My bike (Goldie, 2012 Triumph Street Triple R) originally came with a stock rear shock.
Then my beloved husband bought me a used Ohlins Shock from a friend of ours, which I had installed earlier this year. Neither of us realized how stiff this shock was. It came from a Triumph Daytona, and it was set up for racing, not street riding.
What that meant was that it was extremely stiff. SO stiff, even my friend who's 6', 200lbs remarked how stiff it felt when he sat on it. It's definitely a bad sign when your weight isn't enough to compress the rear shock on your motorcycle.
It should ALWAYS sag a little bit beneath your weight. If it isn't, you need to get it looked at asap.
Or if you're looking at buying a particular bike, you need to consider how the suspension is set and hopefully you've had a chance to sit on it to see if the suspension is remotely close to your weight/profile.
This shock was SO stiff, that it literally bruised my tailbone. For several weeks, it felt like I bruised my tailbone hard. I know for a fact that I didn't fall down on it, and I hadn't been sitting in hard chairs. Apparently, students can get bruised tailbones from sitting all day in classroom desks. I definitely wasn't doing that, and working at Revzilla keeps me on my feet pretty much all day.
The only thing I could tell for sure is that I rode my bike with the stiffer shock recently and it definitely was kicking my ass, literally. I felt every.single.bump. I was saying Ow! inside my helmet over every bump in the road. And if you're from Philly then you know how especially painful the roads can be.
So I scrambled to take off the rear shock and get it over to the racetrack so a wonderful man named Ken could work his magic and modify it.
I have to give Ken a Huge THANK YOU for squeezing me in to his very busy racing schedule that afternoon. Thanks Ken!!! So go check out his Instagram feed and give him a follow.
After all was said and done, and my wallet was emptied (because all that work doesn't come free!) I have a new-to-me rear shock.
Just to compare, take a look at the before (blue) and after (red). It doesn't look like much, but the spring is much shorter, and the clearance is totally different. And also, the little bits inside the gold canister are different now and totally reworked for me. I'm not sure what that means mechanically, but all I know is that the new-to-me shock provides a completely different riding experience (Ohlins only had a used spring, so that's why it's a little smudged. But whatever, I didn't care!).
So what exactly does all this mean for me and Goldie? Well, for one thing, my bike actually responds to my weight. When I sit on her, my weight actually compresses the spring, I can feel the bike smush a little beneath my weight! If I feel like it, I can actually modify the compression and rebound on the fly. I'm terrible at explaining this, so I highly recommend reading this article which gives a great overview of rear and front suspensions and what can happen if it's too soft or firm.
When I would go over bumps, it felt like the bike wasn't absorbing the shock at all, instead my butt would take the brunt of it. Anytime I'd go over even a tiny bump I would squeeze my knees against the tank and raise my butt off the seat a bit (pavement, not dirt). Now I find myself doing that far, far less frequently than before.
When my husband and I went to West Virginia last week, it was a game changer for me. Goldie had always been an amazing ride, even with the stock suspension. But now I felt a noticeable difference in slow and fast corners.
In the tighter, slower turns I no longer felt like the rear wheel was going to slide out from under me because it wasn't gaining the right traction (which can be dangerous in corners). It feels firm, solid in every corner, as if the bike were attached to rails (traction!) and I was gliding through the corner without any wobble/bumpy feedback when rolling on the throttle (which I love to do once I'm in the corner). At higher speeds (freeway) I can feel the suspension working overtime to go over all the small bumps in the road. It's like I know I'm going over them but my body isn't feeling them as much.
But most of all, my ass! It doesn't hurt anymore. And most importantly, my confidence has gone up. I'm still recovering from my accident last year so I still think of oil/fuel being spilled in every corner that I'm up against. Even if it's just water, in my mind I immediately think that it's something slippery. Having a stable, smooth rear suspension has helped me trust not my bike, but myself too.
a little lower?
Now that my rear suspension actually responds to my weight, I've found that the seat height has adjusted about 0.5" lower, possibly more. I just don't know how to measure that. But I can definitely tell because for the first time I was able to flat my right foot (although I still had to slide my butt off the seat a bit).
I'm so used to riding with the bike the way it was before, taller. Although I'm by no means flat footing both (which I would never want anyhow), now I find parking a little easier if there's a slight slope. I'm still wearing my tall insoles, but now I wonder if I can try the Dainese boots I've been wanting. Since they fit so tight on me, I'd have zero space for my insoles. Hmmmm.
Now the only thing left to do is take it to a suspension guru to have the bike set up correctly so the front is balanced with the rear. Next year I might try to take on the front forks and see if they need to be changed, but so far I'm liking it the way it is.
Happy Riding, and don't forget to check that suspension!