Nov 29, 2004

Zen And The Art of Removing a VFR 800 Fi's Front Wheel

With apologies to Robt. Persig.

Those of you (that'd be you) who got this as an email, feel free to simply skip over, because there's very little new here. In the interest of expressing my pent-up whatchamacallit over my recent foray into sport bike maintenance, I post the letter I sent you here because I thought it was fun enough to share with the rest of the world, billions of strangers who can feel my pain. *lol*

Okay--this bit is for all you strangers out there.

I love motorcycles. I've ridden since around 1992, when a divorce from my wife of the time lost me my new car, and a friend had been riding me (no pun intended) for a while about buying a bike, so I looked into it, got approved, brought a brand new Yamaha Seca II home with me (in Dark Metallic Blue III, which I always thought of as deep green,) got on it in my driveway, and learned to ride. I haven't looked back since. Since that time, I have self-taught myself a lot of motorcycle maintenance, too, because it saves a lot of charges by a local shop that I simply cannot ABIDE, and because most of it is easy.

At least, in my past experience it's been easy.

No, really. It's been easy.

This, then, is how the letter ran.

I feel like an explorer out on the raggedy edge of things.

I've been removing the front tire on the bike.

I shouldn't feel like an explorer out on the raggedy edge of things at all. I should feel like Honda Motorcycles of America feels like I'm a loved and integral part of their company as the End Consumer, and that as that person who is giving them lots of money I should be loved, cared for, and my new Honda motorcycle should be designed with me in mind. I felt that way when working on my old Magna, where every piece seemed to have been designed perhaps not inherently with me in mind but at least with me in passing mention, so that my knuckles would not get broken on strange jagged bits of metal hanging out for no other intent and purpose BUT to cut me open, or that I would have to have hands the size of a twelve year old girl's to be able to fit it into places with wrenches and Special Honda Tools.

Not so the high-end sport bike. Enter Honda's VFR 800 Fi Interceptor.

Removing the front wheel to bring it to the shop to have a tire changed out should be an easy and fairly simple procedure.

Removing Front Wheel To Change Front Tire:

1) lift the motorcycle onto it's center stand
2) loosen the front axle pinch bolts
3) remove the front axle
4) roll the front wheel forward out of the brake calipers and clear of the forks
5) bring front wheel and new tire to shop to let them install tire
6) reverse process to reinstall wheel
7) save shop fees of $55/hour labour by doing it yourself

The way it goes in

Irrelephant's Reality

1) lift the motorcycle onto it's center stand
2) realise that the weight of the motorcycle on it's center stand is more than 50/50 balanced across that point, and is in fact more like 55/45 in favor of the front, so it's resting on it's front wheel. Heavily.
3) realise that this just got a lot harder, because the motorcycle isn't going to rest on it's back wheel for you
4) try to figure out a way to make the motorcycle rest on it's back wheel without someone there to hold it in place while you work
5) end up stacking bits of scrap lumber and a brick underneath the exhaust headers, so that the motorcycle will rest on the wood and not on it's front wheel.
6) loosen the front axle pinch bolts
7) try every socket you own trying to find one big enough to fit the axle nut
8) fail to find one large enough
9) swat at mosquitoes (this IS Louisiana, remember. It's still 70 degrees at noon)
10) trek through the rain to the shed to find a largish crescent wrench (it also rains about once a day)
11) shoo giant shop rats away who are taking a smoke break in the doorway, watching it rain and being glad they're not out walking in it (real rats. BFRs. About two pounds ea)
12) return to bike
13) turn axle nut a few times
14) realise bike is designed to have the right pinch bolt tightened so you can remove axle nut
15) tighten right pinch bolt
16) remove axle nut
17) loosen right pinch bolt
18) remove axle and set aside
19) swat at mosquitoes who are trying to carry off the axle nut
20) chase down the axle spacer you didn't see the first time, which has made good it's escape and rolled away under the truck
21) pull wheel forward, stopping when you realise the fender is in the way
22) trek through the rain to the shed to obtain Allen wrench to remove front fender bolts
23) remove front fender bolts
24) trek back through the rain to the shed to find correct sized Allen wrench
23) ignore tiny laughter of smoking rodents who realise you'd gotten the wrong size wrench again
24) remove front fender bolts
25) swat at mosquitoes who are trying to remove the front wheel by force
26) pull wheel forward, stopping when you realise Honda designed the VFR with specifications so tight it includes putting both brake rotors somewhat INSIDE the circumfrence of the front wheel
27) trek to the shed through the rain to find big Allen wrench to remove brake caliper nuts
28) attempt to strike rodents immobilized by laughter with big Allen wrench
29) remove brake caliper nuts and swing caliper away from one fork
30) pull wheel forward, bending front fender ALMOST to the point that it breaks because you didn't see nor can you reach the two other bolts way in back of the fender
31) reverse process to reinstall, thinking of all the money you saved by NOT bringing the entire bike to the shop and by NOT paying a professional mechanic to do all this himself
32) weep inconsolably


Putting it back on entailed having the brake pads fall out of the caliper when I tried to reinsert the rotor. Spent the better part of an hour reinstalling the front tire. Then I went for a ride, and everything got good again. Everything got WONDERFUL again. And I've already managed to forget how horrible the whole incident was. Until about 9K miles pass and it's time for new tires.

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