Feel like I'm behind here!
With the fabrication off to a strong start, the next step is upgrades.
My experience has been that OEM parts are the most reliable, best tested parts out there. For a piece to earn a place on the Dakar bike, it has to offer a significant improvement in function, and I have to feel very confident that it will perform as intended for several normal lifetimes. There's far too much at stake here for me to bolt stuff because it looks pretty!
With the bike stripped down for assembly, it was an easy time to access the steering head. Bearings were greased, and the top tripleclamp was replaced with a BRP unit that isolates the bars and damper on a rubber bushing.
This is a real upgrade, for a few reasons. First, a bad crash will only bend the bolt that passes through the rubber- cheap and easy to replace, and a small spare to carry. When I've wadded it in badly on the bolt-on submounts, I've smeared the aluminum mounting surface so that even with new bolts, you can't get your bars straight. This solves the problem. Second, I have found that even a tiny amount of rubber isolation makes a big difference in wrist fatigue and hand comfort. These achieve that, and at less expense than the KTM PHDS mounts that the factory bikes use. Third, BRP gave me a taller mount than standard, which will help comfort in long stages, the slight cost in front end feel is nothing compared to the super easy standing position.
Next up is the Scotts steering stabilizer.
< Rant mode on > IT'S NOT A "DAMPENER"! A dampener is something that makes other things wet. A damper absorbs energy from the system. Damper. Not Dampener. Thanks. < Rant mode off >
Over the years, I've tried almost all the flavors of steering DAMPERS- GPR, RTT, WER, Emig, etc.
I chose the Scotts for two reasons- First is durability, and second is performance.
Scotts dampers hold up just about forever. I've experienced seal failures on the other brands, but never on a Scotts. That isn't to say it can't happen, but they are pretty damn tough and that's what I need for this event.
They also function the best of any I have tried. They have a separate high speed function, which refers not to the groundspeed of the bike, but the "twist speed" of the bars. In this way, you can have a very light feel for maneuvering the bars, yet have awesome isolation when the ground grabs the wheel and gives it a toss (a comparatively quick twist). On a GPR, for example, there is just a single stage of damping, so either the bars move when you hit things, or the steering feels heavy- the separate high and low speed circuits on the Scotts eliminate this tradeoff.
Full disclosure: I called each of these companies and asked for the product. They wanted to support my effort going to Dakar... but if they had asked me to pay, I would have.
The rear wheel was off, so the next stop was back there.
I typically run 14/50 gearing for all-around riding, emphasis on singletrack. The Dakar will include long sections of road, and I wanted to keep the revs down on transfers, even if it comes at the expense of some off-road performance. So, I am going to start by testing 14/46.
I have been running Dirt tricks sprockets for years- their Ironman stuff is nothing short of incredible. I have one 50T sprocket that I bought for my first 530, which has subsequently been transfered to 6 bikes for ~2000 miles each. It remains serviceable, which to me, is almost unbelievable. There is no question in my mind that these are the toughest sprockets in existence, and they have the added benefit of improving chain life, as the chain doesn't have to stretch across uneven tooth spacing.
Also visible here is a BRP chain guide, the little aluminum dealy in the stock one tends to either wallow the plastic or break, the BRP should last much longer.
I'm also trying, for the first time, one of the Dirt Tricks front sprockets. I'm putting one on my other bike as well, so that I can get a bunch of miles on it before I have to trust it.
The final upgrade back there was a Scotts sharkfin to protect the rear rotor:
Art as made by a mill, and beefy, too.
Next post- more fairing work!