MotoMojo - Shock & Fork Springs

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Ken Freund

During my trip from LA to Panama (see Moto Mundo Maya in the Apr '10 issue of RoadRUNNER), one of the few shortcomings I noticed on the Kawasaki KLR650 was weak stock springs. Although the bike is a great value, after adding the metal panniers and heavy cargo for the long ride, the rear suspension sagged excessively, even when riding solo with the preload maxed out. When parked on the sidestand, the sagging suspension made the bike very tippy, almost falling over to the right. Additionally, any hard braking bottomed the fork, even at moderate speeds. The KLR650 is not alone in this grievance, as many other bikes suffer from similarly inadequate suspension.

But now there's a solution. Progressive Suspension has come to the rescue with its Larry Roeseler Signature 465 Series rear shock and fork springs for the 2008 KLR650. Newly released, the 465 Series is an advanced design in high-pressure gas monotube shocks made from CNC-machined aluminum. Using a 46mm bore and deflective disc piston for precise damping, the beefy 16mm hard chrome shaft rides on Viton seals for low friction and long life. A threaded preload adjuster and five-position rebound adjuster allow for fine-tuning to match your riding style and loads. Compression damping, which is non-adjustable, is said to be "velocity sensitive multistage automatic" with internal valving that automatically adjusts to the damper-piston speed for consistent performance and improved ride. A bladder is built into the shock, which separates high-pressure nitrogen from the oil, eliminating the need for a remote reservoir. The shocks, which are re-buildable, are available in stock length, as well as 1-inch lowered; we chose stock height.

The progressively wound fork springs are made from high-quality spring steel, shot-peened for strength, and polished to reduce friction within the fork. The stock single-rate springs only offer linear resistance to compression, while a progressive-rate spring has a rising rate of resistance during compression. Thus it can provide a plush ride at the start of travel and still be firm enough at the end of the trip to handle heavy braking or impacts without bottoming. Roeseler, along with Progressive Suspension's staff, have tested and fine-tuned each application.

Installing Springs

Spring installation is surprisingly easy with just a few tools, and it should take less than half an hour. Progressive Suspension recommends following the procedures outlined in the factory service manual along with the instruction sheets.

1. Position the bike on a motorcycle jack, placed under the engine, and lift it until the front wheel is just off the ground. Lifting the wheel unloads the fork springs so there's no pressure on the fork top caps.

2. Use motorcycle tie-down straps to keep the bike from tipping.

3. Loosen the two bolts near the top of each fork tube, then unscrew the top caps and set them aside. Lower the jack until you can grasp the fork spring spacers and then remove them.

4. Lower the jack more, and finally remove the washers and springs.

5. Optional: Now is a good time to change fork oil, if the bike is not new.

6. Install the new springs with the close-wound coils at the top.

7. Next, replace washers and spacers, according to the included directions.

8. Raise the jack, reinstall the caps, and tighten securely.

9. Lastly, tighten the two bolts near the top of each fork leg.

Installing Rear Shock

Installation of the rear shock is also simple and takes less than an hour.

1. Raise the motorcycle until the rear wheel is off the ground, and secure the bike with tie-down straps.

2. Remove the upper and lower mounting bolts, and slip the shock out the bottom of the bike.

3. Check that the rebound damping is set properly - we found number three works well - and then install the new shock, in reverse order of removal. Be sure that the lower connecting links are in place, and the bushings remain in place in the shock eye.

4. Tighten the fasteners and preload locking ring securely.

5. Measure ride height and sag as described in the instruction sheet. You may have to change preload settings; ours were spot on.

We found that both products were very well made, fit perfectly, and worked far better than the original equipment. Overall, we were very pleased with the significantly improved handling and ride quality. Through the corners and on straight roads, the bike feels more planted and confidence-inspiring. The progressive-rate fork springs still provide a fairly plush ride, but no longer dive and bottom out during hard braking, or when riding over large bumps. Likewise, the rear doesn't squat like it used to, and yet the ride remains smooth over bumps, not jarring.

Progressive Suspension's 465 Series shock for the 2008 and newer Kawasaki KLR 650 has a suggested retail price of $ 495.95 and comes with a one-year limited warranty. The fork springs have a suggested retail price of $ 118 and come with a lifetime warranty. The 465 Series is custom tuned for each application. Initial offerings include the Victory Vegas, Yamaha Road Star, Kawasaki KLR650, and Suzuki V-Strom and M109R. Plans are underway to expand to other mono-shock bikes.

Progressive Suspension, 6900 Marlin Circle, La Palma, CA 90623; (877) 690-7411, www.progressivesuspension.com.