Kevin Baker Lowering Links
WHY? The key word here is "lowering." I stand 6'0" tall, and I can just barely get my feet flat on the ground at a stoplight; shorter riders must have a real problem with this bike. One reason that I didn't like the Corbin seat on this bike is that it is taller than the stock seat and keeps me on the tips of my toes when at rest. On many motorcycles with a single-shock rear suspension the rear of the machine can be lowered by replacing the stock suspension links with longer ones; these lowering links are produced by a number of aftermarket suppliers. Any suspension alterations on a motorcycle can affect its handling, so modifications should be done with care. Since I am not a heavyweight rider and I never ride 2-up I was not too concerned about clearance issues or bottoming out the shock. I heard about links machined by Kevin Baker in Texas and sold though an outfit called Murphskits, so I decided to check them out. The web site is simple and somewhat amateurish-looking, but it offered an interesting selection of goodies for a variety of bikes--the V-Strom included. I located the links, placed the order, and paid $42 (shipping included) via credit card. A more expensive alternative, but one I might want to try, is a set of adjustable links from Soupy's. Check 'em out--they're pricier, but you can adjust the height to your preference.
SERVICE. Really nice. After ordering I received a confirmation via email and I received a shipping notice the next day. The links arrived via U.S. Postal Service five days after placing the order--not bad in the world of online shopping! I was impressed with the quality of the links--they are made of cold-rolled steel and zinc plated; they had clean edges and no burrs and looked to be very well made. I was surprised to find that they came wrapped in newspaper and had no instructions with them. Changing out links is not rocket science, but the average owner could probably use a little help with the installation.
INSTALLATION. Not too difficult, and could probably be managed by the average home mechanic; the entire process took me about 15 minutes. Since the links came with no instructions, I'll describe the process below. The only tools I used were a 14mm box wrench, a 17mm socket and ratchet, a block of wood and a hammer. Here's the routine:
1. Set the bike on the centerstand; if you don't have one, it would be best to jack up the bike and support it so that the rear wheel is off the ground.
2. Using the 17mm socket, loosen the nuts on the bolts that support the ends of the links; you'll do this from the right side of the bike. I didn't have to hold the cap end of the bolt (on the left side), but if you do you'll need a 14mm wrench.
3. When the nuts have been removed, you can pull off the right-side link. Using a block of wood and a hammer I tapped the two bolts toward the left side of the bike. Move to the left side of the bike and pull out the bottom bolt, being careful to leave the bushing in place. The rear wheel will drop down and you will be able to remove the top bolt and the left-hand link. Once again, be sure that the bushing stays in place.
4. On the left side of the bike, use one bolt to set the lower end of the new link in place. To fix the upper end of the link in place you'll have to lift the rear wheel until the holes align and you can slide in the bolt. I was able to lift the wheel with one hand while I slipped the bolt into the bushing with the other; if that doesn't work you might want to have a helper lift the wheel for you.
5. Move to the right hand side of the bike and fit the other link in place over the ends of the bolts. Replace the 17mm nuts and tighten them--you're done!
6. Since the rear of the bike was lowered I wanted to lower the front end to keep the steering geometry as close to stock as possible. To do this I raised the forks 3/4" inside the fork clamps. The front fork now looks like this:
7. To raise the forks you'll need to use a 10mm wrench to loosen the three pinch bolts (one on top, two on bottom) on each fork; push down gently on the handlebars until the desired clearance is achieved. Once there, tighten all 6 pinch bolts. Here is a view that shows the location of the bolts:
RESULTS. As advertised. With the bike on the centerstand I measured the distance between the tire and the floor before and after the installation; with the new links the distance was 3/4" larger, meaning that the rear of the bike was lowered by that amount. I really like the lower seat height, and it is now easier to get both feet flat on the ground at a stop. I was concerned that lowering the bike might cause problems with the sidestand and centerstand, but both operate just fine. The bike now stands slightly more vertical when on the sidestand and it now takes slightly more effort to get the bike on the centerstand, but both changes are minimal and well within my tolerance level. I've noticed no degradation of ride and handling, but I'm prepared to dial in a little more shock preload if the suspension ever bottoms out.
Worth the money? Absolutely. I hate to pay $42 for a couple of pieces of steel, but they are designed and machined well and the final result is a motorcycle that fits me much better.