Sunday, January 29, 2012

Suzuki GS500E/F Suspension Upgrades-Rear Shock Options

There are a lot of options here for upgrades and room for improvements.I will list each with my opinions and experiences.I will start with the most expensive option first and work down to the least expensive.

$695 Works piggy back street shock offers non adjustable dampening,but does offer adjustable preload.Pretty much a stock shock with better valving and you can chose a stiffer spring.Better options on the used market.I'm not real familiar with this shock.I don't know if it changes the height from stock.

$150-$500 Cannon Race Craft will re-spring and re-valve your shock, and work with you to get the proper spring rate for your application.They will rebuild and modify shocks upon request.Ask for Tony.Even tho the GS shock only has preload adjustment,Cannon should be able to re-spring and re-valve the shock to match any upgrades done to the front suspension.This is an option for someone needing a new shock that wants a no fuss set up that's better than new.This set up will not raise the bike up,unless the shock was sagging from age and wear.

$50-$200 2006+ Yamaha YZF6R AKA R6 rear shock.These can be rebuilt with Race Tech springs and valving for a super performing shock.These are completely adjustable right off.Very few will feel the need to build their shock for better performance.You need the shock with the clevis on the bottom,along with the bushing that goes through the linkage,and bolt.The red spring has a rating of 9.8kg/mm and the yellow spring has a rating of 10.1kg/mm.Not really enough to make much difference.I say go yellow if you can.This shock may raise the rear about an inch.This is usually due to an old sagging shock or old badly adjusted original shock preload.

$40-$120 Suzuki SV650 rear shock.You need the standard shock without the fluid reservoir.The clevis end has to have a new mounting hole drilled and the excess clevis has to be cut off.This is not really difficult but a beginner mechanic should weigh options carefully and seek help.I don't know the spring rate difference between colors.Here is a write up on modifying the shock to fit.Be aware that this shock can raise the rear up a couple inches which can cause the steering to quicken dramatically.This may cause a new rider to crash.

$15-$80 88-97 Suzuki GSX600/750F Katana rear shock.This is the shock I have.It has preload adjustment and rebound adjustment.It will raise the rear about 1 to 1.5 inches in the rear.This depends on preload, and how bad the old shock was sagging or adjusted.These shocks are getting hard to find in good usable shape.They can be rebuilt but you have to find a very knowledgeable person to do the work.That gets expensive.

If you install a shock,and it's too high,you have options.No need to remove a shock upgrade because of the height.You can get lowering links fairly cheap.Most will get 1 to 2 inches of drop.That will more than compensate for the shock's extra lift.They are easy to change.Suspension links are the same from 1989-2011

Yana Shiki 2" Drop Billet Aluminum Lowering Links

GS500 Lowering Links

Burkhart Cycle 1 to 3 inch drop links

Suzuki GS500E/F Suspension Upgrades-Stock Fork Improvements

I am often asked about the suspension upgrades I have done to my Suzuki GS500E.I have done so many,it's hard to go through them all in one post.So I'll break it down into three posts,stock fork improvements,rear shock options,and upgrading to an 88-97 Suzuki GSX600/750F Katana complete front suspension.

The GS500 forks are just ok for cruising around on, if you're under 140 pounds.The later GS500F models (02+) seem to have a better spring rate than 89-01 models.I haven't been able to confirmed this.I am going based on word of mouth from internet forums.Anyway it goes,the forks are still lacking performance.Most people complain about the front forks bottoming out and being squishy.Squishy is a technical term used when discussing the soft GS500 suspension.The best upgrade is new fork springs,better heavier oil,and a fork brace fender mount.The GS500 forks are only 37mm in diameter,which is tiny and flexible.

FORK SPRINGS-What's best for me?
There is no perfect answer for this,So I will break it down based on my opinion, on what I have learned from my experiences,as well as others that I have talked to.First, there are two types of fork springs, progressive rate and straight rate.Please don't confuse Progressive "name" brand springs with progressive "rate" springs.Progressive rate springs get stiffer the more the suspension is compressed.Straight rate springs are completely compressed after the weight rating is exceeded.Straight rate springs are sized to the application and rider.Example,a rider that only rides solo and commutes can get away with a softer spring.Where as a heavier rider, that rides two up through curvy roads, will need a stiffer spring.

I break it down like this.
For the general rider that commutes and does light traveling, with a little sport riding thrown in,progressive rate springs will work great.The springs are progressive so the manufactures don't usually give out rating numbers.They are also the cheapest cost wise,usually $20 to $50 cheaper than straight rate springs.

Progressive Suspension Fork Spring 11-1128

80kg/mm-under 140lbs total riders weight
85kg/mm-under 160lbs total riders weight
90kg/mm-under 180lbs total riders weight Race Tech Fork Springs - 0.90kg/mm FRSP S2938090 Most popular option.
95kg/mm-under 200lbs total riders weight
These weights can actually go 30lbs either up or down.It's just a guideline.Going up on kg/mm gives a stiffer spring rate.There is no 100% correct spring rate.It's all based on personal preference.

Stock springs are rated at .594 kilograms per millimeter AKA kg/mm.

I recently had a discussion,with Tmod on KatRiders forum, on this very subject.I used factory 15w Suzuki fork oil, after rebuilding my forks.I decided to do some cold weather riding,at least cold for my area.The temperature ranged from mid 50'sF to low 40'sF.My front end was rigid.Even after 120 miles, my forks never softened up.When I would hit a bump at speed, the front wheel would lift off the road surface.Sounds fun eh?Nope,not when it's out of your control.During my discussion,I was put on the right track to solve my rigid cold fork problem.I was referred to a product that is perfect for most applications.A quick issue needs to be addressed here.As temperatures drop,oils thicken.To solve this problem,we need an oil that maintains it's viscosity over a broader range of temperatures.Bring on the synthetic blend fork oils.Tmod introduced me to Torco RFF fork oils.They hold their viscosity better in all temperatures.The best for most applications is Torco RFF 15.If you're under 150lbs,try out the Torco RFF 7.Each fork holds approximately 382ml or roughly half a quart.

Torco tech sheet PDF

Torco RFF 7 Fork Oil

Torco RFF 7 Fork Oil

These are 100% custom made.I have never ran one on a GS500 front forks.I know they help.Anything that stiffens the front end, and keeps the tire running true,helps feel,feed back,and performance.The fork sliders can move ever so slightly out of line, when moving up and down the chrome fork stanchions.Along with this,the sliders can rotate ever so slightly, causing the front wheel to track off in relation to handle bar position.Most riders will never push their GS500 hard enough to notice this.For those of us that do,we need a fork brace fender mount.There are three ways to get them,hope that one comes up for sale on ebay,check GStwins forum to see if anyone is making/selling them,last but not least,take your stock fork brace fender mount to a machine shop, and have them make one out of 3/8 inch aluminum plate.They're simple and people report having them made between $40 and $60.

Emulators,these are a whole different monster.Unless you are racing in a class that requires you to use stock forks,forget them.They are expensive and require extensive knowledge on how to set them up and tune them.The forks have to be partially dismantled to make adjustments to them.Money would be better spent on upgrading to an 88-97 Suzuki GSXF600/750F Katana front end.I will be doing a write up on that soon.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Suzuki GS500E Fenderectomy and Reflectorectomy

The ugliest thing ever put on a motorcycle is those huge but flaps,I mean mud flaps,that are used in place of a rear fender.First thing to do is loose that crazy huge fender mud guard flap thing.This is known as a fenderectomy in the Suzuki GS500 crowd.There are varying degrees of fenderectomies.I label these versions as extreme cut,the high cut,and the half cut.Before you do a fenderectomy,please be aware that your license plate will not have any support behind it, IF you do an extreme or high cut version.No support, or wind block, allows the license plate to flap about in the wind.This leads to the tag breaking off at the mounts.Some people use metal supports, or metal license plate holders.While others opt for the free half cut fenderectomy.I was convinced by another GS500 owner that this would be a better choice for me.


Here is a description of the three versions of fenderectomies.

EXTREME CUT!-This is cutting the fender liner flush with the bottom of the rear body panels.It also requires that the turn signals (AKA directional indicators) be relocated to the rear side body panels and the license plate be remounted or moved.Most people I have seen do this use aftermarket flush mount turn signals and license plate holders.I do not have any pictures of this, or I would share them.Also make note that all states have specific laws on how license plates are to be mounted.Check your local laws to make sure you are within the laws for license plate mounting.

HIGH CUT!-This is cutting the fender liner about a half inch below the factory turn signal (AKA directional indicator) and leaving the area where the license plate mounts.

HALF CUT!This is cutting the fender liner at,or near, the bottom of the license plate.This fully protects the license plate and prevents the plate from cracking or breaking off.It also helps keep the back of your motorcycle clean if you ride in fowl weather.


You need some way of marking the area to be cut and a straight edge to make sure the line is straight.I used masking tape to make my lines and then cut everything below the tape line with a Dremel.A hand hack saw can be used.A regular hack saw may not have enough throat to make the cuts.The rough cut edges can be cleaned up with 80 grit sand paper and a sanding block.I don't have any pictures of me doing this, so all I can offer is before and after pics.

1st mod-Yamaha R1 tailight

1st mod-Yamaha R1 tailight

Custom 1989 Suzuki GS500E

Custom 1989 Suzuki GS500E

The second ugliest things put on any motorcycle, is those old bicycle reflectors for safety.There are better ways to make a motorcycle more reflective and still be stylish about it.Thank you aftermarket accessory companies.They are geared toward safety.Almost all motorcycle accessory websites carry reflective tape and rim stripes/strips.These come in various colors to accent, or blend into your motorcycle.They are made with a reflective material that looks like a custom stripe or decal.When a little light shines on them in the dark,they light up like running lights.Some are bright enough to be seen up to a mile away, with the slightest light source.Doing some research will bring up the good ones to purchase.I haven't add these to my black 89 Suzuki GS500E yet.I don't ride it at night.I plan my trips to fall within daylight hours.My other motorcycles will have them.

Motorcycle Reflective Decals

Reflective Rim Stripes


Along with the fenderectomy I did a reflectorectomy.It is basically removing the reflectors on the forks and below the rear side body panels.This is easy to do.A small wrench,10mm and 14mm if I remember correctly,and they can be sent to the spare parts box.However,you will need to re-torque the fork pinch bolts to 18-29 foot pounds.Check your local auto parts stores, and see if they have a tool rental/loaner program.Better yet,ride in and do it there.They may not charge anything,and possibly even do it for you.

1st mod-Yamaha R1 tailight

1989 Suzuki GS500E with upper and lower Targa fairings

Custom 1989 Suzuki GS500E

Custom 1989 Suzuki GS500E

Even if you opt out of the reflectorectomy,you still need to keep an eye on the front fork reflectors.Over time these things get bent from bouncing around and will make contact with the forks causing damage to the slider and seals.This can get very expensive,if you don't know how to repair forks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Buell Knock Off Turn Signals AKA Directional Indicators

Another modification I made to my 1989 Suzuki GS500E,was to replace those hideous flapping arms that Suzuki dubbed turn signals.Those things turn into junk in a few years.They are durable, but their flexibility is their undoing.I could feel those things flapping around on rough roads.They had to make an exit to the spare parts box.I really couldn't decided what turn signals I wanted.I liked the LED units but they were tiny,not very bright during the day,and kind of pricey.I wanted something that went with the theme of my bike,low key corner carver.While I was on the GStwins forum,I seen where someone mentioned installing Buell turn signals for roughly $14 per signal from the dealer.I went to a couple dealers, and all of them wanted $90+ per turn signal!I was still required to buy the mounting hardware to install them.No way am I spending nearly $400 for turn signals for a $1000 motorcycle.So off to Ebay.While trolling the listings for turn signals,I saw a listing for four new turn signals for $14.99 plus 3.99 shipping.I go visit the listing, and the turn signals were so close to the Buell turn signals,I bought them.They are half the length of the Suzuki GS500E factory turn signals,better shape,better looking,and way brighter.They also have clear smoked lens on them.Perfect!They fit the theme of my motorcycle to a T.

First thing to understand about single filament light bulbs(AKA two wire turn signals),they don't care which way the electricity flows through them to produce light.As long as the two wires connect back in place where the factory turn signals were disconnected,they will work.However,I like to make the connections a little better and lasting longer.Before fitting the turn signals to the motorcycle,I check to make sure the bullet connectors will fit tight.The open ended connector can be squeezed with a pair of pliers to tighten up the connection.Once that is taken care of,I start fitting the signals.All four are the same.On the mounting posts,there is a little locator ball.These I cut off with a sharp razor knife.Now lets install them.

To start the install,I like to install the hardest set of turn signals first.The front ones are the hardest, because the entire headlight has to be removed to access the connections to the factory turn signals.If you don't have a service manual,you need one.Check this blog page.I should have a listing to two different service manuals.It explains how to remove the headlight better than I can,but I will try.First,locate the two screws on the lower sides of the headlight trim ring.They look like philips screws, but they are in fact JIS screws.If you're careful,you can remove them with a #2 philips screwdriver.Be aware that the headlight is mounted to the trim ring.

Gently pull out on the bottom of the trim ring.The top of the trim ring is held on by a little bracket that acts like a hinge.

Once the bottom of the trim ring is away from the headlight bucket,push up gently.The ring will pop off,so make sure you are holding on to it.Now disconnect the headlight from the wiring.It slides right off, but requires a little effort to get the connector loose.Set the headlight aside and out of the way.They are extremely expensive and hard to find if they get broken.

Now comes the fun part,locating the turn signals wires inside that mess of spaghetti in the headlight bucket.Two ways I have done it.1)Find the wire exiting the back of the turn signal at the mount.Wiggle the wires until you find them inside the headlight bucket.2)Remove the turn signal from it's mount.Gently pull it away from the headlight bucket, while watching for the turn signal wires to move in the headlight bucket.Either way you chose,when you find the wires inside the headlight bucket,wrap tape around both sets of wires.Only remove one signal at a time.

When installing the new signal light,refer to my post above about checking the connections.Once that's done,thread the wires through the front signal mount,and loosely install.Fish the wires through the headlight bucket.Before connecting them,apply dielectric grease to the connectors.Any auto parts store has it for a few dollars.It prevents corrosion and helps the connection pass power through it.Do not tighten the turn signal down to it's mount yet.Install the other signal the same way as the first.Once you have both signals loosely installed,step back about 50 feet and have a look at them.Most people set their signals to match the angle of the headlight.This is not the best way in my opinion.I set mine perpendicular to the ground.If they're perpendicular to the ground, everyone will see them clearly.If you don't know what perpendicular means,let me state it this way.If the bike is on dead level ground,the face of the turn signal will be at a 90 degree right angle to the ground,and facing straight out.Now that the signals are pointing straight,snug down the mounting nuts.The washers will lock the nuts so don't over tighten them.Now admire your handy work.
Went from this.
1989 Suzuki GS500E with upper and lower Targa fairings

To this.
Custom 1989 Suzuki GS500E

Now onto the rear.These are the easiest to do,but you need to decide where to mount them.If you plan to do a fenderectomy,what stage of fenderectomy do you plan to do?If you do a full high fenderectomy,you will need to drill new turn signal mounting hole in a different location.If you do a half or one quarter fenderectomy,you can mount the new turn signals in the factory turn signal location.I mounted mine back and up.For this,I am going to go out on a limb, and assume most people will use the factory location.Using the factory location,you will need four fender washers.Any local hardware store will have them.Take your new turn signals so they can match them up to the mounting studs.Get a cheap can of flat black spray paint.Clean the fender washers really good with dish soap and a brush.Allow them to dry and wipe them down with rubbing alcohol.Once the fender washers are wiped down,don't touch them with your bare fingers.The oil from you skin will cause the paint to lift.Give the fender washers a few light coats of black paint, and let them dry while you prep the motorcycle for the turn signal upgrade.Remove the seat.Follow the turn signal wires to where they disconnect and disconnect them.There should be no other wires close by with the same type connectors.Can't go wrong here.Now remove the old turn signals and file them away in the spare parts box.When you install the new signals,do it the same ways as the front ones,except use a fender washer on the inside and outside of the mounting hole.Connect the wires using a little dielectric grease and admire your work.

1st mod-Yamaha R1 tailight

And after.
Custom 1989 Suzuki GS500E

Links below for low priced turn signals and electronic relay.

Buell Knock Off Turn Signals

Buell Knock Off Turn Signals

Tridon EL12 Flasher Relay

Tridon EL12-C Flasher Relay


1999 Yamaha R1 Tail Light To GS500E Conversion-The Beginning.

The very first modification(mod) I made to my 89 Suzuki GS500E, was to replace that hideous red brick Suzuki dubbed a taillight.I've seen more stylish taillights on a school bus.Some people have used other taillights from other motorcycles,aftermarket one offs,and homemade taillight.I have even seen the factory GS500E taillight flipped and recessed.Honestly,the flipped and recessed factory taillight don't look half bad.It makes it appear to be brighter, because it gets the light under the tail more, and keeps the sun from washing out the lights.I don't have any info on this,but I will share my experience at installing the 1999 Yamaha R1, AKA YZF1000R, Clear Alternatives taillight.This light is now being produced by a different company and can be had for $20 to $40.It pays to shop around.I found mine on Ebay for $13 shipped, brand spanking new.They guy wrecked his motorcycle while waiting for the taillight to arrive.He found it a few years later, and now I have it.

Installing the taillight is pretty straight forward.The old taillight is held on by two nuts.Remove the nuts, through the tail under the seat,slide the taillight out the back end a little,and unscrew the bulb sockets.The bulb sockets make a quarter turn and pull straight out.The new Yamaha R1 taillight is held in by two button head screws.The taillight mounts in the same place.First,some GS500E motorcycles have a little bracket that comes out when the original taillight is removed.This little bracket is not used with the Yamaha R1 taillight.It can go in the box of spare parts with that hideous red brick.Another issue that some people have when doing this conversion,is the bulb socket not properly seating.There is a little tab on the GS500E bulb socket that needs to be cut down.It can be done with a box cutter or hobby knife.My GS500E did not require this modification to be made in order to fit the Yamaha R1 taillight.After getting the bulb sockets in place,the taillight is ready to be installed on the bike.When installing the taillight,do not crank down on the screws.Nice and snug on the screws.Just enough to keep the taillight from flopping around.To much tightening of the mounting screws will split the plastic taillight mounts and trash the taillight.

Now that it's all done,check to make sure the light bulbs still work,and go for a victory ride.

See that hideous read brick hanging out of the back of my motorcycle?It had to go.
1989 Suzuki GS500E

Here is how the new Yamaha R1 taillight looks when it's mounted.I used the rubber grommets and washers that hold the factory taillight.Sorry for all the dirt and junk in there.

Here is the after shot.Way better and more stylish than the red brick.It is also brighter, because there is less colored plastic around the bulbs.

My next installment will cover getting rid of those hideous stock flapping turn signals, or directional indicators if you're in other parts of the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Links to GS related websites and general motorcycling.

Click the text to be sent to the website.

My How To Write Ups This is a link to my GS500 build but it has links to my how to write ups.

GS Twins Home Page

GS Twin Wiki

Suzuki GS Series Wiki

GS Resources This is a forum dedicated to the early Suzuki GS motorcycles,but all are welcome. This is a site that has some good info on GS500 mods.It's in French or Dutch I believe.Google translate it.

JohNLA'S GS500 Page Good page for how to's on the GS500.

Pablo's GS500 Page Good page for GS how to upgrades.

Kerry Burton's GS500 Page Great page for maintenance and touring tips.

UK GS500 Forum Forum for GS500 riders in and around Europe and UK.

Starwalt's Varied Interest Page Various interest of Starwalt's including some interesting GS500 stuff.

KatRiders Forum If you own or have modified a bike with Suzuki Katana parts,you need to be on this forum.Invaluable info.

Twisted Throttle Motorcycle Accessories Bolt on accessories for all motorcycles, but the one few sellers for GS500 engine guards, AKA crash bars.Also some luggage mounts.

Acewell Gauges

Trail Tech Accessories Maker of Vapor gauges.

Cycle Tips Repair and riding write ups.

Micro Squirt EFI Invaluable info for fuel injecting any carb'd motorcycle.

Guide To Changing Tires This guide shows you how to change tires with simple and cheap tools.Works on almost all motorcycles.

Tools And Contrivances Cheap and easy to make tools and upgrades to motorcycles.

AdvRider Get out and explore the world.Adventure rider forum is great for people traveling on or off road with their motorcycles.

Do The Ton Forum dedicated to motorcycles of all kinds built by their owners.

DIY Motorcycle Seat With the guide on this site you can modify or build a more comfortable stylish seat for your bike.Way cheaper and easier than sending it out to a pro.

Battery Stuff I rave about this place.Their Scorpion batteries are the best.They have quality battery stuff at good prices and stand behind their warranties.

Idaho Bedroll is also known as Spud II.It's a small towable expanding tear drop trailer for motorcycles.Plans are currently up for sale. Contact info is on the website.