XR Triple Clamp Over Haul – Bearings, seals and cleaning

This post I will be going through what I have done to overhaul my triple clamps, which will include cleaning, replacing the bearings and seals and spraying the bottom clamp to make it look brand new. I will talk about the parts involved as I break it down but it was already taken off of the main frame so I wont be detailing the complete dis-assaembly. That had happened previously when when I spent a day stripping the entire bike down.

Re-installing the forks and triple clamp back onto the frame will be covered in a future post because at the time of writing I am not at that stage of the rebuild yet, although if I remeber I will come back here and leave a link to the post as and when.

All this has been done on my Honda XR250, which I’m sure by now you know I am in the process of completely rebuilding as part of a dirt bike project. On this very website ProjectDirtBike.com I am documenting the entire process from the experience of a novice (me) and you can find my hub page for the rebuild here. This is the place to find my current progress and links to the individual posts relating to the various stages. You can also see my expenditure tracking and various tools I have used/made along the way.

Anyway… Back to the triple clamp overhaul.

So my aim here was to get these clamps looking as best I could in preperation for reinstallation onto the Honda XR frame. My plan was to disassemable the clamps, removing the top nut, top clamp, washer, top steering bearing and seal, and bottom steering bearing and seal. I would leave the steering stem in the bottom clamp as I didn’t see a need to take that apart. Plus I do not have a tool for the job!

It made sense to replace the bearings even though they looked in reasonable condition along with bearing dust seals which definitley needed doing.

Here’s how I got on….

First it was just a case taking this setup apart. You can see from the pic, I also have the bearing races showing here, which would normally sit in the head of the frame, one top and one bottom. These are here because after I stripped the bike down and knocked them out of the main frame I wanted to keep them with the bearings so I wouldn’t mislay them and I could cross reference them to the new ones to make sure I had ordered the correct bearings.

The overall condition of everything here was good. It was dirty and greasy but good, and would just benefit from a clean up and degrease. The bottom clamp is going to be sprayed but cleaning alone would of been enough.

The top clamp you can see is black but this is worn back to aliminium in places so I debated to either get this powder coated, which is what I have done for the foot pegs so they would match in colour, or spray them with a rattle can myself.

I decided to go for powder coating but I will not be getting this done just yet. I need to collect a few other smaller items for powder coating so it is cost effective because the company I use have a minimum charge and one clamp wouldn’t meet that fresh hold. I know I will definitley be getting the bike stand done and hopefully something else so they will all go together.

Everything on the top of the triple clamp is just held on by a nut which in my case is loosley on because the clamp is out of the frame. This includes the top bearing.

Once all the top gear has been removed you will be left with the bottom clamp with the stem coming up from the center and the bottom bearing firmly stuck on.

This bottom bearing is difficult to remove and ideally would be done using a bearing puller, a tool that I don’t own. For me, I use an old chisel which is blunt and a rubber mallet.

Laying the clamp down on the workbench I work the chisel round the base hitting it with the hammer to knock the bearing up the stem. It was tricky to get it started and would of been alot easier if the whole thing was in a vice but this is something else I don’t have the luxury of owning although is on the list.

The clamp metal is quite soft so be careful not to hammer the chisel into it as you will mark and dent it. I did end up with a minor ding in mine.

Now the triple clamp is completely disassembled its time to give everything a degrease and clean.

I place all the small fixings like nuts, bolts and washers in a tub with brake and clutch cleaner before going at them with the small wire brushes.

These brushes are great by the way and I use them loads. They come as a set and have varying degrees of softness and thicknesses. You can get into most places with them.

For the bottom clamps I first washed them with hot soapy water and a scotch pad then used some cleaner and wire brushes on the more stubborn areas. Then it was straight into the freezer to get it chilled down ready for the bearing installation.

What I am doing here is shrinking the diameter of the stem by chilling it down in the freezer. I leave this in for a good few hours, overnight is best.

The bearing we can then heat to expand the metal so between the 2 components we should of created a little extra wiggle room to get that bottom bearing into the stem and seated perfectly at the base.

The bearings I bought are HONDA parts as I believe it’s worth buying quality and these I picked up from Fowlers Parts which is were I buy alot of parts I need. – https://www.fowlersparts.co.uk/

The pic shows 2 bearings with the bearing races included and the gold looking disc is one of the dust seals, the other is out of shot. The bearings are the same for the top and bottom of the steering stem so makes no difference which one goes where. The dust seals for the bearings are different with one being larger in diameter.

Below is the bearing without the race. The race is the ring the bearing sits in and gets installed in the bike frame. The below bearing is what gets installed into the stem.

Packing The Bearings With Grease

Before we can install it we need to pack it with grease, for which I have bought a tub of BelRay Waterproof Grease. This stuff is always recommended on forums so I went with it.

I gloved up and packed both bearings at the same time because it is a messy job. I put an amount of grease into the palm of my left hand, as i’m right handed, and worked the bearing to push the grease into all the cavities possible.

I keep pushing in grease until I can see it bulging back out another hole to indicate it is completely full. When doing this you want to make sure you are working in a clean area with clean hands/gloves so no grit or dirt gets incorporated which can effect the bearings longer term.

Installing The Bottom Bearing

To get this bearing onto the stem we will heat it using a small blow torch on the inner race, grease the stem with the same BelRay Grease we put inside the bearings and the fact the stem has been freezing overnight should be enough to get the job done. I also needed the use of a hammer and punch to help knock the bearing all the way down to the base.

So with the stem ready apply a layer of grease all the way down the stem, then take you lower bearing dust seal which is the first thing to go on. This should slide all the way down without any problems.

Next I heated the inside race track using the small blow torch. To give you an idea the whole bearing was to hot to handle and I very nearly burnt myself.

Once hot enough I add the bearing and making sure it was the right way up. I found the bearing to go down 3/4 of the stem before it needed some encouragement which at that point I used the hammer and punch.

Hitting the bearing should be done on the inside race which is the closest ring to the center and therefore closest to the stem. Hitting it steady and evenly to ensure it goes down as close to level as possible is a good idea. I hit it at 12 oclock, 6 oclock , 3 oclock and 9 oclock in a continuous sequence until the bearing was seated nice and tight on the bottom.

The whole thing was pretty easy and didnt take much force at all.

Spraying The Bottom Clamp

In preperation for spraying the bottom clamp there are a few steps I took:

  • Key the surface
  • Wash and Degrease
  • Mask Up

In an ideal scenario you would probably do this before installing any of the bearing stuff mentioned earlier. That way you will save time and hassle masking it up. For me I didn’t so i’m spraying after bearing installation.

First I key up the clamp using a 320 grit piece of sand paper. Then wash off any debris.

Then I used white spirit to degrease it and allowed it to air dry.

Next it was on to masking. This is worth taking your time and really getting it as perfect as possible. The better the prep work the better the end result as you will have nice clean lines.

Below you can see I have used masking tape inside where the forks sit. I also stuffed bits of tissue, which isn’t shown in this pic, into the screw holes.

Once prepared the clamp is ready to spray. I like to do mine outside where possible and the weather allowed me to start getting the primer on. Here is a pic with a couple of coats on. I need to get a third coat on an then do underneath, then i’ll be onto the main colour.

I’m spraying mine silver for the main colour and I used SupaDec which I got from eBay at around £7 a can. The colour it came out of the can was perfect and had a slight chrome look to it. The downside was after applying lacquer the colour of the spray paint changed from the chrome look to a duller more grey colour.

I am still happy with the end result although I do wonder if you can just leave out the clear lacquer altogether?

Here is a pic before adding the lacquer, you can see how shiney looking it is.

and this is it after it has had 2 coats of lacquer and is finished.

That concludes my triple clamp overhaul. In a post coming up soon I shall be showing how I installed the bearing races back into the frame so the triple clamp can be installed.

I did record all of this post and will have it posted on my YouTube channel – ProjectDirtBike so feel free to check it out.

Until next time….

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