Suspension Upgrade Observations

Post here on any modifications you have done, or have found for the Kawi

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Baxter
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Suspension Upgrade Observations

Postby Baxter » Sat May 25, 2013 7:53 pm

I upgraded my suspension approximately 200 miles ago, and thought that I should give some impressions of the results.

My 2007 First Generation needed to have the oil changed in the front forks because they had been getting noticeably more harsh, especially in cold weather. Since I'm more mechanically reclined than mechanically inclined, the shop would be doing the work. So as long as I was in for a bill anyway, it seemed the time for the upgrade.

In front, I went with the Race Tech emulators and springs for my weight (the owner at my dealership was interested in contacting Race Tech to decide whether to be part of their network, so we ordered the parts from them directly). I rode the bike to the shop on a clear day in late February, and was able to pick it up after another snowstorm had melted in early March. My observation on the ride home was that the front was noticeably smoother, and the back end seemed jumpy by comparison. It was kind of weird feeling.

Well, it kept snowing. But when my taxes came in better than expected, I decided to complete the project with a Penske 8900E with the right springs for my weight (thanks, Gary). That was installed while I waited one day after work.

So, here's my quasi-objective and completely-subjective observations:

First, there's a different attachment joint at the top of the rear shock that allows for rotational movement. I wasn't aware of this until I went to adjust the preload. I thought that something had gone horribly wrong with the installation, and I took it back to show the dealer, but they explained it to me. If you think this was stupid of me, well, I did say that I am mechanically reclined. I wish that this detail had been pointed out to me.

The bike is much smoother that it had been. Not in an isolated way as with my Camry (it's a bike, so it shouldn't ever be as isolated as a Camry). But much smoother than before. It's so smooth that I find myself going much faster than I intend unless I really focus on the speedometer. Like 20 MPH faster than I think I'm going. I'll probably adjust to the new feeling after another 500 or 1,000 miles.

To try and give a more objective observation: the same rough roads that used to cause my mirrors to vibrate to a blur are now clear, and the same roads that used to cause my glasses to jump in my helmet and blur my vision no longer do so. That alone seems worth it.

I also notice that the bike seems to be more planted on the pavement, especially on bumpy or rough curves. This gives me a lot more confidence in the curves. This also makes it worth it. This is probably the most important observation for most of you in places where the roads don't get beaten up so badly in the winters.

I haven't taken a longer trip since the suspension upgrade, but I suspect that the effect may be as good or better than a seat upgrade. I used to feel the seat by about 400 miles into a trip, so I'll have to update this report after my next longer ride.

I hope that these observations are useful to someone who might be thinking about doing a suspension upgrade. I'll try to add anything more that occurs to me as the summer progresses.
"It is our mind, and that alone, that chains us or sets us free." Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Honinjsuz
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Re: Suspension Upgrade Observations

Postby Honinjsuz » Mon May 27, 2013 11:12 am

Great! A clear concise observation in good english. A rarity, it seems. Tho more common on this site. My experience is the same. The smoothness/comfort was an unexpected benefit, yet the best benefit. So much less fatigue on multi day rides (eg: Calif. to Fla.) And handling at 7/8 speeds with faster riders was notably better. That is what I was after when my stock suspension had 15K on it, and one fork seal was leaking. The comfort bonus was huge. Your note that the fork upgrade immediately reveals the rear shock deficiency, is exactly right. JMO, but I think that what you did is the best, most cost effective fix/upgrade for suspension, for this bike, and 90% of others when a upgrade is needed.
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biketechted
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Re: Suspension Upgrade Observations

Postby biketechted » Tue May 28, 2013 5:52 am

Excellent textbook upgrades for these bikes.
Welcome to the world of middle performance. :lol

Of course with the stock suspension as basic as it can be, it probably feels like you're riding a GP bike compared to before.
What was the range of expense that you put into this project? I'm in over a grand easy.
With a used Ohlins rear (recently rebuilt and correct rate spring now installed) from BRP and GVEs with springs, it's about as good as it gets without buying USD ZX forks and then upgrading the internals.
Move the fork legs up in the triple clamp a little and you can eek out a little more immeasurable performance for free.
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Baxter
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Re: Suspension Upgrade Observations

Postby Baxter » Thu May 30, 2013 6:39 pm

Thanks for the encouraging words, Honinjsuz. I wanted to write about my observations for anyone else who is considering doing the same.

Biketechted, I spent just under $1,200. Lowering the fronts was a great idea as well. I did that by 10 mm just before the last riding season, and I liked the results.

My experience with different bikes isn't all that much. I started out with a Honda 750 cruiser, and outgrew that fairly soon. And when I bought my Ninja 650, well the maneuverability, acceleration, and better ergonomics were amazing. But a few years ago I had the opportunity to put over 100 miles on a ZX-10R, and I was amazed by the performance. The suspension and agility made for a new experience. So that's when I started looking to take the 650 further. I started with the least expensive adjustment, lowering the front end, and that helped push the bike in the right direction. This was the next step.

I think that this thread could be useful for anyone researching suspension modifications if anyone else who also made a similar change wants to write about their observations. I do appreciate the effort that other forum members have made to let us know how their mods went and how they worked out.
"It is our mind, and that alone, that chains us or sets us free." Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Honinjsuz
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Re: Suspension Upgrade Observations

Postby Honinjsuz » Fri May 31, 2013 6:33 pm

$1200 is more than I would have thought, but maybe I'm out of touch. And I saved by buying kit thru Cycle Gear (no ship cost), and working with buddy who has drill press and air wrench, which is all that was needed to install emulator, new seals, buff tubes. I said type of riding I planned and my weight (220), they sent the right springs, etc. Pensk, or the like, low miles shock second hand saves a lot too. For the road this is the best set up. Of the bikes I've ridden that were great handling for the track, all were very uncomfortable for the back roads I like and for the freeway ( a good part of it is the low bars that always are part of the quest for speed on the track).
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biketechted
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Re: Suspension Upgrade Observations

Postby biketechted » Mon Jun 03, 2013 6:38 am

Slightly out of touch, but not by much.
The rear shock is really what drains the wallet. But without it and only changing the front, you'll be left wanting more.
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Baxter
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Re: Suspension Upgrade Observations

Postby Baxter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 3:10 pm

I promised an update, here it is:

I've mostly been commuting since I last wrote. Nothing interesting to report on that front. It's more comfortable to ride. The bike seems better planted in corners because the weight transfer seems more predictable, so I'm taking corners faster and with more lean. And under normal conditions, the bike responds more predictably to the wind blast when passing semis.

However, I did have an opportunity to ride to Fargo and back, 200 miles each way by interstate from Bismarck, posted 75 mph. The unexpected weather on this trip gives me something relevant to talk about. My meeting was the next morning, so I left in the late afternoon and stayed overnight. Nice weather was predicted for both ways. But a small cloud became an ugly thunderstorm on the way out, and turned to intersect my path. I ended up racing the leading edge of the storm. I was caught in very strong winds forcing me to slow down to about 40-50 for a space of about 5 or 10 miles, but soon got ahead of it and back to normal speeds (I haven't found a weather report indicating the wind speed for this storm at the time and place where it crossed my path). For my return the next day, the winds were expected to be in the teens. The wind turned out to be in the upper 20s gusting to the mid 30s, coming from the northwest (i.e., a headwind from the right). The entire 200 miles was work. But North Dakota is one of the few places where you can scrub off your chicken stripes while traveling in a straight line, so I should have expected these conditions.

The last time I was riding in winds like this, coincidentally with similar winds on the same road, the bike was hard to control because it was responding in inconsistent ways--kind of squirrelly. But I had old squared-off tires and the original suspension. Now, with new tires last fall (Michelin Pilot Road 2) and the new suspension, the bike seems to respond in a more linear and predictable manner. I can't say if it was due to the tires alone, the suspension alone, or the combination of both. But the feeling I have had that the bike is better planted on the pavement after the upgrade seems to have been proven.
"It is our mind, and that alone, that chains us or sets us free." Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

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