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May 5th 2016, 08:31 AM   #1
 beansbaxter's Avatar
  Jan 2016
  Seattle, WA

  Ducati + KTM
Post Suspension Tuning Guide - Street Bike or Road Racing

Suspension Tuning Guide
Street Bike or Road Racing Applications

by Herb Varin

With incorrect suspension setup, tire wear is increased and handling suffers, resulting in rider fatigue. Lap times can be dramatically slower and overall safety for both street and race enthusiasts is another issue. Add the frustration factor and it just makes sense to properly setup your suspension. The following guide will help you dial in your suspension for faster and safer riding both on and off the track.

Basic Setup: Check the following
  • Forks sag 25-40 mm
  • Shock sag 25-35 mm
  • Check chain alignment. If not correct, bike will crab walk and sprocket wear will be increased.
  • Proper tire balance and pressure. If out of balance, there will be vibration and head shake.
  • Steering head bearings and torque specifications, if too loose, there will be head shake at high speeds.
Front-end alignment
  • Check wheel alignment with triple clamps. If out of alignment, fork geometry will be incorrect and steering will suffer.
  • Crash damage, check for proper frame geometry.
Adjustment Locations on Forks
  • Rebound adjustment (if applicable) is located near the top of the fork.
  • Compression adjustment (if applicable) is located near the bottom of the fork.
  • Spring preload adjustment (if applicable) is generally hex style and located at the top of the fork.


Forks: Lack of Rebound

  • Forks are plush, but increasing speed causes loss of control and traction
  • The motorcycle wallows and tends to run wide exiting the turn causing fading traction and loss of control.
  • When taking a corner a speed, you experience front-end chatter, loss of traction and control.
  • Aggressive input at speed lessons control and chassis attitude suffers.
  • Front end fails to recover after aggressive input over bumpy surfaces.
Solution: Insufficient rebound. Increase rebound "gradually" until control and traction are optimized and chatter is gone.

Forks: Too Much Rebound

  • Front end feels locked up resulting in harsh ride.
  • Suspension packs in and fails to return, giving a harsh ride. Typically after the first bump, the bike will skip over subsequent bumps and want to tuck the front.
  • With acceleration, the front end will tank slap or shake violently due to lack of front wheel tire contact.
Solution: Too much rebound. Decrease rebound "gradually" until control and traction are optimized.

Forks: Lack of Compression

  • Front-end dives severely, sometimes bottoming out over heavy bumps or during aggressive breaking.
  • Front feels soft or vague similar to lack of rebound.
  • When bottoming, a clunk is heard. This is due to reaching the bottom of fork travel.
Solution: Insufficient compression. Increase "gradually" until control and traction are optimized.

Forks: Too Much Compression

  • Front end rides high through the corners, causing the bike to steer wide. It should maintain the pre-determined sag, which will allow the steering geometry to remain constant.
Solution: Decrease compression "gradually" until bike neither bottoms or rides high.

  • Front end chatters or shakes entering turns. This is due to incorrect oil height and/or too much low speed compression damping.
Solution: First, verify that oil height is correct. If correct, then decrease compression "gradually" until chattering and shaking ceases.

  • Bumps and ripples are felt directly in the triple clamps and through the chassis. This causes the front wheel to bounce over bumps.
Solution: Decrease compression "gradually" until control is regained.

  • Ride is generally hard, and gets even harder when braking or entering turns.
Solution: Decrease compression "gradually" until control is regained.


Adjustment Locations on Shocks
  • Rebound adjustment (if applicable) is located at the bottom of the shock.
  • Compression adjustment (if applicable) is located on the reservoir. Spring prelude is located at the top of the shock.

Shock: Lack of Rebound

  • The ride will feel soft or vague and as speed increases, the rear end will want to wallow and/or weave over bumpy surfaces and traction suffers.
  • Loss of traction will cause rear end to pogo or chatter due to shock returning too fast on exiting a corner.
Solution: Insufficient rebound: Increase rebound until wallowing and weaving disappears and control and traction are optimized.

Shock: Too Much Rebound
  • Ride is harsh, suspension control is limited and traction is lost.
  • Rear end will pack in, forcing the bike wide in corners, due to rear squat. It will slow steering because front end is riding high.
  • When rear end packs in, tires generally will overheat and will skip over bumps.
  • When chopping throttle, rear end will tend to skip or hop on entries.
Solution: Too much rebound. Decrease rebound "gradually" until harsh ride is gone and traction is regained. Decrease rebound to keep rear end from packing.

Shock: Lack of Compression
  • The bike will not turn in entering a turn.
  • With bottoming, control and traction are lost.
  • With excessive rear end squat, when accelerating out of corners, the bike will tend to steer wide.
Solution: Insufficient compression. Increase compression "gradually until traction and control is optimized and/or excessive rear end squat is gone.

Shock: Too Much Compression
  • Ride is harsh, but not as bad as too much rebound. As speed increases, so does harshness.
  • There is very little rear end squat. This will cause loss of traction/sliding.
  • Tire will overheat.
  • Rear end will want to kick when going over medium to large bumps.
Solution: Decrease compression until harshness is gone. Decrease compression until sliding stops and traction is regained.

Stock Tuning Limitations

The factories plan on designing a bike that works moderately well for a large section of riders and usages. To accomplish this as economically as possible, manufacturers install valving with very small venturis. These are then matched to a very basic shim stack which creates a damping curve for the given suspension component. At slower speeds this design can work moderately well, but at higher speeds, when the suspension must react more quickly, the suspension will not flow enough oil, and will experience hydraulic lock. With hydraulic lock, the fork and/or shock cannot dampen correctly and handling suffers. The solution is to re-valve the active components to gain a proper damping curve. It does not matter what components you have, (Ohlins, Fox, KYB, Showa), matching them to your intended use and weight will vastly improve their action. Furthermore, if you can achieve the damping curve that is needed, it does not matter what brand name is on the component. Often with stock components, when you turn the adjusters full in or out, you do not notice a difference. In part, this is due to the fact that the manufacturer has put the damping curve in an area outside of your ideal range. Also, because the valves have such small venturis, the adjuster change makes very little difference. After re-valving, the adjusters will be brought into play, and when you make an adjustment, you will be able to notice that it affects the way the way the fork or shock performs.

Another problem with stock suspension is the springs that are used. Often they are progressive, increasing the spring rate with increased compression distance. This means that the valving is correct for only one part of the spring's travel, all other is compromise. If the factory does install a straight-rate spring, it is rarely the correct rate for the weight of the rider with gear. The solution is to install a straight-rate spring that matches the valving for the combined weight of the bike, rider and gear to the type of riding intended.

  • Always make small adjustments, more is not always better.
  • Always keep notes.
Suspension tuning is an art, be patient.
DGA, Pigs, motoroco and 3 others like this.
May 6th 2016, 11:13 PM   #2
 Parilla125's Avatar
  Jan 2016

Or,,,, take it to KFG for an initial suspension set up and go from there... : )
tchase likes this.
May 9th 2016, 08:33 AM   #3
 jared p's Avatar
  Jan 2016

or, take it to OPM in Kirkland
May 9th 2016, 02:30 PM   #4
 WMRRA112's Avatar
  May 2016

  2015 Ducati streetfighter, 2014 zx10 (race) 2010 R6 (race) 2013 ninja 1000 and a GSXR 600
Only guy I'd trust to work on my suspension is Barry at KFG/GP suspension
May 9th 2016, 02:42 PM   #5
 tchase's Avatar
  Jan 2016

Originally Posted by Parilla125
Or,,,, take it to KFG for an initial suspension set up and go from there... : )
Originally Posted by jared p
Boils down to what side of Seattle you are on
Sep 13th 2016, 02:08 PM   #6
 HalcyonSon's Avatar
  Apr 2016

Came across a series of interesting articles today, and this looks like the right place for them.

Sportbike Suspension Guide | Sport Rider

This one in particular caught my attention. I installed emulators around the second season I had my bike and they made a huge difference.

Technicalities: Damping rod forks and the Race Tech Gold Valve Emulator | Sport Rider
beansbaxter likes this.

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