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Festus Fast Fork Oil Change

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  • Festus Fast Fork Oil Change

    Festus Fast Fork Oil Change
    by John E. Higgins

    I got started changing the fork oil on my two XS11's this evening about 6:30 and finished up about 8:45. One was a Special and the other a Standard. The name I have given this procedure is after an old jackass we used to keep for packing in the mountains. Festus hated his spring shots as much as I hate changing fork oil. By the time I could give him two or three in the neck he was twisting and kicking and biting

    One year I decided to try a different approach. I bought a huge syringe (2 oz) and popped all the shots in that one container. I gave him a carrot and then whacked him with Big Bertha. By the time he stopped staggering it was all over for another year.

    Using a similar approach, I got my wife to help me drain both sets of forks. Then we pulled out Festus' old syringe and filled it with Belray's finest 15 weight for the Standard which has a heavy Vetter fairing. (I use the recommended 10 weight on the Special). I shoved the syringe into the drain hole, and while Linda held the air valve open at the top of the fork, I quickly injected the first two ounces, slipped the syringe out, and covered the hole with my thumb. It took 4 syringes to get the right amount of fluid into the fork. Each time before I removed the syringe I had Linda release the air valve to help slow drainage of new oil. Considering that I lost a few drops each time I extracted the syringe, we added an extra 5 cc's with the last injection. Then I quickly installed the drain screw, losing just a little more fluid. Later I spilled a measured 5 cc's on the floor and found that this was more fluid than I accidentally spilled from either fork with the multiple injections. So my measurement error was acceptable I think (less than 2%).

    I tried the same technique on the Special. It uses a larger diameter drain screw and the 10 weight oil drained back out much too easily. I found a short length of clean tubing and a little plastic coupler for joining one piece of tubing to another. These were left over from our drip irrigation system repairs. I plugged the plastic coupler into one end of the tube and then pressed the other end of the coupler into the drain. I held the other end of the tubing above the height of the fluid in the fork. Linda made multiple injections into this raised end of the tube. I found a free hand to open and close the fork valve as needed while she was injecting. Once all the material was in, she injected a full 60 cc's of air to clear the tube of oil. I released the valve while she held the plunger down and kept air in the tube (and oil in the fork). With my free hand I closed the drain with the drain screw, as I quickly removed the coupler from the drain. I again lost about 5 cc's of material, this time all at the last operation of inserting the drain screw.

    This job, following the repair manuals, takes me a very long evening for each bike and generally left me twisting and kicking and biting like old Festus. I have watched mechanics measure fork oil into a large graduated cylinder and was pretty certain their technique was no more accurate than my result even with minor spillage. The procedure was quick, easy, required really cheap, improvised tools, and no muscle. There was no chance of cross-threading hard to replace parts. You may want to try something like this with tools you have at hand.