motorcycle suspension

TDR #9 Optimising your Motorcycle Suspension

andrew Comment Leave a Comment

What is the first thing you do when you buy a motorcycle? The first thing you spend your money on? A fruity exhaust to make it sound better? Some wavy discs? Some nice machined footpegs and levers? Or, how about a rear shock or cartridge kit for the front forks? It may not look sexy, but sorting out your motorcycle suspension will do more to improve your riding experience than anything else.

I’ve not had a lot of bikes, but I got to know each one extremely well. I gradually and progressively pushed their limits until I found them wanting, and invariably ended up buying the latest rubber, and then found myself in a suspension workshop having forks and shock revalved and resprung.

My first bike, a Suzuki SV650s had little in the way of adjustability, so thicker fork oil was added, and the rear shock was replaced with rejected nearly new OEM items.

My second bike, an ‘02 CBR600F was transformed into the best road bike ever, forks and rear shock were tweaked by Motorcycle Technics in Stowmarket (http://mctsuspension.com/Home.html), Suffolk. Darren also worked on my ‘05 GSX-R 1000 with equally great results. It was plusher and yet more controlled.

Brands Hatch GP

My brand new ‘08 KTM 990 supermoto came with fully adjustable WP suspension which allowed for endless tweaking.

KTM 990SM : Madder than a GSX-R1000?

My most recent bike, a 1998 VFR800 was bought as a stopgap bike to commute to work on after the gixxer was stolen. The £1500 VFR was getting on a bit suspension wise with 42k on the clock, so I rode it for a few thousand before sending the forks off to Maxton Suspension to have them resprung and revalved. Maxton provide suspension to a lot of the road racers at the Isle of Man TT (Connor Cummings, Dan Kneen, Ian Lougher). In place of the OEM Showa rear shock, I procured a rebuildable shock off Ebay; the Nitron Sport  which has a singe adjuster for compression and rebound damping. These two mods transformed the bike. The fork rebuild wasn’t cheap, I think it was around £600-700, which was nearly half the bike’s value.

When I later sold the bike for £1,000 with 74k on the clock, I took off the Nitron shock and Maxton forks and sold them separately on eBay. If you look at it this way, suspension mods aren’t that expensive, especially if you can save some money and service your own bike yourself.

So I heartily recommend getting your suspension sorted for your weight and your riding style. It will make you faster, give you more feedback and will ultimately make you a safer rider.

So if you have recently bought a bike with adjustable motorcycle suspension, where do you start?

The ‘Average’ Rider
You need to realise that bikes are designed for a wide range of bodies (45-135kg) and ability (novice to experienced) so you can’t just expect to leave it on the stock settings and have it work optimally, unless you’re the average person.

Preload
Preload adjustment, (which even basic bikes have) makes sure that the spring is working in its middle two thirds of travel when riding. Adding pre-load to the forks pre-loads the springs which means that it will take more force to get the spring to deflect from its initial position.

If your forks are bottoming out, you need to add preload (put a cable tie on the fork stanchion and check how far it moves). Conversely, if you are struggling to get the forks to deflect, if they are right at the top of their travel, you need to reduce the preload on the forks. If you add all the available preload and your forks still bottom out, you need stiffer springs for your weight and riding style. If you can’t get the forks down in the usable 2/3 range by removing all available preload then the springs are too stiff and you will need to insert a softer spring.

A setup can work well on track, where speeds are greater, braking more powerful and greater cornering forces loads up the suspension more, and not so good on the road where speeds are lower and you may struggle to get the suspension into its working range.

Rebound
The next adjuster you’re likely to encounter is rebound damping. Again, as speeds increase, so does the amount of rebound damping needed. The faster the wheel hits a bump the more energy it needs to absorb. The spring absorbs the energy, but then releases it. The rebound damping allows the release of that energy in a controlled manner. Too little rebound damping and the front end will oscillates, too much and the wheel never returns optimally to the road surface remaining in the air for longer than it should.

You can test the rebound damping with the bike stationary pushing down on the saddle. It’s best to have a friend hold the bars or put the bike in a wheel chock to hold it upright. Both front and rear should compress, raise and then settle.

Compression
Compression damping (if you have it) should also increase as your speed increases. Those bumps are hit at faster speeds meaning the wheel jumps up more quickly, requiring greater compression damping lest the forks bottom out. At some point you will exceed the limits of your fork or shock’s valving and you may require thicker oil or more sophisticated valving in your forks and rear shock to provide the control you need.

As you can see this is not a basic subject, but with a will you can start to tune your bike, and not fear the adjustment available, instead try out new settings and see how they feel to you. You want to be as comfortable as possible in the saddle. Start some research online, see what resources are out there and have the confidence to give it a try.

Changed your tyres to a new brand or type? Then you will need to tune your suspension again. Not changed your fork oil for a while? You will likely need to tweak the damping to get the same response as the viscosity of used fork oil will vary much more than fresh, especially when hot. Best to change your fork oil regularly to keep as many things as consistent as possible.

Don’t be frightened to try things out. Like all things motorcycle, knowledge is Power, and when you understand how the changes you’re making are affecting your bike, and use a test bit of road to try out the different settings, you can make your bike the best it can be while you save up for the next step.

Learn the way of the Zen Rider…….

 

Are Motorbikes Really Getting More Expensive?

andrew Comment Leave a Comment

How Much More Expensive is the Latest Honda Fireblade than the Original Blade from 1992?

Does anyone buy brand new motorcycles outright anymore? Aren’t they too expensive to buy outright? PCP, where you effectively lease the bike – paying for the initial depreciation only – seems to be a far more popular way to get new metal onto the street.

A brand new bike can be yours for only a few hundred pounds a month, which makes them affordable to most budgets. So why don’t people save up the cash before buying?

I think it’s largely due to our debt based money system, which revolves around credit expansion. The central bank which runs the U.K. monetary system aims to devalue our currency at a target rate of 2% per year. As you’ll see, they most often overshoot the mark. If you want to read more, check out the appendix below

Technology is Inherently Deflationary

I recently came across a very interesting book by Jeff Booth called The Price of Tomorrow. Jeff’s book is about how deflation is coming, and that this deflation will be caused by the wave of new technology which is all around us.

Think about how your iPhone makes your life more efficient, it allows you to do things that wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago; A smartphone costing £500 is a multi-functional tool. It is a stills camera, a 4k/slow-motion video camera, GPS, it can perform photo and video editing, is a personal computer, a word processor, a website editor, a guitar tuner, a dictation machine, a fitness trainer, a biometric data logger. You name it,  some app developers out there can provide it.

You can essentially run a global media business using nothing more than an iPhone and an internet connection. This power is evidenced by the thousands of YouTube millionaires making a living on line.

For all of the years than I’ve been alive, we have been experiencing inflation. As Central Banks have done their best efforts to devalue the future value of money, the prices of the products bought with these devaluing currencies have been steadily rising, but they’re fighting against the inevitable deflation which is part and parcel of the Information Age.

I recently pointed out that motorcycles seem to be getting more expensive. But are they really? If Jeff is correct, technology should be getting cheaper, not more expensive.

Has the price of a brand new Blade really changed?

So I decided to do a bit of research. I took a motorcycle which has existed since 1992, the venerable Honda Fireblade, and I charted it’s price since 1992 to 2019 using data from https://www.thebikemarket.co.uk/honda/cbr/cbr1000rr-fireblade:

It all started in 1992 with the first FireBlade, the 893cc “foxeye”

the 918cc

And then the 929cc – PGM-Fi

the 954cc (looks best in red & black, with blue and white a close second)

In 2004 the FireBlade became the 998cc CBR1000-RR Fireblade (one word, no capital B);

998cc engine became 999cc in 2008, a model so accomplished, it lasted for nearly ten years, with a facelift in 2012.

And so to the new 2017 model also 999cc

(Photos courtesy of https://www.thebikemarket.co.uk/honda/cbr/cbr1000rr-fireblade)

But Doesn’t Tech get Cheaper AND Better over Time?

I assumed that, all things considered, the price of that motorcycle should be the same, or cheaper, except with significantly better technology today than back in the early 90s.

Just like your iPhone gets better as well as cheaper every year, shouldn’t the same apply to bikes? It should do. Engineers get better at designing, things get more efficient, markets grow, prices fall.

Here’s the list price of the various models of blade since 1992:

1992 – £ 7,390

1993 – £ 7,565

1994/95 – £ 8,195

1996/97 – £ 9,265

1998/99 – £ 9,265

2000/01 – £ 8,795

2002/03 – £ 9,030

2004/05 – £ 8,600

2006/07 – £ 8,600

2008/09 – £ 9,300

2010/11 – £ 11,175

2012/13 – £ 11,300

2014/16 – £ 12,000

2017/19 – £15,225

These prices seem to be rising. There’s no doubt the bikes are better now than ever before, but has the cost in real terms, gone up, or down?

To answer this question we need an inflation calculator, so we can view the prices from a stable datum point.

If we start with the same price in 1992 of £7,390 and adjust it for inflation, you may be surprised at the results.

I went to the Bank of England inflation calculator and adjusted prices each year according to inflation observed.

Here’s the chart:

    – The blue line is the RRP of new models over the years.
    – The orange line is the original price of £7,390 adjusted for the inflation year-on-year between 1992 and 2019.
    – The green line denotes £7,390 while the yellow line is the inflation adjusted price that we would expect if we had a sound currency which wasn’t losing its value every year. In 28 years, your money is worth half what it was originally.
    – The black line shows the increases and decreases in prices relative to the baseline 1992 cost

Click on the link below to download the excel file and have a play yourself.

fireblade-prices.xlsx

What you can see is that the current Fireblade, is the same cost (actually £200 less expensive but who’s counting) as the original FireBlade from 1992, after adjusting for inflation.

Think about that for a second. The real cost of making a litre sports bike as good as Honda can has not risen for 28 years. It rose initially, in 1996 to be slightly more expensive, but between 2000 and 2017, the latest FireBlade was less expensive than the original, sometimes by up to £2,000.

When you factor in the technological improvements (ABS, traction control, braking systems, refinement) we’re getting a lot of value from Honda.

It’s a shame we can’t say the same about the  national currency.

 

Appendix (For those interested in monetary economics)

Deflation is the Death of Credit based Money

There’s a reason why central banks aim to create inflation, to try to prevent deflation which is catastrophic for a debt based system, but that doesn’t make the end result any better for the individual who puts his finite time and energy into earning money that is continually losing value. #BuyBitcoin #BTC.

If you saved up all the money you needed before buying a motorcycle, each year you’d find yourself falling further behind, as the value of that cash was gradually eroded by money printing. You’d feel like you were always playing catch up, struggling to keep your head above water. Many do feel this way.

Whether people consciously understand this and act in the most sensible manner or whether they just follow the ‘offers’ that arise in a credit based money system, one thing is for certain, very few people save money.

Saving for a Rainy Day

If you want evidence of the lack of savings, look at the personal and corporate crisis caused by a couple of months of COVID19 lockdown.

“Savings? What are savings?”

“I don’t save money, I’ve got a £599 car payment to make on my Evoque!“

When nations operate a system of monopoly money (this isn’t meant to be a derisory term, just a statement of fact – the Central Bank has a monopoly on the creation of legal currency), there is no incentive to save, as tomorrow’s money is worth less than today’s.

So people generally buy their bikes on credit, because they have no savings, because the system doesn’t incentivise them to have any. And when a black swan event comes along, they are ill prepared, the central bank has to print even more credit to ‘bail out’ the system, and the can is kicked down the road for another 10 years, growing ever weaker each time.

Shiny Side Up – The Book

andrew Shiny side up book Leave a Comment

It’s been a long time in coming, but I am delighted to report that Shiny Side Up – From First Ride to Fast Rider is now available in printed and kindle format on amazon, and on kindle unlimited for free.

A great many people want to learn to ride, but for whatever reason they never learn. This is a terrible state of affairs. Riding a motorbike is magical, but it’s not magic. The rules of physics apply, and as bikes are getting safer, the risks of coming to an early end are getting slimmer.

Learn about every element of motorcycling, from bikes to maintenance to riding skills. Most of all learn about how to keep your head in the right place that you don’t get yourself into trouble. Your one stop guide to everything biking, essential reading for all two wheelers, from newbie to pro.

As an introductory offer, the kindle edition will be free to download between 8pm Saturday 20th of July to 8pm Wednesday 24th July.

motorcycle suspension

How 2: Change your Fork Oil

andrew Maintenance, Video Leave a Comment

How often do you bother changing your fork oil? Is it more frequently than every 5 years or 20,000 miles?

While not strictly a scheduled maintenance item, keeping your fork oil fresh keeps your bike suspension in tip-top condition. I like to aim for every 2 years or 10,000 miles.

Time for a rebuild?

At 42k miles, I had my front forks worked on by Maxton Engineering. Having multiple TT wins under their belt, Maxton know a thing or two about creating a fast road bike.

When I initially enquires about their offering for the VFR, they had this to say about the stock forks on the 98-02 VFR800:

Front

“The forks work reasonably well for general road use but if you ride the bike hard or carry a pillion they need to be modified. The forks are under damped and under sprung , we revalve and respring them fitting harder springs to suit your rider weight and also to suit what the bike is being used for, this gives the bike a lot more feel in the corner and also alot more stability under heavy braking.”

And this about the rear shock:

Rear

“The rear unit is a Showa unit and is a unit which we can service but cannot buy any parts for. The spring on the unit is approximately about the right rate for the average weight of rider, the biggest problem with the unit is there’s not enough travel in it, it only has 3″ of wheel travel built into the shock absorber, all bikes should have 5″ approximately. As there is not enough travel the shock will bottom out on the bump stop causing the bike to launch you out of the seat. You will make the problem worse if you load the bike up with a pillion or luggage.”

To increase the travel of the forks, Maxton remove the bump stops. The re-valved and resprung forks call for a much thinner oil (5W). The spring is 0.925kg/mm. I weigh 80kg and wanted a fast road setup for solo riding.

These forks make the VFR a truly confidence inspiring ride, and while they were costly, I believe they were well worth the money.

Anyway, enough of the Maxton advertorial and onto the fork oil change.

Maxton recommend specifically Putoline 5W Fork Oil for their revalved forks.

Here’s the procedure:

Top 10 Motoring Apps

Alex Cars 1 Comment

Innovations such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have brought major improvements to in car tech connectivity. Unfortunately, if your car is over a couple of years old, you won’t be able to take advantage of most of these info-tainment advancements. There is another option for those of us who don’t have access to integrated car technology — motoring mobile applications. Although motoring apps are not as integrated as systems like CarPlay, they are often better designed, and just as useful in practice! In this article, we will be discussing the best motoring apps that can make driving easier and a lot more fun.

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