Motorcycle.com

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).

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.

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).

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?