Suspension upgrade disclaimer

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If you feel you should upgrade your suspension, then by all means do it. But put some miles on first. Of all the bike mods out there that can be done, the suspension will return the best bang for the buck in ride quality, but the best bang for the buck is always rider training.

Make sure to read through the Suspension articles here in FAQ and get the right suspension for your weight and riding style. There is a tendency by newer riders to make things too stiff, which results in a less desirable riding experience in everyday riding.

Pre-2008 model

Brian is a certified motorcycle mechanic with over 100,000 miles of riding experience. He has also worked as a race suspension tech. Here's his take on the stock "classic" suspension:

  • Why is it that I'm among the heavier riders, know how to ride the bike hard, and yet don't have issues riding on stock suspension? Yes, it has limitations, but it's easy enough to deal with and yes, it's the first thing I'd spend real money on for an upgrade (a $30 horn is not "real money", but ~$500 for the suspension overhaul is). But the stock, maintained, suspension is more than enough for street riding. A rider who's not being abrupt on the controls and who rides smoothly won't be bottoming out the suspension.
The front has the normal harshness that's a trademark of damper rod forks, but even the stock springs in all their softness are fine for a rider of my size (beyond XL) running through Deals Gap. Getting to the track is a totally different beast mind you, and there is a ton of room for improvement.

And now a word from Craig, a longtime racer and founder of Pacific Track Time. He's on the track 2-3 times a month from February through October:

  • My track bike runs a Fox Shock with modified dogbones and Aftershocks rebuilt forks. These changes took a sporty beginner's bike to a full-on race bike. The difference is so big as to be indescribable. This setup is not cheap nor easy to do.
On the other hand, my street 250 has totally stock suspension. I've got a pile of shocks that everyone here talks about, including a new SV650 shock, a ZX600, ZX900, and an EX250 with preload adjuster, yet I have just kept the old OEM shock on the bike. While I am quite mellow on the street, I still probably ride harder than 90% of the people here and get by with the stock suspension. I'm not saying the bike doesn't get squirrelly at times, but when it starts getting out of shape I see it as the bike telling me that I am going fast enough for the street.

J model

Brian again: The older bikes ride better for daily road use. They are FAR more comfortable. Even at 240lbs, I think the '08 suspension is stiff and unforgiving. It's the biggest complaint I have about the bike. Of course, that does make it better, in stock trim, for track duty. Knowing what I know right now, I'd never buy an '08+ for street duty. Track use, sure. Of course, it helps to not be hung up on aesthetics.