So we had made it to Tbilisi, albeit a bit wobbly. On Friday the 13th no less. Niko had agreed to meet us at his workshop around lunchtime the next day. Jo had gotten a tourist SIM card from the receptionist at the hotel, which made it a lot easier to stay in contact with him.
Before going to the workshop the bike could use a clean though. It is easier to work on a clean bike, not to mention a lot more pleasant. Fortunately there’s a car wash right next to our hotel.
While both our bikes are being cleaned Sofie starts chatting to Gillian, who’s working in Georgia for the Salvation Army. She’s very happy to be able to speak some English to someone.
With the bikes thoroughly cleaned we arrive at Niko’s workshop.
Niko is a friendly guy who speaks English very well. He earns a living from working on motorbikes, mainly for tourists passing through Georgia.
After discussing the problem we agree that we need to take the shock out first to get a better look and find the cause of the leak. So we immediately get to work. The procedure is pretty straightforward. First the wheel comes out, then the shock is detached from the linkage at the bottom and from the frame at the top. The shock and the expansion reservoir slide out from the bottom.
While we’re working Jo also gets in touch with Hyperpro, to get his hands on the manual and to ask Bas from Hyperpro Alphen for some advise.
With the shock removed the next step is to get the spring off. We aren’t carrying the special keys required for the preload adjustment ring, but Niko has some lying around. None of them fit perfectly but one is very close. It just needs a little bit of filing to make it fit nice and snug.
With the preload turn all the way to the minimum it will be a lot easier to get the spring off. It still requires 2 people and a bit of leverage though. We also need to be very careful not to damage the piston arm.
After that comes the next challenge: removing the end cap from the main body. This cap is pressed in very tight and has only a very small ridge to get some grip on. It is stuck so tight that trying to pry it out with a flat screwdriver or a chisel isn’t working. The best alternative we find is to file some slots in the cap so we can get a good grip with a vise.
The approach seems to work!
With the cap off all the internals come out quite easily. The exact culprit of the leak is quickly identified: this little seal:
Luckily Jo is carrying a spare seal, so we have an immediate solution. Reassembly is the reverse of disassembly. But not before making sure all parts are perfectly clean and in good condition. Most work goes into all the little shims that are on both sides of the piston.
With the shock almost reassembled again we decide to call it a day. It is getting late and we won’t be able to finish our work without getting our hands on some suspension oil anyway. After a quick shower at the hotel we go out for dinner together with Niko. Some delicious traditional Georgian food: Khinkali and Khachapuri with a fresh salad washed down with a Georgian beer. After dinner, a small walk around the neighborhood and some ice cream it is time to get to bed. Tomorrow will be another day of working on the bike.
The next day Jo and Niko go on a hunt for some suspension oil. Niko knows a few places and at the first one we already get lucky. They have the required 2.5 weight oil. It’s not very cheap but it will do the job. With that sorted the reassembly can continue. First the remains of the old oil are removed by pumping the membrane in the external reservoir.
Then the membrane has to come out to be able to refill with the new oil. We try getting it out with a bolt and some pliers, but that don’t work out. So we resort to a “special tool” albeit not exactly the one mentioned in the Hyperpro manual. It does the job nicely though.
With the membrane removed, some more cleaning and then the reservoir is connected back to the shock (we had taken them apart because it was clumsy to work with). Now we can start filling with oil.
The oil is filled in stages. We fill the reservoir, then start pumping the shock to fill the main body with oil and get the air out. When no more bubbles appear we set the oil level in the reservoir to the required level and put back the membrane. Some oil spills over, but that is normal. With everything back together all that remains is to get some pressure into the membrane. We have 2 small compressors but they can only give 7-7.5 bar at max, whereas normally 10 bar is required. It will have to do for now. We were told by Hyperpro that a medical needle is best suited for this, so we dig one out of our medikit. We try out a number of different hings, but we cannot get it to seal properly with the compressor hose. We won’t be able to get the pressure up like that. So we have to resort to the thicker football needle with the compressor and hope that doesn’t damage the rubber.
With the pressure up to a little over 7 bar we are ready to try the shock on the bike.
There’s no more leaks, but something still isn’t right. There is little to no rebound dampening and the shock tops out when coming up. Compression seems normal.
It is getting late so we decide to call it a day again. This will give Jo the chance to consult with Hyperpro on possible causes and work can hopefully continue tomorrow.
Bas from Hyperpro Alphen a/d Rijn provided some very useful feedback and tips. The most likely cause for the phenomenon would be air in the shock. We had pumped the shock a lot without any more air coming out yesterday, but perhaps it did go a little be too easy. So we open the external reservoir again and start over. This time a lot more air comes out and it takes us a lot longer before no more bubbels appear. But the result feels much more like a shock should. After installing it on the bike the difference is night and day compared to yesterday. Both Jo and Niko are happy with the result and we decide to go on a rice-out the next day to Mtskheta. It is a nice place to visit and it will provide a good test-bed for the shock.
So in the morning (at least in Georgian terms, for us it is noon) we meet up with Niko once more at his garage. He leads us through Tbilisi, which is hectic, but once you get used to it you start enjoying and going with the flow. Once out of the city we get onto the Georgian Military Highway that goes north towards Russia. Niko guides us flawlessly to the Jarvi Church looking over Mtskheta.
It looks really impressive from below and after we parked the bikes, we hike up to the church itself. We’re not the only tourists, this is clearly a popular destination.
We take our time to explore the site. Niko clearly likes to take pictures!
When we leave again, Niko takes off along a dirt road leading back to the main road. He clearly wants to test and make sure the suspension is working as it should.
After Mtskheta, he takes us further to Bazaleti lake. It’s a popular summer destionation which we wouldn’t have discovered without him. It’s still pleasantly peaceful this time of year but the locals are already preparing for the busy summer months.
On the way back to Tbilisi, Sofie notices a distinct smell of fuel. First, she thinks it’s coming from the overflow of her bike (the fuel pump attendants have a habit of overfilling). But at some roadworks we see fuel pouring out from underneath Niko’s KTM. He parks his bike by the side of the road and out come the tools. A leaky hose is quickly replaces by some spare tubing Jo is carrying. Less than an hour later, the job is done and we can continue.
A big thank you to Niko for the mechanical assistance and for guiding us on a nice afternoon ride. A lot of jiggy jiggy and some big khafasa but in the end we tackled the situation perfectly!