Making Sense of Suspension

“On a bike no one ever asks, "Are we there yet? “ – Stacy Westfall


Protection against a bumpy terrain

Suspension forms the backbone in motorcycles. Most of the modern bikes come with two types of suspension – the front suspension with telescopic forks, and the rear suspension with one or double shock absorbers. As the name suggests, a suspension literally suspends motorcyclists and their passengers and insulate them from a rough, bumpy terrain. Basically, it is an intelligent system of springs connecting the tires to the frame.


Ensuring balance and comfort in every bike

Suspension systems ensure balance and comfort in a motorcycle by keeping them steady irrespective of the condition of the road. They make sure that the vehicle remains grounded all the time by transferring the impact to the shock absorbers. Therefore, a fair knowledge of what suspensions are, how they work and how you can make adjustments to them is imperative. The overall quality of a bike ride ultimately hangs on a good suspension system.


Suspension settings for easy adjustments

Adjustments to motorcycle suspensions add to the safety, convenience and comfort of a ride. As a matter of fact, these suspensions are of a highly adjustable nature. The user manual of a motorcycle usually lists all the suspension settings available for fine-tuning to get optimum results. Depending on whether you’re a solo rider or carrying a passenger/luggage, your suspensions can be adjusted with ease.


Generally, the vehicle manual lays out different baseline suspension settings for different load types and riding situations. With the baseline as a start, you can make additional adjustments to it. This is significant in that sometimes the same bike is used by more than one rider and for two diametrically different purposes.


Suspension rate

The rate of a suspension’s spring is a function of its stiffness, and it is determined by the sum of weight required to compress it. As such, the amount of force a spring exerts at the time the suspension uncoils after a compression depends upon how much it is compressed.


Technically speaking, suspension springs control your motorcycle’s reaction with the road. Everything from ride height, also known as chassis attitude to how the bike responds to the ever changing loads brought on by acceleration, braking, and turning is determined by the springs. The spring’s rate, thus, can affect the chassis geometry and in turn quality of your ride. Ideally, springs should be soft enough to withstand bumps but firm enough to bear bottoming while accelerating or braking.


Free sag versus rider sag

As a rule of thumb, the free sag or the amount the suspension settles under the weight of the bike alone should be about one-third of rider sag. Rider or laden sag is the amount the suspension settles under the weight of both the bike and the rider. Also called damping, this process of absorbing impact energy decides how controlled and comfortable a ride is.



Swingarms are a reliable support system for rear suspensions. They can be seen, for example, in the Benelli TNT series. This quadrilateral structure attached to a motorcycle’s frame is mainly used in bikes with heavy body for better load distribution.


Electronic suspension systems

Nowadays, some manufacturers of motorcycles like BMW Motorrad fit out their bikes with an electronic suspension system. With this tool, a rider can electronically control the quality of a ride according to the condition of the road. They can now put the setting to either soft suspension or hard suspension for suitable compression and rebound based on road type.


Why suspension upgrades

Last but not least, it pays to know that sometimes upgrading your motorcycle’s suspension is important irrespective of whether you’re a racer or not. It’s a question of safety and an improved suspension makes all the difference.


Overtime, factory-fitted suspensions deteriorate through wear and tear. On top of that, these original parts are very basic in their functions. So, they call for timely servicing and modifications. But remember modification doesn’t necessarily mean replacing the whole suspension. You may successfully modify and improve selected components such as oil, springs, shims and valves. This is a partial but decent way to sort out your motorcycle’s suspension problems.


Even electronic suspensions have their own limitations. No doubt, they are pretty convenient when you have to make quick adjustment depending on road condition or load. However, in most cases these types of suspension are factory-set for a specific rider weight. Due to this, the rear and the front suspensions may sometimes suffer mismatch resulting in stress and strain. That’s why motorcyclists need to do some tweaking on them so that the suspensions suit the rider requirement.


For upgrades, aftermarket suspensions are advisable since they are available in an improved state most of the time compared to stock suspensions. Also aftermarket forks and shocks are more adjustable and display noticeable difference in riding. Suspension upgrades not only help with handling, but also with braking and comfort level.


Thus, we saw how a motorcycle suspension serves various purposes. It not only makes a ride smooth and comfortable but also safe by entrusting more control over the rider. So, if you need a replacement or just simple adjustments to your suspensions, please do it. Don’t sacrifice a better quality ride in your motorcycle simply because you fail to appreciate the value of a suspension. It’s time to take control of your suspensions.

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