I honestly thought Yamaha’s 1993 GTS1000 heralded the beginning of the end of telescopic fork front suspension. Yet here we are, 22 years later and besides BMW’s Telelever and Duolever technology (and the Bimota Tesi… -Ed.), the telescopic fork remains de rigueur for motorcycle front ends.
Depending on who you ask, the telescopic fork made its first appearance in undamped fashion circa 1908 on a Scott motorcycle. The experiment didn’t last, as later models used the more contemporary girder suspension. BMW and/or Nimbus, circa 1934, are credited with producing the first motorcycles with a hydraulically damped telescopic fork. Using that date as an anchor, hydraulically damped telescopic forks have been in development for 81 years.
The most recent advancement in fork technology is electronically damped, semi-active suspension. No longer must motorcyclists make concessions to settings that are either too stiff or too soft, without kneeling on the ground, making adjustments to hard-to-reach knobs and screws. Electronic suspension is currently reserved for higher-end models, but it’ll soon trickle down.
For the everyday rider, maintaining or upgrading your analog suspension is the practical means for smoothing bumps and potholes, or attaining a quicker lap time. John Burns looked at a variety of motorcycle suspension topics in his Suspension Buyer’s Guide, but here we take a closer, specific look at motorcycle forks.
If you’re looking to customize your cruiser with a springer fork, inverted fork, extended fork, etc., look no further than American Suspension. Bred and built in Huntington Beach, California, American Suspension offers at least eight different models of forks in a variety of colors, finishes and cool names (Slippery Devil, Painted Lady, Brass Dragon).
Factory Connection exists in the world of dirt bikes and off-road competition. FC services forks at its five locations across the U.S., as well as selling its own line of fork spring kits, fork valves, spring seats, etc. They also have tuning tools such as an air pump/gauge designed to work with the KYB Pneumatic Spring Fork. You’ll also find Factory Connection providing trackside support at MX races on most weekends.
Want a forking performance advantage? GP Suspension delivers hard parts such as fork valving kits, fork springs, supersport cartridges, and compression needles – all of which are developed and tested by national- and club-level racers. GP Suspension also provides trackside support at West Coast regional club races as well as AMA events. GP will also service and inspect your bike’s forks.
K-Tech Suspension boasts the KTR-3 fork. Manufactured in the UK, with competitive success in the British Superbike series, the company says the KTR-3 was “designed for use at the highest level of racing.” K-Tech also manufacturers and distributes fork piston kits, and fork cartridge kits. US customers can access K-Tech products at www.orientexpress.com.
AMA 250GP class podium finisher, Ed Sorbo, knows how to circulate a race track quickly. Combining his knowledge of speed with the tutelage of LE founder Jim Lindemann, Sorbo offers a variety of fork services at Lindemann Engineering in Southern California. From lengthening forks internally to customizing fork springs for your weight, your bike’s front end will be better for it. To take advantage of the fork service, schedule a coaching day with Sorbo, and let him school you on everything from bike set-up to proper line selection.
As one of the best-known suspension manufacturers in the world, Öhlins needs no introduction. Adorning everything from MotoGP bikes to factory motocrossers, as well as breaking new ground with progressive products such as the electronically damped, semi-active units seen on many production motorcycles. Öhlins USA offers new forks as well as providing fork services such as custom setup and installation of FGK kits, and re-valving OEM forks with Öhlins piston kits.
Pro Circuit is immensely familiar with suspension manufacturers such as KYB, Showa and WP. Getting your forks serviced by Pro Circuit includes complete disassembly, cleaning, inspection and measuring, as well as a personalized set-up with correct springs rates and settings for the size rider you are, and the type of riding you enjoy. Pro Circuit promises easy shipping and a quick turnaround.
Progressive Suspension manufacturers a variety of fork components for metric and Harley cruisers, including fork lowering kits, monotube cartridge kits, and spring kits. The company also makes a cartridge kit for Kawasaki’s KLR650, and spring kits for other off-road models.
Not only does Race Tech manufacture aftermarket fork components for nearly every type and discipline of both on- and off-road motorcycle, the company is also offering their own G6 Custom Forks. Race Tech also services suspension components at its vast network of nationwide Race Tech service centers. Race Tech owner, Paul Thede, hosts Suspension Theory classes at the mother ship in Corona, California. For those who like to read, Race Tech’s Motorcycle Suspension Bible is also available.
Traxxion Dynamics is another American suspension company manufacturing everything “exclusively at our facility in Woodstock, Georgia.” TD is a full-service facility for everything from complete suspension packages to basic seal replacements. You can order Traxxion Dynamics fork components for everything from sportbikes to tourers, dirt bikes to Harleys at the company’s website http://www.traxxion.com.