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Old 06-28-2014, 10:16 AM   #1
mtothef OP
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oh god, not another ninja mutant...

i am a bit loath to start this thread since a) previous build threads of mine have at times stalled horrifically, and b) there are a jillion ninja conversions already chronicled here, and c) i am concerned that JDrocks will mock my primitive caveman build. BUT, i am trying a few things different here, and at the very least it should provide some comic relief for a few of you. the past few builds of mine have varied greatly in direction and intent. most recently, this:



turned into this:



and before that, there was the grim saga chronicled here: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=405327

in between those two, there was this odyssey of rust and sorrow: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=525813

the common thread there being that they were all old shitpiles to start with, and were also all yamahas. so, when this followed me home:



i realized i was crossing into terra incognito. i have been eyeballing these bikes, and the various builds featured here, for a few years now. however, timing and a fistful of money never seemed to coincide, and wrecked ninjas here in california get snapped up fast and often for too much money. meanwhile, i had finally purchased my "dream" big bike that looks like a dirt bike but acts like a street bike - a ktm 950 adventure. and i had come to the realization that the teenage dirt biker in me just doesn't like anything that weighs more than 350 pounds. i have tried. triumph daytona, triumph speed triple, ducati monster, bmw r100, to name a few of the bikes that have gathered dust in my life. i just have a thing for bikes that are skinny and tall. and good at ripping around on dirt roads. and maybe tough enough to fall over once in a while. when i realized that the ktm was going to end up in the "nice for a road bike but still too heavy for my personal twisted aesthetic", i started thinking about a 650 kawasaki again.

and lo, this wee thing crested the horizon of craigslist and called to me and the $1200 i had conveniently burning a hole in my pocket. yes, that is probably too much money to some of you. however, it has only got 6000 miles on it, and it runs like a top, and aside from the broken left fork leg, the wambled front rim and a tweaked subframe, everything was intact and 100 percent functional. and besides, it was a hell of a lot less expensive than the pair of xr650r's that i had just been deflected from (hence the wad of cash needing to find somewhere to disappear).

so here i am, smack in the middle of a build, in the phase that i commonly refer to as the doldrums. where the first easy and dramatic swipes have been taken, and now some serious fabricating needs to happen, followed by an insane amount of nitpicky finishing details. right now, the bike looks like this:



how it got from a wrecked ninja to a non-functional conglomeration of kawasaki, suzuki, aprilia and ktm parts will follow. then from there we'll see if this hatchet job will ever actually run. and if it does run, i guess we'll see if it weighs what i want it to weigh, holds enough gas, and handles right. at this juncture, who knows?
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Old 06-28-2014, 03:32 PM   #2
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Looks good, I'm in
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Old 06-28-2014, 03:32 PM   #3
sanjoh
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Sweet

Always room for a mutant ninja build. Not sure why you waited this long to post up.

What's the swingarm off of?

I'll wager a six pack the Adventure will be down the road after you ride the mutant

First KTM Adventure owner that rode my dirt ninja wanted to swap permanently
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Old 06-28-2014, 03:37 PM   #4
sailah
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Looks like an aprilia swinger

I like it. Yeah hate to tell you but as you well know the last 10% takes 50% of the time.
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Old 06-29-2014, 08:22 AM   #5
mtothef OP
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sanjoh, sailah, your builds have steered me through various problem solving crises on some of my previous builds, and definitely helped me line up what i want to do with this one...

the swingarm is off a dorsoduro. initially the plan was to hack in some kind of dirt bike rear end, but i was thinking about linkage placement and swingarm width and wheel width and all the shit that never lines up with that, and then the lightbulb went off - my main concern with the kawasaki swinger is that it is uglier than a bucket of smashed assholes. but the aprilia dorsoduro/whiver swingers are gorgeous. AND they use a similar shock placement. AND they also use the same 20mm diameter axle. so, a dorsoduro arm and shock and pivot bolt showed on ebay for the princely sum of $175 and away we went.

i figured that since the kawasaki swingarm was 245mm wide at the pivot, there wouldn't be much chance that the aprilia arm would be wider. oops. 263mm, mas o menos.

so, with some creative shaving down of aprilia pivot spacers (and no longer using the trick but kinda intrusive bearing preload adjustment that aprilias feature, and instead just relying on bolt tension to hold shit in place like most everything else in the world), and with a little help from a hydraulic ram, we tried to spread the ninja frame. people with sensitive stomachs and small children may want to look away at this point:



wonder if harbor freight will warranty that. since that idea didn't float to well, i turned to my old friend mister oxy-acetylene, and his strongarm buddy mister 12-ton bottle jack:



it wasn't pretty, quite a bit of hammering was required to realign the bores, but in the end, it worked:



note the ultra high tech sr500 shock holding the rear end in place. ironically, that is the length and shaft travel that i ended up searching for. will get to 'splaining that all in a bit.
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Old 06-29-2014, 06:21 PM   #6
sailah
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Nice. That swinger does look great. How long is it? Did you gain any wheelbase from the swap? I found the foot peg position to be tough anywhere the frame could mount so I drew up some custom drops and cut them out. Makes the footpeg position much nicer for adv type riding.
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Old 06-30-2014, 12:09 AM   #7
DRjoe
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Love it, that swing arm looks awesome on there.

Keep up the good work.
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:40 AM   #8
mtothef OP
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geometry lessons...

the dorsoduro swingarm is the same length as the ninja swinger. it is only a fraction lighter. the dorsoduro rear wheel/sprocket/brake assembly is (i think, need to go check some records) 16mm wider than the ninja rear wheel assembly. the shock mount point in the dorsoduro swinger is different than the ninja - a little further away, and also slightly outboard. and the dd swingarm is also asymmetrical. i need to take some pics to illustrate some of this.

it was really a roll of the dice to go with the aprilia swingarm, and i am lucky that it worked without too much headache.

the whole goal with this bike was to end up with a wheelbase around 58", a steering angle around 26-27 degrees, about 9 inches of wheel travel, and dirt bike ergonomics. i intended to go with 17/19" wheels instead of 18/21" because i had a feeling that the seat height will be hard to keep reasonable with the fuel tank i was planning (and that is turning out to be an accurate concern), and also because i am not trying to fool anyone into thinking that this bike will be the next singletrack slaying machine. i have an aprilia rxv550. if anyone wants to play around on a 70+ horsepower dirt bike in some tight singletrack sometime, hit me up. people who talk about how much fun a glorious excess of power and weight can be when the going gets gnarly, i suspect, are generally people who haven't ridden bikes like that, or haven't ridden really tight technical trails, or are clearly gods masquerading as mortals. big heavy powerful dirt bikes are great on fire roads and hillclimbs. but otherwise, not so much. god put ktm200s on this planet for a very good reason.

i digress... anyway, the goal here is to get a bike that weighs about 350 pounds, sports the above geometry, has a great big fuel range, and some degree of wind protection and headlight oomph. and the ability to slap a pannier or two on there, but no, i do not intend to circumnavigate the globe on this bike. ultimately, i want this to be my daily driver play bike. that means, good on pavement, great on dirt roads (because i love dirt roads), able to handle when dirt roads degenerate into chunky garbage (because i love that even more), comfortable, upright, smooth, but with better suspension and/or lighter than the current crop of "adventure" bikes. most of which seem overweight and overcomplicated for me.

fuck, to be honest, the inspiration for this came when i did my first oil change on the ktm950. doing it all the way, and checking the internal filters as well, required removing something like 26 individual bolts and fasteners, using i think five different size and styles of wrench. it's an "adventure" alright. similarly, checking the valves on that beast is a horror show where time goes to die. the ninja? not so hard to get to, especially once all that fairing malarkey is gone, and VALE CHECK INTERVALS EVERY 25,000 MILES!!!

so, yeah, there we have it. initially i wanted to go super budget cheap as well. but then when i began searching for wheel options, i remembered i still had that wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket from those two xr650s i didn't buy. so i set a ceiling for this thing to be done at $4k. that may seem like a lot to some of the more super budget kingpins of you out there, but i like nice tires, and good suspension. and matching wheels. so i blew a the purchase price of the original bike on these:







a fool and his money are soon parted, so they say. ah well...
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Old 07-01-2014, 05:22 AM   #9
plugeye
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diggin it
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Old 07-01-2014, 12:15 PM   #10
mtothef OP
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step by step

so, backing up a little, the first order of business was to remove all the crap that isn't going to get used:



then do something about making a set of drz400 forks fit the front end. out goes the drz stem:



out goes the ninja stem:



flip over the drz lower triple, bore the hole a bit bigger, and hey presto:



amazingly, it all fit:



the reasoning behind the drz400 forks is manyfold: 1. the ninja forks are smaller diameter than anything i would want to play with. 2. swapping to a more modern USD fork with roughly the right offset wouldn't leave much turning radius given the shape of the frame. conventional upside-up forks allow for just a hair more turning radius... 3. the 49mm drz400 forks, specifically the E and later S model forks with adjustable compression and rebound damping, are about as good as conventional forks ever got. they are cartridge dampers, the valves and shims are themselves easy to access and tunable, and 4. they can be had on ebay all day long for next to nothing.

so, another $175 got me a set of 2005 forks complete with axle. i thought about going the route of shimming a versys triple clamp and running the drz forks in that. it would probably be the best way to go in terms of turning radius, but i think it would end up with more offset and a resultant less than desirable decrease in trail for the head angle and wheel size that i am aiming for.

thus, the DRZ clamps being used. straight away, i found out that the DRZ lower clamp's gullwing was going to totally ratfuck me in terms of steering radius. after some squinting and measuring, i decided to flip it upside down (which admittedly doesn't leave me with a whole lot of room for ride height adjustment, and also creates some unique challenges if i choose to run a high fender), with the ninja steerer pressed in after boring the clamps a few mm to fit, there is just over 9.25" stanchion from the lips of the seals to the rim of the lower clamp. just enough. then, it was time to work on the forks themselves...
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Old 07-01-2014, 12:47 PM   #11
mtothef OP
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forking hell

OH, and another thing - using the ninja steerer, while resulting in having to leverage favors from friends with lathes, meant being able to use standard ninja head bearings. except the standard ninja head bearings are cup and race relics from back when people waxed their mustaches and referred to bicycles as velocipedes. cup and race and loose balls? in the 21st century? they really were aiming for the bargain set with these bikes. so, a new set of tapered rollers went in, and then it was time to work on the fork innards themselves:



seems the dog ate my homework with the shim stack ordeal. anyway, figuring that this bike is going to be a bit more hefty than the bike the forks used to be on, i decided to get some springs and do a revalve. i used the racetech calculator to fake a heavier bike by increasing the rider weight. i weigh 190 about ready to ride, and the stock fork springs for a DRZ are .44s. fudging my weight up to around 240, (estimating that a stock DR400 weighs about 300, and this bike will be hopefully around 350), the calculator told me to get .55 springs. my previous experience with the race tech calculator is that it recommends springs a bit heavier than i like. so, i split the difference and ordered some .50 springs. we will see how that pans out somewhere down the road. then, onto the valving.

i got some racetech gold valves. why? well, because if you are not totally well versed with shim stacks, the purchase of a set of gold valves also grants the purchaser access to a section of the racetech website that allows a whole raft of shim information and tuning data, which comes in handy when groping around in the dark. i have revalved a few forks, but i am by no means an expert, and in a case like this where the forks are being used well out of their original intended purpose, it would be a bit naive to assume that the stock valving will even come close to working.

at this point i would also recommend anyone who ever thought about tuning their own suspension to by a copy of race-tech's motorcycle suspension bible. tons of good brain food in there.

anyhoo, i set up the compression stacks with a little bit of valve face preload to counter the extra weight of the bike, ran with the recommended valve stacks for the spring and fudged rider weight i was using for a baseline, aimed for a light low speed damping with a slightly more pronounced crossover effect between low and high, and a bit of a more robust high speed stack than recommended. again, no way to know how this will work until it comes time to ride.

one of the very cool things about these forks is how easy it is to change compression valving - the valve is right at the bottom of the forks. so, pull the fork, flip it upside down, undo the compression valve, make changes, reinstall, go test again. don't even have to drain the oil. pretty rad.

while i was in there, i crafted some bottom out spacers from the finest material available at orchard supply aerospace:



yes, that is schedule 40 pvc. and is probably totally an unnecessary bad idea. the stock bottom out mechanism is a taper that acts like a progressive hydraulic ramp at the end of travel. general consensus is that DR400s were notorious for "clanking" at bottom out and that these tapers only really worked if using a much heavier oil than what generally works well in these forks. also, smarter people than me went on to state that the way they dealt with it was to just run a higher oil volume in the fork and let the ramp-up from that dictate their bottom out characteristics. ah well. i didn't learn this until AFTER i had gone to the great expense (at least 40 cents) precision machining these fine stops. anyway, slapped it all back together, re-used the bushings since they were in fine shape, tossed in new seals and bottom valve o-rings, adjusted oil volume to account for new, reduced bottom out point, and crossed fingers. gonna be a whole lot of after the fact dicking around to get it right, i suspect.

the replacement springs are noticeably "rougher" in finish than the stockers. when pushing the bike up and down in the workshop, the fork action does not feel silky smooth. so, i may want to pull them out and polish them as well. again, that is a down the line thing, we'll see how they break in first. anyway, there we go. front end, 9" travel. more or less done.
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Old 07-05-2014, 12:51 PM   #12
mtothef OP
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shocking

forks done, it was time to get the rear sorted. first, i hacked off the mangled subframe:



then, commence head scratching. the ninja stock has around 5 inches of travel, and a leverage ratio of around 3:1. the common R1 swap gains some length, but doesn't net enough travel gain for what i wanted - total length is around 12" with 65mm shaft travel... the dorsoduro shock measured 13" with about 54mm travel. hmph... meanwhile, i had slapped an old mulholland leftover from the sr500 in place to use as a mockup while i measured things it was 13.5" eye to eye, and had 3" shaft travel. took the spring off, swing it through the arc and measured things, and it coughed up 9" at the rear axle. perfect.

sooo, it turns out that the shock from a v-strom 1000 measures 345mm total, and has a shaft travel of 75mm. 345mm equals 13.58 inches, which is close enough for this bike. 75mm is 3", and will get me to the desired 9" wheel travel. i figured v-strom shocks would be all over the place used for next to nothing, but a week of ebay scouring turned up only a few shocks and they were all expensive - up around $200. that seems like a lot for a well used stock shock that is going to need a complete revalve and new spring...

thus i took some more of that leftover pile of cash and blew it on a hagon shock. my request was "could you please build up one of your v-strom 1000 shocks, but with the valving and spring rate that you'd do for a ninja 650?" they said "no problem." 500 bucks. adjustable rebound damping, hopefully in the ballpark for both spring and damping. i figured a v-strom shock would have cost me an extra couple hundred bucks in valving and spring, so this didn't hurt quite so much. and the people at hagon are super easy to deal with:



this is placed and waiting for some new spacers to be machined. i am going to bore the lower mount of the shock to 10mm, run a sleeve through that as well as through the stepped spacers that will mount on either side of the old shock mount ear. then another spacer to fill the empty gap between the shock and the old outer ear on the swingarm, and a bolt all the way through. we will see how that holds up...

rear wheel mounted up, chainline where it needs to be, and i had to fit a 10mm spacer on the drive side, and a 6mm spacer on the brake side:





little by little, it is starting to turn back into a bike.
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Old 07-05-2014, 03:54 PM   #13
Roadracer_Al
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Well, howdy! I see you can't leave your grubby mitts off anything can you?

A man of similar inclinations, for sure.

a
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Old 07-05-2014, 04:25 PM   #14
mtothef OP
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guilty as charged

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roadracer_Al View Post
Well, howdy! I see you can't leave your grubby mitts off anything can you?

A man of similar inclinations, for sure.

a
_al, you've read enough of the other projects to know i can't resist polishing turds. at least i have left the ktm 950 bone stock except for the exhaust. i am learning restraint. maybe.
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Old 07-05-2014, 04:38 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtothef View Post
wonder if harbor freight will warranty that. since that idea didn't float to well, i turned to my old friend mister oxy-acetylene, and his strongarm buddy mister 12-ton bottle jack:



it wasn't pretty, quite a bit of hammering was required to realign the bores, but in the end, it worked:

Holy ..&^#%$!!!!!!
This has got to be the most radical method of...adapting I'm ever going to see...
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