Wheel alignment

Monday 8 October 2018

In search of more traction

In March, I made a post about attending a suspension clinic by internationally-renowned guru Dave Moss.  It involved riding about 150 km and tweaking the suspension every time we stopped.  The improvement was a significant step change but Dave remarked at the time that there's only so much you can do with a Suzuki OEM rear shock.  Having fitted high end units to my previous two bikes, I was aware that despite the improvement, there was more to come.

The Suzuki has now covered getting on for 45,000 km and the decline in compression and rebound damping was becoming noticeable, even to this old codger.  Keeping contact with the road in even moderately adverse conditions is a safety issue as well as a performance one.  Time to look at a replacement, especially with a 71st birthday coming up in mid October.  That's Jennie's present to me solved, haha!

On the Blackbird, I fitted a US-made Penske shock and new fork internals.  On the Street Triple, it  was a UK-made Nitron shock.  The NZ supplier was KSS in New Plymouth who have a second to none reputation for service so it was a no-brainer to go back to them.  A couple of emails back and forth to establish my type of riding, loaded bike weight and so on and an order was placed for another Nitron, custom made to my requirements.  I didn't need to go for a separate remote as my riding loads and conditions don't vary by much.

This beauty turned up a few days ago:

Yumm.... bike porn

I have an ABBA stand (link HERE ) which makes working on the bike a piece of cake.  A fellow IAM member and GSX-S owner (thanks Blair!) gave me some time-saving tips and the old shock was removed, the new one bolted in and sag measurements taken in under 2 hours.  The only minor annoyance was having a retaining shim drop out of the rear brake caliper during disassembly and not seeing where it came from!  However, it became obvious during reassembly so not too much damage to the ego.

Goes nicely with the matte grey of the bike

Seriously nice engineering

Static and loaded sag came nicely within tolerance so no preload adjustment required.  Next step was to check compression and rebound on the road.  A quick trip over the Coromandel Range was just the job as I know every hollow, bump and truck ripple on that road. 

Western side of the Coromandel Range- riding heaven!

Even though I was expecting a better performance from the new shock compared with the OEM one, it still came as a surprise as to just how good it was.  The degeneration of old suspension and tyres come to that is imperceptible so that just adds to the surprise.  Leaned over whilst riding over truck ripples on corners was almost like they weren't there.  In adverse conditions such as wet roads, that's got to be a major safety improvement by maintaining good road contact.  In addition to better handling, an increase in tyre life can be expected based on past experience.  Less fatigue on a long haul too.

If there is any downside, it's drawn my attention to the front forks.  The standard forks aren't too bad, especially after Dave Moss set them up.  However, some RaceTech internals would be a further nice improvement if I decide to keep the bike long term.  Just coming up for 3 years of ownership.  The low throttle fuelling was so bad from new that it nearly got sold in the first 3 months of ownership.  However, Suzuki NZ came to the party by fitting a different ECM at their cost and that solved the problem.  Since then, I've grown to really like the bike, but still don't have the emotional attachment that I had with the Street Triple.

Thanks KSS for your great service and a product which really delivers.  You might see me for some new fork internals in due course!

Parked up at the Whangapoua Harbour boat ramp on the test ride

Finally, on a loosely connected note, the Michelin Road 5's are working out just fine in both dry and wet conditions.  In the photo below, the band of soft compound rubber out towards the edge of the tyre can be clearly seen,  Initially, the lack of tread towards the edge worried me with respect to how effective they would be when leaned over in wet conditions.  I needn't have worried!  A few weeks ago, I was examining an IAM Trainee Observer (instructor) for his full test in near-biblical rainfall.  He's a quick rider, racing and road riding in all conditions and I was concerned about how the Road 5's would fare in those conditions.  As it happened, they stuck like glue - not an anxious moment even when "making progress".  Totally sold on their overall performance and I'll do a full review in due course.

Soft compound band of outer tyre can be clearly seen


  1. That Nitron is a thing of beauty Geoff! I concur re the gradual deterioration of suspension over time being imperceptible. At close to 90K kms the ZX14 must be in need of some TLC. A 100K 'birthday' perhaps!

  2. Hi Jules! Crikey mate, 90k on the original unit is remarkable! With Christmas closing in, perhaps a hint or two to Dorothy? :-) . Looking back at what I've written, I've probably understated just how much of an improvement the new shock has given. Cranked over on an uneven surface, it was like the bike was on rails.

  3. OEM suspension on Jap bikes is usually a place for the manufacturer to keep the cost down so the Nitron would be a massive leap! I really noticed how good my rebuilt and revalved suspension is on the R1 during the four day trip I did with Steve in June. It was like I had traction control through the twisty stuff and my arse/legs were still fine after a few thousand km in that short time. I think I need to get the BMW done now.

    1. Hi Dave! Yep, absolutely true. In combination with the Road 5 tyres, it feels like a new bike. I can either carry more corner speed through the bends or maintain the same rate with a lot less effort. Your choices of good aftermarket shock are pretty wide these days. Whilst Ohlins are regarded as the Gold Standard, there are several more that perform much the same at a significantly sharper price. Guess that Ohlins has been price gouging on their reputation for several years now.

  4. Hi Geoff
    That shock looks like a trick bit of kit mate. I've not heard of Nitron before. Where are they made?
    By the sounds of your test ride afterwards it sounds like your loving the new suspenders.
    The new R1 has 28K on it and I can feel the rear shock getting a little spongy already.

    1. Hi Steve,
      Nitron are made in the UK and have a great reputation. When I fitted one to the Street Triple, I got it from the UK but there's an NZ agent now. I'll probably have Nitron piston fitted to the forks in due course.

  5. Hmmm, just over 153,000 on my standard suspension and have been wondering if it's about time to do some work on it...

    Can't wait for the Road 5 GT's...the 4's are the cat's pajamas!

    1. Bloody hell Andrew.... I think you'd be amazed at the difference new suspension would bring to the Connie! Robert Taylor's team over at KSS are just a quick outing for you.

      The chap I mentioned following in the biblical rain was the owner of Passmasters Rider Training, Chris Smith. He's one quick boy and as an aside, also taught Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon to ride when he was in the UK! I was quite apprehensive about following him at pace in the wet but the Road 5's were fantastic. I think you'll be very happy when you get the GT's fitted. The high crown on them makes turn-in very rapid too.

  6. Hi Geoff

    I'm glad to see that you've used KSS again. I've just been to them with the Thruxton and had Ohlins fitted at the rear as well as some new fork springs installed. The bike's better, not massively different but you can feel the difference. They're a good bunch at KSS. I enjoy going there!

  7. Hi Lee! You probably didn't notice a lot of difference on the Thruxton as the OEM units are so new. Yep, they are good people and I enjoyed a bit of banter with Josh, their operations manager via email whilst we were sorting out what I needed. I had a rapid trip on the bike down the Thames coast yesterday. It felt like it was on rails over some of the rougher sections. A very worthwhile birthday present!


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