Introduction: Motorcycle Fork Brace Install - 2017 Ninja 650 / Z650
It's always nice to spend some quality time with your bike. A cheap and useful way to do that for most sportbikes is installing a Fork Stabilizing Brace. Today we're going to install one on a 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS. While it's one of the easier modifications, no instructions are included. Seeing it done before trying yourself is always nice, since there are always tips to learn beforehand.
Keep reading to see if it's a project you'd like to do to your bike.
Tool Requirements: Basic
Time: 1 Hour
Step 1: Why a Fork Brace?
Why install a fork brace stabilizer? Let me start out by giving you the straightforward, honest answer. It's cheap, it looks good, and has a convincing theoretical function while taking minutes to install. That's it. Let's not pretend otherwise.
Now if you want a more detailed explanation (the type most likely churned out by the marketing rather than engineering department), some consider the forks torsionally weak, and a fork brace helps remedy that. Rather than simply being held together at the bottom end by the axle, the fork brace helps keep the forks in alignment and relieves them from some forces so it can concentrate on absorbing the suspension travel.
Typical claims are that they reduce torsional fork flex, speed wobbles, front tire wear, rain groove sensitivity and in general just provide better overall handling and stability. I've even heard that it reduces blinker fluid consumption, too. Will you notice any improvements? Maybe, maybe not. But the added bracing certainly won't hurt.
In other words, for the little hassle and cost, it's a nice way to justify spending some quality time working with your bike. It's not like you would have otherwise spent that money on buying something nice for your girlfriend, is it?
Step 2: What You'll Need
While installing a fork brace on any bike is generally straightforward and the steps similar regardless of the model (though tips always help), today we'll be working on the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS. This bike and the 2017 Kawasaki Z650 are effectively the same, so the process will be identical for either. Currently the compatibility list is as follows:
- 2017- Kawasaki Ninja 650 (Both ABS and Non-ABS)
- 2017- Kawasaki Z650 (Both ABS and Non-ABS)
*Will also fit the 2018 models and all future years of the same model
Main Component - Fork Brace
This is obviously the main component needed. To be honest, the bike doesn't require a fork brace to be safe to begin with, so I don't see any reason to buy an expensive fork brace. The asian bulk-CNC'd models will do a beautiful job for cheap as long as you inspect the item on receipt (and threadlock every bolt).
The best place to source the item for the cheapest price is Ebay. Regardless of the title saying Z650 or Ninja 650, both will fit. It's the exact same part. Just buy whichever is cheaper. It should cost you anywhere in the 30-50$ range.
I was very satisfied with the unit on receipt. It was made of 6061-T6 Billet aluminum, and was nicely machined and anodized. It's also very rigid, even before properly tightening the bolts. I have no complaints whatsoever on quality. Given that it's one of the nicer aesthetic and functional cheap upgrades for the bike, I definitely recommend it.
Tools & Supplies
- 1/2" Breaker Bar: To loosen the front axle (which is torqued up to 80 ft lb. Trust me, you'll appreciate the breaker bar).
- 1/2" Ratchet: Or a smaller ratchet with the requisite adapters.
- 1/2" Torque Wrench: Or a torque wrench with a smaller drive and the requisite adapter. We will be torquing up to 80 ft lb
- 5mm Hex Key: For the fork brace clamp.
- 6mm Hex Key: For fork brace bolts and front wheel axle retaining bolt.
- 15mm Hex Key - Ebay or Amazon: For the front wheel axle. This is certainly not a standard size, so you'll need to buy one on it's own, or a set that specifically includes it.
- Hex Key Set: Sometimes multiple keys of the same size are needed, so a set like this is worthwhile.
- Rags: For cleaning and to protect the front fender from scratches during installation.
- Rear Stand: To keep the bike upright and stable while working. A front stand isn't necessary (or desirable).
- Threadlocker: Removing and applying threadlocker to any bolt before properly torquing is a must for motorcycles.
Step 3: Get Ready
The first step is simply to stage the installation.
Put the bike up on a Rear Stand and wipe off of the front fender and forks to remove and dust or grime that may scratch the surfaces.
Pull out the tools listed previously and make sure you have them all available.
Inspect the fork brace and make sure all the bolts were included and that everything is how it should be.
Pictured modifications on the bike:
In case anyone is curious, I'll list the modifications I've done in the bike that are pictured.
Step 4: Loosen the Axle Bolt
While I bet you're not in the mood to deal with it, you should first loosen up the front axle to help align the fork brace in place. You might be able to install it without loosening the axle, but it will make your job harder and you run the risk of not getting the positioning right.
You don't need to remove it, just loosen it a bit. With a 6mm hex bit or wrench, loosen the retaining bolt and use a 15mm hex socket to loosen the axle.
Now would also be a good time to check your tire pressure if you don't do so routinely. I was tired of checking mine so I installed a TP200 Bluetooth Tire TPMS System. That way I can check my tire pressures on my phone's App. It's definitely worth the convenience.
Step 5: Remove the Right Side of the Bracket and Install It Loosely
Next, remove those two bolts to separate that part of the bracket. Be careful with the little spacer on the back. Also, remove the two bolts keeping the rings closed and apply threadlocker to the hinge bolts.
Then install the right side loosely in place. Push it as high as possible so it fits right underneath the plastic mud guard. It should be gripping both the mud guard and the fork. There is a lip in the fork brace which fits perfectly in place. Install the bolt so that it closes the brace loosely. Enough for it to not fall down on it's own, but not tight enough that you can't still move it.
You might have noticed the funny horn in the pics. If you're reading this, you probably have a Ninja 650, too. If you're interested in a cool upgrade for the bike, I made an Instructable on how to mount a Stebel Nautilus Air Horn on it. Definitely one of the funnest upgrades you can do to any motorcycle.
Note: I initially tried installing some rubber grip tape under the fork brace so it wouldn't mar the finish or move, but it turned out being undesirable and creating more problems than it solved. The brace is perfectly machined so damage isn't likely, and it grips well enough on it's own. Plus, the tolerances are tight enough that the tape simply doesn't fit. But it was a good try though. Live and learn.
Step 6: Install the Right Side Bracket
Now it's time to install the right side bracket. Install it in place, also making sure it's pressing up against the mud guard.
Step 7: Attach Both Sides Together, Then Retighten Everything
Now you'll want to connect both sides together again. Install the bolts hand tight.
Once it's more or less in place, remove every single bolt and apply a threadlocker to it (preferably the blue kind), then retighten to the proper torque. That would be quite tight, but not enough that it feels like something is going to break. This is an add-on reinforcement, so it won't be seeing brutal forces anyway.
The brace should feel like it isn't applying any unnatural forces to the fork, nor bending it in any way. It should be a tight fit though.
Step 8: Retighten the Axle
Once the fork brace is installed, retighten the axle.
You really should use a torque wrench for this. The Axle should be tightened to 80 ft⋅lb, and the axle retaining bolt to 35 ft⋅lb.
Step 9: Verify Everything
Double check everything. Make sure every bolt is threadlocked and tightened properly. Make sure the bracket is in it's proper position, pressing up against the mud guard. Make sure the fork brace isn't touching the front fender (there should be roughly a one centimeter gap between both components). Finally, with the bike off the rear stand press down on the fork to make sure it compresses and moves smoothly. Last step, open a beer.
Step 10: You're Done
Well, you're all done! Congratulations! Take it for a ride and let me know how it went.
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