Suspension Upgrades, Why bother?

A Basic explanation as to why
upgrading might be a good idea…115

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 ‘upgradeNitro Gold 3

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.

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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.

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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 )

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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.

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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

 

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Founder Blogger and Owner
  1. “So to sum it up the more expensive the product the better quality of the damping…quality..materials..” I might be a simpleton, but I’m not a total idiot. This article did nothing for me.

    1. Well is not really rocket science is it, this is no in-depth look at suspension, that I will save for sports bike magazine, this is answering a commonly asked question ‘why’ and ‘what’ – why? they improves the ride, though most won’t notice. What? – What ever you fancy the look of and can afford

  2. Still no ‘evidence’. Take the OEM rear suspension and compare them with the third party products. Compare the materials and discuss the pros and cons of the different materials as it relates to performance. Compare the adjustment functions available on the different suspension and do the same. Compare the aesthetics and any relationship they have to performance. What is the criteria for suspension performance anyway? It’s not always true that you get what you pay for – you often just get a brand. Let’s see the quantitative data. Let’s find out if setting suspension x in one way does the same as setting y in another way. How different in performance are the OEMs from each of the third party products in technical specifications? Asking a third party product supplier their opinion is an invitation to bias and doesn’t give us the ‘evidence’ on which to base a decision about performance or aesthetic enhancement.

    1. I don’t think that level of investigation is entirely necessary for the average or not so average triumph Twin rider – Its not a high performance sports bike or a bike a commonly used to ride around the world. Its a bike which most owners will only ride a few thousand miles a year on. In fact most owners are probably wasting their money when they upgrade and many don’t even have an issue with the OEM suspension. So why upgrade? well it will improve the ride and they look good, I think that fulfils what most Twin riders want to know…. a pretty simple conclusion for a simple question.

      1. My impression from many forum questions e.g. which shocks are best and is it worth it?, repeated endlessly on the internet is that there is a general view that the OEM suspension is crap and that there are better third party options. Those who have ‘upgraded’ typically vouch for the ones they chose and talk in terms of performance. Restating that the ride and aesthetics will be improved doesn’t contribute any ‘evidence’ to the discussion, only opinion. I presume the millions spent by motogp teams on their suspension has some science driving it. I, and maybe other twin riders, am curious about that science and how it relates to OEM and 3rd party suspension for twins. What does the ‘best’ suspension do that the ‘worst’ doesn’t? How do I know if the ride is improved? If I think it has improved, has any safety been compromised? Naturally there will be some subjective factors and I don’t discount these, but I do think the differences between suspension models could do with some more specific clarification. I look forward to your Sports Bike article.

        1. We could ask why we modify the Triumph Twin all as you could argue that the bikes featured on Bonnefication don’t contribute as evidence that a modified Triumph Twin looks any better than a standard one as its all subjective – Testing a range of shocks on a range of Triumph Twins with a range of tires in a range of condition with a range of riders would be a great article, but how relevant would this data be to the average Triumph Twin owner who just want to know ‘why’ and ‘what’ with most only wanting to know what fits and what looks good and most importantly costs.

  3. As mentioned in the article “with the Triumph Twin shock models the objective is style, classic retro looks” so it should come as no surprise that the Bonnie is built down to a price and suspension is one of those areas that suffers. It could and should be better from stock. When you consider the spec of a Street Triple against that of a Bonnie then compare their showroom prices the discrepancy is even more alarming. It appears that price wise Bonnie owners are subsidising the RRP for the rest of the Triumph range. But I digress. Shit suspension as stock Sir? Harley-Davidson have been doing it for years !

  4. The vast majority will be running around on stock suspension because to them it doesn’t matter

  5. Stock suspension on the Bonneville is terrible. Even adjusted the preload is too damn high. With the stock parts it felt like most of the ‘suspension’ was performed by my spine. In urban environments it amplifies every pothole and at high speed bumps it is enough to affect your control of the bike. Not good. Before I upgraded it was uncomfortable to the point that I had got into the habit of foot-pegging over speed bumps as if I was riding a horse :S

    Upgrading to progressive piggy-back shocks has completely transformed the ride and improved control of the bike for me. An interesting comparison would be looking at a cheaper upgrade option vs a high end brand like Ohlins. I suspect it’s a question of diminishing returns but any upgrade over stock is probably a good choice.

  6. The chassis is the best place to start modding a Bonnie, I threw Ohlins piggybacks, Andreani fork cartridges and Alpina wheels on my T100 and haven’t looked back the ride is transformed beyond all expectations from the crude basic ride of the original bits, especially on the back lanes of Lincolnshire.

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