For motorcycle owners, maintaining their bikes is essential to ensuring safe, high-performance rides. One key component of staying on top of a motorcycle's maintenance is taking care of the suspension system. Suspension on a motorcycle is probably the most important component for keeping the bike's ride and handling comfortable and secure. No suspension system can function correctly without quality suspension springs. These central parts of a motorcycle's suspension define a rider's comfort and even the way in which a rider can control a bike on or off the road. They are also essential for protecting a motorcycle from damage on the road.
Consumers who have never replaced their suspension springs before may have some questions about how these parts work and how they can go about selecting them for their motorcycles. They may also want to know some of the best options for finding and purchasing suspension springs. The possibilities include traditional, brick-and-mortar auto parts vendors and online retailers like eBay.
What is a Suspension Spring?
Motorcycle shocks vary from other vehicle shocks in that they use a coil-over spring. These suspension springs are affixed around the shock, which typically contains a cylinder that addresses the damping process in the suspension system. Many motorcycles are mono-shock, meaning that they use shocks only on the rear wheel of the bike. Others, particularly off-road and racing motorbikes, use twinshock systems that address the rear and front wheels.
When a motorcycle rides over rough or bumpy roads or comes to a stop and experiences load transfer, momentum is thrown against the shocks and compresses the suspension spring. This action transfers energy into the shock's piston, which initiates the damping process, further reinforcing the workload of the spring.
Types of Motorcycle Suspension Springs
When shopping for motorcycle suspension springs, consumers can find two main categories of springs: straight-rate springs and progressive-rate springs. Understanding the differences between these two types of springs is essential for making an informed purchase for a motorcycle. Once consumers have settled on the types of springs they want for their motorcycles, they should use the same types on both the front and rear suspension systems. Mixing the two types can create uneven performance in the suspension and cause problems for both the rider and the bike.
Straight-Rate Suspension Springs
A straight-rate spring is designed to compress evenly across the entire length of the spring. This provides a rider with an even spring rate no matter how compressed the spring is. A straight-rate spring performs the same, even if it is fully extended or if it is compressed by a bump in the road.
Progressive-Rate Suspension Springs
A progressive-rate suspension spring provides a different rate of spring, depending on how compressed the spring is. If a motorcycle is driven over a series of small bumps, the spring will deliver a solid bounce. If that motorcycle hits a harder and deeper bump, the spring will react more stiffly.
Straight-Rate vs. Progressive-Rate Suspension Springs
Consumers may have difficulty choosing between straight-rate and progressive-rate springs. The following table illustrates some of the advantages of each type to help consumers narrow in on their selections.
Delivers consistent, predictable performance
Rider can set spring to specific tarmac conditions
More complicated installation and preset
Can improve handling in turning scenarios
Gives rider road 'feedback'
Consumers should also check their owners' manuals to confirm whether the manufacturer of a motorbike makes any recommendations. Adhering to these standards can help protect the integrity and stability of a motorcycle.
Choosing Suspension Springs by Riding Style
Consumers may need to factor in their particular riding styles when selecting suspension springs. Different bikes and different disciplines put various demands on suspension springs, and consumers can benefit from understanding how springs should work in street, off-road, and motocross settings.
Motocross and Dual Sport Riding
Motocross and dual sport riders need the ability to carve through turns in race scenarios, and this demands stiffer suspension. They also need a lot of feedback from whatever turf they are riding on to improve their handling and also to allow for their motorcycles to execute better throttle response.
Road racers are more concerned with avoiding deep dives on brakes and maintaining cornering clearance. They typically need stiffer suspension springs across the board and may be best suited to straight-rate springs.
Street and Recreational Riding
Street riders need to focus more on matching their suspension springs to their exact weights and the average conditions in which they ride. Stiffer, straight-rate suspension springs can provide consistency to casual and recreational riders who may not read the road's feedback as well as motocross riders or road racers might.
During the purchasing process for a set of suspension springs, consumers may come across several terms with which they are not familiar. Understanding what these terms mean can clarify the process and help consumers make the right choices for suspension springs for their bikes.
As mentioned, the spring rate of a suspension spring relates directly to its performance. The spring rate of a spring is measured by assessing the weight needed to compress a spring about 2.5 cm. If consumers want to match the spring rates they currently have on their motorcycles, they can reference their manuals or take their bikes to professionals who can measure the rates. Again, it is also important to determine whether or not springs are progressive or straight-rated and match them evenly across the front and rear suspensions.
Preload is a term used to describe the starting weight placed on a spring before it is driven. Setting the preload of a motorcycle's suspension allows it to accommodate the weight of different riders. This is usually achieved by tweaking a component in the fork or collar of the rear suspension system. Addressing preload lets riders enjoy the smoothest rides possible.
A suspension system does not rely solely on a spring to bear the ride load and suspend the rider over bumps. It also requires damping, which is achieved in a separate cylinder component that sits within the suspension spring. Cylinders use nitrogen and oil in a mixture to create a kinetic process that dampens the load and aids in suspension.
Compression involves the shortening of the spring when a motorcycle hits a bump in the road or comes to a stop. If compression goes too far, the motorcycle bottoms out, and the body of the bike slams against the tyres and shock system.
Rebound is the opposite of compression. It occurs when the spring returns to its resting length after compression. A full rebound is known as 'topping out' a motorcycle.
Total sag, sometimes referred to as 'race sag', is the difference between the length of the spring when it is fully extended and its length when it is bearing the weight of both the bike and the rider. An ideal total sag would theoretically prevent a motorcycle from ever bottoming or topping out.
Once you have gathered information on the specifics of suspension springs, you can begin the purchasing process in earnest. On eBay, this can be facilitated by leveraging the search bar found on all of the site's pages. This interface allows you to narrow down the enormous catalogue on eBay to only the options related to a particular keyword term. You might use 'motorcycle spring' or 'suspension spring' and then scan the resulting listings. The site also offers related search suggestions that may help you in your search.
eBay is designed to help ensure a reliable purchasing process for any consumer. One central component of this is the interface eBay gives you to interact with and evaluate a seller. By leveraging this advantage, you can get to know a seller and determine whether a seller is likely to get you the suspension springs you need. Visit a seller's page by clicking on his or her highlighted name. You can then review feedback from other customers and even message a seller directly with any questions you might have.
Choosing suspension springs for a motorcycle is not a complicated process. Consumers can begin their searches by familiarising themselves with certain terms related to the function and set-up of suspension springs. Consumers also need to understand the difference between straight-rate and progressive-rate springs and the various demands placed on springs by different riding styles.
With this information in hand, consumers can then begin shopping for their suspension springs. One of the better marketplaces available to consumers is the online retailer eBay. This site gives consumers an easy way to search out replacement suspension springs. Local automotive parts shops are also likely to offer a reasonable selection of suspension springs to fit most motorcycles. Whether consumers are on the lookout for straight-rate springs for casual, weekend riding or progressive-rate springs for more intense and seasoned riding, finding and buying these essential accessories can be a breeze with the right information.