DIY Beginner Upgrades Cams & Pistons - Lives To Tell The Tale


"And this one is just right" ~ Goldilocks
Aug 13, 2017
Old Fort, NC 28762 USA
2020 3R , '11 Rocket III Roadster
I just finished a Neville Lush piston and cam rebuild in ""record time"" with no prior experience. I had allowed myself a full five days during the Christmas holidays for the install. Well, now, more than three months later, I’m finally in a position to say, "job completed!" and share this story with anyone who might want to read along.

Neville accuses me of writing novels in a simple Email, so be prepared to hang on and bear with me. If you'd rather not read the entire manuscript (I'm crushed) and just want to jump to the dramatic conclusion, that would be that I managed NOT to blow up a perfectly good Rocket3 Roadster that, after all was said and done, hit 206hp and 181 torque on the dyno.
[alternate ending here]

Sorry, but this post will be overly long, not only because I might like to have a record of this adventure to read in my old age, but probably more due to the fact that I’m writing this during the Covid-19 crisis when many of us, including me, have a little more time on our hands.

Before I start I want to especially thank @Neville Lush for his expertise in designing the cams and supplying the pistons to suit my “needs” (torque, torque and more torque) and for patiently answering questions, including many basic ones that someone taking on such a project shouldn't need to ask in the first place (this all took place during the terrible wildfires happening near his home in Australia). Thanks, also, to @warp9.9 who advised me through some tough spots, talked me off some ledges, and offered endless encouragement. Not to forget, this forum where I have found the answers to many problems over the years- I would not have attempted it without this collective body of knowledge, including many posts by @R-III-R Turbo. Finally, to Lee Shierts of Lee’s Performance Center, racer/tuner out of Charlotte, NC who did my final tune- he is a Jedi master.

Oh, and I'd like to thank The Academy......


This won’t be a step-by-step “how to.” For one thing, I’m not qualified to instruct anyone on the process, but I will share some things that I learned along the way. A lot of what follows will be from my rough notes that I tried to keep at the end of each wrenching session.

Let me just say that my hat is off to all the people on this site who really do know their $hit. If any one of them jump in to disagree with something I’ve said about the process, pay attention. I will say up front, right now, that they would be correct.

So, to start, my experience level goes just slightly beyond routine maintenance, including swapping valve shims, brakes, wheel bearings, forks seals, oil changes, putting gas in the tank, washing the bike, etc. I know just enough to be dangerous. Once I pulled the head on this project I was in virgin territory, for sure.

My bike is my main form of transportation and as long as there is no ice or snow I ride, averaging nearly 14,000 miles/year. I ended up having to drive our gas guzzling Roadtrek RV to work quite a bit these past few months. Over the past couple of years I went from a stock bike to TORs and K&Ns. More recently I added a CES header system when Neville Lush insisted that I need to upgrade my exhaust, somehow, first before doing any further performance upgrades. I'm convinced that a performance exhaust system is probably the gateway drug that leads to crack.

My original plan was to get his street cams, since I already had experience pulling the stock cams when changing valve shims. Then, I thought, well, why not just “throw in” some pistons too while I’m at it- how hard could that be? Well, as they say, your mileage may vary. Here goes.....
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"And this one is just right" ~ Goldilocks
Aug 13, 2017
Old Fort, NC 28762 USA
2020 3R , '11 Rocket III Roadster
2011 Roadster Lush Cams & Piston Install

Prep Work

● Ordered parts

From Neville Lush…


10:1 pistons and custom cams designed primarily for increased torque. The cams are "drop in." In hindsight, I might have gone with dial-in cams that he offered for better performance, but I am very happy with the results and ease of installation. Neville can design whatever you want based on your goals.

Much of this following list was copied from @R-III-R Turbo ‘s excellent write-up here. Note: Following Lush’s directions I removed the piston connecting rods from the crank coming up through the bottom of the engine and therefore did not need to remove the cylinder liners, so some parts are missing/added from R-III-R Turbo’s list. I also bought extras of a few parts that I returned later.

My initial parts list:


I had just recently replaced the valve cover gasket and decided to just reinstall it.

Additional parts ordered later:

· Valve shims (and again....)

· Seals for the oil pipe and the bolts that hold those on + those for the screens at the bottom of the sump.

· Seal for the sound suppression bolt, cause I lost it and couldn’t find it after literally searching for hours (the old one fell from the sky later when I was putting the radiator back on- was just happy it didn’t end up somewhere inside the head).

· Vitron seals for the valves $37

· Clutch, clutch and throttle cables from Barnett

· Second battery to motor ground cable from Ebay $6.76

● Performed compression test (Roadster has nearly 50,000 miles)


#1 181psi

#2 181 psi

#3 176 psi

Engine Hot

#1 186

#2 187

#3 185

Hot with added tsp of oil in cylinder

#1 195

#2 195

#3 192

I used a cheapo gauge from eBay. It was consistent, but read low.

Day 1 (Note: Days aren’t full days- I just worked with whatever time I had. They also aren’t consecutive- this is obviously over several months)

● Washed bike, especially well underneath

● Drained oil

● Drained coolant

● Removed radiator

● Jacked up bike on ATV jack, then put jack stands under peg rails in front, supported rear wheel, anchored several straps to 4 X 4 beam I put in above in the shed. Removed jack later when removing sump.


● Battery disconnected

● Gas tank, seat off

● Removed front wheel

Day 2

● Removed throttle bodies

Hidden screw at left (photo from R-III-R Turbo) Thank You!


● Removed Cam cover

● Checked Valve Clearances and made notes

Day 3

● Removed Exhaust

● Removed Cams & Timing Chain

● Removed clutch cover


● Inspect lifter and pushrod- looks good

● Install Barnett Clutch- Never done a clutch before. One of the easiest things in the whole rebuild.

o Benny Kimchi YouTube

o Larger (I.D.) ring goes in first against anti-judder seat washer and spring

Day 4

● Left Oil Tank in Place- remove screw attaching to head

● Removed Head Bolts- very tight, use breaker bar with extension pipe. Afraid they were going to snap.

● Removed Head- lift front up over chain guides, swing back out on right side of bike


Day 5

● Remove sump- seemed stuck, pried a little (don’t too hard!), then found two grease covered bolts I had missed. Came right off.


“Yellow are the bolt holes (21 of them), red are catch areas you might find heavier items in. Green are the screens (two of them)…” @warp9.9


I wish I had read this before I came across it later in another post….. “The three bolts that are hiding from you are circled in orange below.” @warp9.9

● Remove oil pipes from lower crankcase. Middle bolt is longer of the three.

● Left non-return valve in place.

● Remove main bearing ladder bolts using breaker bar.

● Remove ladder and baffle plate exposing crank and underside of pistons. Cool!

● Rotate crank to lower piston position for access.

● Use breaker bar to release connecting rod bolts and connecting rod cap.

● Push connecting rod and piston up through cylinder. Carefully used long screwdriver to push. Don’t push too hard or piston might flop out (ahhhem).

● Can grab top of piston and wiggle out.

● Label direction and piston # on connecting rods and caps.



Point of no return…. You can now see straight through the motor….


Considered possibility that this bike may never run again.
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"And this one is just right" ~ Goldilocks
Aug 13, 2017
Old Fort, NC 28762 USA
2020 3R , '11 Rocket III Roadster
Day 6

● Clean sump screens. Reuse bolts using blue Loctite 9NM. The manual says 11. I ended up replacing those bolts before installing the sump.

● Clean sump with brake cleaner

Day 7

● Resources


● Use Piston/ring data sheets, not R3 manual for tolerances/installation

● Ring gap – Neville says “18thou top ring / 20 thou 2nd ring” which matches the “High-Perf. Street-Strip) application on data sheet

● File rings in one direction from outer to inside circle.


Day 8

● It’s very easy to overshoot the gap on the rings- don’t get impatient! I’ve had to order two new top rings for this reason.

● I used a file in a vise- file moves toward inside of ring and also a dremel tool with the red sandpaper looking finish. Don’t go with anything too aggressive. Once you get close it will magically jump past where you want to go.

● I mark the end of the ring with a sharpie to get an idea of the angle and how much I was removing. Check in cylinder with feeler gauges often.

● Mark oil ring expander ends with colored sharpie to better see where they are. You don’t want them to overlap when installing pistons.

● The piston circlips are difficult. Try to use finger pressure and a flat blade screwdriver to coax the clips in. Rounding the ends of the circlip on a grinder helps it slide in, a little. Make 3x sure that the clip is fully seated.

● Using inexpensive ring compression tool. Got the #3 piston in on the second try. Push down on tool and look for rings trying to escape under tool. Pushing with hand, I got oil ring pack in, but may need to tap top of piston with plastic hammer end, etc. to coax compression rings in. If no movement one of the rings may have slipped out on top of the head. Keep steady pressure on the tool to prevent.

● Installed # 3 piston without too much trouble. It seems to be moving smoothly when turned. Waiting on new top rings because I’ve ruined two by over filing. Go slow!

● Use of the degree torque tool was something that kept me up at night, but it went pretty well on #3 tightening the end caps to the piston rod. I pulled it down to the crank from inside and lined it up before bolting up the end cap after cleaning and lubing (red line assembly) the crank and bearing.

Day 9

Rinse and repeat for day 8 to get the remaining two pistons in.

Day 10

Attempted to install bearing ladder and cheap torque angle tool broke. Now a little worried about it’s reliability on piston rod cap ends.


Don’t buy this crap (above).

Ordered a better one that I hope does the trick…


Measured valve shims and used online app to calculate which shims to swap around, which I already had on hand that I could use, and ordered those I still needed.

I also ordered new seals for the oil pipe and the bolts that hold those on + those for the screens at the bottom of the sump.

Note: The shims are the same ones used by my 2007 Bonneville and 1998 Thunderbird Sport, so likely many (if not all) other Triumphs. I literally called 10 stores and NO ONE had the shims I needed- had to order. I understand not having some exotic part, but apparently Triumph dealers don't believe in stocking parts. Always order and wait for just about everything. Yet, I'll bet you can walk in and get a Triumph T-shirt in any size you want. Excuse the rant....

Day 11

Check the valves by pouring gas into the intake and exhaust chambers to check for leaks. Some seepage on middle exhaust valves. ****!

Drove to pick up parts and see the new Rocket R and GT in Greenville, SC – A Thing of Beauty!

Ordered Vitron valve seals on eBay.


Tighten bearing bolt ladder with new torque angle tool- worked excellent!

Reinstalled oil pipes and sump. Moving on up.

Day 12

Visited a friend that works on Subarus. He helped me remove the valves and clean them (using brass wheel brush) and the valve seats. Placed very fine sandpaper around edge of valve he used as a guide and turned it in the seat until smooth- not much.

The valve clean up will throw off my valve settings. I’ll need to assemble then re-measure, disassemble, and install proper shims- oh, well.

He also used a thick piece of glass with fine sandpaper to skim the head surface. I’ve read that you don’t want the scratches all running the same way, so I plan to skim in three directions ~ 120 degrees difference between each pass.

Day 13

Re-sanded the head-three directions. Decided to “lap the valves.” Bought suction sticks (no go, no suction) and lapping compound. Lapped the valves using a rubber hose to twist them instead and changed the seals. They look great, but paranoid it's not right and looking for a machine shop.

Day 14

Machinist did a pressure and head level check right after I dropped it off and called me to turn around. Said I was already good to go. No charge- sweet!

Day 15

Got head, shims and cams in. Spent most of the day looking for lost tools and sound suppression bolt seal that must have rolled into the Bermuda Triangle. Getting punchy. Ordered new seal.

Can’t fit torque angle tool on two of head bolts due to frame- had to mark and turn 90 degrees visually. Also on one cam ladder bolt, I was unable to use the torque wrench and had to do it by feel.


"And this one is just right" ~ Goldilocks
Aug 13, 2017
Old Fort, NC 28762 USA
2020 3R , '11 Rocket III Roadster
Day 16

New cams take a 21mm wrench to turn. Bought open end wrench from Home Depot, cut it short to fit under the frame. Also used cutting wheel to slim the head of the wrench for more range.


Most excellent "how to" on setting the timing here. I've done it before, but following this guide made it 10X easier. One again, @R-III-R Turbo

Day 17

Set timing then checked valve clearances. Many were predictably off. Order more shims, and wait.

Day 18

Cams out, new shims in, set timing, check clearances- still some are off. How the fock does that happen?

Cams back out, replaced shims, set timing, clearances dead on perfect, except one (in spec on loose side of range). Calling it done!

Triple checked timing – good!



Day 18

Reinstall clutch cover. Don’t attempt to wind the spring by over turning the arm (you may have to slightly). The spring is not what returns your lever at the grip. It is the actual clutch springs that do most of that work. The spring on the cover is to ensure you have a bit of slack in the cable. Thanks, again, @warp9.9

Replace clutch cable

Day 19

Radiator, throttle, K&N filters, coolant recovery tank, front wheel and gas tank back on. Starting to look like a motorcycle again.

Added the clear tube mod so you can see your radiator overflow tank level- highly recommended. Thank you @Brennus Radiator overflow sight gauge modification

Day 20

Exhaust back on. Battery installed + extra ground cable. OK, feeling some dread... Will she start?....

Oh, yeah, she Fckn Runs!!!


Day 21

Installed Neville's Starter Tune using TuneEcu and installed Power Commander 3 for the tuner.

Power 3 commander install instructions,

Finding the main connection point was hard. It’s at the very bottom of the wiring nest near the first spark plug, a little behind the coolant recovery tank

Day 22

Trailered it to the tuner. He ran into multiple problems and after a loooong day I ended up with a less than perfect tune. Most of the issues were on my end. First, don’t be “smart” and spin the clamp for the throttle bodies so it’ll be easier to get to later- turns out that the throttle assembly was stopping on that clamp and no way to get WOT. We fixed that on the spot. Second, I must have gotten a bad tank of gas before the tune and then it sat for 7 weeks while I worked on it. I should have drained the tank and put in fresh, high-quality premium fuel before visiting the tuner.

Day 23…..

The bike had a bad buck at around 3700 that improved greatly with my first fresh tank of fuel- thus the diagnosis about bad gas above. Gets better with every fueling.

Dyno said 195HP and 174 Torque. Bike runs strong and pulls hard, but not running at full potential and still has some misses in the mid 3,000 rpm range. Wheel lifts without a whole lot of effort, but I know that "there’s still more gold in them there hills."

Day 24

Compression test is 25 psi above stock readings I took earlier. The gauge is consistent in readings, but reads low, so numbers themselves are probably meaningless, but I was able to put to rest a nagging suspicion that I botched the rings on install of piston #1. Plugs all look good and consistent.

Day 25

Checked and crimped all coil wires. Grounded a screwdriver and passed it over the plug wires looking for a jump indicating a bad wire, but all appeared to be OK. Ordered and installed a new fuel filter and primary TPS- just want to make sure everything is right when I get it to the tuner. I felt a definite difference, which I believe was the new fuel filter. Now I have a spare TPS.

Looking at another tuner for various reasons.

Day 26

About five weeks later I rode over to Lee’s Performance in Charlotte, NC. Lee is the real deal… According to his website “We are the home of the outright WORLDS FASTEST HAYABUSA at 260.288 mph, and in 1999 we were the first and fastest Hayabusa to go 200.00mph ridden by Lee Shierts.”


Result = 206HP and 181 torque

Now, finally, she pulls hard and smooth through all the gears and if I’m not careful ;) the front wheel lifts, unless the back wheel spins first. What a BEAST!

I’m proud to be able to say that I did the work myself (with a lot of helpful advice from folks here), but it did take much longer (often waiting for parts) and cost a bit more, because of additional install parts and tools, than I expected. Getting to and replacing the pistons/rings was definitely the most difficult part for me as a first-timer.

I feel that I had a lot of luck along the way, considering my lack of knowledge and mechanical skill. I often tend to jump into things headfirst. For example, at this moment, I am covered in a severe rash, arms, neck, entire (I mean entire) thigh area, and on my face. My eyes are nearly swollen shut. I look like

Jack Nicholson

When I was cutting trees on the property and came upon a 8" diameter vine, I paused for a second, wondering IF, could it be?.... right before laying right into it with the chainsaw- dust kicking back in a cloud over me. Oh, yeah, I was absolutely right... poison ivy.

In hindsight, I might have just gone with the street cams and left well enough alone. Or, I could have paid a qualified mechanic to do the whole enchilada, but then I wouldn’t have had the once-in-a-lifetime experience, which really has been priceless!

I'm literally itching to get out for another ride- just as soon as this darn rash settles down.
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"And this one is just right" ~ Goldilocks
Aug 13, 2017
Old Fort, NC 28762 USA
2020 3R , '11 Rocket III Roadster
Read every last word, and that was one h8ll of a journey and beautifully written. Congratulations for having much bigger balls than I have !! :notworthy::notworthy:

Don't know about that, but they are covered in a mean rash at the moment! :(


"And this one is just right" ~ Goldilocks
Aug 13, 2017
Old Fort, NC 28762 USA
2020 3R , '11 Rocket III Roadster
I hate poison ivy. If you do not have it on or around your eye's embalming fluid is the best , it stings a bit, but it dries it up :D

Anyway the important thing is another Rocket Scientist is born :D
Congratulations bud!!!!

Well, you helped give birth! Wait, wait, that don't sound right....