find my shock. At the time, I found several right at that $200 price range. Looks like now they are about $250 at the lowest. Guess the world realized these shocks are really nice for an older bike. If it would help, I'd help you buy one from the US. I think USPS would be $30 or so, to re-ship over to Canada.

    Jose
     
  20. RossR

    RossR New Member

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    Jose,

    Thanks for the offer. I will take a raincheck on that for now as it's now the frozen north where I live, and my bike is in a heated storage so I would not be able to work on it. Maybe, next summer I will ride down to Napa and see exactly how you did yours. That would be a gorgeous ride from Calgary, where I live, except that we never know exactly when the weather is going to be good enough for us to ride here.

    That's about the price that saw for the one's that looked like they were in good condition. $125 was a really good price that you got. A friend of mine will be going to Arizona in January, and if I can get a shock delivered to where she is I will ask her to bring one back for me.

    Incidentally, when I was researching the Kawasaki shock I came across one person on the ZX-10R forum who said that his shock blew and leaked all over the tire, etc. while it was still under warranty. Most likely a one off, but just something to keep an eye on.

    I started a new thread yesterday on lifting the bike which you may find interesting. :

    https://www.vfrdiscussion.com/index...-up-kit-to-raise-bike-at-the-rear-suspension/

    Cheers,

    Ross
     
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