Steering Stem Bearing Replacement / Upgrade

November 25, 2009

My bike is a 2007 DL-650 with 62,500 miles on it and I have not done any maintenance on the steering stem bearings to date.

I will answer some questions right up front:

“Does replacing the steering stem bearings, in my motorcycle, get rid of the infamous ‘clunk’?”

No, the clunk is still there.  However, it is different sounding, and takes more force from a bump to initiate the clunk sound.  What I believe is, my bike had two clunks that were “layered” on top of each other.  One of those clunks was loose steering stem bearings.  That part of my “clunk” is now gone.  What is left is the “standard clunk”, found on nearly all DL-650s.  I can tell you that my clunk is, NOT coming from the forward, fuel tank, hold down, bolt as some other DL-650 riders have discovered; or feel, that is where the clunk is on their bikes.

“Does replacing the steering stem bearings get rid of the wobble?”

Yes, it does.  There is a hill near my home.  Before I changed my steering stem bearings, if I rolled down the hill with no hands on the handlebars, (this is the standard deceleration setup), in a short time, I was near a “tank-slapper” situation.  The tires that are currently on the bike are, a well worn Trailwing up front and a well worn Anakee on the rear.  After changing the bearings, and riding on the same tires, just mentioned, the bike tracked perfectly, no handed, down my same “test hill”.  There was absolutely no wobble.

One situation I did not test is, tightening up the OEM stem bearings.  It is quite possible that, if I had tightened up the OEM stem bearings, the “deceleration wobble” would have disappeared in this case as well.  But, because of the type of riding that I do, I had already decided to upgrade the OEM bearings to, tapered roller bearings.  Taking care of the “wobble” was secondary.

When I started this project, I knew that I was going to end up having to make two tools to complete the job.  Because of this, I chose to follow the sequence that I have written about below.  By doing so, I “uncovered” the items that I needed to fashion the tools for, (stem nut removal tool, and a “bearing basher”).  I have illustrated how I made the tools within the steps below.

The replacement/upgrade bearings I used were, All-Balls Steering Stem Bearing Kit 22-1003.   I bought my kit from,

A final comment;  It is important for readers, to understand that I have never done this type of work before.  What is seen here, (in the photographs), is exactly what I am seeing for the very first time.  I am no mechanic, let alone a motorcycle mechanic.  I am just a fellow, who out of necessity, needs to do as much of the work on my bike as I can. I am also an individual who enjoys learning new things.

This topic is covered in the Suzuki Service Manual starting at page 7-26.

My first goal was to expose the steering stem nuts so that I could determine what kind of a tool I needed to fabricate to remove them.  And, to also retighten them during reassembly. That meant, the first thing I needed to do was to remove the top forkclamp to be able to see the steering stem nuts.

The first thing I did was, park my bike, in gear, and on its sidestand.  Then, I removed both the left, and the right cable/wire wickets from the front of the forkclamp.

Then, I removed the handlebar clamps.  (I have SW-Motech® risers installed)

Once I removed the handlebars from the clamps, I used a bungee cord, wrapped around the front of the cowling, from one side of the handlebar to the other, to secure the handlebars forward out of my work area.

Next, I loosened both top, forkclamp bolts.  (I didn’t remove them.  I just loosened them.)

The top stem nut is 1 1/4″ in size.  I found, it takes a good amount of muscle to loosen it.  (This is why I kept the bike on its sidestand, and in gear.  I figured I might “wrench” the bike off of its centerstand, if you used it instead of the sidestand.)  However, I discovered it took too much effort, with a 1/2″ ratchet, to remove the top-nut.  I ended up having to use my inexpensive impact wrench to do the job, ($25 impact wrench, hooked up to a $150 Lowe’s/Kobalt compressor.).

Theoretically, I should have been able to remove the top forkclamp at this point.  But, I found that the left, and right, cable/front brake hose restraints prevented enough slack, in the front brake hose, and power cable, to be able to lift the forkclamp off of the stem.

I was able to work both the brake hose, and the power cable, around enough to remove the forkclamp.  I have since removed the brake hose and the power cable from their restraints.  I have wire-tied them to the outsides of the restraints instead of having them fetched up hard inside the restraints.  This provides for easier removal in the future.

With the forkclamp removed, I could study the steering stem nuts, and make a decision as to what kind of tool I needed to fabricate, to remove, and to retighten, the stem nuts.  I drove to my local Lowe’s and purchased a 6″ long x 1 1/4″dia steel nipple.  They didn’t have any plain old steel, so I had to settle for the more expensive galvanized version.  (An 8″ long nipple, would have been better to have had, when I was retightening the stem nuts.  I would have had a little more clearance over the fuel tank to swing my pipe wrench handle.).

I cut the threads off of one end of the steel nipple.  I then squared up my first cut because it stunk……

Then, I slipped the steel nipple over the stem and down on to the top stem nut.  I marked two “teeth” on the pipe, that I needed to cut, that would align with two slots in the stem nut.

Using a hacksaw, I cut where I needed to; removing metal to create my “wrench”.

The inside diameter of the steel nipple was too small to allow the “teeth” to slip into the slots of the stem nut, so I had to bevel the teeth back a bit to let that happen.

Using a pipe wrench……

…..I spun the top stem nut off of the stem.

With the top steering stem, (locking), nut and washer removed, (JUST the top, locking nut is removed.  I left the bottom nut in place.), with my homemade wrench, I knew that I could proceed with the job with a successful outcome.

EDIT:  Since I originally did this job, I have modified the above wrench to have three “teeth”.

Next, I reached up under the cowling and wrapped my forktubes with masking tape to mark their clamped height in the triple tree.  (The reason I did this is explained farther below.)

I loosened the axle pinch bolt.

Then, I loosened the front axle.

I removed the left and right allen screws, that hold the fender in place.

Next, I removed the left and right brake calipers.

I hung the brake calipers off of “hooks” from my crashbars. (I made the hooks out of sections of steel, coat hangers.).

Then, I removed the brake line junction/fender bolt. (On the right side, behind the forktube.).

The “specialized” nut fell out from inside the fender when I did this.  It can only go back in one direction, so I didn’t worry.  I also removed the brake line clamp bolt from the left side of the bike.

I removed the speedometer cable clamps behind the left forktube.

Then, I removed my “Superbrace®” forkbrace from the forktubes.

Next, I reached up inside the cowling and loosened the top bolts, of the bottom forkclamp.

Then, I raised the front wheel off of the ground.  I used a floor jack, and a block of wood underneath my SW-Motech® skidplate.

I removed the front axle bolt.  The front wheel dropped right out.

Now, I loosened the remaining two bottom forkclamp bolts.  I did this one at a time, because I knew that the forktubes were going to slide right out and hit the floor if I wasn’t careful. The front fender, also dropped clear as well.

Then, I removed the brake hose clamp that is fastened to the front of the lower forkclamp.

It was time to start disassembling the stem head area.  I could remove the bottom stem nut by hand it had gotten so loose!

I pulled off the bearing dust cover from the stem.

I supported the steering stem, underneath, with one hand, and I “wiggled/pushed” downward on the steering stem, from the top, with my other hand.  The steering stem dropped free of the bike.

This is what the replacement/upgrade bearings look like.  The outer race, that the bearing rides in, and the inner race, with the tapered, needle bearings, and their cage.  The dust seals are on the floor.  You can also see the steering stem and the top and bottom OEM bearings still on the stem.

I put the outer races, to the new bearings into my freezer.  I heard that doing this can help during installation.  The cold contracts the metal, to make the bearings a tad smaller; hence easier to install. (That’s my Danvier ice cream maker container waiting to be used…….)

This is a photo from the top looking down through the stem.  The top and bottom OEM bearing races need to be removed. The top one is fairly clear in the photo. The bottom one is, that very thin, “silvery line” at the bottom of the stem tube.

I grabbed the closest tools on my bench……….

………and slid a mill file, handle first down through the tube until it came to rest on the top edge of the bottom OEM bearing race.

I tapped the file with a hammer; working my way around the top edge of the bearing race until it dropped out of the stem tube.

I did the same for the top OEM bearing race; by reaching up through the bottom of the stem tube…….

………..and tapping the file with my hammer until the top race popped free of the stem tube.

I grabbed one of the “frozen races” from my freezer, I spread a little grease into the bearing lip of the stem, and I pounded the race into the top of the stem opening by using a hammer and a 2″ pvc coupling.

I tried the same technique with the bottom race.  I greased the race opening in the bottom of the stem…..

……..but the pvc coupling was too short.  I couldn’t get enough swing with my hammer due to the cowlings being in the way.

So, I grabbed what was closest at hand, which was the top adaptor to my Harbor Freight tire changer, and I pounded the bottom race home.

I checked for gaps between both races and the stem with a mechanic’s mirror.  There weren’t any.

Next, it was time to remove the bottom bearing race from the steering stem.  It has been pressed on.  On page 7-30 of the Suzuki Service Manual, they say to remove the race with a hammer and a chisel.  They also show a diagram of doing this.  I tried it too…..

……..and even tried to hammer/chisel/pry the race up.  I was doing more damage to the forkclamp then I wanted to!

So, I grabbed my Dremel tool, and chucked a fiber wheel up, and cut several “kerfs” around the bearing race.

A couple of taps with the hammer and chisel and the bearing race freed itself, and slid right off.

I slid one of the new bearing seals down to the bottom of the stem.  Then, I slid one of the new bearings down the stem as far as I could……….

…… was now time for me to make the second “specialty tool”.

I drove to Home Depot and purchased a 12″ long x 1 1/4″dia steel nipple and an 1 1/4″ pipe cap.

I cut the threads off of one end of the 12″ steel nipple.

I cut several kerfs down the length of the pipe with my hacksaw; as deep as the frame of the hacksaw would let me go, (about 5″).

I refer to them as “fronds” as in, “palm fronds”.

I tightened a hose clamp around the fronds and tightened it to close the gaps between the “fronds”.

I slid the “bearing basher” down over the stem, until it made contact with the bearing.  The “basher” can’t come in contact with the bearing cage, otherwise there was a risk of breaking the cage and sending the bearing needles tumbling about. So, by “trial and error”, I kept grinding the edges of the fronds to make them smaller, which resulted in a tighter fit around the stem; reducing the outside diameter of the “basher”.

This is what my “bearing basher” looks like.  It is a tight fit around the stem, and the hose clamp is in place.

But, I discovered that the outside diameter was still too big.  It touched the cage of the bearing.  So, I ground a bevel around the outer edge of the “bearing basher”.

I “tuned” the bevel with a flat file, (the same one I used to remove the bearing races with……), and I also tuned the bottom edge of the basher where it came in contact with the inner bearing race during installation.

Once the “bearing basher” was fit and tuned, I screwed the pipe cap onto the top end and I pounded downward…..

… set the bearing.

Here are the two “specialty tools” that I needed to do the job.  They cost less then $15.

Pretty cool, huh?

The horse smells the barn………it’s time to head home.

I greased up the bottom bearing.  And, I greased up the bottom bearing race.

Next, I slid the steering stem up through the stem tube; slid a forktube up into the forkclamp of the steering stem; placed the bottom end of the forktube on top of a wooden block; and snugged up one of the forkclamp bolts.  I took a rest…. The, I slid the other forktube up through the bottom forkclamp; resting the bottom of that forktube on top of the wooden block; and snugged up a forkclamp bolt on that forktube as well.

What I just described above looks like this:

I live alone.  I work alone.  I had to come up with a way to do what I needed to do.  Another pair of hands would be helpful.  But, I got creative with what I had on hand, to get the steering stem up into place, and to hold it there.

I greased up the new, top bearing, and also the race I installed previously in the top of the stem.  I slid the new bearing over the top of the stem and down into the race.

It is here that I realized, I had to get the steering stem up higher in the stem tube.  By adjusting the forktubes, in the forkclamps, along with the wooden block, I was able to achieve this.

I slid the remaining new dust seal down over the stem, and on to the top of the bearing.

Next, I slid the OEM dustcover into place.

I tightened the bottom stem nut to begin drawing the steering stem up into its final resting position and to “set” the bearings.

On page 7-30 of the Suzuki Service Manual, there is a procedure for, “Steering Tension Adjustment”.  I have ridden this bike enough to know what I like.  For me, the manual suggests a tension that is far too loose.  This looseness is what causes the infamous “deceleration wobble”.  However, if the bearings are too tight, I know that my motorcycle will “weave” at slow speeds.  “Been there, done that”; with too loose, and too tight stem bearings!

This is how I wrapped up the job.

I slid both forktubes up through the lower forkclamps, until they came to the masking tape lines.  I snugged up all four forkclamp bolts.

I slid the front fender into place and snugged up the two front fender bolts.

I mounted the front wheel and snugged the axle bolt.

I took pressure off of the floor jack and lowered the front wheel of the bike to the ground.

By doing this, it allowed me to tighten the bottom stem nut tighter and more easily.  I was intentionally over-tightening the nut, but not destructively tight.  To get the nut tight without the front wheel turning; responding to the pressure I was applying to it, I again grabbed what was closest at hand, and jammed a 2′ level between the front forks, and fetched up against my crashbars.

Next, I slid the top forkclamp over the forktubes, and removed the 2′ level from between the forks.

Using my hands, I grabbed a hold of the steering assembly and I racked it back and forth several times; “stop-to-stop”.  I did this to help seat the bearings into their races.

I jacked the front of the bike back up so the front tire was free of the ground.  I removed the top forkclamp and jammed the 2′ level back between the forktubes. I loosened the stem nut.

I experimented with loosening, and tightening, the stem nut until I had the feel that I wanted to the steering assembly.  Suzuki recommends an initial force of 200 – 500 grams to start to turn the steering assembly.  I adjusted the stem nut to where I wanted it; where it felt good to my hands.  Suzuki recommends a torque value of 32.5 lb-ft.  I don’t have a torque wrench to measure this with the tool I made.  Like I said, I tightened the nut to the point where I felt the front end responding the way I wanted it to.

I slid the washer down over the stem.

Then, I threaded the stem lock-nut on to the stem and tightened it down.  Suzuki recommends a torque value of 58.0 lb-ft for the steering stem lock-nut.  Mine is as tight as I can get it with my “nut tool” and my pipe wrench.  It’s not going to budge!

I slid the top forkclamp over the forktubes, and the steering stem, and I tightened the steering stem topnut.

I tightened, and torqued, all 6 forkclamp bolts; locking the forktubes in place.

From here, I “retraced” all of my disassembly steps, and reassembled my motorcycle, (“Pumping” the front brake calipers so that they would work properly once they were reinstalled!).

By upgrading my steering stem bearings, to tapered roller bearings, and by experimenting with different tensions on the new bearings, I have eliminated any “wobble”, at any speed, with any front tire, (New, or worn!), mounted on the rim.

Here is an example of that in the video below.  Although not of a very good quality, I am riding off of the summit ofCadillacMountain, (Located onMount Desert Island,Maine), standing up on my footpegs, with no hands on my handlebars.  I am following two automobiles, down the mountain, in a classic “deceleration wobble” situation.  There is no wobble, and I have total control over my motorcycle.

Categories: Maintenance / Upgrade Tasks | 36 Comments

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36 thoughts on “Steering Stem Bearing Replacement / Upgrade

  1. Paul

    Earlier this eve i posted on stromtroppers forum asking if anyone had the steering nut socket for sale or wanted to pass it on, I received a reply to check out your page…and ….your solution is perfect, simple, inexpensive and practical. I’ll take your advice and go 8 inches…

    thank you,
    As your working on the aircraft stay focused, be patient, it has to be close to perfect , good luck.

  2. Bob Smith

    Thanks, Barry. Another beautiful write-up that I’ll be following this weekend.


  3. Bob

    Mostly done now, and I have to say that cutting the kerf into the bottom race in order to free it from the stem was genius.

    After making the nut removal tool (which I did from a cheap 32 mm deep socket) I looked at the work involved in making your bashing tool and decided that I had to cheat some more. I just couldn’t make the long cuts as well as you did. As a result, I slid the dust cap, the tapered bearing (packed w grease already), and reversed kerfed race (now fully cut through) onto the stem and slid them down as far as they would go. (Reversing the race puts the narrow end against the inside of the bearing so it won’t damage it.) Then slid the12″ nipple over the stem down to meet the race, took a long threaded rod and slid it inside the stem, and then put washers and nuts on both ends. It was then just a matter of using a nice large wrench on one end and a 1/2″ socket on the other to press the bearing down. A bit more costly (16 bucks at Home Depot today), but easier for mere mortals to do. Now it’s just a matter of getting the stem nuts tightened the right amount.

    Thanks again!

    • blacklabadventures

      Bob, great work! And, that is what this is all about! I am just a “regular guy”, that found a way to solve a “puzzle”. I KNOW that there are other ways to solve the puzzle too!

      I actually did this job twice. My first attempt, at setting the bearing down on the stem, was with a press that I created. Like you, I was using a large wrench, to crank the bearing into place on the stem. But, my press broke, things shifted, and the “cage” broke to the bearing. Needle bearings everywhere! That is when I dropped back for a huddle with myself, and decided to do the job “caveman” style. I made the “bearing basher”. I figured that other people could duplicate what I did fairly easily, or use what I did as an inspiration to vastly improve what I did. And, that is just what you did!

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience here, so that other folks can think about choices as how they might complete the job.

      Nicely Done, and Thank You!


    • alvaro

      hi my friend my name is alvaro ruiz from leon nicaragua i saw all the pictures and i have to tell you something, i have the same trouble with my motorcycle, i am trying to change my bearing stem

  4. RedAnt

    OK, I finished my replacement last night.

    A few comments that might help someone else.

    First I didn’t read here before ordering my bearings and just ordered replacement OEM ball bearings. I can confirm that the exact same techniques work fine for the OEM Ball Bearings. If I didn’t hate them for the first 78,000 miles, I guess they’ll be OK until I buy a “new strom”.

    I wasn’t able to get my old inner bearing race far enough way from the bracket to comfortable use my cutoff tool. So I used a grinding stone. I went down about as close as I could with the stone. To see if it would turn I used a pare of channel lock pliers to try to “grab” it with one side on the flat side of the ground away arc. As dumb luck would have it the pinch force from the pliers broke the remaining metal bridging the old inner race, and it came off easily.

    Seating the outer races into the frame with the PVC coupling did not work well for me. It started shredding up the PVC before I could drive the race home. Eventually I improvised by driving a dowel down into my “palm fond” so that the fronds splayed out far enough to hit the outer edge of the race (but not the outer wall of the frame). If you use the right sized dowel it even acts as a guide. It was relatively easy to bash the top bearing race down with that tool. And the 12″ long pipe is easy to use from the bottom too.

    I greased the frame part before putting my outer bearing race in from the top. It was a little hard to tell when the race was seated, due to grease building up under it. So on the bottom I just sprayed it with WD40, which seemed to work fine and didn’t fill the area under the race. A small mirror and flashlight was the best method I found to confirm the race was seated all the way.

    I think that 8 inches for the steering nut socket was fine, but if I did it again I would just buy two 12 inch pipes. I could have used more clearance for my pipe wrench. Having the screw on cap is necessary for the bashing tool and it is also convenient for covering the threads while using the socket tool. May only be needed if you have dainty computer programmer hands, like mine.

    Another difference is that I possessed the correct security bit needed to remove the ignition and it’s integrated cable holders. It came in a set of bits I bought from Home Depot a long time ago, one of which can also be used on 2006 and older Stroms, to adjust the fuel mixture. I’m sure that removing the ignition made it easier than trying to get those cables out of that wire holder. I suspect that is why Barry didn’t put them back in.

    The entire project took me 13.5 hrs. That included approximately 90 minutes fighting a ceased up fender bolt (that eventually defeated me, again). I also have a small 10gal compressor, so all of my die grinding work was slow going, with frequent pauses for it to catch up.

    I don’t think I have the adjustment correct yet. But I tightened down the innermost stem bolt tight then backed it off 60% (one tooth). It’s better than when I started the project, but with my old tires I still have deceleration wobble. After I put a few miles on it, and replace my tires I might need to tighten it up more.

    Thanks for the guide!

  5. Steve Davies

    Hey thanks Barry my computer had been frozen then hit by lightening so geting to thank you for your realy helpfull ( motorcycle journal ) has been a while. your tool makeing , and how too’s are great and even though I have the shop manuel on a disk that my brother sent me, I was not confedant enuff to try somthing like this untill I saw how you did yours. A trip to the local library to use a computer and printer I took your 2nd design ( with 3 teeth ) on the pipe and cut it with my grinder w/cut off wheel to get the teeth write then made it a little longer and then welded a 1″ pipe inside the 1-1/4 pipe then welded a 3/4 “bolt on the end of that so I could use my toarqe wrench on it and it worked great! I ran out of extra sockets that would allso have worked even better. Now im gonna check my valves with your help there too and the shop manuel thanks for your honesty on being nervus when doing something for the 1st time, Im building up the courage to do the valvs now. thanks Steve

  6. Kurt F

    I have a DL1000 (2004). One of the issues I had putting in the bearing races was they went further down into the headtube (or up for the bottom one) than flush. I tried the PVC pipe trick, but even with grinding off some of that outer material, it still wasn’t going all the way in. So I took one of the old races, ground some of the outer material off with my dremel until it slid in/out of the headtube easily, and used that (flipped upside down so the top of the old race was used to contact the top of the new one) to press/hammer the last few mm.

    I tried to make a race press out of a length of 1/2″ threaded rod and a bunch of washers. It didn’t really work out, but was helpful in putting in the lower race by snugging it up, then using a hammer on the rod to help drive the bottom race up into the steering tube. I used the old race to press it in the last few mm again.

    I was able to get off the old lower race on the steerer tube fairly easily with a screwdriver, and used the dremel to take some of the inner material off until it slid easily all the down the steerer, and used that upside down (with a length of the galvanized pipe and end cap) to tap the lower bearing into place.

    To loosen and tighten the 2 stem nuts, I used a bicycle tool that’s used for taking off lockrings on track bikes (used to hold the rear cog in place on the rear wheel). It was a bit long for the space, so I cut one end (it’s a different size on the other end, so didn’t need it for this job).

    I also kept the fork brace in place and the axle – that way I was able to pull both fork stanchions out of the crowns as a single unit. Much easier to work with than dealing with each leg individually

    I also used blue painters tape for anything I removed or loosened so I didn’t forget anything. And for the odd bolt things inside the fender that hold the front brake hoses to the fender, I also used some painters tape to hold those in place.

    Great write-up! Encouraged me to be creative in how I did the job and the tips here gave me a huge headstart.

    • blacklabadventures

      Great stuff, Kurt! Thank you for posting your experiences. It will help others as well!

    • Kurt F

      Just got in a first test ride.

      The decel wobble is 90% gone. Still a small amount, but if I wasn’t looking for it, I probably wouldn’t notice it (it was a significant wobble before, and now I can actually ride hands off without concern and just minor movement in the bars). I also have a fairly new tourance on the front, and understand they are noted for creating a bit of wobble more than other brands. So that might be what I’m feeling. But I couldn’t be happier with such a dramatic change in bike handling.

      I still need to tweak the new setup a bit – feels like I have a touch of slow-speed weave, so probably a little too tight. But quite easy to adjust with my bicycle lockring tool – don’t even have to take off the top crown. The tool is thin and can loosen either nut while the upper crown is still attached, which is quite handy. I just loosen the bolts on the lower crown, loosen the stem nut, then can adjust the steering nuts easily. Then just tighten the lower crown bolt, then the stem nut and then it’s time to go ride!

      Barry – thanks again for creating this “how to”. I’ll have to check out more of your site. I’m sure there’s other interesting stuff here!

      • Mark U

        Kurt – I’d be very interested to hear more about that bicycle tool – since I only want to adjust my stem bearing. I was wondering if old shock tool used for BMW stem nut might work but probably a hard fit.


        I suspect a shock adjustment tool could well work as well.

        Kurt Falkenberg Cell: 425-531-0262 Email:

  7. steven woods

    me thinks i remember an outboard motor prop nut is 1 1/4″ & walmart sells a prop nut socket

    also, back in the dark ages m/c tool kits came w/ an open sided stem head nut wrench, along w/ an open sided shock adjusting wrench, which looked the same only different sizes

    i have several different sizes in the OLD tool box/bucket that look like they might work on the DL stem head nuts

    thanks for the walk thru


  8. Mark U

    Barry – thank you very much for this. Nothing like great pictures! I am only doing an adjust but have saved this link for the future.

    • blacklabadventures

      Thanks Mark! You may find my article that I wrote about adjusting the steering stem bearings helpful to you as well. You can find the link underneath the “Maintenance” tab.



  9. Tony

    The steering stem’s bottom bracket in one of your photos (crossmember) is for an ABS bike (I have both models in my garage at the moment)

    • blacklabadventures


      I am not quite sure what you are referring to. I can tell you though, the ONLY DL-650 that has been in my garage is a 2007 NON-ABS version. And, all photographs have been taken of just that machine.

  10. Bill

    Thanks again for this great “how-to”. I used it to upgrade my bearings this time and once again it was invaluable information.

  11. denvech

    Thanks for the post, good stuff.

    I ended up machining a press tool that I don’t need anymore and would like to sell since I had so much trouble getting the races into the frame.

    Picture here:

    It became impossible for me to walk the bearing races fully into the frame and didn’t see the success you had in your post until now. I’d like to sell the press I made to someone else who can take advantage of it if they need it. I figure $60 plus shipping will keep it getting passed around to the Strom community.

    My previous headset was ratcheting pretty bad and found out on top of being dry and rusty, I had a crack in the race. After installing, I did the first leg plus some of the Oregon Back Road Discovery Route and then another 600 miles of beat up off road and the headset is still buttery smooth.

    dennis 503.860.2095

  12. Jeff

    Both a great write up and an entertaining read. Bravo! I’ve been doing this work for years and I salute your “fear not, I’ll get it done” attitude. You’ve discovered the real secret to maintaining any machine: the right frame of mind. That’s 90% of the battle. One tiny bit of advice if I may. There’s no way to thoroughly pack a tapered roller bearing with grease after you’ve pressed it onto the stem. Fully pack the bearing before you press the lower onto the stem. Do this by pressing the wide side of the outer diameter cage into a ball of grease in your hand, over and over, filling the inside of the bearing with grease. Then pack the outside and install. Great job! Let’s see if you can be the first guy to 200,000 miles on a 650 Strom! I bet you’ll do it.

  13. Thanks again BL. A riding mate and I did our head stem bearings last month and we found your easy to follow directions and pictures invaluable.
    Thanks heaps

  14. Thanks again BL. A riding mate and myself did the bearing change on our bikes last month and found your easy to follow directions AND pictures invaluable.
    Thanks heaps

  15. Des Colada

    What a brilliant write-up. It’s just the kind of “Ordinary Chap get’s job done by using his brain and available resources” tutorial I love to read. Not sure if someone has posted it to my favored DL650 forum yet (V-strom Owners UK) but I would to be able to prove a link on that forum to your post?

    • blacklabadventures

      Anything that is here on this site is a resource for others to use; to help them get to the end of a project. I am glad that it was helpful to you!

  16. Les Halpern

    Good Evening Barry,
    I made a tool similar to yours. Then a buddy of mine said he could improve it. He redid it. It has 6 teeth. He welded a washer with a 14mm nut.I can use a torque wrenchI have torqued my bearings to 10 ft lbs. On my BMW GSPD I torqued the bearings to 12 lbs then after 1000 miles i adjusted it to 14 to 16lbs. I think the troque of 32.5 lbs is very high and over 50 lbs is extremely high.For example the rear axel nut is 65 ftlbs. I forgot to put the triple tree in the freezer. So I made your second tool also. Great writeup

    • When I do the work that I have done on my motorcycles, I have approached from the perspective of what the average person has available to them for tools. The average person doesn’t own welding equipment and machinery to fabricate a fancy tool. This is why I try to do things in a very simple fashion. I hope that it gets more people thinking along the lines of, “Hey, I can do that!”

      As to torque values on Stem Bearings and Axle Nuts, I don’t use them. I feel that they are unnecessary, and from what I have read on forums, seem to do more damage then good! “Can anyone help! I just stripped the axle nut on my bike!” I use the approach of “common sense tight”. Axle bolts and Stem Bearing nuts I go by “feel”; they don’t want to be “humming tight”! Particularly, the Stem Bearing nut! Just 1/4 turn and you can make “Front Wheel Wobble” appear, or disappear.

      This is how I adjust the Stem Bearings:

      Thank you for your comments!


  17. Vic Schubert


    I’ve been reading through your brilliant instructions and am about to start the replacement of my bearings. Just to clarify, is the reference to 1 1/4″ steel nipples and pipe, in respect of the internal or external diameter of the pipe?


    • Good question, Vic! It seems so long ago that I can’t truthfully remember! And, since I gave my V-Strom away back in December of 2012, I don’t have the motorcycle to refer to anymore. I also gave away the tools that I made for the bike as well.

      So……. I did a little “Googling” for the answer. Tubing is measure to the outside diameter. Pipe is measured to the inside diameter. The measurement that I provided in the article is the inside diameter.

      Here is a link that goes into more detail:

      Thanks for picking up on this!


  18. Marvin Miller

    Hi Barry;

    Great post but just an addition. You really need to look into how to properly pack wheel bearings. In the picture you can see that there is no lubrication at all except on the outside of the bearing. This is not good. The bearings need to be be filled all the way around, in their entirety as well as being smeared on the outside. It’s very much a case of ‘you can’t have too much grease’.

    • Hello Marvin,
      Steering stem bearings are not wheel bearings. The amount of grease used to properly pack steering stem bearings is considerably less than what a person would use to pack wheel bearings.

      That said, what I chose to show in my photographs was for “less grease” than what the final image would show. What I mean by that is, I am “juggling” my camera with one hand, and trying to illustrate the application of grease with my other hand, and at the same time, trying to indicate clearly that, a steering stem bearing is not to be packed as full as a wheel bearing. However, there is more grease on that bearing than what my photograph indicates.

      The reason being is, a wheel bearing generates MUCH MORE heat while it is spinning around thousands and thousands of times, over hundreds and hundreds of miles during a riding day. A steering stem bearing doesn’t even make one full revolution over “tens of thousands” of miles; very little heat, if any, builds up to thin the grease out in steering stem bearings.

      A cold morning ride, with steering stem bearings packed as full as a wheel bearing should be packed, and you would understand why I did what I did!

      Thank you for your response!


  19. Jacques Eicher

    Oh man! Congratulations on a job that appears to haven been done properly. This was a ton of work! How long did it take you? I would be a little bit worried with so much grinding and having some bearings in close proximity….Apparently, even though you claim not to be a mechanic, you seem to be mechanically inclined….

  20. Jon

    Thank you for the detailed write up. I built your bearing driver but it wasn’t needed. Steering stem in the freezer overnight and heated the bearing with a hot air gun. Dropped it on and it bottomed out just fine.

  21. Raoni Bradacz Borges

    Thank you for all.

  22. Neil

    Perhaps the 32.5 lb-ft torque spec has somehow been misunderstood. The 2nd generation SV650 factory manual procedure for tightening the steering stem nut (“castle nut”) is to tighten it to 32.5 lb-ft, swing the handlebars lock to lock 6 times, then loosen the nut 1/4 to 1/2 turn. Then install the washer and upper “castle nut” tightened to 58 lb-ft.

    Is this not the same in the DL’s manual?

    • Hello Neil,
      The 2007 DL-650 factory manual did not include a “lock to lock” sequence when tightening down the castle nut. If it did, I would have made sure to have included it within my instructions. Thanks!

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