Saturday, December 12, 2009

V-Strom Valve Adjustment: Welcome To My Nightmare

I make it a habit to do all the work I can on my bike using only the tools in the toolkit. If there’s a routine job I need to do that requires a tool I don’t have, I buy the tool and add it to the kit.

Some jobs, however, render that plan impractical. For example, I’m in the middle of a valve adjustment on my V-Strom. By “in the middle” I mean I just completed the rear cylinder, and am ready to tackle the front one tomorrow.

To do this job using only tools that fit on the bike, I’d have to add a shim set, a torque wrench, a tube of gasket sealer, a shop manual, a two-foot-long socket extender with a universal joint at both ends, half a bottle of Tylenol, and a phrasebook of blistering profanity with which to excoriate the motherless pinhead who designed the bike so as to require the removal of the tank, the fairing, the air box, countless tubes and hoses and electrical gang plugs, the radiator, the rear brake pedal and master cylinder, the seat and seat bracket, the right-side passenger peg bracket, and several square inches of skin from my knuckles just to check—never mind actually adjust—the freakin’ valves, a task the manual has the balls to call “routine maintenance.”

I am consoled to a small degree by the knowledge that the valve clearances on 650 V-Stroms don’t change that much as a rule. I checked mine for the first time at 14,000 miles, and they were all in spec, though at the very lower end. Now, at 27,000 miles, I have found one tight exhaust valve in the rear cylinder, and the other three valves right where they were last time I checked them.

Now the front cylinder is all that stands between me and the road. Barring any catastrophes on the way to exposing its mysteries, I’ll have everything buttoned up by New Year’s Day, in time for a long-distance rider lunch run up the coast to Florence.

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