A Basic explanation as to why
upgrading might be a good idea…
‘First thing Im going to do is upgrade the suspension‘ a sentence which I hear from virtually every new Triumph Twin owner I meets, talk to, or read about. On Bonnefication we flippantly use the terms ‘upgraded the handling‘ or ‘upgraded the suspension‘ because doing so is so common it’s actually expected. But are just being sheep when we bin the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) springs for something ‘better’ are we simply following what the pro-builders are doing, or what is written on the forums. Are we bolting on expensive upgrades without actually knowing why we are taking off a perfectly good shock absorber other than its an ‘upgrade‘
Then there’s the question of what shock absorber to go for, do we go for a low cost shock, or an expensive item. How then do we then pick which one to buy, do we read reviews on forums, which have probably been written by someone with as much clue as you “.. I bought these shock for £ and they are amazing” – Well I hate Pizza but my girlfriend keeps telling me how good pizza is… this doesn’t mean Pizza is the best or worst food in the world, its all about opinion.
So I asked Kevin Harris of K-Tech suspension; Why should I upgrade the OEM suspension currently fitted to my Triumph Twin? …..
We get this question asked a lot and as I explain to my dealers it is about educating the customer because to the unknown a shock absorber is a shock absorber and it should do the same on a R1 to a Triumph Scrambler? But as you mentioned the motorcycle manufacturer has to work to a budget and that will depend on the type and requirements the customer demands from that model. So from an R1 performance is the objective of the bike so handling is important and more budget is put into those areas including lots of development whereas the Triumph Twin shock models the objective is style, classic retro looks and handling and engine performance is lower on the list but also its research from the requirements from the market.
So why should they upgrade? As above the suspension budget is minimal from manufacturers so performance and quality is reduced and in return the handling and comfort from the suspension is poor due to materials used, design of the system and also tolerances.
So why upgrade the suspension? These models have become very popular and they are great fun to ride so why not have improved comfort to enjoy the experience even more! The most common problem with OEM other than the above quality etc is that there is normal no adjustment to even try and adjust the settings. Most good aftermarket suspension manufactures will have a proven design ( how there damping system works ) so that the efficiency of the oil flow is working well and also there are adjustment option in rebound or rebound and compression damping so that they can be fine-tuned to the riders requirements. Some aftermarket products will have spring preload adjustment and in some cases ride height adjustment ( making the shocks longer or shorter by 5-10mm )
Cheaper option versus more expensive products? like anything in life “you get what you pay for” companies like Ohlin’s, K-Tech, WP and Bitubo specialise in quality and use designs in damping that work efficiently use better quality materials, and also they will have a Dedicated R&D department, I have worked for WP ( owned by KTM ), Ohlins and obviously now at K-Tech so I have experienced first hand how they operate where as companies like Hagon and Progressive are aimed at the lower cost market so there resources of materials and development is not on the same scale so will produce a product without adjustment although the product is an improvement but not as much as the more expensive options.
So to sum it up the more expensive the product the better quality of the damping (better ride quality) and more damping and tuning adjustment options (compression and rebound damping, ride height and spring preload) and the quality and treatment of the raw materials are of a better specification.
This is no in-depth look at suspension, or which is best suited to your style of riding, but I hope it goes some ways to explain why at least its a good idea to upgrade. For those who want fact, figures, comparison and test data, I think you may be taking modifying your Triumph Twin a little too seriously. This article is aimed at the 90% of those wishing to upgrade who just want a better ride, not sports bike handling. Also if you want to know which you should go for, well that clearly comes down to budget, expectations and of course personal preference. There is no point spending a months wage on springs if you only ride at the weekend, likewise if you are riding thousands of miles a year it may be unwise to ‘upgrade‘ to shocks which is at the low end of your budget…. you get what you pay for after all.
Many thanks to Kevin Harris of K-Tech Suspension Ltd for spending the time to answer my questions.
If you like the look of any of the shocks pictured in the article go to their websites for further details, fitment and pricing