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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I threw together an illustration of how fork legs are shortened to produce a lower ride height. This approach retains proper fork function, reduces compressed length to avoid over-travel contact with other surrounding components, and is not costly, since all that is being done is to add a small spacer above the rebound spring.

Rectangle Line Font Parallel Cylinder


This illustration applies to conventional forks. Note, as an alternative to shortening the main spring, it is also possible to shorten the main spring spacer the same length as the lowering spacer. This is particularly valuable for those retaining a stock progressive spring, who wish to maintain the progressive rate. Most will move to a single rate spring of the proper length, often adding some stiffness to reduce initial sag, to gain a little ground clearance back, or to accomodate a specific rider's weight.

USD forks are lowered in a similar manner, by placing a limiting spacer on the lower internal damping rod. However, the work required is more substantial, as the left and right fork tubes have different internal components (one acts on compression, the other rebound, etc.) so modifications require an expert for the specific fork combination to execute properly.
 

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I really enjoy your posts on this forum. I'm not at all trying to start an online argument.... I'm just trying to understand? Maybe "I don't know, what I don't know?" I've looked at the above diagrams, and it doesn't make sense to me??? It seems to me that if you "lower" the the length of the upper tubes (and still don't raise the fork tubes in the triples), aren't you still effectively changing the angle of the steering head, and modifying the geometry of the bike? I seems (to me) that your method of lowering the front end, would give the front suspension less travel, and still modify the OEM steering geometry? Please help me understand what I may not know??? Thank you in advance :cool: -
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I really enjoy your posts on this forum. I'm not at all trying to start an online argument.... I'm just trying to understand? Maybe "I don't know, what I don't know?" I've looked at the above diagrams, and it doesn't make sense to me??? It seems to me that if you "lower" the the length of the upper tubes (and still don't raise the fork tubes in the triples), aren't you still effectively changing the angle of the steering head, and modifying the geometry of the bike? I seems (to me) that your method of lowering the front end, would give the front suspension less travel, and still modify the OEM steering geometry? Please help me understand what I may not know??? Thank you in advance :cool: -
The method shown has been used for decades to shorten the overall length of the fork assembly. It does not change geometry, it just makes the fork shorter. There is no impact on the angle of the steering head at all, as long as the rear is also lowered at the same time. Lowering only the fork in any way, is not recommended alone, as the change in rake and trail are undesirable.

Yes, this method does reduce travel - and that is the goal and a good thing. When you lower the front of a bike, you are essentially moving the front wheel upward toward the lower triple clamp, sort of like it is hitting a bump forever. The reason to do the lowering by shortening the fork, is that the fork on the R3 has roughly 5.1" of travel when stock, and only 5.3" of space from the front fender to the lower triple clamp, and only 4.7" to the horn and bracket. If you lower the bike by 1" to 1.5", without limiting travel, you have the potential to crash the fender and tire into both the horn bracket and the lower triple clamp - as the travel will then exceed available space for the fork to compress fully (hard braking + load + bump = crash). Installing the lowering spacer as shown, reduces the front end travel under compression by the amount lowered, so there is no issue of interference under full compression. This is why this method is used.

To avoid any changes in front end geometry, lowering the front in any manner has to be done in conjunction with reducing rear ride height an equal amount - preferably with a shorter shock absorber to match the front end being shortened. The rear has the same clearance issues, but with only .25" of space available under full compression. If the shock is not limiting travel by the amount lowered, like happens with the cheap lowering block kits, there is a potential for the rear suspension to travel the full 5" of shock travel, within the remaining 3.5" to 4" of space available before the tire hits the inner fender and rear fender or fender eliminator.

Lowering the rear and front equally will maintain the rake angle of the bike as stock, which will maintain trail as well. To avoid any undesirable effects on R3 handling, both the front and rear of the bike should be lowered equally. Too much lowering of the front will result in a bike that feels less stable, and opens the door to head shake at speed or under hard braking. Too low in the rear and the bike will feel sluggish and slow in response.

Lowering a bike is a compromise with implications you cannot avoid safely. Do it right and the resulting change in handling is minimal, and risk of undesirable side effects reduced (although the lower CG, and reduced ground clearance is another topic).

Cool?
 

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I really enjoy your posts on this forum. I'm not at all trying to start an online argument.... I'm just trying to understand? Maybe "I don't know, what I don't know?" I've looked at the above diagrams, and it doesn't make sense to me??? It seems to me that if you "lower" the the length of the upper tubes (and still don't raise the fork tubes in the triples), aren't you still effectively changing the angle of the steering head, and modifying the geometry of the bike? I seems (to me) that your method of lowering the front end, would give the front suspension less travel, and still modify the OEM steering geometry? Please help me understand what I may not know??? Thank you in advance :cool: -
Raising the forks in the triple will change geometry, this won't (as long as rear is lowered the same). Just like cars though, you also need to re-spring not just for your weight, but to account for the lowering.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Raising the forks in the triple will change geometry, this won't (as long as rear is lowered the same). Just like cars though, you also need to re-spring not just for your weight, but to account for the lowering.
Effectively, lowering the fork in the triple trees, or shortening the fork as shown have the same effect on ride height, and neither effect rake or trail if the rear is lowered to match. Not sure about spring rates to match lowering. I'd say that you might not want to use progressive rates, as the reduced travel makes that initial soft rate unattractive. Sag should be the same, and rate, as too stiff is bad. What makes lowering such a bad deal, is that it can create other issues, like bottoming, that can only be addressed with another bad option - over stiff preload or spring rates. After lowering several bikes, I have to say that for drag racing and show bikes, it's part of the deal. For sport bikes intended to be ridden like a sport bike... not so much.
 

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Exactly, you have to counter with stiffer spring rates, and progressive springs are a bad idea when lowering. On cars, it's a different story, but on bikes the risk of bottoming becomes a hazard, and over stiff springs negatively affect riding in different ways. I'm short, and I get it, it sucks at first that you can't touch the ground with ease. Like everything though, it just takes practice and getting used to. Better to learn how to ride with correct geometry and spring rates than to learn bad habits.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Exactly, you have to counter with stiffer spring rates, and progressive springs are a bad idea when lowering. On cars, it's a different story, but on bikes the risk of bottoming becomes a hazard, and over stiff springs negatively affect riding in different ways. I'm short, and I get it, it sucks at first that you can't touch the ground with ease. Like everything though, it just takes practice and getting used to. Better to learn how to ride with correct geometry and spring rates than to learn bad habits.
Funny, but over the years, I find I don't generally put both feet down, even though I can. Much more convenient at intersections to keep the rear brake applied with the right foot (keeps the brake light on as well as holds the bike in place) and support the bike with the left leg. Holding the front brake with fingers at lights is tiring in traffic with frequent stops. Using the rear brake leaves the throttle hand free to control the gas, easing off the rear brake while putting the left foot up rolling off. Learned this on the Falco, which had a tall, wide seat, and watching a 5'-7" friend on his BMW R1250 GS (35.8 seat height) he rides literally everywhere - rain, snow, paved, gravel and dirt - a true enthusiast. He's never had two feet down on that monster. When I asked about that, he just laughed "The factory only provides one kick stand to park the thing, I manage with one leg down, whichever is up hill. Left leg down, right foot on rear brake. Right leg down, right hand front brake, simple enough. Don't even think about it anymore."
 

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Most new riders and even street riders in general want to put both of their feet down, which is where they get the idea to lower their bike. I only put one foot down, but I put my right foot down at stops. I don't use the rear brake at all, and I'd much rather be able to shift into neutral at stops, and shift quickly into 1st. However, I don't really ride the street anymore either, so I'm not stopping except to come back into my pit.
 

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The method shown has been used for decades to shorten the overall length of the fork assembly. It does not change geometry, it just makes the fork shorter. There is no impact on the angle of the steering head at all, as long as the rear is also lowered at the same time. Lowering only the fork in any way, is not recommended alone, as the change in rake and trail are undesirable.

Yes, this method does reduce travel - and that is the goal and a good thing. When you lower the front of a bike, you are essentially moving the front wheel upward toward the lower triple clamp, sort of like it is hitting a bump forever. The reason to do the lowering by shortening the fork, is that the fork on the R3 has roughly 5.1" of travel when stock, and only 5.3" of space from the front fender to the lower triple clamp, and only 4.7" to the horn and bracket. If you lower the bike by 1" to 1.5", without limiting travel, you have the potential to crash the fender and tire into both the horn bracket and the lower triple clamp - as the travel will then exceed available space for the fork to compress fully (hard braking + load + bump = crash). Installing the lowering spacer as shown, reduces the front end travel under compression by the amount lowered, so there is no issue of interference under full compression. This is why this method is used.

To avoid any changes in front end geometry, lowering the front in any manner has to be done in conjunction with reducing rear ride height an equal amount - preferably with a shorter shock absorber to match the front end being shortened. The rear has the same clearance issues, but with only .25" of space available under full compression. If the shock is not limiting travel by the amount lowered, like happens with the cheap lowering block kits, there is a potential for the rear suspension to travel the full 5" of shock travel, within the remaining 3.5" to 4" of space available before the tire hits the inner fender and rear fender or fender eliminator.

Lowering the rear and front equally will maintain the rake angle of the bike as stock, which will maintain trail as well. To avoid any undesirable effects on R3 handling, both the front and rear of the bike should be lowered equally. Too much lowering of the front will result in a bike that feels less stable, and opens the door to head shake at speed or under hard braking. Too low in the rear and the bike will feel sluggish and slow in response.

Lowering a bike is a compromise with implications you cannot avoid safely. Do it right and the resulting change in handling is minimal, and risk of undesirable side effects reduced (although the lower CG, and reduced ground clearance is another topic).

Cool?
I'm still trying to wrap my head around this idea..... What am I not seeing???? If you change the over all length of the fork assembly, you will effectively change the angle of the steering head (just like raising the fork tubes in the triples). I'm a Journeyman Steamfitter, and do complex angle calculations every day. There are a LOT of variables at work in this front-end equation. I'm not saying I'm right, I just want to understand what I may not be seeing... And, I'd like to hear from @NinjaBraap on this too! I want to understand what doesn't make sense to me? I'm NOT picking an online "fight", I truly want to understand what doesn't make sense to me at the moment. Please help me understand :cool:-
 

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It would make sense if you are increasing the spring rate of the "shortened" spring.... That makes sense, as the travel would be reduced. I'm just lost in what is the difference between shortening the length of the fork assembly, compared to raising the fork tubes in the the triples. It seems like the net result would be the same to me- as far as changing the steering geometry....
 

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I will take a crack at clearing the murk. Maybe I'll make it worse. Caution, this is NOT simple, and by no means do I have a complete understanding of this ... I am a regional-level roadracer who happens to own some tools (and have a mechanical engineering degree...) but I am not a WorldSBK race-team suspension engineer.

Set aside the obvious effects of lowering upon cornering clearance. Obvious bad side effect is obvious.

I am going to use a phrase "rider-aboard static ride height" a lot. The geometry with the bike sitting by itself doing nothing doesn't matter. What matters is what the geometry of the bike is, with the actual rider on board, in normal riding position, wearing whatever gear the rider wears, with all fluids and a nominal fuel load, etc. There is a suspension-fully-extended geometry (bike lifted up off the ground), and then a "rider-aboard static sag" which is the amount that the suspension compresses at both ends. The rider-aboard ride height, with the sag applied from the bike's weight and the rider's weight and whatever normal loads it is carrying, is what matters - that's the situation as you are rolling down the road. That's the starting point. Then the rider starts accelerating and braking and cornering, and superimposing those situations on top of that rolling-down-the-road situation.

If you lower the front of the bike by lowering the rider-aboard static ride height (by any means, I don't care what), then unless you lower the rear of the bike by also lowering the rider-aboard static ride height by the same amount, you are going to change the angle of the steering head, and that affects the rake, trail, etc. If you lower the front more than the rear, it will steepen the steering head and shorten the trail, reducing steering effort and stability (trending towards "nervous"). If you lower the rear more than the front, it's the opposite (trending towards "steers like riding through glue"). Consequently, at least at first-guess, if you change ride height at either end then change it by the same amount at both ends, subject to fine-tuning once you get a handle on the knock-on effects.

If you lower the rider-aboard static ride height by any means, you are lowering the height of the swingarm pivot above the ground, and that affects how chain-pull force affects the suspension. The technical term is "anti-squat". Acceleration involves a load transfer off the front suspension onto the rear. Ordinarily this would extend the front suspension as the fork springs now are carrying less load, and compress the rear suspension, and thus all this changes the steering head angle (see above) - but the "anti-squat" from the chain-pull force counteracts this force without requiring the rear suspension to compress (as much) so the steering doesn't get affected as much. Lowering the bike reduces anti-squat (because the swingarm pivot height is lower). It means the bike will be allowed to pitch back under acceleration. It also means the loading on the tire doesn't come in right away when you hit the throttle ... it has to wait until the suspension compresses. That leads to more tendency to spin the tire coming out of corners. The increasing rake angle during acceleration also wants to make the bike run wide coming out of corners. It mucks with the steering in all sorts of strange ways. Basically - recognising that a shorter rider may be obligated to lower the bike in order to be able to ride at all! - you do not want to lower the bike any more than absolutely necessary. (In my roadracing application, I found it necessary to RAISE the whole bike - to get more cornering clearance, and to get more anti-squat.)

Now, on to the topic brought up by this thread, what's the difference between internal fork modifications and just sliding the forks up in the clamps.

What you don't want to have happen, is for the front fender or the front wheel to EVER collide with bodywork, the bottom of the lower triple clamp, the radiator, etc. The mechanical travel limit of the suspension has to be before such bad things happen plus a few millimetres of clearance just to make sure.

If you slide the forks up in the triple clamps, you are moving that mechanical compression travel limit together with the forks, because that is something that is built into the internals of the forks.

This is okay as long as you maintain the few millimetres of clearance between fully-compressed and collisions.

If you want to establish this (before modifying fork internals), it can be done by supporting the front of the bike off the ground in a way that doesn't obstruct wheel travel, then taking off the fork caps and removing the springs, and simply raising the front wheel up until it hits a mechanical limit, and then measuring how much clearance you have. If you have two (minimum) or three (easier) people, you can do this by first having the front of the bike up on a steering-stem paddock stand in order to remove the fork caps and springs, but leave the handlebars in place because you're going to need them, then carefully lower the bike off the stand using two people to hold up the handlebars so that it doesn't all come crashing down. Then you can simply set the bike down on the fully-compressed forks which will now most certainly be against the mechanical compression stops. Then use two people to lift the bike up again and re-insert the paddock stand. You could now, if you wish, reposition the forks in the clamps (and re-secure the handlebars as needed) and re-check it to make sure you still have clearance. After this procedure, you will have lowered the front as much as it can safely be lowered without modding the internals. I haven't done this with the R3 because in my roadracing application, I found it necessary to raise, not lower, in which case it's not an issue.

Now, let's suppose you have a really short rider, and the above did not achieve what was needed. The only course of action remaining is to further reduce static ride height by tinkering with fork internals. Let's examine some options and consequences.

First understand that ALL such modifications are going to reduce the amount of suspension travel available in compression before "bottoming out" - hitting the bump stops. It will bottom-out easier. That's bad. It means you will no longer have suspension travel available in certain situations where you could really use it - like hard braking or cornering on irregular surfaces. Now, it might not necessarily be as bad as one might think, because riders who have very short legs also tend to be pretty small and light in general, so perhaps they automatically might not be compressing the suspension as much. One of the ways to control "bottoming" is to use stiffer springs (higher spring rates). Of course, this has its own share of side-effects.

OK so option 1 might be shorter but higher-rate fork springs ... what actually matters here is the combination of the length of the fork spring plus the spacer between the fork spring and the rest of the works; some custom-length spacers can also work to shorten the effective length of the combined assembly, thus leading to the bike sitting lower on its forks because the spring+spacer is shorter with the same load applied to it. Simple, right?

Not so fast. The fork is mechanically capable of a certain total amount of travel between the compression limit and the extension limit. If you shorten the spring+spacer then you shorten the amount in compression available before hitting the compression travel limit but since the total travel is available, then you lengthen the amount of available extension before the extension travel limit is reached.

So what?

Remember that paragraph up there somewhere about not having enough anti-squat leading to the steering head angle changing too much under acceleration? Well, one of the other ways the steering head angle can change too much under acceleration ... is by allowing the fork to extend too much under acceleration.

And now we come to ... Top-out springs.

In the absence of top-out springs, during acceleration, your forks would spend a lot of time topped-out against a hard limit, and it would allow the geometry of the bike to change quite a bit before the forks extended far enough to hit that hard limit.

So ... instead of having a hard limit, forks have springs that come into effect as the forks are extending beyond the normal ride height. This softens the topping-out effect and allows the geometry of the bike to be maintained more consistently.

Hence ... The modification discussed in post #1 of this thread ... of lowering the forks not necessarily by shortening the main load springs and spacers (the obvious route), but rather by increasing the effect of the top-out springs.

Is this going to be the be-all and end-all that allows any arbitrary amount of lowering of the suspension without having any bad side effects whatsoever? Absolutely NOT. The bad side effect of not having as much cornering clearance before the footpegs, or other parts, start dragging, remains. The bad side effect of not having as much travel available in fork compression before bottoming-out, remains. The bad side effect of lowering the swing-arm pivot, and thus reducing the amount of anti-squat, and thus probably making the steering somewhat less consistent under various conditions of accelerating and cornering (and accelerating out of corners), remains.

BUT ... If this is what it takes to allow a rider with short legs to ride at all without falling over frequently because they can't reach the ground ... so be it ... as long as they are aware of what's going on!

My general recommendation to avoid lowering any motorcycle any more than absolutely necessary for a short rider to be able to operate the bike safely ...

And the other thing is that if this is a street bike, the vast majority of riders don't ride hard enough for the various anti-squat effects and so forth to matter all that much. The cornering clearance might not even matter.

But, I am coming at this from a roadracing background, and my R3 sits higher than standard. And, even though I'm not WorldSSP300 material - far too olde, far too heavy - I still make adjustments that affect basic geometry by only a few millimetres at a time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The clearance to the rear body with the rear suspension at full compression is just under 0.37". Clearance with front fork to compression springs, between horn mount is -.40", to lower triple clamp is roughly 0.8". This means that any attempt to lower either end without shortening fork or rear shock travel will result in contact at full compression. At the very least, anyone lowering the forks in the triple clamps should relocate the horn, as it is already inside front suspension full compression travel range. Anyone lowering the rear with lowering blocks on a stock rear shock should also add a snubber to limit rear shock travel at full compression.

For novice, street only riders, lowering compromises to handling will not be noticed, until they learn to push the bike near its limits. A properly lowered bike, with shortened fork and matching rear shock, with tuned spring rates and damping profiles will produce a reasonably acceptable ride, up to the limits of ground clearance, which can be mitigated with relocation of rear sets to raise foot pegs. However, as skills improve and the rider pushes harder, the effects of lowering on rear suspension dynamics and CoG will become more apparent. For new riders, this will be a few seasons down the road. For experienced riders, it will be felt right away.

Note: The R3 is a big seller in Asian countries where riders are under 5'-5" for Men, and under 5'-2" for women, who generally ride them without modifying ride height - so any adjustment should be made conservatively, and as little as necessary - and always to both ends at the same time.
 

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A sincere thank you to both @GoFaster & @KevinW 2017R3 for "entertaining" my questioning attitude...... I value both of your opinions as, you are appear (to me), to be @ both ends of the "spectrum", and a good balance between track & street. I ride both, and always want to learn how to improve my riding experience :cool:-
 

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@GoFaster I think best explains what I've found over the years also as a roadracer, and explains it well. Personally, I've seen more riders who lowered their bikes stop riding because they crashed often while trying to get faster, due to the adverse affects. Like GoFaster, my R3 sits higher than stock for racing, and I'm short. I put one foot down at stops and it's been that way since it was still street legal.

Take away from his write up is about what I want to convey, especially if you're hitting the track, it's better to learn to ride with stock or higher, especially on the R3.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
A sincere thank you to both @GoFaster & @KevinW 2017R3 for "entertaining" my questioning attitude...... I value both of your opinions as, you are appear (to me), to be @ both ends of the "spectrum", and a good balance between track & street. I ride both, and always want to learn how to improve my riding experience :cool:-
Thanks. I've stopped applying racing mods and setups on street ridden gear. Street bikes are far better when riding on softer settings with less tight damping, to comply with the range of conditions from harsh edges to undulations. Racing demands faster recovery, max. Lean angles and edge grip, on predictable surfaces (since you repeat the same lap and can change lines to suit conditions.) A few extra horsepower on the street is irrelevant as well. On the suspension side, having enough travel to absorb conditions that would throw you off the saddle on a race bike is more critical than ultimate maxed out knee dragging, which is not advisable on public pavement. I've screwed up more good bikes and cars with race derived hardware. Hopefully I can help others see that there is a difference between street and race, that is too often lost in the compulsion of owners to mess with their toys.
 

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While a proper race set-up does not make for a good street set-up and vice versa ... The physics involved doesn't change. If you compromise the available compression travel, and that leads to the forks bottoming-out during hard braking when a van cuts you off at a junction, not having a wee bit of compliance left over could lead to having a bad day if the pavement isn't perfect.

There are situations where stiffer spring rates can lead to both better ride quality and better grip ... and that's if too-soft springs are leading to the suspension hitting travel limits at inappropriate times. This applies to both street and track applications. And, obviously, this has to be within reason. If 7.5 N/mm springs are allowing bottoming when the bike is ridden over a representative section of road/track, perhaps try 8.0 N/mm ... but not 80.

MotoGP and WorldSBK have wheel-travel sensors and data logging to establish where the suspension is operating within its travel range and what's happening when the bike does something that the rider doesn't like, anywhere on track. An O-ring or zip-tie installed around a fork tube or shock rod will at least tell you how much compression travel you are using ... and even in the absence of having that, a strategically-placed dab of grease on the inner fork tube or shock rod can reveal the same.

Street or track ... suspension bottoming is bad news.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
All of my comments can be taken out of context and taken to the extreme to prove I am somehow advocating a bad approach. I do not, nor have I ever suggested using mushy springs, lowering one end without the other, or suggest that lowering is a good idea in general. I offered post one to show how a fork is lowered (shortened) properly, to address the issue of interference that occurs when forks are slid up in the triple clamp. That's it. The follow up clarified the need to address front and rear together, to avoid undesirable geometry changes.

I do see an odd conflict of those suggesting that lowering the front and not the back is bad, while suggesting that installing a longer rear shock to jack up the back, without increasing fork length, is good. The effect on steering geometry is the same. As far as the more complex jacking effect on the swingarm - seems secondary to the front end geometry, especially under hard braking. But, that goes back to the approach of applying race tricks to street bikes, which I disagree with, as noted. Actually, for street use, Yamaha got the R3 more right than wrong, so I see no need to bugger it up with big changes, other than tuning for rider weight, which I have done to address an overly soft front end under braking due to my weight, and upgrading the Gen 1 bike to the Gen 2 rear shock, to compliment the change to radial tires (in my case to Battleax S22's).

My point from the off is that improper lowering to suit rider height is potentially dangerous, to which there are proper solutions - but remaining compromises that need to be understood before hacking at the bike.

Time to put this one to bed now. Signing off for fresher fun elsewhere. Cheers.
 

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Not disagreeing. For most street riders, the stock stuff is just fine. Don't mess with it. Yamaha built it that way for a reason, and it works. If I had one of these bikes as a street bike, I would probably leave it stock ... it works.

For street riders it's really only the out-of-the-norm situations that perhaps warrant changing things from stock. (Riders that are heavier than what Yamaha designed the bike for, riders who have legs considerably shorter than what the bike is designed for, etc.) Just beware what you are doing and the potential for adverse effects. If my post scares people off doing modifications because of how everything affects everything else ... maybe that achieved something.

And, my race bike IS raised up both front and rear ... in order to preserve steering-head geometry. It is not necessary to get more suspension travel ... just raise it up, to get more cornering clearance (primary desired effect) and less rear suspension bottoming and more anti-squat (secondary desired effects).
 

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Thank you to all that replied to this post.... I honestly, didn't want to start an online debate/argument. I REALLY do want to learn for myself, as well as help others achieve a smile when riding a YAMAHA R3. We are lucky to have a forum like this to exchange ideas!!!! :cool:
 

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Any and all hidden sarcasm aside.... My hat's off to those who've participated in this discussion. Information and opinions shared and discussed... and as of yet, no one's gone off on a tangent or left the Forum upset or mad. That's not always the case. On some Motorcycle Forums... it's the rare exception.
So, Thanks for playing nice in the sandbox. ;)
 
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