MKL's '98 1200C
FTM "Double Row" Sealed Wheel Bearings for Pre-Y2K XLs
The FTM Sealed Bearing Components for Pre-Y2K stock 21" Front Wheel
Background: I found out about these in the March 2002 issue of Hot Rod Bikes. Essentially, these sealed wheel bearings are designed to be retrofitted to pre-2000 model Sportsters (and other H-D models as well.) Pre-2000 models are equipped with ancient tapered wheel bearing components, which must be cleaned, inspected, repacked, and reassembled (checking for proper endplay) every 10,000 miles (or annually) per the FM. 2000 and up models come standard with sealed bearings from the factory.
Initial Impressions: All necessary parts for the retrofit are included. The bearings themselves appear to be well made. The spacers, made of polished 303 stainless steel, were of flawless quality and finish.
Cost Savings: The process of removing the wheels, repacking the tapered bearings, and reinstalling the wheels is the most time consuming (and hence most expensive) portion of the 10,000 mile interval service called for in the FM. Assuming you roll into the dealer with the wheels on the bike, typical Harley dealership rates are 1 hour for the front wheel, plus 1.5 hours for the rear wheel. At the prevailing labor rate (in the NJ area) of $70, that equals $170.00 every 10,000 miles.
The FTM sealed bearings, by comparison, cost approximately $69 per set, plus 0.8 hours to install both front and rear sets (assuming the wheels are off - I had mine installed when swapping tires,) for a grand total of $195.00 (rounded off.) This means that if you usually pay for this service to be performed professionally, the FTM bearings will basically pay for themselves after their first ~11,000 miles of use, and save you money on each service thereafter. If you do the 10k service yourself, you will theoretically save yourself 2.5 hours every 10,000 miles, plus the cost of grease and associated parts.
Front Bearings Installed on Pre-Y2K 21" Wheel 2-02 - Note the Stainless Spacers
Other Benefits: Besides the obvious primary benefit of decreased maintenance costs, FTM claims the sealed bearings beat standard tapered bearings in both dynamic (by 24%) and static (by 16%) load ratings, require far less starting and running torque than conventional tapered roller bearings (resulting in higher gas mileage and more available horsepower,) and offer noticeably increased riding stability (due to zero radial play.) I have no objective way to test any of these claims, but I can say the bike feels about the same as before, and my fuel economy has not been noticeably affected. However, I would venture to speculate that the constant resistance of sealed bearings (versus the increased resistance of tapered bearings) as mileage adds up is indeed a real benefit - even if one can't feel it by the seat of the pants.
The Bottom Line: The primary purpose of this product is to save money and time related to maintenance, which it clearly does. Thus, I would recommend it, especially for riders who log on high mileage and don't want to deal with maintenance downtime. I would also strongly recommend (as clearly stated in the FTM instructions) to have the bearings installed by an experienced professional, as proper fitment is critical. Mine were installed at Black Hills Custom Parts.
Rear Bearings Installed on stock pre-Y2K 16" wheel 2-02
Click here to see the FTM Bearings online
LAST UPDATED: 3-02
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