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Suspension Nuggets:

3973 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  pattonme
I thought I'd throw out some (hopefully) useful information - please feel free to embellish as you see fit.

Both front (forks) and rear (shock) suspension parts are wear items. Although not specifically identified in the service manual, these parts need periodic refresh to give you happy happy ride satisfaction. Most folks will not notice the slow loss of performance over time, but you will notice the difference after a refresh.

Forks - these are a DIY rebuild item if you have reasonable wrenching skills. Very few tools are needed to disassemble and rebuild the R3 forks. The only special tools you really need are a seal driver (about $40 - and some shops will let you borrow one at little or no cost), and an fork oil level tool ($20). The service manual gives a good description of the procedure. I do it yearly, but for most street riders, I'd recommend every couple of years. To have a shop do it, you're looking at about $100 plus parts if the forks are off the bike - more if they aren't. Do one rebuild yourself and you've recouped your tool cost. Replace seals and dust caps as a minimum when doing your rebuild - that and fork oil (one liter will do both forks) are your parts cost (total about $50). If you have a shop do it, ask around - in some cases, it may be better if you do it yourself (I have stories).

Winter weep: if the bike sits for any length of time (couple of months or more) you may get some fork oil weep due to the seals not be exercised often enough. One way to avoid this is to 'pump' the forks a few times every week or so. A lot of dealers will do this for the floor models to keep weep from occurring. If you notice 'wet' or leaking forks, attend to it as soon as possible - lose too much fork oil and weird to bad things happen.

Preload/Spring Rate: There are a couple of other threads discussing this in some detail - proper preload and spring rate will enhance handling. As provided, the factory forks are not adjustable for preload, but spring rates can be changed. An easy way to see if a higher (ie; stiffer) spring rate is warranted, put a zip tie around one fork tube at the dust seal. Ride the bike for a while and note where the zip tie has ended up. Total fork travel is a little over 5" (130 mm). If the zip tie ends up more than about 4" from the dust seal, you may want to consider a higher spring rate - most vendors will provide a spring rate based upon rider weight and use (street/track).

Shock: Just like on your automobile, it will lose performance over time. Unfortunately, this is not a DIY job for most. Not sure whether the stock shock is rebuildable (someone who knows for sure - post up), but many aftermarkets are. The stock shock is currently retailing for about $375 and should be replaced or rebuilt every 3-5 years under normal use. Racetech, Ohlins, Traxxion Dynamics and others will rebuild your shock for less than half that. If you plan to keep the bike for more than a few years, consider the purchase of a quality aftermarket shock that can be rebuilt - worth the money over the long haul. Many riders completely ignore the shock - I've seen them come into a buddy's shop more than once completely gone - nothing more than a spring, really.

Performance Mods: The best suspension bits have adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping. You can spend a pile of money for fork cartridges that provide these features ($1000+), but for most riders probably not necessary. You can respring and add 'cartridge emulators' to the front fork for about $350. These will improve damping and front-end 'feel', but aren't adjustable without fork disassembly. A three-way adjustable shock will run $650 and up, but again, not necessary for commuters or most street riders. Fang has posted numerous aftermarket shock options, most if not all appear to be rebuildable and some cost less than the OEM shocker.


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Right-way-up forks are so simple and easy to work on. Great info, thanks for posting.

One thing also worth mentioning is the suspension fluids from the factory are the cheapest they can find because most people don't notice the difference. It's a watery anti-corrosive and that's about it, there's very little damping from an OEM fluid; they actually call it "initial fill" fluid and don't expect any experienced riders/mechanics to leave it in for very long. I always change the fork oil on a new bike ASAP, just haven't gotten around to it yet. When I do, I'll try to take some pics and post a detailed how-to.
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You don't even need a spring compressor. I went with the respring/emulator after the first 100 (track) miles, as I found I was using just about all the travel (I'm not a wee lad). New fork oil is SOP - Motul, Silkolene, Spectra, Repsol, Motorex all good stuff. I didn't document my rebuild, so a real 'how-to' would be good.
3-way cartridge might seem overkill for the street but some of us appreciate being able to get the damping right instead of futzing with this oil or that, or doing half-way solutions like the GVE. And being able to change rebound in particular at will, is huge. I go from street to track mode with 1 turn of rebound and 3 turns of spring preload. When the weather gets hot, add a half turn. When it's cold, back off a turn.

Mind, the GVE is a clear step up on stock, but to adjust it you have to fish it out, make changes and put it back in, hopefully getting it to seat properly, and putting the spring and the rest back together. I did several bikes with GVE, never was happy with the results, and then got smart. There are cartridge solutions for other 41mm forks in the $500 bracket too so vis-a-vis GVE, no contest.
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