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How to remove and replace your front shock ('11 GSA)

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This should apply to the GS as well and to all the oilhead models.


No pics (yet) but I am happy to report no bloody knuckles.  I got one minor scratch on my right middle finger.


For anyone looking to change their front shock (rear is pretty easy), here's how to do it...


First you want to remove your lower engine guards.  This can be a challenge for some because the top fasteners tend to be hard to get to and loosen without stripping.


Then you wan to remove the alternator belt cover.  Why?  Because it gets in the way of pulling out the shock and putting the new one in later.


Next you want to remove a screw holding the front brake line on the right side of the bike.   If you don't do this then you won't have slack to droop the front suspension low enough to get the shock out.  It's tight in there and I found an L-shaped torx from my tool kit was the best solution.


You have to somehow jack the bike up from the skid plate but with the rear still on the ground.  I was able to lift it (with a friend) on top of my pannier, but a floor jack is probably ideal and safer.  I also secured the bike with a strap from the middle of the handlebars to a hook firmly screwed into a beam in the roof of my garage.


Then remove the top tank panel, as well as the two side panels and gas cap (four black screws).  I put a rag in the tank opening so those screws holding the gas cap on don't accidentally fall in.  Leave the front screws on the side plastic pieces secure; just take off the other two.  These are just metal panels; it's really not that hard.  Remember the longer screws go in that middle hole of the side plastic pieces.  The rest should be roughly the same length.


At this point you should be able to put a socket on the top bolt of the shock and take that top nut off.  If you have a nifty  ratcheting box-end  wrench then you may be able to get away with not removing the top tank panel.  It might be 15mm or 17 mm or in my case 11/16ths". Not a lot of room to work with.  Keep the top bushing/spacer and remember to put it back on top of the new shock later.


Remove the lower shock bolt from the right side.  At this point, the shock should fall out of the top bracket and come loose from the lower mount.  If it doesn't come loose from the lower mount, you can knock it back with a rubber mallet or something until it comes free.  Also be sure to keep the rubber bushings and/or spacer that goes on top of the shock but below the top bracket.


Then simply put the new shock in but make sure you put the top rubber washer below the bracket back on the new shock.  Put the top end in first, then you can slide it forward and down into the lower shock mount.  Tighten down the lower shock bolt to 30 ft/lbs/40 Nm and some blue loctite.


At this point you can lower your bike back to the floor and on its center stand.  Make sure the top of the shock is properly seated through the hole in the bracket.  Place that other rubber washer you removed from your other shock on top and then secure with the top nut.  I put a bit of blue loctite on it.  Tighten down to 25 ft/lbs/34 Nm.  Ah, but the shock turns when you try to tighten it!  At first I tried a strap wrench but it wasn't really gripping.  I finally found the crescent wrench from my tool bag (or 19mm open end wrench) would fit on the very top nut below the top bracket and prevent the shock from turning when you're tightening it.  Yes, you will need the assistance of a buddy (two man job).


Then you can put the alternator cover back on (not a bad time to consider changing your belt if it's been on there for more than 24K miles), as well as re-secure the front brake line on the right side.


Then put your lower engine bars back on.  That also can be a challenge and take two sets of hands and maybe some straps to pull the upper bars into alignment so you can attach them to the lower bars.



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