Thursday was a rainy day – in fact, it poured down at times. The sky was overcast all day. When the rain would stop, you could tell it was just a temporary break. We spent the day indoors. I finished a novel I was reading and started another on my Kindle reader. I signed up for a free month of Kindle Unlimited on Amazon and downloaded the book for free!
Thursday evening Donna made a meatloaf – one of my favorite comfort foods. She added a twist this time by lining the top with thick-sliced peppered bacon. Yummy!
Friday morning we had mostly cloudy skies, but it was dry. The forecast called for an increasing chance of rain in the afternoon. I got to work on the Spyder while it was dry. My project was upgrading the suspension. While I worked, Donna went for a bike ride to Blue Lake and back – about 28 miles.
Upgrading suspension components is one of the best performance improvements you can make to a vehicle. I always upgraded my motorcycles. I would send my forks to Jim Lindemann at Lindemann Engineering and he would rebuild them to perform in accordance with my weight, riding style and tire choice. He would also build a rear shock with an appropriate spring and valving. Jim was a suspension guru. He started out working at Fox Shox in the ’70s, then opened his own business.
Jim tuned suspension for world-class racers but remained humble and was always helpful and willing to share his suspension knowledge. Most of what I know about suspension tuning, I learned from him. The last time I saw Jim was at Laguna Seca for the Moto GP races. I think it was 2008. I learned of Jim’s battle with cancer a that time. He was completely bald from chemo and clearly wasn’t well. But he was as cheerful and helpful as ever. I had completed cancer treatment six years before and I knew how much he must have been struggling, but he didn’t let on at all.
His battle with brain cancer went on for the next three years before he died in October of 2011. I thought about him as I went about working on the Spyder suspension. I was replacing the stock shocks and springs with a set of Elka shock absorbers custom-valved and with spring rates designed for my weight and riding preferences. The stock equipment is a one-size fits-all design by necessity and doesn’t have much useful adjustment.
After removing the front body work, I started by loosening the upper and lower mounting bolts for both front assemblies. Then I used a floor jack to lift the front of the Spyder. With the weight off the front suspension, I removed the mounting bolts. Then it was a matter of jacking the Spyder up to a point where I could work the shocks out of the mounts.
Installing the Elka suspension basically involved repeating the steps in reverse order. It took some finagling with the jack to get the shocks into position, then lower the Spyder slowly until the mounting points lined up.
I thought the rear would be a little harder to handle. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be straightforward without any tricky steps. The shock literally fell out of the mount when I removed the bolts!
Putting the new shock in place was just a matter of jacking up the Spyder to get the swing arm angle right so the mounts would line up. I bolted the shock in place and installed the bodywork. Job done!
There were two shortcomings I was addressing with the suspension change. The stock front shocks suffered from a problem known as stiction. When I would go through a smooth, fast sweeping curve, the outer front suspension would compress as the body rolled while the inner suspension would extend. This would create low speed movement of the shock rod and piston. When we talk about shocks, low speed and high speed refer to suspension movement speed, not necessarily vehicle speed.
When the stock shocks traveled through low speed movement, there would be sticking points caused by friction of the piston and seals and uneven tolerances. This would cause the travel to momentarily stop, then it would release and continue to compress or rebound. This made a fast sweeping curve an exercise in constant corrections – kind of like connecting the dots through the turn.
The stock rear suspension worked fairly well but the spring wasn’t easily adjustable for pre-load and didn’t handle a passenger well. It also had too much rebound damping and would pack down with a passenger on board.
I took the Spyder out for a test ride. The difference in turning capability was incredible – very little body roll and it cornered like it was on rails. Fast sweeping curves were a breeze with a smooth arc easily controlled. The front shocks are set up nearly perfect. The rear felt a little stiff – I expected a plush feel. I’ll wait a bit and see if it loosens up before I start fiddling with the adjusters. The rear damping feels fine. I may just take a little pre-load off. Custom tuned suspension bits are expensive, but to me it’s well worth it.
We had a passing shower or two in the afternoon. When I was working on the Spyder I managed to split my left thumb nail. It never fails – I can’t turn a wrench without bruising a knuckle or tearing a nail. I went to Walmart and bought a tube of super glue. I glued the split in my nail. It should stay together until it grows out – no real harm done.
We had five packages show up at the office. They don’t notify us of deliveries here – we have to stop at the office and check. I didn’t know Donna had ordered so many things. One of the packages was a new folding table from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s compact and also height adjustable. I grilled honey-sriracha chicken for dinner and we dined outside at the new table. That’s a pleasant way to spend the evening!
Today’s forecast calls for abundant sunshine and temperatures reaching the upper 70s. I hope they called it right!
*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!