I almost made it through assembling the whole bike when it dawned on me... "Hmm, gear way down, come out of corner, whack the gas, front end lifts, front end touches down, bars go lock to lock 5 times a second, Jeffy goes flying". This thought haunted me pretty bad. I then knew I'd need a steering damper.
Looking into dampers, I found they ranged from $150 through the mid $400's. I was going to go with a cheaper one until I thought that I'd be replacing it every crash. So now I was limited to "top-mount" or "rotary" dampers. Looking at the narrowed selection, I was into the mid $300 range and up. I was repeatedly told that the best on the market was Scotts Rotary Steering Damper.
Focusing on the $420-$450 Scotts, it's easy to tell why this is regarded as the cream of the crop. Top mount which will most likely survive numerous crashes. High and Low speed adjustments, damping motion range adjustment, and all of the adjustments are infinite. Plus you can adjust the sucker on the fly! Well, that settles it. Looking as to where I can buy one, I found (if you've read any of my other reviews, you've guessed it) http://www.hi-sideracing.com came in the lowest at $420. I ended up trading a guy some street take-offs from the F4 for the Scotts Damper.
A matter of days and it's here. Pull it all out and here's what's in the box.
Everything was well laid out and seemed very straight forward. Start pushing, pulling and turning knobs, then look at the big red letters on the manual that say "read page 7 BEFORE turning any knobs". Looked at page 7 which just warned that the knob will come off if cranked counter-clockwise too much. Whew.
Head out to the garage with parts under one arm, directions and phones under the other and the digital camera in my mouth. First thing was to pull the steering head nut and replace it with the supplied nut. This proved to be a difficult task. I bought $300 or so worth of metric tools including sockets up to 29mm. Well, that stinking nut must be a 32mm or so, it's HUGE. Couldn't find anyone with monster sockets so it was either drive 60 miles round trip to Sears or find something to suffice. Sure enough, them Vise-Grips will fit! Man, Honda must have put this nut on with a 4 foot breaker bar! It was ON THERE!! I checked the manual as the instructions state to "tighten replacement head nut to stock torque value", and the manual says 79 Ft-Lbs! Well, (1) I don't have a socket for this to even begin getting a torque value, (2) the replacement nut is about 3 grams of aluminum. The directions repeatedly say "call with any questions", "don't be stupid, call!", "we're here to help you"; so I do just that. Scott from Scotts performance (coincidence in name or the actual "man", I don't know) told me that it's best and safest to bring the nut back to stock torque values, and of course the use of loc-tite is not an option (it's mandatory). I questioned whether the replacement aluminum nut would withstand the high torque value and he replied that they've been tested well beyond the 79 Ft-lbs stock torque value. He also commented that in a pinch, this nut can be simply tightened down to 20-30 Ft-Lbs with *most likely* no ill effects, but stock value is best. Not having a torque wrench, or socket of this size, I opted for the loc-tite and "snug down well" method.
Okay, that's settled. Back to the directions, step 1 says "apply loc-tite to EVERYTHING, we promise you that if you do not, IT WILL COME LOOSE". That's convincing enough for me, so I use the supplied loc-tite and snug down the new steering head nut.
There's this "ring" that fits over/around the new nut which has 6 holes in the side for set screws which hold the damper to the nut. Loc-tite them, start them in the holes, drop the top ring on and tighten accordingly. There's also a nub underneath the "ring" which fits in the groove in the factory triple clamp. This went very well. Here's a pic
Okay, nut and ring in place, now pull the 2 factory tank bolts and drop on the supplied "post" with supplied bolts (of course, using loc-tite)
A little white lithium grease in the post hole, drop in the pin, and mount the damper with the 2 (supplied) bolts.
After I got it mounted, I continued reading the settings instructions which say that the low speed adjustment should be factory set at 8 clicks from full clock-wise stop. I wanted to see if it was set there so I started clicking clock-wise. 8 clicks no stop, 15 clicks no stop, 20 clicks no stop, 25 clicks no stop. Time to call again. The woman said keep going until it stops. Well, 29 clicks and it stopped! Backed it out 8 and things should be normal.
I lowered the bike off the front end stand onto some blocks and wood placed under the headers so I could freely move the front end. This thing is great. Works well on the stand, and I think will work superb on the track. Time will tell.
In October, I had the opportunity to put the Scotts to the test on a private track in Minneapolis. It performed flawlessly. The best description I can give to say how well a damper works is simply that it gave me no hint that it was even there, but there were no shakes or "shimmies" in the front whatsoever.
There was recently a very large thread that took place on the CBR LIST regarding "do I need a damper or not". My answer to this question is pretty straight forward. A damper provides a specific service to rider and bike. However, MOST OFTEN times, changes in the riders techniques (stop gripping the bars too tight, trying to man-handle the bike) will overcome common shakes. A damper is pretty common on altered bikes (race bikes), big torque bikes (VTR, TL, etc), and bikes with a lot of HP and steep steering angles (R1). However, the average street 600 simply doesn't need it.
Before you spend $400+ on a damper, spend $15 on yourself and decide whether you really need it. Buy Keith Code's "Twist of the Wrist II" from Amazon.com or other book retailer and READ IT. Once you read the physics aspects (very clearly explained and easily understood) of what a bike does and what it requires from the rider and the negative effects that the rider brings out of the bike, then decide whether to spend the money or not.
As Keith Code writes, "The most adjustable portion of any bike's suspension is the one that sits on top. The rider."
Check out my other Scotts Performance Product Reviews.
Scotts Rotary Damper (review 2)
Scotts Triple Clamp
Scotts Reusable Oil Filter