If you didn’t notice, last year (2012) was a bit wet. I don’t think I had a single weekend when I didn’t have to change wheels at least once. If you are new to bikes, used to watching the pros, or just reading this to laugh at me (there are better things to do with your time but I don’t mind ;)) you may not know that changing wheels can be a right royal PITA. On the Gixxer it’s a process of 4 bolts to release the calipers on the front, 4 pinch bolts, undo a bit of pressure on the big nut on the spindle, lift the front, finish off taking the nut off the spindle and sliding it out, catch the spacer as it falls out (at least there is only one on the GSXR 600, not like the CBR which has 2 of differing size) and take out the front wheel. That’s one wheel out. Then round to the back. 2 different size bolts on the back caliper (14mm and 10mm if I remember correctly), a big nut undo, slide the wheel forward, remove the chain (getting covered in chain lube), take out the spindle (dropping the spacers and chasing them around where every they shoot out to) and remove the rear wheel. So that is just getting the wheel out. The REAL fun begins when it comes to putting the wheels back in. The thing about getting the wheels back in are the spacers, the rear ones especially. They are buggers. You have to get the wheel in line with, holding the wheel in the air to align the spindle (I do this with a block of wood to hold the wheel in place easier). The tolerances are small and invariably you are doing this in a rush and just as you line it all up the spacer will get knocked out, meaning you have to start again totally from scratch. This is irritating in the extreme.
So is that it? Is that all that you can do, just grin and bare it? No, you have a few options. An expensive quick change swing arm, I have no idea how much these cost but it isn’t going to be cheap. I have seen one self made by engineer who races in the Hottrax Endurance, and it was a lovely bit of kit, but I couldn’t even begin to justify the cost of one. Or there is the cheap option to speed this up, namely captive spacers.
Captive spacers are simply spacers that have a lip that fits under the baring seal, which holds them in place and hence the “captive” bit. Normal spacers just go in and come out with nothing to hold them in place. It’s that simple and they work. It’s still a fiddly job to do, but at least they hold in place and don’t shoot off just as you are about to slide the spindle into place.
There are other things I have done to make the changing of the rear wheel easier. There is a thin bit of metal on the inside of swing arm, where the axle goes through and the spacers sit on. I presume this is to stop the moving spacer causing damage to the swing arm and/or stop it corroding in to place (this is just a guess). Well what ever it is for, it does a really good job of getting in the way and flicking the spacers out. So after careful thought I decided to ditch this part. I have had this off the bike for the best part of a season and I keep and eye on it to make sure it’s not damaging anything and so far… nothing to report. If you know differently then get in touch. I also have a line up tool. A simple bit of nylon turned to act as a spindle holder. You simply slide this in and it holds everything on that side while you line up the other side (I only really use it on the back to hold the rear brake holder in line, though it will do the front as well.). This came with the spacers. I can’t remember how much I paid now, but remember you need 1 and 1/2 sets of spacers, 2 sets of the front and 1 for the rear, unless you have you have you 2 sprocket carriers (which I don’t)
As for the spacers themselves, well there is only so much you can say about a spacer really. In fact I have already spoken more than I thought possible on a small bit of metal. There are some concerns I have over the baring seals being damaged and allowing the baring to get contaminated but this doesn’t seem to be the case and a changing of a baring once in a while compared the the countless rapped knuckles, lost races, stick on the wrong tyre because there wasn’t time to change them, all easily out weigh that concern. They are now an essential on any bike I buy.