Suspension Tips Please - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum
2008+ KLR650 Wrenching & Mod Questions For repair, maintaining or modifying discussions related to the newly updated 2008 and beyond, Generation 2 KLR650 Motorcycle.

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post #1 of 35 Old 09-12-2018, 07:21 PM Thread Starter
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Suspension Tips Please

I having become more confident with my new to me 2012 KLR over the past few months. This is my first motorcycle, so riding is new to me as well. The bike is mostly stock with no suspension mods.

I am on the larger end of of the rider scale at 280lbs and 6'4" tall.

I rode the bike at the factory settings for a couple of weeks and then adjusted the preload. Tried 5 first and then backed off to 4. That seemed to work well the potholed clearings they call paved roads around here.

A week ago, I went on the Interstate just to see what everyone was talking about. The front end felt solid, no wobble or anything else to give me any controlability concerns.

However, as I increased my speed to 70mph, the ride became uncomfortable and quite harsh over small bumps and expansion joints.

I have read the suspension sticky started by Jhawker.

Is there any group wisdom of what is possible within the confines of the stock suspension?

The tire pressures are at the factory recommendations. Just mounted a new set of Shinko 705's.

Any recommendations are appreciated.

jncdi
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post #2 of 35 Old 09-12-2018, 09:24 PM
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Suspension

I have a 2011. My problem was the front bottoming out when hitting pot hole, or large bump. I'm about 200 lb's w/o riding gear.
I took recommendation of this forum, and went with Cogent suspension, front & back.
I found that off road it was fine, but on smooth pavement it had the bike feeling every little irregular imperfection in the road. I've taken about 50cc's of recommended oil out of front shocks, and shortened spacers a little. It takes pavement a little better, but my 2017 XT250 feels like a Cadillac compared to the KLR. The KLR, while improved, still feels like it's doing some kind of pogo thing as I ride along.
Cogent did try to help me, and made many suggestions to help, but nothing seemed to completely remove that feeling like my handle bars were bouncing with the ripples in the road. I've since swapped the Cogent front springs back to my OEM springs. Again some improvement.
If all you want to do is stiffen up the ride, check out Cogent. It does firm up the ride, and they are a great outfit to work with.

I did find that my KLR handles much better at highway speeds with an Eagle Mike fork brace. Less wobble at highway speeds.

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Last edited by larry31; 09-12-2018 at 09:27 PM.
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post #3 of 35 Old 09-12-2018, 09:48 PM
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Larry, I assume you installed the DDC's too? The Cogent shock and DDC kit are a whole order of magnitude better than the stock damper rod forks and emulsion shock - which are budget 1970 pcs. I find the suspension improvement on my KLR's to be nothing short of amazing both on and offroad but certainly you benefit more when the suspension has to work harder.

Jncdi; If by "within the confines of the stock suspension" you mean without any shock replacement or fork cartridge units then you are fairly limited. At your weight and height, I'd try a set of raising links on the rear. On the front you can increase the oil level and adjust preload as necessary (try 25-30%)....and yes a fork brace will help, particularly at higher speeds, heavily loaded on pavement.

Some use heavier fork oil but since the damper rod forks are overly progressive you end up being very harsh on high speed hits - only a DDC or RT emulator can fix that.

With the tire pressure, the factory recommendations are to allow for a load or passenger; there is no need to have more air pressure in the rear than the skinny front tire. I'd try 30 or so, front and back.


Cheers,
Dave
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post #4 of 35 Old 09-12-2018, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DPelletier View Post
On the front you can increase the oil level and adjust preload as necessary (try 25-30%)....and yes a fork brace will help, particularly at higher speeds, heavily loaded on pavement.
Dave,

I am not quite sure I understand what you are saying here. Do mean that adding oil level will increase the preload or are you referring to the preload on the rear as a second step?

How can the front be adjusted? What am I missing?

jncdi
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post #5 of 35 Old 09-12-2018, 11:37 PM
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I'm sure Dave can and will answer your question in detail but just for the moment, adding oil to the front suspension tubes will reduce the amount of air space above the oil. The effect of that is to increase the progressivity of the dampening.
But at 280 #, I'm surprised you are not complaining about bottoming. Riders over 200 lb generally seem to prefer stiffer front fork springs than those provided on the stock bike.
If you grab a big handful of front brake does the front suspension not compress all the way?
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post #6 of 35 Old 09-13-2018, 11:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jncdi View Post
Dave,

I am not quite sure I understand what you are saying here. Do mean that adding oil level will increase the preload or are you referring to the preload on the rear as a second step?

How can the front be adjusted? What am I missing?

jncdi
No, Adding fork oil (which are often notoriously low from the factory) reduces the air spring as TLHBill said which should help reduce fork dive. Preload is different and should be properly adjusted for your weight - fork preload on a KLR is adjusted by the spacer length; longer spacer = more preload.

At 280 lbs you are significantly larger than the 160lb design weight of the factory springs....though my KLR's are Gen1's I found that they would constantly bottom on anything more than a pothole....and I'm 190lbs.


In your case (and assuming we are trying to optimize the stock suspension rather than replace components with better stuff) then I'd suggest the following;

- Forks; try to set preload at 30% of travel. 30% of 7.9" is 2.37"......put the fork oil level at the top of the recommended range (don't remember the Gen2 level off the top of my head). Consider a fork brace - Eaglemike's is best. Try this but I think you'll find that the stock springs are too light for you to get preload in the proper range. Cheap fix is a set of progressive springs, better fix is the Cogent DDC kit with their straight rate or dual rate springs.

- shock; at your weight I'd start with both preload and damping set to max......and that probably won't be enough. Preload should be around 2.2 - 2.4". If you can't get to that number then the spring is too light. You can replace the spring with a heavier one but that makes the inadequate compression damping worse as the spring overwhealms the damping. A better suggestion (especially at 6'4") is to try a set of Eaglemike raising links - there are two sizes depending on your weight. The shorter raising links decrease leverage on the shock effectively increasing both springrate and damping. Of course the best solution is a new shock as the stock one is really crappy - I recommend the Cogent Moab.


Anyhow,
2 cents,

Dave
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post #7 of 35 Old 09-13-2018, 11:23 AM
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https://www.eaglemike.com/raising-li...KLR650-8rl.htm

RL-1's are for 250 lbs+
RL-2's are for 200 - 250lbs

stock (pre-2014.5) is for 160lbs.
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post #8 of 35 Old 09-13-2018, 11:24 AM
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My suspension post just in case it helps;

Stock KLR suspension is 1980's tech with a damper rod fork and emulsion shock with weak damping and springrates which MAY be marginally acceptable if you weigh 160lb or less and stay on graded gravel roads at worst. 2014.5 NE and up have better spring and damping rates but are the same crappy old design.
The bandaid (cheapy) fixes are;
- many use progressive springs for the forks and heavier oil. This will help with bottoming, wallowing and brake dive but the suspension will be overly harsh and not compliant. Better than stock though. Rather than using heavier oil, I’d recommend trying an increased oil level first which reduces the “air spring” and can stiffen it up a bit without all the harshness of heavier oil…..especially on high speed damping.
- Eaglemike's raising links; these change the geometry and reduce leverage on the shock which raises the effective spring and damping rates. Hopefully you aren't short! Easy and cheap but it's a "one size fits all" deal and it doesn’t deal with the inherent quality issues with the stock shock body and emulsion design.
or
- a stiffer shock spring. While you likely need a stiffer spring to properly set sag, adding a stiffer spring exacerbates the damping issues and creates an unbalanced (oversprung and underdamped) suspension, particularly as the oil becomes contaminated.

Proper suspension fixes;
- forks: cartridge emulators from Racetech, DDC's from Cogent or Ricor Intiminators all with the proper wt springs. The DDC's are my choice because they work at least as good as the RT emulators AND have the simple install of the Ricor Valves.
- shock; a proper aftermarket decarbon shock. Available from Progressive, Cogent, Ricor, Elka, etc. Again, I think the Cogent shocks offer the best value and use top quality, made in the USA components.
While usage, budget and expectations are different for everyone, spending money on the stock shock is false economy IMO and the more you do, the less sense it makes.....better to spend the money on a decent shock. Many people have done the shock rebuild and spring only to replace it later anyway. I've yet to hear a single regret from anyone upgrading to a good shock.
2 cents,
Dave
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post #9 of 35 Old 09-13-2018, 11:26 AM
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my shock post;

The stock shock is a budget emulsion design without hardened internals. It also has inadequate compression damping and springrate for the majority of KLR riders. The 2014.5 and up bikes have stiffer springs and damping but still maintain the 1980 emulsion design.

The problem with the stock shock is that the combination of the soft body and emulsion design means that under hard or long term use the oil turns to a nitrogen entrained mess contaminated with aluminum wear particles (grey foamy sludge) and the damping goes to crap.

Many people put heavier springs on the stock shock and while that helps set the sag properly (which is necessary, read: Suspension and Springs ) the stiffer spring overwhelms the already weak compression damping making the shock "pogo" and the damping situation even worse…particularly as the shock degrades.

Raising links are an option if your tall enough; the shorter links decrease leverage on the shock which effectively increases both springrate and damping. You still have the quality issues with the stock shock and the effect isn't adjustable (without changing links) but it's something to try for those on a budget.

The best solution is a quality aftermarket DeCarbon shock. There are many shocks available; Progressive, Touratech, Ricor, Cogent, Elka, etc. ....they range from $379.00 to $1000.00 plus. For reference a stock Kawi shock is around $800 from the dealer. The best value IMO is Cogent's Adventure; it's a high quality shock, hardened body, DeCarbon design, deflective disk damping and an Ohlins spring. www.motocd.com

I have the full Cogent set up (DDC's and springs up front and an Adventure and Moab on the rear ) of my two Gen1's and the difference in performance and capability is massive. Easily the most drastic functional change of the 50+ mods I've done to my bikes.
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post #10 of 35 Old 09-13-2018, 11:29 AM
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At 280 lbs and with stock springs your forks will be doing much more "traveling" than say mine will @170 lbs. Adding more oil to stiffen by removing the more compressible air and replacing with oil could very well cause you to start blowing out fork seals causing more problems than curing.

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