Stock suspension OK for light riders - 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 8 Old 09-14-2018, 10:11 AM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Lake George, NY
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Stock suspension OK for light riders

Rather than hijack the "Suspension Tips" thread which I've been reading, I've started this fresh one to discuss stock suspension and lighter riders.
I have no doubt that if a rider is well over 200 pounds and particularly if aggressively riding the dirt, that the stock suspension may prove to be inadequate.
However I'm about 150 pounds, 5 ft 9 and sliding into a senior citizendom. That said, as an ex-racer, I do occasionally hammer my Shinko 805 shod, 2010 KLR on Northeast trails.
My bike still has stock suspension, although I rebuilt my front forks last winter; drained out the original (filthy) oil and installed new seals along with fresh 10wt, a little more oil than the stock recommendation so as to reduce the air space and increase progressivity, so they wouldn't bottom mechanically when I do hit a big one.
A few friends and I did the length of the MABDR last Spring and sure enough I did get a little competitive with an 800GS. Hit some waterbars at about 40 and did lightly bottom the forks mechanically a couple of times.
IMHO, that means the setup was nearly perfect. You do want to make sure you get the full length of the stroke once in awhile. If you never ever bottom it out, then your spring rate is maybe a little too stiff.

A word about progressivity. There is enthusiasm for DDC and Ricor systems which create di-ggressivity. And yet folks buy aftermarket Pro-gressive Springs. I guess I don't get it. Let's all get together folks. Which way are we trying to go? progressive or digressive?

My rear shocks are still stock. Spring preload is jacked up one or two notches depending upon how much weight is in my soft saddlebags. The dampening is also up two clicks. Same story back there, namely I want to bottom once or twice a season to make sure I'm using it all.

The shortcoming in the rear is manifested when accelerating hard out of stutter bumps. That heavy rear wheel gets banging up and down interrupting traction. That's where I could use a better (or maybe just rebuilt) shock.

At both ends I have about 1/3 sag when seated. That's about right.

I do wish I could compare my KLR to one with Cogent suspension set up for someone of my weight and riding style. You never know what you don't know. Ignorance is bliss, and all that stuff...
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post #2 of 8 Old 09-14-2018, 10:56 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2010
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Yep, as Paul Thede (Racetech) says; "the best you've ridden is the best you know". ;-) ....unfortunately for me I've been blessed/cursed with some truly great bikes over the 41 different ones that have resided in my garage over the years. The best offroad suspension I've experienced was my KTM300XCW; it was like magic.

OK, to your points;

- yes, generally speaking you want to be able to bottom your suspension occasionally; if you don't, you aren't using the available travel. Setting the sag properly and without unduly long spacers should confirm that the springrate is right for the load. At 150lbs you should be in range where the stock springs are useful. At 1/3 sag, you are in range though I tend to keep sag just a hair less (esp. on a Gen2 due to it having less travel) at around 28 - 30% but that's splitting hairs.

- With regards to progressive/digressive, the progressive springs are a bandaid for the poor stock suspension system.....I'd avoid progressive springs myself. The stock damping is VERY progressive....which sounds good but really isn't. What happens is the initial/light/low speed damping is overly soft but the high speed damping is too harsh (which can be hard to tell with the springrates which are far too light for most). People attempt to "fix" the excessive fork dive and other manifestations of the initial light compression damping by adding heavier oil but then the high speed damping is "off the chart" harsh. This is why I recommend raising the oil level (as you did) rather than using heavier oil.

You seem to have a pretty good grasp on what your suspension is doing and yes, a good shock will help the rear tire maintain contact with the ground. The issue with the stock suspension is:

- springs are too light for most people (not a problem for you)
- front damper rod forks have a progressive damping curve that is undesireable being both too soft and too hard
- rear shock has inadequate compression damping
- rear shock is a very poor quality unit; it's emulsion design with non-hardened internals mean that the shock is very prone to fade and ultimately failure. ...the cheezy preload adjuster is the icing on the crap cake. you can rebuild the shock....you can even change the internals to a proper de-carbon unit....but it isn't worth it and the more you do to it the less it makes sense.

We are lucky in that the KLR (while being an aged, overweight, underpowered dual purpose bike) is blessed with true offroad bike DNA.....though it's buried under budget components and excess porkage. The KLR's Uni-Trak suspension system is actually VERY good and is only a good shock away from being comparible to bikes costing 2-3X more than a KLR. The forks are likewise old pces salvaged from the early 1980's but luckily Racetech and Cogent have solutions that bring the fork's functionality up to the point where they work comparatively well even compared to much newer bikes. Personally I don't believe the Intiminators or the Progressive Monotubes compare with either the RT valves or the DDC's.

Cheers,
Dave
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post #3 of 8 Old 09-14-2018, 10:59 AM
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This is an excellent article from Racetech regarding damper rod forks and speaks to the progressive nature of them vs. the digressive RT Cartridge Emulator;

Emulators-How They Work


Dave
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post #4 of 8 Old 09-14-2018, 12:04 PM
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..and finally, I'd suggest that the stock suspension may indeed be adequate as long as you are in the 150-160lb range (or up to 200 if you have a 2014.5+)......depending on your usage, wants, needs, expectations and budget. There are some truly great suspension upgrade options out there for KLR's but the "need" for improvement is a highly personal and dependent question. For me, I found a suspension upgrade to be necessary for me to keep me from upgrading to a (functionally) better bike... but I'm 190 - 200lbs, an old ex-offroad racer and ride relatively aggressively, seeking out single track whenever possible.

Dave
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post #5 of 8 Old 09-14-2018, 12:06 PM
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post #6 of 8 Old 09-19-2018, 11:47 PM Thread Starter
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Santa, puhleeze... and I'll make you a deal, Santa. I don't need the remote reservoir because I don't pound it that hard so long that it's getting so hot. At least as far as I know..
But the remote adjuster would be handy...
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post #7 of 8 Old 09-20-2018, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TLHBill View Post
Santa, puhleeze... and I'll make you a deal, Santa. I don't need the remote reservoir because I don't pound it that hard so long that it's getting so hot. At least as far as I know..
But the remote adjuster would be handy...
Haha; I hope he's listening. Yeah, the Cogent Ultimate Pro-Series is a bit overkill (but it's soooooo cool); the Moab I have on my other KLR works pretty much as well for most folks and is available with the RAP....just sayin' ;-)


Cheers,
Dave
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post #8 of 8 Old 09-20-2018, 09:35 PM
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I can't add much to this discussion other than to confirm Dave's assessment of the rear shk. This year on my "outback trip" I experienced extreme fade on a long section of corrigated gravel. While the initial reaction for a split second was relief that the chattering stopped. It was only to realize that I had virtually no control of traction or direction.
I will be doing the upgrade to the Moab as soon as the budget allows, which may be a while as they are fairly expensive in Australia, relative to the U.S.

Regards,
Grant
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