Friday, August 23, 2013

Shock preload

It's day 123 and last night, I made my first suspension adjustment: the rear shock preload.  And what a world of difference it makes!

So what is preload?  On most motorcycles, the shocks are adjustable.  On a Harley, there are five adjustments.  They come from the factory set at 1.  All Harleys are set up to be optimal for the average rider, which in their view, is a male between 5'8" and six feet weighing about 180 pounds.  A heavier rider or a bike that is carrying both a rider and a passenger can use up much of the suspension travel in a motorcycle's rear suspension, which on most cruisers, isn't all that great to begin with.

Enter preload.  You can adjust the suspension to raise the base of the springs, thus slightly raising the ride height.  That way, when a heavier rider sits down, the shocks don't use up all of their travel and bottom out.  Some big touring bikes have air adjustable suspensions to achieve the same effect, as one sees on some Cadillacs and Lincolns, and such suspensions allow a much greater range of adjustment than the mechanical adjustors in most motorcycle shocks.

Well, I'm 6'4" and weigh 218 pounds.  Throw on two saddle bags, one loaded with rain gear, a tool kit, a helmet and riding gear, and my bike is probably carrying something close to 230 pounds.  Needless to say, I'm not the average rider.  So I followed the owners manual and set it up from 1 to 2.  Settings 2 and 3 are recommended for heavier solo riders and 3 to 5 are recommended for riding with a passenger.  I opted to set mine for 2.

After setting it, I took the bike out in the neighborhood.  Speed bumps had less bite, but it was this morning on my ride in that I really noticed the difference.  The ride is now firm, but still compliant.  The bike's handling is more crisp and precise, and bumps that were jarring now barely register. 

So my next 142 hours should be more comfortable!  And all without buying new shocks or taking the bike into the shop!

Ride free and true!

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