The purchase of this bike, the research about the adventure kit, the communication with Rally Raid Products team, sourcing or building the parts not included on the kit, getting a few odd tools here and there and getting the shop ready has been a great adventure already, and you can read about it on the two previous posts. The result of this effort is a simple but effective adventure motorcycle and riding it has been a positive surprise. However, that is for Part 4 of this story, on today’s post I will document the actual building of the bike.
Rally Raid Products took on the challenge of building an adventure bike kit for this machine. They designed and developed three do-it-yourself kits for this bike and a few other parts and accessories to complement the kit. The Level 3 kit, the one I got for my bike, is the version geared for more off road riding. Below is a picture of what is included on the kit: 19 inch front and 17 inch rear spoke wheels, triple tree, revised dog bone, new shock, springs and valves for front forks, taller side stand and front fender.
Getting the Rally Raid Kit
I purchased the kit via Giant Loop here in Oregon, who happens to be the sole representative of this kit by Rally Raid here in the United States. I got top notch treatment by Harold Cecil at Giant Loop and Jenny Morgan at Rally Raid Products. All my questions were answered within hours of my asking via email or telephone.
The instructions for the build, in chapters for each of the components of the Level 3 kit, are available on line in the Rally Raid Products site. These instructions are well written, they have enough detail, step by step from the very start, with good quality photos. Anyone with limited mechanical experience can give a shot at this build. Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it as well. I printed the instructions and consulted it along the build process.
Beyond the Rally Raid official instructions, Juan Browne‘s videos were invaluable to complete the job. Juan is a CB500X owner and an enthusiast of the adventure kit, he has a great way with words and produces nice videos. Juan’s videos on the build explain the steps of the process with a similar amount of detail as what you find in the instructions, but for some people, like me, a video is a better learning media. I watched each video a couple of times and by the time I got to work on my motorcycle I knew exactly what needed to be done and in what order. Still, I followed the printed, official instructions from Rally Raid Products on critical areas of the build.
Check the Rally Raid Instructions and Juan’s videos out before you make a decision whether you should give it a try to build it yourself or get assistance for certain parts of the build or you can get it completely done by a motorcycle shop. Giant Loop itself offers to build the bike for you, or you can get a bike already built by them, a turn-key deal (at least they were making such an offer at some point).
Building my CB500X Adventure
I’m not going to give you step by step building instructions here, as the two sets of instructions I described above are excellent and I can’t possibly improve upon them! I will simply document a summary of my steps and then show you a time-lapse of the entire build.
Reading the instructions and watching the videos was essential for planning the build. By the time I got the kit I had all the tools I needed, I had the knowledge of what to do and had the shop ready to hit the ground running when everything arrived (see Parts 1 and 2 of this build). I used my new lift to do this work. What a difference it makes to work with the bike at the right height for each part of the work.
Day 1 (Saturday afternoon)
I decided to start with the easiest end of the build, the rear shock. If you are new to to working on motorcycles I recommend breaking the process into clear steps and start with what you consider the more straight forward and simple step. Once you accomplish the first step you will likely gain the confidence to move on to the more complicated parts of the build.
Once the bike was strapped to the lift I used another jack to raise the rear of the bike. The flat jack I used works well when you have the RRP bash plate installed already. My bike already came with the bash plate, which was installed by the previous owner. I removed the rear wheel and followed the steps on the instruction. It was very simple and easy to make progress on this work, especially considering all fasteners are new (no rust in sight) on this bike.
The kit raises the bike 2 inches, the rear height increase comes from two changes: 1) the rear shock is taller, by almost two inches.
2) a revised dog bone provides a different leverage to the spring & shock structure completing the 2-inch increase on this bike’s ground clearance.
I did ask John Mitchinson, the Rally Raid Products owner and kit developer, about the strength of the revised dog bone, considering the shaft portion attaches to the bike and shock at an angle. He did test it and showed the results where it will sustain the forces it needs to sustain, without breaking. Anyway, the shock went in without a hitch.
The remote reservoir with the clickers was installed close to the passenger peg, for easy access.
The rear shock was a rather easy job. Certainly the lift made things a lot easier. Of course, the RRP’s well written instructions and Juan’s videos were instrumental to make this build move smoothly.
The next step for day one was to prepare the bike for the triple tree and removal of the forks. It turns out removing the front fairing was very straight forward as well, except for finding the right way to remove the electrical connections for the lights and turn signals which are inside the fairing with no easy access until the fairing is lose. The entire front fairing is removed as one piece.
At some point on Day 1 I installed the longer side stand. Or did I do it on day 2? That was a simple side project, pun intended.
Day 2, Sunday afternoon: Remove triple tree, remove forks, install Rally Raid triple tree
In theory this was the most difficult part of the build. And it turned out it was. I started by removing the front wheel.
The difficult part of this step the drilling and removal of the security bolts of the ignition cylinder. After destroying one platinum and two titanium drill bits I learned the key to success for this job is slow RPM on the drill. Keep it cool and lubricated if needed, then it works really well. Lesson learned.
Once those bolts were removed the process went back to its easy and straight forward removal of parts and re-assembly, plug and play mode. I removed the forks and the triple tree, getting the bike to its highest state of disassembly at this point of the project.
Now is basically reassembly. First thing was to install the RRP triple tree.
And that was it for day 2. Spending so much time drilling those bolts and having to go to the hardware store two times to get more drill bits eliminated my chances for finishing the job on this second day (well, actually I’ve been only working half days…).
Day Three (Monday Evening)
On day three (Monday evening) I started by preparing the folks (drain oil, remove OEM springs and valves and install RRP springs and valves, replace the oil). I used the original tire chock that came on the lift and turned it into a vice to work on the forks. It gave me great leverage to remove the allen bolt at the bottom of the fork and then used the vice to keep the fork in the right position to drain the fork oil.
Removing the OEM springs and valve is a very straight forward job. On the photo below you will see in the middle the OEM springs (progressive springs) and valve and the RRP level 3 springs and valves. Notice that white plastic tube on the OEM set up. That is a spacer and it is what allowed Rally Raid to conceptualize the idea of using the original forks for this bike and still gain two inches of travel with improved valves, springs and all.
Fitting the RRP fork internals was also a straight forward job. The kit even included the fork oil! Once I reinstalled the forks I was able to stabilize the bike so I could have both wheels out.
That was it for Day 3, bike is now only waiting for the wheels, seat and fairing to be reinstalled.
Day 4 (Tuesday Evening)
On the morning I took the wheels to a local bike shop. The bike came with Continental TKC 80 tires installed and the original Pirelli Scorpions which had been dismounted offf the wheels with less than 300 miles. All I needed to do was to buy a 19in TKC 80 to complete the set (I have an extra 17 inch front wheel TKC 80). A local shop mounted the 17in and 19in TKC 80s on the spoke wheels and re-mounted the Pirelli Scorpions on the original alloy wheels. Now I can re-install the original wheels on the bike when I want to have it in Super Moto mode!
Once I installed the wheels on the bike I took it out of the lift to see how it stood and to check if everything looked and felt okay. And of course, to see how much taller the bike was. And it is taller by at least two full inches as mentioned by other reviewers.
The bike was looking like a real adventure bike by this time. It looks interesting without the fairing. One day we will have an adventure bike that will not look like a transformer toy. It will not have a beak, no tall dirt-bike front fender, no fairing (just a small windscreen), and with round headlights. Yes, one day, a scrambler-styled motorcycle build around a solid adventure motorcycle platform (suspension, electronics) set up properly for adventure (subframe for travel with gear). But I digress.
From here on it was all about getting the fairing and side panels back on the bike and the job was complete. There are some rubber grommets on some of the side panel fasteners that you need to make sure you know they are there and keep track of them on disassembly. You will need them to secure the panels properly during reassembly.
Here is a time lapse of the building process.
A Few Final, Important Touches
The RRP Kit is the major step on this build. However, to complete the “adventure” project this bike required a few more steps: a GPS base, 12V power source by the handlebars, side racks, bags, tail tidy (well this one is not an adventure requirement), a radiator protector, a shock protector, bark busters, and Leo Vince slip on exhaust (well this last one is not an adventure requirement but it is smaller than the OEM exhaust allowing more options for bags).
GPS base and mount. I like the GPS to be as tall as possible so my eyes to do not need to divert much from the road when I want to check information. This bike’s structure for the windscreen is perfect for such a tall installation. I checked the pile of scrap metal in my shop and found two pieces of aluminum that only required a slight convincing (cutting, bending and drilling) to take the shape required for their new job.
And here it is installed on the bike, where it positions the GPS just above the instrument cluster. Perfect! It has an extra RAM base for a second GPS or other gadget.
12V Power Source. Power for the GPS was via a cable connected directly to the battery and brought forward to the instrument cluster area.
The cable has to be long enough to travel from the battery (under the seat) to the front of the bike.
It allows connecting various types of plugs and devices at the front of the bike.
I have a second cable that I use to trickle charge the battery. It also works for charging devices carried on the bike’s bags.
R & G Tail Tidy. This is not an adventure requirement but it makes the bike more compact, and works better for the smaller American license plates.
It requires a good amount of disassembly on the rear of the bike for installation but it is all plug and play. R & G offers a smaller tail tidy which will require sawing a small portion of the metal structure on the rear of the bike. I picked the size that allows the bike to be reversed back to OEM condition.
SW Motech Side Racks: I like soft bags, I have two sets of Giant Loop bags (Coyote and Great Basin) that work really well on this bike. However, I like the practicality of side bags, smaller side bags, how I have on my WR250X. I chose side racks because they offer more options for soft, side bags. Particularly I chose the SW Motech racks because they can be easily disassembled when they are not needed and they are positioned closer to the bike and not too far back.
However, with the tail tidy bringing the blinkers back, there is a fight for space between the side racks and the blinkers I did not anticipate.
The blinkers are still visible. This may need to be addressed. Or not.
Softbags. I like my WR250X dirtbaz as mentioned earlier, for practicality (easy access, small). Therefore that’s what I installed on this bike. I also like the idea of a same set of bags that can be transferred from one bike to the other. I can use my Giant Loop bags on all my bikes. The dirtbagz work only on the CB500X and the WR250R. You will see the dirtbagz are installed on reverse position on the CB500X, when compared to how they are installed on the WR250R. It allows the shape of the bag to give room for the CB500X’s lower but angled up exhaust.
The problem I encountered is that the bags attached with straps did not stay in place on my first dirt ride in the Death Valley. As a result they fell backwards, turned, and landed on the exhaust.
The right (exhaust side) bag burned really good.
I bought a new set of Dirtbagz and installed a loop on my SW Motech racks to keep the bags in place, similar to how they are installed on official racks made by Dirtbagz (they do not make a rack for the CB500X – I wish they did – it would certainly work much better and be lighter).
Having said that, my rigging of the rack does the job now, the bags are installed firm now, they don’t move and clear the exhaust very well. And now the bags are placed forward enough that they do not interfere with the blinkers.
After 200 miles riding with the new bags carrying a good load of heavy tools and spare tubes and the new attachments on the loops were approved, the bags did not move and did not burn either.
For over night camping trips all I need to do is place a duffel bag on the back of the bike and I’m all set. I could also fit my Great Basin Giant Loop bag (or the Coyote) and I should be fine as well. Please note, neither my Giant Loop bags nor my Dirtbagz are waterproof. I purchased a water proof duffel bag to keep camping gear and clothes dry if it comes to that. For everything else, camera equipment and electronics, I have waterproof containers that fit in the dirtbagz.
Radiator Protector. R & G makes a great plug and play radiator protector for this bike. Unfortunately during the entire time I was building this bike and getting it ready for its maiden trip at the Death Valley they were on back order. What to do? Build your own. I used a piece of gutter leaf guard, cut it to the appropriate dimension, doubled up a portion of it to get more structure to it, and zip-tied it to the bike. Works wonderfully well!
Shock protector. There are neoprene sleeves for the shock available in the market. But I like to see that nice white spring. The solution was to fabricate my own inner fender (from car carpets, a left over from my Triumph Tiger project – similar application) and screw it to a plastic frame under the seat. Perfect.
Hand guards. Hand guards are very important to protect brake and clutch levers during a fall. I chose the Barkbuster Storm, another straight forward job.
The only item missing is a protector for the headlight. I found a Thai made metal guard, which should work really well.
This is it. The bike, with the Rally Raid Products level 3 and a few other accessories looks great and it has shown it delivers the adventure riding experience. The bike, Level 3 kit installed, is surprisingly good on pavement, does rather well on the twisties, and it is awesome on dirt roads. If you like to ride a bike fast on gravel roads, I can assure you the “adventurized” CB500X will deliver. No need for traction control when the power delivery is somewhat soft, you can ride it with abandon, push it, and it will perform rather controlled rear wheel slides on dirt and gravel roads. Just not quite a rally machine, but good enough for plenty of fun. I really like it.
But this is what we will talk about on the next post.
Thank you for reading.