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17" Rear Wheel Conversion

While many C10 owners are interested in taking advantage of the latest tire technology, the dwindling selection of high performance tires available in sizes to fit the C10’s 16” rear wheel has made this increasingly difficult. Manufacturers heavily favor 17” rear wheels on sport and sport touring motorcycles, evidenced by the fact that at the time of the writing of this article, no new sport touring motorcycles were offered with a 16” rear tire. A cursory look at tire availability during the writing of this article indicated that there were nearly twice the amount of sport & sport touring rear tires offered in the 160/70-17 and 170/60-17 sizes alone, compared to the stock size for the C10.  If radial tires are considered, the ratio increases to over 16 to 1 in favor of the 17” sizes.  These and other factors have led to a desire by some owners to convert to a 17” rear wheel.  Fortunately for C10 owners there are a couple of options available for converting to a 17” rear wheel, one by modifying the existing rear wheel and one using the wheel from another Kawasaki model.

Option 1 - Wheel Modification

This option involves modifying the stock wheel.  This usually involves removing the original outer rim and welding on a larger diameter rim to make a 17” X 5” wheel.  While Kosman Specialties once performed this work, they are no longer in business, so anyone wanting to have their wheel modified would need to find a shop that does this type of work.  Due to the critical nature of wheel, it is extremely important that the work be done by a reputable shop with plenty of good experience.  As an example of the type of quality required, a Kosman modified wheel is shown in Figure A.  Again, poor workmanship here can have disastrous or even fatal consequences, so proceed with caution if you want to go down this road.
 

Option 2 - Kawasaki Mean Streak / Suzuki Marauder Wheel

This option involves installing a 17” rear wheel from a different model motorcycle.

The parts required are:

1      A rear wheel from one of the following motorcycles:
 

o    Kawasaki VN1500 Mean Streak or VN1600 Mean Streak, any year for a used wheel.  The wheel MUST be from a Mean Streak, any other VN1500 or VN1600 wheel is the wrong size.
 

o    Kawasaki  P/N 41073-1671 for silver, Kawasaki P/N 41073-0042-17J for red, or Kawasaki P/N 41073-0042-R2 for black if you want a new wheel.
 

(Note: New wheels come assembled with valve stem, wheel bearings and the rubber for the cush drive, but no drive coupling.  A used wheel will have whatever the seller chooses to include.  If the drive components (drive coupling, rubber dampers) are not included with the wheel, don’t worry, all these parts are identical to the stock C10 components, and can be transferred over when the wheel is assembled.)

 

o    Suzuki Marauder VZ1600 2004-05

 

As an aid to visual identification, Figure B shows photos of the correct wheel in black, without the drive coupling.

With the exception of color, all the candidate wheels are identical, so if a wheel doesn’t look like the one in the photos, it isn’t the correct wheel.

 

2    A FRONT brake rotor from a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, 1999-2004, either used or Kawasaki P/N 41080-1447-CM, or EBC P/N MD4150RS

---OR---
Buy a Mean Streak rear rotor and cut the outer diameter down to 280 mm

 

3    Seven (7) new rotor bolts, Kawasaki P/N 92150-1771,
---OR---

use your 6 existing bolts, assuming they are in good condition, and add another of the correct part no.

4    New wheel bearings, if necessary, Kawasaki P/N 601B6304UU

Wheel modification and installation

The following is a checklist of the steps required for modification and installation of the wheel.  Consult a shop manual for any assembly/ installation procedures you are not already familiar with.

-     Have a machine shop remove .300” from the brake rotor mounting surface, as indicated in Figure C.  This will align the rotor with the stock caliper.

Note that an equal amount of material is also removed from the face of the lip that centers the rotor on the hub, and that the finished outside diameter of the lip must be the same as the original.   This work can be done by any competent machine shop with a vertical mill or lathe large enough to accommodate the wheel. 

Note:  Some owners have used other methods to align the brake caliper and rotor with good results, either by modifying the stock caliper bracket or fabricating a new bracket.  If the wheel is not modified the caliper is moved outboard and could come in contact with the right side luggage, so be sure to check this if you choose not to machine the wheel.

-     Have the Mean Streak rotor cut down to reduce the diameter to 280mm, if you chose this route.

-     Install new wheel bearings, if necessary.

-     Thread the brake rotor mounting bolts into each of the threaded holes in the wheel.  If any of the bolts do not engage up to the head of the bolt, you will need to extend the threads in those holes using an M8 x 1.25 tap, as shown in Figure D.

-     Install the new brake rotor using blue Loctite on all the bolts and applying a torque of 16 ft-lb.

-     Install the rubber dampers and drive coupling, if they were not included with the wheel.  Figure E shows the installed coupling.   

-     Mount and balance your choice of tire (see below for tire size options).

-     Remove the stock rear wheel from the motorcycle.  (If you plan to reuse your existing rubber dampers and drive coupling, you will obviously need to do this before installing them in the new wheel.)

-     Install the new wheel as you would the stock wheel, using the stock axle, axle spacers, brake caliper, and caliper bracket.  The installed wheel should look like Figure F.

 

-      Reinstall any remaining items, double check your steps, and go for a ride!

 

Tire Selection

The largest 17” rear tire that will fit the C10 is a 170/60-17.  This tire is about 1/2 “ shorter in height than the stock tire, so engine rpm will increase about 2% for a given speed and gear compared to stock.  Another popular choice is a 160/70-17, which is slightly taller than the stock tire, and lowers engine rpm throughout the gears by about 1%.  Table 1 shows engine rpm relative to stock for the two tire sizes.  The 170 tire should have adequate clearance to the centerstand, but to be safe you should check the clearance once you’ve mounted the wheel.  If the clearance is less than you feel comfortable with, you can grind some material off the sides of the stand feet. 
 

Article By: Gary French (GFinCA)
Contributors: Many

March 2011

Updated August 18. 2016

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