My first random failure on my Aprilia. Sign of things to come?

The fork seals on my Aprilia started leaking. Follow along as I show that this service is easier and cheaper then one might think.

2w ago

Here on DriveTribe I try and share as much of my motorcycle journey as I can. My hope is that some of you find it interesting. I also want to shed some light on the ownership experience of these motorcycles. The internet is far too full of bad information and people just echoing false narratives. I am here to show that you need not fear an aging Italian exotic bike.

In the past I covered the costs of getting an air cooled Ducati back on the road after being unused for a number of years. Went into great detail on my Bimota SB8R project bike, and also shared some thoughts on the newest addition to the fleet, an Aprilia RSV Mille R Haga.

Honestly I did not have much intention of sharing the reconditioning process on this bike simply because there was not much interesting to do. The bike had been sparingly used for many years. This meant it did not need much more then a normal service. Nothing exciting. I planed to wait till the weather broke here to take it on a weekend adventure and talk about what a smart buy these bikes are right now.

The oil is supposed to stay on the inside....

The oil is supposed to stay on the inside....

On a recent shake down ride I was greeted to a surprise leaking fork seal. Over the winter I had checked the suspension for leaks and found none, so this was a shock. Was worried that since these were Ohlins forks the parts would be expensive and the job would require purchasing a load of specialized tools.

Used a tree stand to lift the front end of the bike and slide the forks out. Getting the forks off of the bike was super simple. Just a couple of pinch bolts and they slid right out. It was actually harder to get the bike up on the stand then anything else. For some reason Aprilia used these plastic covers underneath the triple trees. This blocks access for a paddock stand.

Once the forks were on the work bench it was a very straight forward job to drain them of oil, strip them down for cleaning and pre them for reassembly. It was one of those jobs that you got a sense that the engineers that designed the forks did so with servicing in mind.

There was only one special tool. It was a socket to get the top cap off. It was about $40 for an Aprilia/Ohlins branded tool. Top Tip. Do not bother. It did not fit very well, and was awkward to use. Buy a standard 4mm pin wrench for a quarter of the price and be way happier.

Me being me, I decided to also change the upper and lower slid bushings while I was there. These are cheap to buy and really make a huge difference to the overall results. The oil that came out of the bike was black. Sure a lot of that is down to age, I assume this is the original oil, but some of that is due to small particles formed by wearing down the bushings for thousands of miles.

Working slow to make sure nothing got nicked or damaged this job took a couple of hours. Any competent wrench could easily do this job over a weekend, or a couple of nights in the shed after work.

Most of the parts came from AF1 Racing. They are where I get most of my OEM Aprilia parts. They offer a great website with easy to navigate parts manuals. Some readers will see that I used Yamaha fork seals. This is because the OEM Yamaha fork seals are half the price of the Ohlins....and get this....exactly the same. There was a version of the R1, the LE that ran the same Ohlins forks the RSV does. I am not above saving a couple of bucks. Yamaha owns Ohlins so I guess it is perk of the relationship.

Whole job cost about $200 for the parts. Not bad if you ask me. I did explore the option of sending the forks back to Ohlins to have them do the work. Many have told me that they do amazing work at a very affordable price. I think after this season is over I am going to send the steering damper and rear shock to them and see how the process works.

The failed seal

The failed seal

So that is the process to change out the fork seals and service a set of Ohlins forks. I bet many would have thought the whole thing would have been much harder and cost much more money. The cost is about what one would expect to pay for similar parts on any other set of forks, and I think the labor was actually easier then some other forks I have rebuilt.

Feels like a whole new bike

Feels like a whole new bike

Is this a job any of you would be willing to do at home?

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Comments (8)

  • Motorcycles are the last refuge of archaic technology, and until someone can make a battery that gives a decent range at a not ludicrous weight and price, we might as well carry on as usual. Forks, for goodness sake! Almost the absolute worst way to make suspension. Chain drive, in the open, efficient but with the lifespan of a gnat. Swing-arm rear suspension... swing arm for Christ's sake! Until we get over this technological dead end, we will always keep the bike workshops in a healthy business.

      14 days ago
    • Interesting points. I wonder if at their core, motorcycles seem more approachable. Could an automotive shock really work that much differently to a motorcycle fork? Why are car shocks not rebuildable?

        13 days ago
    • Car shocks can be rebuildable in the case of expensive ones, but ordinary ones rarely wear out like bike shocks. This is due to different materials employed and also to account for unsprung and sprung weight that is less critical on cars. As...

      Read more
        13 days ago
  • I'd do it at home if I had more than one bike, wasn't using the failed one etc.

      15 days ago
  • I did it on the Goldwing. Like doing the brakes, it looks impressive but not a big thing at the end. But we always expect not to have to touch the fork. At the same time, having a leaking fork may cause to have oil on the disk brakes. Now you are safe to ride!

      15 days ago
    • 100% agree that a leaking for seal is more then just an issue for the suspension. Had wanted to have the bike valved and set up for me, but for right now it is more important to have it safe and functional on the road.

        15 days ago