Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maintenance, etc...

I responded to a query about the Sportster 883 Roadster on one of the bike forums. The person asking the question wanted some specifics on maintenance and ownership of the bike. I thought I would post my answer here too as it deals with some details of maintenance. Enjoy...


Hi, I just looked at your site... great minds think alike... all the mods you have done are just about what i would do to the 883R. Improved suspension & brakes, and fuel range. A classic cool looking bike but made even more practical.
So a few questions if you wouldn't mind.... What is your average fuel consumption, and what is involved in maintenance? I have built many bikes from scratch and enjoy doing it all myself, and just what tyres would you advise for use on this bike. Thanks.
-- Mr. Moto, ST.N
Something I didn't answer in the initial post was the fuel consumption. For general commuting riding, I'm getting between 40 and 45 MPG, depending on the amount of stop-n-start riding and how much I beat on it. For steady-pace touring, I routinely get ~50-52 MPG. That drops back to the high-40s when I'm really cranking it out on the highway. The bike lets you know it's thirsty on prolonged runs above 80MPH, or so. For a blended ride, where I'm "sport touring" and riding "The Pace", I'm averaging around 46 MPG and that's pretty consistent.

I actually find the stock (dual) disc brakes to be very, very good as is (better, with HH pads), if a little spongy. I haven't sprung for stainless brake lines yet, but I've ridden the exact same bike (Roadster) with SS lines and the difference in lever feel is substantial. I really should get around do doing that.

Maintenance on this bike is a snap. Oil & filter for the engine, oil for the primary/gearbox. Yes, you drain and fill them separately. Synthetic oil is recommended by Harley for the engine on a 5000-mile change interval. I use Harley's "Primary Plus" (or whatever it's called) recommended oil for the primary case / gearbox. It's probably just plain old 10W-40 according to the parts guy, but I don't care enough to do further research. It's cheap enough to just get their recommended stuff. I use good synthetic oil for the engine - Usually Mobil-1 15W-50 or the like. The oil change takes about 15 minutes. The first time you do it, and you pull the filter, be prepared for a mess. However, with the filter off the bike, cut and shape some card board to use as a funnel. There are some engine casting webs you'll want to notch the cardboard to fit around, then just hit the cardboard with spray paint to keep it from getting oil-logged. Or you could make one from plastic. I find spray-painted card board gets me thru' about 6 or 7 oil changes. In the following picture, you can see the oil filter is off and the casting webs you need to notch out for...

If you do spill or it spreads, a quick shot of engine degreaser and the hose should fix you right up. Leaving the oil on the rubber engine mount (2004 and up) will eventually beat up the rubber and you'll replace the mount. I'm 2 years and ~15k miles into my Sportster so far with no issues.

Belt maintenance is likewise, a snap. It adjusts just like a chain: axle nut and two adjusting nuts on either side of the swing arm. The deflection gauge is built right into the belt guard and again, doing this takes all of about 10 minutes if you actually have to go looking for the 24mm axle nut. It's cleaner and faster than most chain adjustments, and - again - in two years time, I've only had to add 1/4 turn to the adjusters. I ride this bike pretty hard - the belts are really good and the bike has all of 10 lbs of engine torque. So it's low strain. Razz

This picture shows the adjusters in the swing arm, and the head-side of the axle bolt. The truly asinine part of this design is that you have to pull the rearward muffler to get the axle out and pull the rear wheel. Not cool.

The primary chain is manually adjusted and should be checked at each oil change. There's a sighting window on the primary cover that comes off with two 5/32 hex screws for checking. The chain is adjusted using an adjusting bolt and lock nut on the bottom of the prmary cover. The primary cover does NOT need to come off to check or adjust the primary chain. In the 2 years, I've had to adjust my primary chain once. Takes about 3-4 minutes.

Steering head bearings can be tricky to check because there is not secondary retainer. The bolt at the top of the steering head that holds on the top of the triple tree also adjusts/retains the steering head bearings. This uses a T-45 to tighten the neck and a 22mm(?) socket to retain it. It's a snap once you remember there's no secondary retainer - taking off the top of the triple tree also releases it from the bike. Old-school. Not like these fancy new bikes that have like 15 things you have to unthread before the tree comes out of the bike. Bigsmile

This picture shows the retaining bolt (going in from the top) and the back side (threaded side) of the tightening bolt.

Other maintenance... typical stuff. Cable adjustments for clutch and throttle are simple. The throttle spring is really light. I think I'm still on the same zero-play throttle cable adjustment I did shortly after getting the bike. I just adjusted clutch free play for the second time the other day when I did maintenance on it.

Tires... ah, yes... dear wonderful tires/tyres. The bane of everyone's existence.

The stock tires are 100/90-19 up front, 130/80-16 out back, bias ply, rock hard POS Dunlop D401. You might as well put diamond-coated steel bands. They wear like that and grip about that well, too. I took the stock tires off at 400 miles after backing it in to several turns. If you like to ride above 30 MPH, they're flat out dangerous in turns, IMO. But I actually lean my bikes so I might be a bit finicky. Bigsmile

I replaced the stock tires with Pirelli Sport Demons. EXCELLENT grip, dry and wet. 4000 mile lifespan and when they're used up, good luck getting home from where ever you are... even if it's a mile away. They went from "I should replace these" to "I'm gonna die" in about 50 miles. Great tires, short life span.

Next up were the Screaming Eagle Sportster Sport replacement tires, made by Dunlop, marketed as the GT501 or GT502 model. Holy. Crap. Hands down THE best bias ply tire I've ever ridden on. Gripped like a proper sport bike radial. I got just a hair over 7000 miles out of them. The front is still usable, but it's showing its age. The back was trashed. I put on a 150/80-16 stock Dunlop I had in my garage - a take-off from my Street Glide with about a thousand miles on it. I'm cash poor at the moment.

The next tires will be Avon Azaro Sport Touring radials - they're available in 110/80-19 for the front, 150/80-16 for the rear. I'm really looking forward to trying these. If they prove to be lower mileage or just not as good as I'm hoping, I'll go back to the GT502s and never look back. They were a great sneaker at a great price.

I did my own luggage setup because of a few reasons: 1) I love Givi's stuff, 2) I'm anti Harley Guy (r) (c) (tm) lifestyle and enjoy breaking from the tradition at every turn. LeatherLyke makes luggage to fit the bike and they're very nice bags. These would have ended up on my bike if I couldn't make the Givi kit work out. I wouldn't spend $10 on any of the actual-leather saddle bags anyone makes because they look cruiser-ish and stupid. I also added the top case because they're just so darned functional. I'm function over form 99.99% of the time.

I hope this helps. I love this bike... I know it seems weird, but in almost thirty years of bike ownership, *MY* Sportster is among my favorite and most fun bikes ever. I made it "mine" and it's very different from any other one out there. I love the way twins deliver power. It's a simple bike that's not too fast yet ballsy enough to do what I want. It's comfortable, it's ridiculously simple to work on and it's a blank canvas, ready to let me do whatever I want with it. Oh, and I know how to ride, so I can eke out some wicked fun performance from the bike, regardless of its "sport" short-comings, while still owing a simple, comfortable Standard.

And an overlooked thing about Harleys in general is the ability to farkle them to your liking, usually for far less money than some other options. Example: If you want a new seat for a Japanese bike (regardless of type of bike), you have a few options from one or two companies, or something custom made. If you want a new seat for pretty much any Harley, you've got 30 or 40 options from many companies, including Harley itself. The Harley Sundowner optional seat on my Sportster is easily as comfortable as any Mustang or Corbin or Sargent seat. And it was half the money.

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