Shoosh Engine, Don’t Cry! The APE Racing MCCT Will Soothe You!

The Dilemma

Since day one, my 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000 has had a bothersome top end rattle, even when it had low miles. After a few years and 26,000 miles later, the rattle seemed to get worse. I checked valve clearances twice (once at 17,000 and again at 26,000) and all clearances were in spec. I knew there had to be a way to quiet the top end down, so I asked around.

Most of the mechanically inclined friends I spoke to said it’s rare for cam chain tensioners to go bad and I should just try to push the stock tensioner out a click to see if that worked. I tried this. No change. Though I respected their opinion, I was convinced there had to be a better solution.

Not too long ago, a friend brought a 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000 engine to me to rebuild after it started knocking at a race. Two of the bottom connecting rod bearings had spun out after just six laps. I rebuilt the engine and noticed it was equipped with a manual cam chain tensioner. I had never used one before and really had no clue what the advantages were so I started doing some research.

Automatic CCT’s vs. Hydraulic CCT’s

What I found out is the automatic cam chain tensioners that come stock with a Suzuki motorcycle (for example) have a ratchet type mechanism that holds the push rod of the tensioner to the cam chain guide and maintains tension. But after continued high r.p.m. use, it is possible for this ratchet mechanism to weaken and thus dull or wear the teeth on the push rod. This can cause the tensioner to slip which creates noise or worse, inflicts damage.

On the flip side, hydraulic tensioners use oil pressure to determine how much pressure to put on the cam chain guide and cam chain. These types of tensioners actually have a tendency to put too much tension on the chain guide under high r.p.m.s or high oil pressure conditions like during start-up. This could result in premature wear of the cam chain guide and other components, per APE Racing. Additionally, if there is any foaming of the oil or the engine loses oil pressure, this can also cause the cams to go temporarily out of time and you’re back in the same boat you would be in with a faulty automatic cam chain tensioner. The

APE Racing Manual Cam Chain Tensioner

Per Ape Racing: “The easy-access socket head adjuster screw is perfect for tight spaces. The interior o-ring design ensures that repeated adjustments will not eventually flatten the o-ring against a jam nut.”

Per Ape Racing: “The easy-access socket head adjuster screw is perfect for tight spaces. The interior o-ring design ensures that repeated adjustments will not eventually flatten the o-ring against a jam nut.”

I found the APE Racing Parts website online and starting reading about the manual cam chain tensioner (or MCCT for short). The MCCT is designed for the racer who frequently adjusts or makes changes to their engine, per APE Racing. This means the MCCT will have to be adjusted every oil change, but I believe a happy, humming engine is worth it. APE Racing’s MCCT can eliminate the possibility of the tensioner being too loose or too tight as the mechanic can set the tension himself (or herself). The tension will remain the same, regardless of oil pressure or r.p.m’s. What does this mean? The possibility of engine damage goes down dramatically and the engine runs much quieter with better performance.

As APE Racing MCCT’s are CNC machined from billet alloy to exact tolerances, they fit perfectly to the gasket surface of the engine with no modifications needed. This makes for a quick install with little hassle. After reading this information on APE Racing’s website, I was convinced the MCCT was the answer I’d been looking for.

The Install

The part number of the MCCT I received was ST1000-3-PRO. I know this one works on more than just one year/model GSX-R. Click here to see what models APE Racing currently make manual cam chain tensioners for. I did appreciate, though, how they had a link to the “how-to” page right on the packaging. And I know this is going to sound really girly, but I love the color of this tensioner too!

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I removed the valve cover and made sure the engine was on TDC or top dead center where the cam chain is at it’s slackest point. I checked to make sure the timing marks on the crank shaft were correct and lined up. I also checked the position of the intake and exhaust cam sprockets and marked them with a paint pen (both on the chain and on the sprocket itself) in case I needed to reset time for any reason.

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I removed the original, stock tensioner and placed it in a baggy.

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It should be noted that I removed the oil feed to the tensioner body and placed it in the baggy as well. The APE Racing MCCT will not install correctly if this oil feed nozzle is not removed.

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I then cleaned the gasket surface at the CCT opening.

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I loosened the jam nut on the MCCT and pulled the tensioner push rod all the way back up against the body. It’s best to do this when on installation to prevent the cams from jumping time as it would be prematurely set too tight.

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I installed the gasket to the MCCT body.

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I installed the MCCT, tightening down the body first and torque-ing the two body bolts to about 16 ft. lbs.

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I screwed in the tensioner foot or push rod while turning the engine clockwise slowly until I felt resistance against the cam chain guide. I must note it was really difficult to feel where the best stopping point was, so I screwed the push rod in until it nearly stopped, then backed it out half a turn. I turned the motor clock wise at the crank shaft and checked the cam chain tension. It should have had a 1/4’’ deflection but it was extremely tight, so I loosened the tensioner another half turn, tightened the jam nut and turned the engine clock wise again. I checked the chain tension and my timing marks and everything was spot on!

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Done and ready to start!

Done and ready to start!

 “APE'S Pro Series tensioner features an internal O-ring and custom-machined adjuster bolt. The bolt is broached with a 4mm hex.”

“APE’S Pro Series tensioner features an internal O-ring and custom-machined adjuster bolt. The bolt is broached with a 4mm hex.”

Conclusion

Before I put the bike back together, I also installed NGK iridium spark plugs and swapped out the coolant. On start up, it purred like a kitten. It literally sounded like a completely different bike. All the top end rattle was absent. It was so quiet! I was so impressed at how quick and efficient the install was and how much of a difference it made! I was not expecting such a drastic change. The APE Racing MCCT really is an amazing, simple solution to an annoying problem. I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind spending extra time working on their bikes.

More about APE Racing’s MCCT

The APE Racing MCCT is available with the bolts and gasket included and is available at an m.s.r.p. of $51.65 for standard model tensioners and $89.95 for pro series tensioners.

Take a look at this detailed video on how to install the APE Racing manual cam chain tensioner on a 2005 Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Part 3 of Project Ninja Turtle: 300R Handlebar Conversion

If you’re going to build a streetfighter, especially a Ninja streetfighter, you need to have a bad ass handlebar that instills fear into the enemy the way a policeman’s nightstick makes a purse snatcher pee his pants. You have to be able to throw your elbows up and muscle your bike into corners and slides the way a matador grabs a bull by the horns.

To do that, you need a tough handlebar that makes you forget about the wimpy, stock risers the bike came with. These risers are basically a Steve Urkel version of what a handlebar would be if it wasn’t made by Renthal. The Renthal “Street-Fighter” bar is perfect for transforming the 300R into the streetfighter who can Hoo-doo-kin! his competition to tears.

We approached Renthal with the idea of building the Ninja Turtle and of course they were on board. Who doesn’t want to see David beat Goliath? Thanks to Renthal, we were able to acquire the “Street-Fighter” handlebar so you could see first hand how we did a seemingly impossible task in a just a few hours.

The Transformation

The stock handlebar risers had to go. Riding a 300 with these is like watching a T-Rex make a bed. Just sad.

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We used KX250F OE handlebar clamps to fit the Renthal Street-Fighter handlebar to the Ninja 300R’s stock upper triple.

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First thing’s first. To remove the stock handlebars, we had to first remove the left and right hand handlebar switches, the brake lever, perch and throttle grip.

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To keep track of the screws for the switches, we left them in the switch assemblies.

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Since the bar end had never been removed before, we tried to remove it using an impact, but eventually had to turn to the torch to get it off. Say bye bye bar ends!

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We removed the clutch lever, perch and left side switch.

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Lastly, we used compressed air to remove the left side grip.

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With everything removed from the risers, we were able to take them off by removing two bolts on each side.

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Now that the upper triple was bare, we finally had to chance to figure out how to install the Street-Fighter handlebar without weakening the triple.

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We decided the best way to do it would be to use the upper two holes that were already there for the risers. This way, the Street-Fighter handlebar would be centered on the upper triple and we wouldn’t have to drill any extraneous holes.

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Next we removed the steering stem nut and loosened the upper triple fork clamp bolts. Please note that to remove the triple, you have to turn the forks to the side to allow the ignition switch to clear the steering neck.

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The bummer was even though the triple was free of the forks, the ignition switch was still connected. The ignition switch connector is located underneath the gas tank, so we had to remove the tank to disconnect the switch and remove the upper triple.

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We used a mill to drill the holes for KX250F bottom clamps into the 300’s upper triple. Unfortunately, the mill doesn’t come with a jig for these sorts of things, so we had to make one.

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The bolts attached to the KX250F bottom clamps measured at .470’’, so we matched a 15/32’’ drill bit to that size for a precise fit between the clamp and upper triple.

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Watching the mill do its work was as entertaining as seeing a shoe hit George W. Bush in the head. We loved it.

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As you can see, our measuring paid off. A perfect fit!

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Now for the other side…

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With the bolt holes drilled, we de burred the edges with a de burring tool – A classic machinist’s trick for a clean finish.

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After we installed the clamps, we noticed the bolts were too long. In most other cases a long bolt would be considered an endowment, but in this case it was an impediment. How do we make it so we can tighten the clamps to the upper triple with the bolts that we have?

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Before we continued machining, we made sure that we could fit the bars to the clamps with the holes that we drilled and still clear the ignition switch.

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Luck is on our side. Our machinist happened to have an extra piece of stainless steel we could use to make spacers for the bottom clamp bolts. Using a lathe, we peened a hole into the steel so when we connect the drill bit, it can drill a hole to just exceed the diameter of the bottom clamp bolt.

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After a little sharpening, we installed the drill bit into the lathe and drilled a hole into the steel deep enough to match the length of the spacers we needed.

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We measured the sections of steel and cut the spacers to our desired length.

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Once the two spacers were cut, they’d take some fine tuning to clean up the finish.

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Using a belt sander, we cut a notch into each spacer so they’d clear the bolt holes for the wire/cable routing brackets on the under side of the upper triple.

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See! Perfect fit! Now we can tighten the clamps.

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Before re-installing the Street-Fighter bar and upper triple to the forks, we had to install the bar to the triple off the bike and tighten the clamps to make sure they were straight.

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We installed the upper triple with the handlebar on the forks and had originally thought about cutting the Street-Fighter bar shorter, but after comparing the length of the stock handlebars to the Street Fighter bar, we determined that the length was the same. We needed all the room we could get to reinstall the levers, grips and switch assemblies.

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Next we had to drill holes in the Street-Fighter bar in order to reinstall the switch assemblies. We were able to measure the exact length and spot where the holes needed to be to reinstall the switches just as they were before.

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We removed the handlebar and used a center punch to punch a divot into the bar for the drill bit. If you don’t do this, it will walk around the drilling surface and do more damage than good.

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Using a drill press, we drilled the holes we needed into the Street-Fighter bar. We had to sharpen the bits, as the bar’s hard exterior was putting up quite the fight.

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With all the machining complete, we reinstalled the Street-Fighter bar and put the bike back together. It came out so awesome! The handlebar install is so clean it looks stock, with the exception of the open holes in the upper triple, but we can fix that later.

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Just one hiccup. We had to reroute wiring and cables to get the switches and levers to fit with the new handlebar. Unfortunately, our Ninja Turtle is an ABS unit, which presented quite an issue with the front brake hose. It was way too short. We tried to route the hose behind the triple, but with a few turns of the handlebar, the hose was already cut from being pinched against the plastics and it was also binding behind the triple. We’d play with it for the rest of the day, but it became evident this is going to take some research. Stay tuned to see how we resolve the brake issue.

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What’s Next for the Ninja Turtle?

Unfortunately, we are left with a few minor problems after installing the handlebar. With the brake hose from the front master cylinder to the ABS unit being too short, we’ll need to find a longer brake line that will not only work with the ABS, but be long enough to reach the master cylinder while being safely routed with no danger of binding or tearing. In short, the Ninja Turtle needs different brakes.

Also, we’re now on a mission to find a set of bar end mirrors that can be adapted to fit inside the Street-Fighter bar’s uniquely smaller interior.

A Little About the Renthal “Street-Fighter” Handlebar

se-road-1The “Street-Fighter” handlebar (part # 789-02) is a new bar by Renthal that is designed with a bend specifically designed for street bikes and equipped with a cross brace and bar pad for a dirt-bike look and feel. The handlebar has a 7/8’’ or 22mm external diameter and fits most standard clamps and controls.

The Street-Fighter handlebar has a shot peened finish in an effort to prevent breakage or failure due to fatigue. The bar is made from 7010 T6 Aluminium, a developed alloy specifically used by Renthal to manufacture handlebars. This high-impact material has the strength of Edward’s diamond skin, which was evident when trying to drill holes for the handlebars switches. The strong material of the Street-Fighter bar is as durable as it is thick to provide some serious dampening against vibration.

The bar also has other features that are beneficial to the rider. The left side of the handlebar is knurled on the grip end to better adhere the clutch-side rubber grip to the bar surface. At the center of the handlebar is a laser etched positioning grid which really helped us to position the bar where we needed once the job was done.

List of Mods So Far

Competition Werkes GP slip-on exhaust, Competition Werkes Fender eliminator kit, Renthal 7/8’’ Street-Fighter handlebar with KX250F handlebar clamps and custom machined spacers, rreen adjustable levers (from China)

Special Thank You to Sam Rothschild

196178_3089152122493_1530828056_nWe couldn’t do this installation with the tools we had in our garage, so we had to take the Ninja Turtle to “Sam’s Man Cave,” a code name for the extremely well equipped domicile of our brother-in-law, Sam Rothschild.

Sam races an H4 Honda CR-X with Southern California NASA or National Auto Sport Association at tracks like ButtonWillow and California Speedway and he turns lap times most motorcycle road racers only dream of. He is also a driving instructor for NASA Pro Racing. Sam finished 5th in points out of 18 racers for the 2013 season.

Sam is not only a driver, but he is also a very gifted machinist and fabricator. The guy even makes his own wiring harnesses for crying out loud! He also made a custom stunt cage for our 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R. We’re very grateful to Sam for his help with all the random projects we drop in his lap. Of course, bringing a case of beer always helps to make up for the time we take him away from his race car. Thank you!

If you’d like to see Sam drive, click here.

How much oil is the right amount?

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Pay special attention to the fill line. You should be able to see the oil level in the window.

Recently, I’ve come across a few bikes in my garage where the right amount of oil has made the difference between a cheap repair and a major one.

I just want to remind you if you do perform your own maintenance, to pay careful attention to the amount of oil you’re putting inside your engine.

For racers: Depending on the type of racing you’re doing, sometimes more oil is recommended to prolong the life of your engine. If you’re racing sidecars and are running oil baffles, it’s good to run a quart or more over the usual amount to make sure you don’t starve your bottom end (crankshaft and connecting rods) for oil. This may seem like you’re going against the grain, but the added oil ensures the extra lubrication reaches the connecting rod and crankshaft bearings under high rev scenarios like hard first gear take-off’s, high rev drives into corners and extended time in the higher r.p.m.’s in the straights. When you’re racing, it doesn’t take much to spin a bearing, so in your case remember “lube is your friend.”

For street riders: Your sight window on the clutch cover is your assurance that the right amount of oil is in your engine. If you’re can’t see the top of the oil level in the window, you have too much oil in the engine. Don’t fret though, because you can simply unscrew the drain bolt enough to drain the excess oil if you go over the recommended limit. Make sure to let the engine cool first, as the oil will be hot.

Also, if your motor utilizes a screw-in type oil dip stick, make sure to screw in the dip stick until it seats into the case, then unscrew it to check the oil. If you merely touch the top of the dip stick to the case without screwing it in, you may think the motor has enough oil if it reaches the full line, but you could in fact, be over.

Lastly, don’t forget to let the bike idle for two to three minutes after an oil change. Once the bike is warm, let it sit for another two to three minutes, then check the oil level again to add or take away as necessary.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

Excerpt from the 2010 Kawasaki ZX-6R service manual.

These simple details can mean the difference between a happy engine and a complete top end rebuild. If you over fill the oil, the pressure from the excess oil could force it’s way past the piston rings into the cylinder, causing the spark plugs to foul and the engine to lose compression or power. In which case, you’d have to remove the top end and repair the damage, which could require several hours of expensive labor time. If you have over filled the oil, you will see blue smoke coming out of the tail pipe. This is a bad sign. The sooner you catch the mistake, the better.

I recommend purchasing the service manual for your motorcycle if you plan to do your own maintenance. It has a wealth of information and as long as you follow it, you can stave off the high costs of a mechanic.