Saturday, January 23, 2016

Co2 Inflation Devices for Motorcycles

My family operates a bicycle repair and accessories business so we are very familiar with Co2 tire inflation devices. I've always thought of them as "bicycle accessories" and as "bicycle operators" we also carry and use them when out on the trails or roads. So you'd think that I'd be able to answer the question about whether these Co2 cartridges would be useful for motorcycles. Honestly, without doing any testing, my knowledge/experience would suggest to me that they would not be effective. But again, I haven't done the testing...until now.

There are a number of motorcycle-specific Co2-based repair kit offerings. One example I recently came across is the BikeMaster Tire and Tube Flat Repair Kit.  This kit seems very comprehensive and has a $50 price tag. I sort of appreciate that it is a repair kit for both tube and tubeless as I personally have two motorcycles; one is tubed and the other is tubeless. As shown in the photo below, the BikeMaster Kit includes 4 Co2 cartridges. However, their website is silent as to the size of the cartridges or what the user can expect from them.

Another repair kit I found was by well-known motorcycle accessory supplier, Pit Posse. The contents of their kit, which goes for $25, is similar to BikeMasters (above) but has only three cylinders. Pit Posse states on their website that each cartridge will inflate a standard front or rear tire. Lastly, some offerings skip the tire repair tools and just sell the inflator and cartridges. An example of that is Tusk, which offers an inflator valve and two cylinders for $12. They state on their website that most motorcycle tires require 1 1/2 cartridges and ATV tires require 2 cartridges.

Again, I've used these inflators and cartridges for years and, as a result, I seriously question these claims that one or two 16g cartridges will inflate a motorcycle tire.

But let's back up with some background info based on what I know from our bicycle business. Everybody rides bicycles, so it provides some useful perspective to the capabilities of the cartridges.

Co2 cartridges generally come in three popular sizes and contain "liquid state" Co2 that is under a great deal of pressure (600-900 psi) in the cartridge. The weight of the liquid-state Co2 is measured in grams (or "g'). When it is opened and released to the atmosphere the Co2 turns to its gaseous state.

The three sizes and how we apply them to bicycling are as follows:
  • 12g Cartridge: Suitable for inflating one small mountain bike tire.
  • 16g Cartridge: Suitable for inflating one medium sized mountain bike tire.
  • 25g Cartridge: Suitable for inflating one road bike, or 700c and or large 29r mountain bike tire.
My current road bicycle is a 2012 full carbon Litespeed C1 as shown in the stock photo below. This bicycle has the very thin 700c tires/tubes that I run normally at the manufacturer recommended 100-110 psi. I carry 25g cartridges and have had to use them on several occasions when I blew out a tire. The 25g cartridges will only fill one of those tiny tubes up to about 60 psi.

Given the nature of how the Co2 cartridges apply to bicycle tires of different sizes, it really seems that a motorcyclist is going to need a bunch of them to get their motorcycle tires inflated. This is simple ... a motorcycle tire requires much more volume of air (or other gas ... Co2, Nitrogen as examples) than bicycle tires. So if a 16g cartridge only fills one medium sized mountain bike tire, how on earth can it fill a motorcycle tire as claimed above!!!!????

As mentioned above, the BikeMaster kit does not indicate the size of its cartridges. However, they offer replacement cartridges that are 16g, so I think it's safe to assume the cartridges in the kit are 16g as well. The Pit Possee and Tusk state that their cartridges are 16g. However, I thought the better test would be to emulate the 4 cartridge BikeMaster kit.

So I gathered up 4, 16g cartridges (same as BikeMaster) and put them to the test on one of my motorcycle tires. We offer and I am using cartridges from the Air Kiss Kit made by Planet Bike. The kit cost about $15 and spare cartridges are anywhere from $10-25 for 3-packs depending on size. The air valves may look different, but they do the same thing...serve as a conduit for the air from the cartridge to the tire/tube.

I had four tires (from two motorcycles) to select to test the cartridges, and I picked the rear tire on my 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT. It's the biggest tire of the four at 180-55-17, it's tubeless and the spec pressure is 42 psi.

The first thing to take note of is the orange pad on the Air Kiss Cartridge. When the Co2 is discharged from the cartridge, it discharges so fast that the physical cartridge freezes. I'll show a photo of one all frosted after discharge later. I've heard some suggest that it gets so cold that it can burn bare skin. Maybe so, but the pad is a good feature and wearing gloves is a good idea.

Also, I note that the BikeMaster Kit doesn't include a cartridge pad such as the Air Kiss's, but the Tusk does.

The way the device works is the valve is screwed tightly onto the cartridge. Then the inflator valve is slid onto the valve stem and the  locking lever is raised. Finally, the cartridge is discharged by sliding the barrel of the inflator valve backward. The photo below shows the track that the valve barrel slides along. With that there's a wooosh, then it takes about 8-10 seconds for the air to stop flowing. Keep in mind that the Co2 is in liquid state in the cartridge and turns to gas in the atmosphere (or at a very high ambient temperature). When discharging into the tire/tube it may sound like the gas stopped flowing but it will take all of those 10 seconds to empty the cartridge.

You don't have to worry about the Air Kiss popping off. The lever locks it pretty well in place on the valve stem.

So, how much air did cartridge number one discharge in terms of PSI? 5 psi

Cartridge number two? 6 psi

Cartridge number 3? 5 psi

Cartridge number 4? 6 psi (note the frosted cartridges)

And the official results are:
  • Grams per cartridge = 16g
  • Average PSI per cartridge = 5.5 psi
  • Total grams/4 cartridges = 64g
  • Total PSI/4 cartridges = 22 psi
That would seem to at least confirm my suspicions that the Pit Posse and Tusk claims that one or one and a half cartridges will fill a rear motorcycle tire were a little ... uh ... let's say, exaggerated.

On the contrary, if 64 grams of Co2 produced 22 pounds of pressure in an "average" motorcycle tire, it would require 122 grams to inflate the tire to the spec 42 psi. That would mean 8-16g cartridges (actual calc is 7.6), 10-12g cartridges or 5-25g cartridges.

Another way to look at this, based on the test case is:
  • Each 12g cartridge will contribute 4.1 pounds to total psi
  • Each 16g cartridge will contribute 5.5 pounds to total psi
  • Each 25g cartridge will contribute 8.6 pounds to total psi

Okay, back to the original question, which was along the lines of...

"Are Co2 cartridges useful as motorcycle tire repair accessories?"

Here's my personal opinion. Used in an emergency kit that includes at least 4 cartridges, such as the BikeMaster Kit, I think the answer is probably yes. Those cartridges won't fill the tire to spec, but if the tire gets properly plugged or the tube is properly patched, 22 pounds of pressure is probably enough to get the motorcyclist to a filling station where he or she could deploy four quarters and air up your tires to the proper pressures. Adding more cartridges (or larger cartridges) to the kit is probably better; they certainly don't weigh much or take up much room. Use the per/cartridge psi information above to figure out how many cartridges you'd need to put you in your comfort range.

Now, here are some downsides that come to mind.

1--If you didn't get the tire properly plugged or the tube properly patched, you'll have expended your air supply when you have to go back and fix 'em. Both tire plugging and tube patching are kind of hit or miss processes. I don't think it's a great idea to assume it'll get done right the first time.

2--Similar to above, what if your riding buddy gets a flat and you fix it with your air cartridges? Seriously, how many bikers prepare for flat tires? 10-20 percent, less? Your buddy's tire is fixed; your air is gone.

3--The ambient temperature plays a role in how much Co2 is required for your application. The colder it is, the more Co2 would be needed. I did some calculations using our test info above. At 80 degrees Fahrenheit, 8 16g cartridges would be needed. At 50 degrees, 9 16g cartridges would be needed.

4--This is starting to get kind of expensive when you get into the number of cartridges necessary for motorcycles. The kits cost more than the $35 I paid for my Slime compressor that's already lasted half a decade and replacement cartridges are going to run minimally $10 for a three pack. You may see cheaper cartridges in the market place, but it's likely that they're the non-threaded type that are used in pellet guns. The air valves in the repair kits require "threaded" cartridges.

I'm sure there are many other pros and cons for using Co2 cartridges for motorcycles, but I'll bet they probably weigh themselves out. Having completed this little exercise, I would certainly support someone's use of a sufficient number of Co2 cartridges in their motorcycle road trip supply kit. On the other hand, I learned nothing that suggests I should pack away my Slime air compressor and move to cartridges on my motorcycles.


I've come across another motorcycle specific tire repair kit that has 2-45g cartridges. Genuine Innovations's Motorcycle Emergency Repair Kit runs $62 on Revzilla and provides 90 total grams of Co2. That's one 45g cartridge short from being able to fully inflate the rear tire of our test motorcycle. However, be warned, the larger the cartridge, the more expensive. The kit price is pretty high to begin with and two replacement 45g cartridges for the Genuine Innovations Kit run $35 on Revzilla!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Chain Replacement (Part 2)

Two posts earlier, I documented my conclusions about needing a new chain, countershaft sprocket and drive sprocket on my 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT after 20,000 miles. This post tracks my installation of the new parts.

It took a couple weeks to get all the parts in; longer than normal because we've had some really bad El Nino weather lately and it's messed up all the transportation companies. Like I've always said, "live today, deliver tomorrow."

Aside from basic hardware needs I decided on the following parts for this project as I discussed in Chain Replacement (Part 1):
  • D.I.D. 525 ZVM-X, 120 Link, X-Ring Chain in Nickel - $139.99 free ship
  • JT 15 tooth Countershaft Sprocket (#JTF 1537.15) - $20.14 free ship
  • JT 43 tooth Rear Drive Sprocket (#JTR 1489.43) - $32.85 free ship

The stock chain is 116 links, gold and continuous, but I got such a good deal on the DID Chain from an outfit called Iron Pony (eBay vendor) that I settled for the nickel finish (instead of gold) and the fact that I'd have to cut out some links. Don't get me wrong, that's the chain that I wanted irrespective of pricing. It's just that I got such a great deal, I took the nickel instead of paying a lot more for gold. That same chain was at BikeBandit for $211, which was still a ton better than the $413 factory replacement chain. Crikey!

I've maintained the factory final drive ratio at 15/43 but I saved about $45 going with a aftermarket JT carbon steel sprockets. JT is a good name in this kind of equipment. However, the JT countershaft sprocket does not have the rubber dampers that come on the factory countershaft sprocket. Those are supposed to suppress noise, but I don't think they do anything. Certainly not worth the additional $18.

Specialty tools that I needed were:
  • Air-impact wrench (400 foot/pound max on 175 psi compressor)
  • A 27 and a 14 mm impact socket
  • A complete chain repair tool kit that included a 5mm punch pin, link compressor tips and a flare tip
  • Torque wrench (mine only goes up to 85 ft/lb)
  • Electronic caliper
  • Service Manual
I should had have had a spare 5mm pin for my chain kit, because I broke the only one I had left on the new D.I.D chain. I used to have three and now broke them all. $6.95 each at Pit Posse. Here's a good tip: make sure the maker of the chain kit you buy sells spare pins because they will break. I now have two pins on order.

Before I got started, I made sure that the new D.I.D. chain was the proper size. It'd be a big problem to find out the chain was the wrong sized after the old chain was broke and everything was torn apart. It's happened before.

Chain specs are available online. The important specs are Pitch, Inner Width (of narrow links) and Roller Diameter. Those numbers for a 525 chain are 15.875 mm, 7.9375 mm and 10.2 mm respectively. All measurements can be accomplished with a simple caliper. Looks good!


The first step I did was get the front sprocket cover, upper mud guard and chain guard removed. The front sprocket cover is simply 4, 8 mm bolts and the entire cover comes off.

Oh yes, and I needed to use some engine degreaser to get that mess cleaned up.

Removing the upper mud guard was a little more complicated. First the right foot peg/brake assembly needed to to get unbolted. Not removed; it can just hang there. Seems like a strange thing to remove, but...

...right behind it are two quick rivets partially holding the mud guard in place. Quick (or Pop) rivets are removed by pushing the center point in with a punch. Then they will "pop" right out.

Still on the right side, there is a bolt right along the rear brake hydraulic tube that needs removal.

Okay, now over to the left side. There are 2, 5 mm mud guard bolts and another pop rivet that needs removal.

And with that, the upper mud guard can be removed.

The chain guard was attached to the upper mud guard (above) by two points, the forward bolt and the pop rivet, but there is a clamp on the swing arm as shown below. Pull the clamp to the right and lift the chain guard and... will come right out.

Usually removal of parts like that are pretty intuitive, but in this case there was a bunch of hidden points of contact. That's why I went into that much detail. It's all in the Service Manual too.

The next thing I wanted to do was get the countershaft sprocket removed. This is either the hardest or the easiest part of the project. That nut is probably under 200+ foot/pounds of torque (spec is 108 foot/pounds, but factory torques always seem like a lot more). I took the easy path using an air-impact wrench. However, I know many others go after that nut with a breaker bar and maybe a metal pipe extension. I've done that before too. It can turn a moderately complex job into an outright nightmare. Here's my second tip: get an air impact wrench (not one of those electric jobs). Good air impact wrenches cost $40-$60 and they have a lot of uses making them a good investment. Have you ever been unable to get a lug nut off your car when it comes back from the shop with new tires? There you go! Oh, I guess you know that you need a compressor too. :)


It's important that the nut be removed while the chain is still installed.

The first step was to flatten out the flat washer as it was cupped around the nut. The Service Manual calls for that flat washer's replacement every time the nut gets removed.

The next thing I need to do was to secure the rear wheel. I found it interesting that the Service Manual advised to apply the rear brake...after it said to remove the whole brake/footpeg assembly to get the upper mud guard off. What I did to hold the wheel/chain/countershaft sprocket in place was take a long breaker bar and wrap each side in rubber tubing. Then I slid it between the swingarm and wheel spoke. See now why the chain needs to be left on until that sprocket comes off?

Then I brought in the heavy 400 ft/lb Craftsman air-impact wrench, which did the job.

In the words of John Madden, "Boom! There you go."

With that, I could remove the defective chain. Since the stock chain is continuous, it doesn't have a master link and needs to be broke. Breaking a chain essentially means forcing a link pin back through the link and out the back so the chain comes apart. However, the links are flared so the first thing I had to do was grind off the flare.

There are two ways to grind the flare off. One is with a cutting wheel on a dremel or other tool. That's what I did below to break the stock chain. The other way I do it is grind the flare off with a grinding wheel. I did that with the new D.I.D. chain as reflected later in this post.

The chain breaking tool is used to force the pin out the back with a 5 mm punch pin. It did fine with this defective chain. I broke the 5 mm punch pin when I was trying to break the new D.I.D. chain.

This is the link pin and with that removed, the chain slides off the sprockets and right out the back.

With the chain removed, I moved onto the sprockets. I previously removed the countershaft sprocket nut so that sprocket slid right out with the chain removed. Before installing the new sprocket, I cleaned that area up a little as well as inside the sprocket cover I showed earlier.

The issue here is that installation of the countershaft sprocket requires 108 ft/lbs on the nut and my torque wrench only goes up to 85 ft/lbs. The way I get around that is to use my air-impact wrench. The max torque is 400 ft/lbs, but it is variable depending on how far the lever is pushed in either direction. Using the clickers in the travel of the level I got it around 100 +/- ft/lbs on the nut. No matter what or how, checking in on this nut in 10 or so miles is a must.

On to the rear sprocket. Obviously the first thing I needed to do was get rear wheel removed.

So, as instructed, first thing was to remove the antilock wheel sensor located on the caliper. The whole caliper does not need to be removed. However, to keep it out of the way I placed a towel on top of the muffler and rest the caliper there until reinstall of the wheel.

The rear wheel axle is another 27 mm nut so I used the air-impact wrench on that.

Note the alignment line on the axle block in the photo above. That will come into play when I describe aligning the wheel later.

Before pulling the wheel off, I set up a work station that will keep the wheel high enough that the brake rotor doesn't touch anything when replacing the sprocket. That part is susceptible to bending. I did this with a couple towels and my work stand.

Removal of the 14 mm sprocket nuts was so difficult that I once again resorted to the air wrench...see how useful that tool is? Once off, the new JT sprocket was bolted in place (spec is 44 ft/lbs) and I proceeded to reinstall the tire.

The only thing about reinstalling the wheel that's a little awkward is the brake caliper. In addition to needing to slide onto the rotor, the caliper has a slot called a caliper bracket that slides onto what's referred to as the stopper inside of the swing arm (second photo below). Then the axle hole on the caliper is aligned with the rear wheel axle holes in the swingarm.

So, while lifting the wheel and sliding the rotor into the caliper between the brake pads, the caliper bracket needs to be slid over the stopper and the caliper axle hole must be aligned with the swingarm axle hole such that you can slide the axle through the swingarm/caliper/wheel/swingarm. No problemo!

Sounds like a multiple person job, but I actually did it by myself.

Now the chain could be installed.

As previously mentioned, the stock chain had 116 links and the chain I purchased had 120 links. That didn't automatically mean that 4 links get cut. Rather, it needs to get measured. I did that by moving the chain stretchers to the first forward alignment marks on the swingarm and running the 120 links (with the master link) onto the sprockets. The cut location at that position is the closest link pin to the master link as I pulled the two ends of the chain together as tightly as I could. There's actually a tool for this, but I've never seen the need for it. See green mark (made with a permanent marker) on the link pin to be cut in the photo below.

Well yup, turned out that 4 links had to go after all.

The chain is cut by punching the link pin that I marked in green. I previously cut the old chain by first removing the flare with a dremel cutting wheel. This time I used a grinding wheel on my variable speed electric drill. Either way works fine.

And this is right where I snapped the 5mm punch pin of my chain tool and didn't have a spare. Ultimately, I was able to remove the link pin with a carbon steel hand punch and a really big hammer. It was a total pain in the ass!


With the chain finally cut, the next step was to reinstall the chain and the master link. The master link package consists of a link, link plate, 4, X-ring washers and some chain lube specifically for the X-Rings.

First thing is to get those X-Rings thoroughly lubed. They function to keep water and crud from penetrating the roller bushings causing their deterioration. That's what happened to my old chain. Those X-Rings deteriorated and then the roller bushings deteriorated and all the rollers loosened. So goooooing them up good is the way too go. The rings will be situated just inside of side plates of the master link.

Once the main master link is installed holding the two chain ends together, the outer master link plate is pressed onto the main master link using the inside and outside clamps in the chain tool kit. It presses on pretty hard, about all I could get on that 3/4 inch wrench. I pressed and then removed and kept that process going until the master link plate lined up with the link side plates on either side.

The next step is to flare the two link pins in the master link using the outside clamp and the flare bit.

Believe it or not, there's actually a manufacture's specification on the flare diameters. D.I.D. provides the specification on a chain-by-chain basis and the spec on this one is 0.217 inches -- 0.228 inches. That's somewhere between 3/16 and 4/16 inch. I suppose it makes sense; definitely don't need one of those pins slipping out.

However, I couldn't get the dang flares to the spec. The chain tool is extremely awkward to begin with and it required more muscle than I could muster. However, my son and I took it on again when he got home from work and the two of us got it taken care of. That was the only time that it took two people to get something done on this project.

Lastly, before reassembly the chain needed to be stretched to the proper slack while aligning the wheel. This process is facilitated by notches in the swingarm that align with the axle blocks ... and a simple ruler.

The chain slack is measured in this angled position as the distance between the bottom of the chain pushed as high as it can go and the bottom of the chain pushed to as low as it can go. The spec for chain slack is 1 inch to 1.40 inches.

While maintaining the slack within the range referred to above, the wheel needs to be aligned. The way I get the alignment squared is using my two dollar Harbor Freight caliper, I measure the distance between the notch on the axle block to the farthest back notch on the swingarm.

When I get that measurement the same on both sides ... and the slack is within spec ... the wheel is aligned and the chain is perfectly straight as can be seen in the photo below.

Then the axle nut is torqued to 81.1 ft/lb and the job is done, short of reassembly of the chain and mud guard and a good test ride. Oh, except that I sprung for a new cotter pin for 25 cents at ACE for the axle nut.


I used a non-dampened JT front countershaft sprocket for this maintenance. I'd mentioned in the original post that I didn't think there was a difference. That's from actual "past" experience with other bikes. However, in this case, I do hear a whine which wasn't there before, so it's the non-dampened sprocket. It's just a faint whine that doesn't bother me at all. However, since I made the comment that I didn't think there was a difference, I thought I'd just pass along the update.

Also, I've got to say, a new chain and sprockets is like a new pair of shoes and socks! Feels goooood. :)