Article By: Jeremy Johnson www.muttincycles.com
Originally Published In The March 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
There aren’t very many products that I recommend when it comes to upgrades on touring bikes but this one is a must; it takes the cake and eats it too. I have been riding my Ultra Classic since I got married and have never realized how much I babied the handling of the bike. Motorcycles are known for their handling and speed; that’s what we all love about them. Harley has had the same suspension since 1980 and that’s a huge let down. The FLT bikes are know for the “bagger wobble.” It’s the feeling of insecurity and flat tire shake while you’re riding. Hondas, BMW, and all the other touring bikes on the market have a rigid mounted swingarm so they don’t have this problem. Harley’s swingarm attaches to the motor that is rubber mounted in the frame. This means that the drivetrain in the touring bikes just floats around in the frame with nothing securing it but two hymn joints. Yeah, a very scary thought when you’re heading into a turn at 70mph and you feel the rear end wiggle around. With that being said, I started looking for a way to fix this problem and found the cure. Custom Cycle Engineering solved the issue with their swingarm conversion kit. This kit is an update and is what Harley should have done with their touring bikes T Article By: Jeremy Johnson www.muttincycles.com thirty years ago. I can tell you that if I ever buy another bike after this one, I will be purchasing this kit first thing. I recommend this product to anyone that owns a 1980- 2007 Harley FLT or FXR bike. Now that I told you about CCE’s swingarm conversion kit, I’m going to show you how I did the installation on my bike. The kit comes with all the supplies you need including a tool to press in the bearings to the right depth. When this swingarm kit was delivered, my dogs got to it before I did. So the first thing I had to do was look for all the parts in the shop yard. I located everything and then went to work. At first I didn’t realize that my dogs chewed up the instructions too, so I went at it the best way I knew how. The kit also includes Loctite and antiseize; everything but the tools.
The first thing you need to do is take off the bags and anything that will get in the way of removing the back wheel.
Once I had the exhaust and other crap out of the way, I raised the bike and started the wheel removal. Always remember when you remove either wheel to make sure you hold the caliper up out of the way. This will prevent damage to the brake system. We don’t need more costly repairs during any job we do.
After the wheel is removed and the caliper is tied up, you can start the swingarm removal. Locate the swingarm pivot bolt behind the rear foot peg mount and remove the foot rest and mounts. With those off, you can remove the swingarm pivot bolt. Sometimes these things can be a pain so be careful not to damage your bike. The problem is with the tranny case being aluminum and the pivot bolt on older models being steel can corrode and gald solid. So I take a long punch and drive it out. With the bolt out, you can remove the rubber bushing on the outside of the swingarm and then pull out the swingarm.
With the swingarm out, you have to remove the bushings that are in the swingarm. This can be a little tricky. The bushings have to be pressed from the inside out! I learned this the hard way: inside out. So here’s the tricky part. You’re supposed to use an arbor or hydraulic press. To use these presses, you have to be able to stabilize the swingarm in the press. I found this to be very cumbersome and extremely hard to do. So I grabbed a BFH, the old pivot arm and a 1.25 socket and went to work. In three minutes, both bushings were on the floor. The two hours I wasted on the press was useless. Now clean the swingarm really well so the bearings can go in cleanly.
Now you can install the bearings; they already have been pressed on the race. Apply a coating of Loctite to the outside of the bearing. Installing this bearing is pretty easy. Install it with the big shoulder going against the transmission.
I used the tool supplied in the kit and just lightly tapped the bearing into place in the swingarm. With that being done, now do the other side. You might have to press these bearings in. It’s a weld fitment not a machine fitment in the swingarm so they’re all different. Make sure you use the Loctite.
With the bearings in, slide the spacers in the swingarm flange side out and start the reassemble. It’s a little tricky getting the pivot arm in because of the bearings floating around on the spacers. Just take your time and it will go.
One thing you will notice is that your motor is lower so you will have to find a way to lift it to get the pivot arm through and the outer bushings on. I wrestled with this by myself for a little bit but managed to get it on and all back together. Make sure you line up the marks on the outer bushings with the floorboard mounts during reassembly and use Loctite on all the nuts and bolts.
Reassembly is just the way it came apart so I won’t go into all the details here. I let the Loctite sit overnight then got up the next day and went for a test ride. I must say that this is the best upgrade I have ever done. This bike is on a rail and handles like a sport bike, and there is no more vibration like some cheaper fixes. This kit is smooth and a great solution for “bagger wobble.” If you guys at home can take your wheel off, you can do this job. I now have over a month of riding with the swingarm upgrade and I can say that this is the best part I have ever spent money on. Custom Cycle Engineering really took this bike to another level. I recommend this to anybody that owns an FLT bike past 1980. This part will let you enjoy riding even more than you do now. So go check out www. customcycleengineering.com and see what they have for you and your ride.