We’ve oft complained about the lack of travel in the stock rear suspension of Harley-Davidsons. Maybe we ride a little faster than we should, pushing the American cruisers and tourers beyond their intended performance parameters. Still, even if we didn’t, the 2.1 inches of travel in the twin shocks of H-D’s Dyna models is a minimalist approach to functional suspension.

Premium Emulsion Shocks fit '06-later Dyna models (except FLD and ’10-’11 FXDSE).

Premium Emulsion Shocks fit ’06-later Dyna models (except FLD and ’10-’11 FXDSE).

Enter H-D’s 2015 Premium Ride Emulsion Shocks ($600) and Premium Ride Single Cartridge Fork Kit ($350) for Dynas. According to Harley, the suspension units were designed in conjunction with one another specifically for Dynas and developed “at our world class test track.” Test track? Well, we must not be riding H-D’s too fast or too hard, then, are we?

Compared to stock Dyna shocks, the Premium Emulsion ones differ by way of:

  • Larger 36mm pistons
  • New urethane bumpers
  • Wider preload range
  • Nitrogen gas charged, high performance oil
  • Internal valve stack

What Harley didn’t list is an increase in shock travel. Because there isn’t any. The Premium Emulsion shocks carry the same 2.1 inches of travel of the stock shocks. Can the performance really be that much better, especially for the premium $600 price tag? Harley took us for a short ride in the rain to feel for ourselves.

The picture doesn’t convey it, but the route home from lunch through the Portugese Bend section of Palos Verdes Dr. is under constant attack from geological forces. The road’s so F’d up it would have sent the stocker I rode earlier into a tizzy, but the Street Bob outfitted with the Premium suspension units performed admirably through the asphalt minefield.

The picture doesn’t convey it, but the route home from lunch through the Portugese Bend section of Palos Verdes Dr. is under constant attack from geological forces. The road’s so F’d up it would have sent the stocker I rode earlier into a tizzy, but the Street Bob outfitted with the Premium suspension units performed admirably through the asphalt minefield.

Amazingly, while cresting bumps that would easily have had the stock units bottoming out in terse fashion, the Premium Emulsion shocks affixed to the Street Bob I was riding kept things compliant. Harley says that some of the improvements, such as the new urethane bumpers, “provide a softer feel when the shock bottoms.”

So, maybe they did bottom a few times and the landing was soft enough for me not to notice. Either way, the Premium Emulsion shocks provide a much more supple ride than do the stock units. The shocks are preload-adjustable, but not adjustable for compression or rebound damping.

Less is more? As the name implies, the Premium Ride Single Cartridge Fork Kit utilizes a single cartridge in one fork leg, compared to the stock unit’s dual cartridge arrangement. The non-adjustable fork upgrade fits ’06-later Dyna® models (except FLD, FXDWG and ’10-’11 FXDSE).

Less is more? As the name implies, the Premium Ride Single Cartridge Fork Kit utilizes a single cartridge in one fork leg, compared to the stock unit’s dual cartridge arrangement. The non-adjustable fork upgrade fits ’06-later Dyna models (except FLD, FXDWG and ’10-’11 FXDSE).

A Street Bob at the event was also outfitted with the new Premium Ride Single Cartridge Fork Kit. It’ll take more than some severe bumps on a wet and rainy ride to get good feedback from this suspension upgrade. But here’s what we know:

  • The new Single Cartridge Fork Kit is said to provide improved handling performance
  • Damping is controlled by a piston and valve stack specifically developed to work with the rear shock
  • The compression piston improves low-speed damping, while the rebound spring provides a smoother feel during topping
  • Better bottoming resistance
  • The triple-rate spring and oil lock allows the fork to better absorb bumps under hard braking

According to Harley, the Single Cartridge Fork Kit and Emulsion Shocks were designed to work best with one another. This may be true, or it may be a way to ensure better sales of both units. What we know for certain is that the Premium Shocks were a noticeable improvement on our short but very bumpy ride home. To determine a real improvement in the Single Cartridge Fork Kit, we’ll need to spend more time aboard a Dyna outfitted with the upgrade to subject it to our regular battery of high-speeds tests. Anyone have the street address for Harley’s test track?

  • Mark Bogardus

    So why doesn’t HD put these shocks on their bikes to begin with? It’s not like the bikes are low cost to start with. Buying in bulk from the company that makes them would bring the price down. $600 for two shocks???

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      The same reason don’t they put farkles and a performance exhaust system on it?

    • Richard Gozinya

      Because they know people will pay more for it. Can’t blame them for doing the same thing everybody else does.

    • Kevin Butler

      They are standard for 2016

  • G D

    So Harley is hereby admitting that the stock suspension is junk? And that for a lousy $1k (much less at HD’s wholesale price) they could have made their Dyna’s much more functional, but chose not to? I’d be a pretty pissed Dyna owner if I were dumb enough to be a Dyna owner.

    • Richard Gozinya

      Harley owners have no business complaining about handling. Every time Harley builds a bike for them with some decent handling (Super Glide Sport, Street Rod, XR1200, Sportster Roadster, etc.) The Harley faithful run away from it, and out of the few who will buy it, a huge chunk immediately ruin its handling capabilities by lowering it, putting forward foot controls onto it, and other stupid things.

      Harley has learned what their buyers want, and deliver it at a premium. Now I think I need to fulfill my dream of shoving a hot-rodded Twin Cam into an X1 Lightning, for the lulz.

      • Gary Latessa

        Why would you want that?

        • Richard Gozinya

          Why wouldn’t I?

  • Martin Buck

    Neither Harley nor its customers care about suspension or any other form of sophistication. Harley Hardtail has a certain ring to it. Either way they are delusional if they think regular customers will pay for any improvement, or that non-Harley riders will buy their junk because they can minimise the defects of the original design. Go back to your anvil, Mr Harley.

    • Double

      “Delusional if they think regular customer will pay for any improvement”….? Do you know anything about H-D? Regular H-D customers shell out almost ridiculous amounts of money to improve or change their bikes.

  • Dale B.

    Looks like they might have some engineers on the payroll after all? Oh, wait, that should read – “Looks like Showa finally got tired of taking the blame and forced their hand.”

    They should have done this 20 years ago. If they would have, I might have bought one of their bikes. (of course they don’t care who doesn’t buy their bikes, do they?).

    However, it would be cool to walk in to the dealer and tell them, “sure I’ll take that Dyna, but you have to put the new shocks and fork kit on for free”. They would probably escort you out of the building…

    • Richard Gozinya

      On the other hand, they’ll happily put a metalflake paint job on the tank, to match that spiffy skull cap.

  • Tom Dinchuk

    My 2002 Super Glide Sport came with adjustable performance shocks and fork tubes plus dual disks up front. It could and still can out handle and of the crap they’re making now.

    • Kenneth

      My ’05 Super Glide came with a leaking engine oil seal and an intense, high-frequency vibration the dealer couldn’t trace. I’ll forever fondly remember the torque, but… never again.

      • Tom Dinchuk

        I had a Super Glide prior to my Super glide Sport (which by the way is a totally different bike). Neither of them had the problems yours did. You might have just gotten a bad one( It happens).

  • michael jackson

    Well long time ago Harley built a quialty motorcycle, but.when they decided that dollars were more important then being set off from other bikes, but with introduction of efi and fly by wire controls, the old school days were numbered, its like they want a new following of riders that have to totally dependint on dealership for maintance because there made biked require more special tools and.it not owner friendly anymore. Not to many people will know what a bone rattill ing v twin is about pulling away with the SS Carb giving life to the bike

    • Fez

      I have worked as a motorcycle mechanic and can tell you that HD builds an excellent machine as do ALL the manufactures ! Do you think they’d be in business if they didn’t ! If you don’t like a riding style [ cruiser or touring] don’t buy that kind of bike and expect to do 9’s in the quarter !

  • Steve

    There have been improved aftermarket suspension pieces available for Harleys for years. I put Progressive shocks and fork springs on my Sportster 20 years ago and it made a huge difference. What’s the news here?

    • Richard Gozinya

      Yeah, even Ohlins has stuff for Harleys. But then, with their popularity, one would have to be a fool not to make parts for HDs.

  • Gary Latessa

    A grand for the same 2.1 inches of travel. I think not. The aftermarket has much better choices.

  • HDlover

    HD aftermarket and customization is neverending, HD riders set their bikes up for themselves that is what makes HD so unique, you can take ten of the same bikes from the factory and each owner will make changes and the bikes will not look anything like they did from the factory and each will be different from the other; don;t dis HD, open your eyes when your out riding and see all of the HD’s on the road, can’t argue with success…

  • Fez

    I installed the Progressive Suspension Mono tube kit for Dyna’s in my ’10 FXDC. It has adjustable preload spring in left tube and nitrogen charged shock in right . I have about a 100 miles on it and couldn’t be happier ! So happy I ordered PS’s 444 series rear shocks ! Some guys like redheads some blondes some brunettes , do you need to belittle redheads if you like brunettes ? I like ’em all !

  • Kevin Butler

    Who makes this shock for Harley ?