How a Custom Suspension Changed my Ride

My bike (Goldie, 2012 Triumph Street Triple R) originally came with a stock rear shock. 

Benny, with the original Ohlins Shock that was gifted to me by the best husband, ever. 

Benny, with the original Ohlins Shock that was gifted to me by the best husband, ever. 

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. 

Ohlins Shock 1.0, installed on Goldie before the magical Rebuild

Ohlins Shock 1.0, installed on Goldie before the magical Rebuild

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. 

In April, I was excited when my friend Shawn told me that Ohlins would be at NJMP for MotoAmerica racing, and someone could rebuild my shock and make it actually fit ME!!

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.

Ken uses his magic fingers to adjust valves to perfection!

Ken uses his magic fingers to adjust valves to perfection!

What appears to be a box full of keychains is really the secret to suspension magic. But that's all I know. 

What appears to be a box full of keychains is really the secret to suspension magic. But that's all I know. 

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. 

Your bike suspension is designed primarily to absorb the imperfections in the roads, and ensure that tyres keep contact with the roads. Most bikes suspension are based on a spring like you would find in a pen, mattress or trampoline but much stronger. To stop the spring from bouncing the tyre like a yoyo; the rate the spring moves up and down is controlled by “dampers”.
— GoStar-Racing.com

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.

my ass 

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 what?

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!

Some women want diamonds, pearls, and other useless junk. But this one needs a revalved Ohlins!!

Some women want diamonds, pearls, and other useless junk. But this one needs a revalved Ohlins!!

New Toys. Feels Like Christmas!


Benny went all out and got me an Ohlins Shock for my 40th Birthday! What a good dog. And maybe something else...

Ok, he might've had some help from my awesome husband. There's nothing wrong with the stock suspension on my Street Triple R. Actually it's quite good allowing me to adjust compression and rebound, which I've done thanks to the folks at Markbilt Racebikes in NJ.

So although I didn't really *need* an Ohlins, I have a feeling I'm going to be VERY happy with it! And it just so happens Benny got a really really really good deal on this gently used shock from a Daytona, which is clean as a whistle. It looks as if it was barely used, or ridden on the street.  The reason he was able to get such a good deal is because 2013+ models can't use my shock because they changed something on the subframe, so this one won't fit. Sorry!



My other little gift to myself was an upgrade to the old Zumo with the new 390LM. Well, okay a replacement because my 690LM fell off while I was riding home last month. :=(

Although this upgrade was a little more than the last one I decided it was worth the extra $100. The Garmin Zumo 390LM is a new improved version of the 690. The main difference is a faster processor. This one responds quicker to menu prompts (not iPhone speedy), and is a little smaller and less bulky. The screen is the same size, and is a tad brighter. I haven't ridden with it yet, but hope to in the Spring.


The last new toy I got was this Cortech Super 2.0 Low TankBag. I love how slim it is, it's the perfect size at 5L when closed, 10L when fully expanded. Perfect!

Unfortunately my riding season has ended much sooner than I wanted to, due to a small back injury I gave myself a few weeks ago :-(. I guess turning 40 means really feeling it!