Forget about engine tuning or performance pipes if you want to make a dramatic change to your bike’s performance. If you’re looking for something that’ll affect every aspect of your riding, pound-for-pound, suspension upgrades make the biggest difference.
Whether your bike is brand new or a 20-year-old hack, a touring machine or naked, there’s always something that can be done to the suspension to either improve it or make it work better for you.
The trouble is, suspension is also something of a black art and commonly misunderstood, which is why so many turn instead to experts such as K-Tech or MCT to do it for them.
If you don’t want to go that far, however, there are a number of relatively simple things you can do – or buy – to upgrade your ride.
If you’ve a relatively new, quality machine the first thing to do is to check the standard suspension is working correctly and, if adjustable, set up correctly for you and your type of riding.
However, if your bike is older, perhaps worn, or with more basic suspension, there are plenty of things you can do such as upgrade your front forks via a kit or even replace your rear shock with a higher spec, adjustable item that can give a dramatic improvement to your bike’s handling and ride – and your enjoyment and safety.
Here’s our pick of some of the best:
u00d6hlins STX Street Shock Absorber
Yes, itu2019s pricey, but weu2019ve started with one of the very best replacement shock absorbers to illustrate whatu2019s available and what it can cost. u00d6hlins is generally regarded as the elite in motorcycle suspension and this street shock u2013 as long as you buy the model appropriate for your bike and your weight u2013 will transform the ride of your bike, its handling and controllability.
Yes, there are cheaper alternatives but we’d recommend only recognised brands and be wary of shocks costing under £100. Quality – and safety – costs. This STX 46 model is the perfect upgrade for sporty street bikes, comes with an internal or external gas reservoir and with a 46mm main piston.
Depending on the application, the shock absorber features hydraulic preload adjustment as well as adjustable compression and rebound adjustment.
Savage Motorcycle Rear Suspension Lowering Link Kit
A popular suspension modification, if not exactly an upgrade, particularly for shorter riders, is a rear-suspension lowering kit. These usually operate by having specially designed, shortened linkages between the shock absorber and bike chassis, so itu2019s important to get one specific to your bike.
These are for a Yamaha FZ8. Lowering the height of a motorcycle can be the difference between love and hate. Riding your bike at an optimal height for you is a must and will not only provide comfort but also increase the control and stability of the rider, especially at higher speeds. You can sometimes also get the reverse; linkages that raise the rear end.
Progressive Suspension 10-2210 Drop-In Fork Lowering Kit
If your bikeu2019s too high, and a rear suspension lowering kit isnu2019t sufficient, another alternative is a fork-lowering kit, such as this one from reputable specialist Progressive. Its drop-in fork lowering kits have transformed a once messy, and time consuming install, into a cake walk.
Pull up to two inches out of the front end of your bike without the hassle of disassembling the forks or even changing the oil and the whole process can be done with basic tools. Shorter springs and Progressive's new secondary compensation spring make short work of the formerly complicated act of lowering your front end. No special tools required.
Laser 4946 Motorcycle Fork Oil Level Adjuster
A crucial component in how your motorcycleu2019s telescopic forks work is their damping oil and it being set to the correct level. Heavier weight oil gives more damping properties, lighter less u2013 but replacing it accurately can be difficult.
Too little and the air gap alters its effectiveness. Too much and you risk blowing your fork seals. This British-made tool is a quick and accurate way to set and adjust fork oil levels on motorcycles.
BELEY Motorcycle Adjustable Fork Seal Driver Tool
The fork seals in your motorcycleu2019s telescopic forks are crucial for preventing leaks of damping oil. Over time they also wear and need replacement, which can lead to a loss of damping, in turn affecting your bikeu2019s front suspension effectiveness. Replacing seals can be difficult but itu2019s made much easier with the use of a tool such as this.
Hyperpro Rear Shock
Hyperpro is another quality replacement shock absorber brand u2013 although not quite as pricey as u00d6hlins u2013 and its multi-adjustable units, which comes with bespoke settings for your bike (this oneu2019s for a Honda VFR800Fi) come highly recommended.
It has a CNC-machine aircraft-alloy body, 50-click rebound adjustment, optional high/low-speed compression damping adjustment and an optional hydraulic preload adjuster. Hyperpro’s rising-rate progressive springs are used worldwide, as are its shock absorbers.
Hyperpro Front Fork Kit
Also from Hyperpro is this front fork re-springing kit, which replaces the standard springs and oil, is designed to use the maximum front fork stroke under heavy braking without upsetting front grip, is bespoke to your model of bike with a huge range of fittings available (this oneu2019s for a Suzuki SV650), is easy to fit (as long as you have basic mechanical skills) and is highly recommended.
Motul Fork Oil 10W
Replacing your fork oil may sound messy but is one of the simplest u2013 and cheapest u2013 ways to improve your bikeu2019s front suspension. By using different weights of oil u2013 ranging from light (5W) to heavy (20W), also has the effect of reducing or raising the damping of your forks, depending on your usage and type of riding. This Motul oil is typical and is currently on offer, but there are plenty of quality brands and options available.