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Old 09-20-2009, 03:47 AM   #1
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HOW TO: Brace Your Swingarm

You'll need some scissors, some stiff paper, some pva glue and glitter...Kidding...

This guide is for painted swingarms, but it will work on the 98-01 if you know a good alluminium welder. There are no pictures of the processes 'cause I didn't think to take any, there are pictures of the finished product, and you'll get the idea when you look at your swingarm.

Remove the wheel and chain if you plan to leave the swingarm in the bike until you're ready to weld. You'll need some clear contact (adhesive book covering) and a fine permanent marker. Clean the swingarm with metho. Stick a piece of contact to the swingarm. Get it to stick as close to the radiused edge as you can, try not to get any wrinkles. Cutting off the excess contact will help. Trace around the inside of the hole (on the sticky side of the contact) with the marker. Don't worry about the leading edge of the left hand side where the chain goes through. This comes shortly.

Next you'll need two pieces of raw aluminium sheet, NOT anodised. They need to be 400mm x 200mm for the '04-'06. I used 2mm thick sheet, much thinner and it's hard to weld without melting through, much thicker and it's hard to shape. Stick the contact with the outline to each sheet. Now you can draw the leading edge of the chain hole, don't worry if you don't get it right first time, wipe the marker off with metho and try again. Be aware of the linkage bearing in the center front of the arm. If you cover this up it will hard to replace this bearing. You may also run out of room for the chain, if you go too much further forward than this. Now cut the shapes out on a bandsaw, if you dont have access to one, find some one who does, or ask a metalworking shop to do it for you. Now is a good time to look out for a competent aluminium welder too. NOTE: When you cut the shapes out, cut at least 3 mm outside the line so that you have room to work with.

Now it's time to shape the plates, both the edges and the curves. This is the hard part, and it's worth taking the time to get the shapes as perfect as you can. I used a linishing belt to shape the edges, but an angle grinder with a sanding "flap" disk will do. Make sure you have a bucket of water near by, it'll get hot real quick. I used my knee and various different bits of pipe to help me shape the curves on. You can mostly push the plate with your hands, but if you go along the chain and around the radius of the lower brace, you'll need a hide or wooden mallet to shape tighter curves with. You have to shape the outer edge as you shape the curve, because you can't tell what size the plate should be, until its the same shape as the swingarm. Keep at it, it takes time but you'll get there. NOTE: The plate should rest on the radiused edges of the hole in the swingarm, for the most minimum weld. Don't take too much off the outsides, you dont want the plate to fit inside the hole, you want it to be flush with the surface of the swingarm.

Now remove the swingarm and everything connected to it. Remove the spindle sleeve from the pivot bearings, and clean the pivot point outside edges with solvent, to remove all grease. I used xylene. Then mask the pivot points well, with several layers, to protect the bearings. There is a ridge around the pivot ponts where they are machined by the factory. mask up to these ridges.

This is where the metal workers and the NOT part ways. If you can't do this yourself, go back to that metalshop you found and make some freinds...

Now you need to prepare the swingarm for welding. I cut a piece of 60mm pipe, 5mm wall thickness, slightly longer than the space between the arms. Then I squared up the ends in a lathe and got it the exact length. I put the pipe in between the arms, put a thick 50mm washer in the axel cutouts, and bolted it together with a 16mm threaded rod and nuts. This stops the swingarm from both twisting and expanding when you weld it. Now heat the arm up with a jetfire gas heater,(or similar) untill it's too hot to hold but not too hot to touch. Sand the paint off the edge and 20mm on each side, only sand the side you are about to weld, this prevents aluminium oxide forming and breaking the arc. I used a MIG welder because it is quicker and cooler than TIG. Tack the plate in, on the out side of the arm, with 50mm between tacks. Then go back over and fill between the tacks. Don't build the weld too much because most of this gets sanded off later. Then fillet weld inside the swingarm. This is the actual stong join between the plate and the arm. While it's all still hot, turn it over and repeat the process on the other side. Then, still hot, sand off the excess weld on the outsides of the plates. I used a flap disk to get within .2mm of the surface, and a disk sander to finish it off. Now let it cool right down and remove the axel spacer.

Next up is prep and paint, I gave both these jobs to professionals. I got the swingarm bicarb blasted because it gives a silky smooth finish for the painter. Sandblasting is too coarse but there are other abrasives available, check with your local blaster for the smoothest finish you can get. When you give it to a painter, make sure he plugs all the threads and holes to protect the threads. And get him to mask up the linkage bearing and dust seals, if you don't intend to replace them. My painter used a black JOTUN epoxy filler to get the suface right. This is used on ships hulls before paint, and is very hard and corrosion resistant. The fillet welds inside the swingarm were coated with SIKA paintable sealant, to keep water and corrosion out of the weld. The arm was painted black, given a very fine mist of silver, and finally a 70% gloss clear coat. It helps a lot if you can provide a sample to get the paint to match the frame perfectly. You can often find destroyed or damaged subframes and swingarms at a wrecker that you can borrow or cut a sample off of.

Finally you can put it all back together, this is the best bit, try not to get too excited and damage something. I used this opportunity to replace or repack my bearings with grease. You can do the shock , linkages, pivot and axel as well as cleaning those rarely seen places. It'll make you feel better.
Good luck, get modifying.
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Last edited by CARBONAR1; 09-20-2009 at 05:15 AM. Reason: dinner
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Old 09-20-2009, 06:32 AM   #2
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Nice write up!!

Thanks for sharing the knowledge.
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Old 09-20-2009, 06:53 AM   #3
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Awesome how too! Great mod for a poor facker like me. It really looks great, can you feel the difference in the handing? I do small wielding jobs with my 100 amp mig wielder and do well with steel but have never done aluminum. I have the spool for it, how much harder is it compared to steel?
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Old 09-20-2009, 07:08 AM   #4
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nice wright up. looks good.
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Old 09-20-2009, 07:15 AM   #5
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very nice.
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Old 09-20-2009, 07:53 AM   #6
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Very nice. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-20-2009, 06:10 PM   #7
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Cyclepsycho- It does feel stiffer on the track, it seems to add to the feedback you feel through the controls. It's less noticable on the road. Ally welding is a little more difficult than steel, You have to move quickly and confidently, and a perfectly clean lens in your sheild is a must. I haven't used such a low amp welder for ally before but I set our workshop mig quite low to do the job. If your 100amp came with an ally reel then the best thing you can do is practice till your confident. Get some scrap RAW ally and try untill your happy with your skills. I practised on a secundhand 05 arm, just in case I stuffed it, but it turned out fine so I did my original, and it came out better again. Practice, practice, practice !
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Old 09-20-2009, 10:24 PM   #8
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Great write up. I went through the same process with 2 arms. Here are some tips/info I found out along the way.

1. Understand that this modification is more for aesthetics than functionality. While you will indeed be "stiffening" the rear arm, it's effects will most likely not be felt. A true "braced" arm is boxed in entirely (meaning that the inside of the arm is braced as well as the outside). Also, keep in mind that Yamaha engineers specific amounts of horizontal and lateral flex into the swing arm to work with the overall characteristics of the bike. They have significant test hours invested to arrive at what they think is the "ideal" amount of rigidity in the swing arm. Companies that specialize in bracing arms (ie - Harris) for racing purposes invest similar energy in testing where and how much material should be added to achieve the desired feel for the intended purpose of the arm. Simply welding side plates to a stock similar will likely not yield the same effects (performance wise) as a true boxed arm.

2. Make sure whoever does the welding has a healthy resume of aluminum work to their name. As mentioned by the OP, welding aluminum is an entirely different animal than welding steel. Putting to much heat into the thin cast swing arm can easily weaken the overall piece and risk fracture down the road.

3. Powder coating the arm will reveal porus contaminants in the stock welds and the welds of the plates. To remedy this, you will need a powder coat safe filler to smooth the welds and the final lines. Painting is probably the best method for braced arms.

4. Replace the 2 main bearings, the shock bearing, and the thrust covers. Since you have the arm off already, you may as well do the job right and replace your bearings.
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Last edited by SAB; 09-20-2009 at 10:27 PM.
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Old 09-21-2009, 02:18 AM   #9
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Great How-To and top tips SAB

Thanks for sharing
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Old 09-21-2009, 03:10 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CARBONAR1 View Post
Cyclepsycho- It does feel stiffer on the track, it seems to add to the feedback you feel through the controls. It's less noticable on the road. Ally welding is a little more difficult than steel, You have to move quickly and confidently, and a perfectly clean lens in your sheild is a must. I haven't used such a low amp welder for ally before but I set our workshop mig quite low to do the job. If your 100amp came with an ally reel then the best thing you can do is practice till your confident. Get some scrap RAW ally and try untill your happy with your skills. I practised on a secundhand 05 arm, just in case I stuffed it, but it turned out fine so I did my original, and it came out better again. Practice, practice, practice !
What gas mix did you use? I've never welded aluminum with MIG, but have done plenty of stainless grades and regular mild steel, and we used different gas mixes for both of those. i don't remember exactly what they were, but I think we used a tri-mix on the stainless, something like CO2, He, and Ar. I can TIG aluminum pretty good, but you're right that is does get a lot hotter.
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Old 09-21-2009, 03:22 AM   #11
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I used pure Argon. This seems to be the best for totally non porus welds, it seems to be better than whatever Yamaha uses, if you look at their welds after soda blasting.
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Old 09-21-2009, 04:04 AM   #12
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I used pure Argon. This seems to be the best for totally non porus welds, it seems to be better than whatever Yamaha uses, if you look at their welds after soda blasting.
What's a good heat and feed setting to start with? I don't know if I'll ever get into trying out this mod, but I'm just kind of interested in the welding aspect of it. I'm mainly a TIG welder, but had a job building some SS burners for a company for about 2 weeks using MIG on a pinwheel and it took me a little while to get a comfortable setting that worked for me. I'm just so used to being able to adjust my heat as I please with a pedal. I know settings for different machines are going to be different, but I'm just wondering if you need to jack the heat up like TIG on aluminum. Also, I never messed with the machines that much, but can you weld AC with MIG? Is it even necessary?
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Old 09-21-2009, 05:16 AM   #13
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I've forgotten at the moment, but I'll check it out tomorrow at work and let you know.
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:51 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CARBONAR1 View Post
Cyclepsycho- It does feel stiffer on the track, it seems to add to the feedback you feel through the controls. It's less noticable on the road. Ally welding is a little more difficult than steel, You have to move quickly and confidently, and a perfectly clean lens in your sheild is a must. I haven't used such a low amp welder for ally before but I set our workshop mig quite low to do the job. If your 100amp came with an ally reel then the best thing you can do is practice till your confident. Get some scrap RAW ally and try untill your happy with your skills. I practised on a secundhand 05 arm, just in case I stuffed it, but it turned out fine so I did my original, and it came out better again. Practice, practice, practice !
Thanks, I will definitely do many practice runs until I feel confident. I may not get to the project until the weather get to cold to ride but when I finish it I will post up the pics.
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Old 09-21-2009, 12:04 PM   #15
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Looks really nice!

I would have to give the swingarm to somebody to weld up. I can solder real nice, but my welding kinda sucks
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:01 PM   #16
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good writeup
98-01 guys need to be aware that the 98-01 arms are hard clear anodised and therefore need to be prepped where welding is gonna take place.
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Old 09-22-2009, 03:01 AM   #17
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BFA- We have a variety of old and new welders at work, and I've found them to be temperamental when it comes to ally welding. I have two set up for ally, one old, one new. The old one is an S.I.P. AUTOPLUS 210, this is a simple welder and is set up for scaffolding which is generally 2mm tube. There are three dials: CURRENT: 5 out of 6, WIRE SPEED 8 out of 10, and PULSE: 1.5 seconds. Pulse is basically auto spot welding, it does the "row of coins" type weld perfectly. The newer machine is a KEMPI 400. This is set on 7.2 meters per minute, 119 amps, and 27 volts. This may not of been changed since I did my swingarm, I don't think anyone else has touched it. Most, if not all, migs are DC. AC is not necessary, the pulse option cleans the aluminium oxide ahead of the weld somehow. I'm not sure how, they point me at shit, I weld it! One more trick to getting a touchy macine to work smoothly, if you have any trouble, is to use a tip .3mm larger than the wire, ie; 1.2 tip, .9 wire. Happy experimenting.
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Old 09-22-2009, 04:13 PM   #18
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Appreciate the info. I didn't think MIG machines do AC either. I've only used short-circuit transfer welding with the MIG, not the pulse-spray. I should have tried the bigger tip because I would have issues sometime where the wire felt like it hung up just enough to give me a gap in my bead.
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:48 PM   #19
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is this a cosmetic mod or performance mod ?,the reason I ask is I'm interested in how you would calculate the flex before and after and also to determine were and how thick and grade of plate used also how did you keep it all straight with the heat from the welding ?.
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:17 PM   #20
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is this a cosmetic mod or performance mod ?,the reason I ask is I'm interested in how you would calculate the flex before and after and also to determine were and how thick and grade of plate used also how did you keep it all straight with the heat from the welding ?.
The modification was originally done for performance. Companies like Fabtec and Harris (among others) would be commissioned by teams to brace or in some cases completely rebuild the existing swing arm for increased rigidity. The goal was to reduce flex in the swing arm due to the forces being applied by 200+BHP race engines. The end product was a sharper handling machine with more feel for the rider.

When you see someone weld plates on the outside of a stock swing arm, it is predominantly for aesthetics. A true braced swing arm will be boxed on the inside as well. There is no need for additional bracing on the stock arm unless you're running a built engine and trying to shave milliseconds off of your lap times.

You're correct in your observation that there are no existing measurements of how much stiffer welding outside plates makes the swing arm. There are also no known tests confirming if this actually improves or degrades the handling of the bike. Lastly, there has been no testing to confirm that where rigidity has been applied, hasn't compromised the connection point at the main frame.

The arms you see produced by Harris, Fabtec, and others, have all gone through testing to optimize and compliment the handling of the machine.

After reading up on how much engineering R&D is put into the rear swing arm from the factory, I opted to sell my braced arms and go back to stock. I didn't want to risk upsetting the balance of the bike or risk putting too much stress at the main pivot point in the frame.

Hope that helps.
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