Steering Tapered Roller Bearing Installation on 2015 Versys 650 - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-29-2017, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
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Smile Steering Tapered Roller Bearing Installation on 2015 Versys 650

Since I do not wish to re-invent the wheel, a good portion of the illustrations used (and steps followed) have been “borrowed” from service manuals. A few of the photos were found on internet. The rest of the pics and explanations are mine.

Why install tapered roller bearings?

Tapered roller bearings are not necessarily more desirable than roller bearings. Both types of steering stem bearings have their strong points.

Sporty type toad bikes usually have ball bearings in their steering head. These ball bearings provide a lighter feel to the front end which then reacts faster to small countersteering inputs.

On the other hand tapered roller bearings tend to make the front end a little “lazier”. It will be easier to track a bike in a straight line on the highway.

Since I’m not into “sporty” twisty road riding, tapered steering roller bearings are a perfect match for my touring riding style.

Remove steering stem

Remove the fuel tank, the handlebar, the front wheel, the front fender, the steering stem, the upper and lower ball bearings, etc. as explained in the service manual (14-6 & 14-7).

These are the items I had in hand after having removed the top ball bearing from my Versys 650.

Left to right: Steering stem locknut, claw washer, steering stem nut, steering stem cap, inner race, ball bearing, outer race.

Looking down into the frame neck after the steering stem has been removed from my 2015 Versys 650.

“To remove the ball bearing outer races [A] pressed into the head pipe [B], insert a bar [C] into the recesses of head pipe, and applying it to both recesses alternately hammer it to drive the race out.”

“Then you remove the cups that are pushed into the bottom of the steering tube by tapping them out with a long punch. There are cut outs on the inside edge of the tube where it seats in that let you get a tool on it and tap it out.”

Note: Since a generic steering stem race remover could not catch onto the Versys lower inner race, I needed to use a “modified” crow bar to tap out the lower race.

The tip of my tool needed to be ground down to approximately ½ inch.

After having removed the outer races, I noticed that the grooves inside the frame neck were a bit scratched up. This was easy to polish up with the Dremel.

“Remove the lower ball bearing [A] from the steering stem [B].”

Note: To remove the lower ball bearing inner race (with its oil/dust seal) [A] which is pressed onto the steering stem, special pullers usually do the job.

However, because of the stoppers on each side of the lower steering stem yoke, none of my pullers permitted me to do this.

I decided to use a hammer to lightly tap a chisel under the race and dust seal. It was then possible to start prying out the race and dust seal.

Once these items were pried out a bit, it was quite easy to keep moving the race upward by tapping and prying.

The items eventually slid off. The few minor scratches caused by the chisel were easily cleaned up with the Dremel.

I used the All Balls Steering Bearing Kit 6700-765.

Note: Although All Balls use inexpensive Chinese made bearings and races in their steering kits, I have always had good results with their kits. These bearings are said to be inferior in quality to the OEM Japanese made bearings. However this does not mean that they are junk. Many companies now import their bearings from China.

This kit consists of a pair of tapered roller bearings accompanied by 2 corresponding outer races and dust seals.

I applied grease to new dust seal lips and also added/packed more wheel bearing grease into the tapered roller bearing.

The dust seal was slid onto the stem. It is important to install the dust seal BEFORE the tapered roller bearing.

Slide the tapered roller bearing onto the steering stem.

Everything will now look like this.

To install this new lower bearing, it is necessary to push it (press it) down to the bottom of the stem.

Note: All of the pressure must be applied to the inside race of the bearing.

To do this, I decided to modify one of the old roller bearing races that were removed in the previous steps.

The top portion was ground down to make it flat and then a portion was cut out of its side. This made it easier to slide it down the steering stem post.

The modified race was placed on top of the lower tapered roller bearing as follows.

Part 1 of 2

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Last edited by quexpress; 09-29-2017 at 06:49 PM.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-29-2017, 06:48 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Smile Steering Tapered Roller Bearing Installation on 2015 Versys 650

A piece of pipe was cut and then used to tap down onto the race as shown below. The tapered roller bearing and the dust seal slid down into their intended place at the bottom of the steering stem.

To press the tapered roller bearing races into the frame, you can make a homemade tool out of some all thread. This ensures that the bearing races enter the frame head straight.

Note: Use one of your old bearing races that have been removed previously to complete tapping the new races all the way into the frame neck.

Note: I used a bearing driver set to install both races in a similar fashion as shown below:

Top race:

Bottom race:

However it is much safer to use the all thread tool instead of tapping them in as I did. Thus the risk of inserting the races crooked is eliminated.

Note: The above 2 pics are not mine. They were “borrowed” from the web because I was unable to do selfies.

Apply grease to top and bottom outer races.

Push the steering stem up into the steering head pipe.

Install the upper tapered roller bearing.

Install the upper dust seal.

Install the steering stem cap along with the steering stem nut (bearing adjustment nut).


Tapered roller bearings require less torque than ball bearings.

Tapered roller bearings are often overtorqued because people tend to rely on their service manuals for the torque specs. 99% of the time relying on the service manual is great!

However in this case the torque specs in the manual are wrong because these specs are intended to be used for roller bearings (not tapered roller bearings).


The specs that I have used were taken from service manuals of my previous few motorcycles. These already had tapered roller bearings installed at the manufacture.

Tighten the stem bearing adjustment nut as follows:

Tighten the stem bearing adjustment nut to torque 40 N-m (4.1 kgf-m, 30 Ibf-ft)

To make myself a stem bearing adjustment nut tool, I asked a machinist to modify a 1 ½ inch socket for me. This is the result.

Note: The “new” DIY steering stem socket functions as well as expected.

Move the steering stem right and left, lock-to-lock, five times to seat the bearings.

Make sure that the steering stem moves smoothly, without play or binding; then loosen the bearing adjustment nut.

Retighten the bearing adjustment nut to torque 17 N-m (1.7 kgf-m, '12 Ibf-ft)

Move the steering stem right and left, lock-to-lock, five times to seat the bearings and then retighten the adjustment nut to torque 17 N-m (1.7 kgf-m, '12 Ibf-ft).

Repeat the above last step.

Make sure that the steering stem moves smoothly, without play or binding.

Install the new lock washer onto the steering stem.

Align the tabs of the lock washer with the grooves in the adjustment nut and bend two opposite tabs (shorter) down into the adjustment nut groove.

Install and finger tighten the stem bearing adjustment lock nut.

Hold the adjustment nut and further tighten the lock nut within 1 /4 turn (90') enough to align its grooves with the lock washer tabs.

Bend the lock washer tabs up into the lock nut groove.

Continue with instructions shown on page 14-9 of your service manual to install the steering stem head, the front forks, the handlebar, the front wheel, the fender, etc.

To inspect the steering play as shown on page 2-54 of your Versys 650 service manual:

Raise the front wheel off the ground.

With the front wheel pointing straight ahead, alternately tap each end of the handlebars. The front wheel should swing fully left and right from the force of gravity until the fork hits the stop.

If the wheel binds or catches before the stop, the steering is too tight.

Feel for steering looseness by pushing and pulling [A] the forks.

If you feel looseness, the steering is too loose.

If the steering is too tight, loosen the stem nut [B] 1/8 of a turn.

If the steering is too loose, tighten the stem nut 1/8 of a turn.

Are they too loose or too tight?

With newly installed tapered roller bearings, undesirable steering stem symptoms will soon show up if they are too loose or too tight.

Note: A common sign for both of these situations is when you notice that your arms tend to become more tired than usual after long rides.

Too loose:
  • - Wobble (shimmy) on deceleration
  • - Bike falls into turns too fast (with very little countersteering). Rider needs to work hard to keep standing the bike.

Too tight:

  • - The bike will tend to “hunt” (weave/wander) when trying to go straight on the highway at a constant speed. To keep going in a straight line, the bike requires several steering inputs.
  • - The steering is “heavy”. Constant efforts to countersteer in long sweepers are required because the bike wants to stand up.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you will need to either loosen or tighten your steering stem bearing adjustment nut (no more than 1/8th of a turn at a time).

In the past I have needed to do these corrections on a few bikes. Fortunately, after installing tapered roller bearings in the steering head, everything tested fine on my Versys. On the highway, while going in a straight line, the bike follows its line without needing any steering inputs. That was my goal!

Part 2 of 2
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I still have a full deck.
I just shuffle slower.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-29-2017, 08:06 PM
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You get all the stickies! All the likes! Excellent write up!
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