A bit of background is in order. I have a 2003 BMW R1150RT with just at 40,000 miles on the bike. Most of those miles (>65%) have been from long trips around the beautiful states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah (we're blessed to live in an area of the country with such fine roads and scenery, (albeit the weather could be more cooperative at times!). I would classify myself as more a 'touring sport' rider versus a 'sport touring' (i.e. more emphasis on the touring side). A heavy, long-wheel based bike with Metzler ME880's on our mountain roads (with sand still in some of the turns) I'm certain I wasn't going to push the Ohlin's capabilities as if I were riding a short-wheel based 600cc sport bike with track tires at Miller Motor Sport Park.
I received the Ohlin's from Dan Kyle racing after a short but important interview about what bike, riding style, weight, etc. This is an important part of moving to new after market shocks (no matter what kind you get). It provides a way to get the proper springs assembled for your bike and riding style. From a maintenance perspective, I had an opportune time to install the new 'suspenders'. First the front Ohlin's shock...
With a little help from a friend installation was a snap. He's got Works shocks on his RT and has this procedure down to a simple art. He helped do some measurements as well.
And after arrival of the rear suspension... (no picture of it installed...not really much more involved there either).
After install, I dropped in to a local shop that advertised they did suspension set-ups. For those of you in the Denver area, it's SuperTune Motorsports and information can be found here..
Mike at Supertune took the time to explain the importance of a proper setup and proceeded to measure sag and ride height. The first thing he noted was the imbalance between front and rear of the bike (i.e. back was tending to bounce a bit after the front). After some adjustments to the ride height on the front and back, next was rebound damping. Based on my riding style he dialed in an extra click on the front and rear. Mike recorded the base settings, and the new ones, documented these and included them in a very nice write up he put together with very detailed information on trouble-shooting suspension problems. Well worth the money.
So...on to the ride tale. Spring time in our Rockies can be fickle, what with nice 70deg days followed by snow. Well the twisty roads were callin' and I now had about 1000 miles on the bike with the new suspenders so it was time to give them MY proper workout (remember, these are public roads, and this was NOT to be a pseudo track day!). I headed south to familiar territory... South Park. Along the way (US285)
And a spot I've passed MANY times but never bothered to photograph. This is Camp Santa Maria with a statue on the mountain. It's run by the YMCA (I'm pretty sure, since there is a sign out front indicating as much, but beyond driving by, I've never stopped in).
My measure of summer in our Rockies is when Mother Nature tells the aspen it's ok to start sprouting leaves. As you can see in this picture, the trees at 10,000ft. are still bare...It's still winter up here.
An obligatory shot at the top of Kenosha Pass...I'm still in awe every time I start the ride down into Jefferson.
I really hadn't approached the area where I wanted to ring out the new Ohlins yet, but I'm getting close. I head further south to Fairplay and the wind is blowing pretty good from the west. With temps in the 40's, I've got the heated jacket on low. I streak east across US24 towards Colorado Springs. At the top of Wilkerson Pass, the road below is US24 (where I had just ridden from). In the background are visible Mt. Sherman, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Silverheels to name a few.
A few miles further east and I spot Pikes Peak towering above everything else in the background. I'm beginning to drop in elevation, so the temps are starting to rise the the wind dropping.
And then I spot this in the little town of Lake George..."Pure Gas Kerosene Shakes". What the ???
Well, I wonder if they include 'non-flammable drinking straws'. I should have stopped in to order a large one, but...my goal is still to find the twist roads to test these Ohlins.
At Woodland Park I head back northwest towards Deckers. Along the way I stop and snap this photo. Folks, please, oh please be careful with fire in our Mountains. The damage from this blaze consumed 1000's of acres.
I'm in my stride on this road. Finally, a long stretch of very lightly traveled road so I can concentrate on the ride and attempt to understand the differences in this suspension versus the worn out stock Showa suspenders of old. Here the temps are very comfortable.
And the views spectacular...'nuf said.
But the reason I'm on this road is the stretches of twisty asphalt that lay ahead. As you can see here, I about had this place to myself.
So... The Ohlins verdict. The bike felt very balanced and I noticed far less undulations as I rode over worn portions of the asphalt. Turn-in felt a bit quicker (a bit more oversteer) than I had noticed before. I'm not sure if there isn't a bit more tweeking that has to be done on the ride height. As for rebound, what an improvement! The bike felt far more settled without the oscillations apparent after riding over bumps in the road. It does feel a bit more harsh, however. I'm certain this is in part due to the stiffer springs, but I'll also play around a bit more with the rear pre-load adjustment on another run on this road next week. As for rebound adjustment, it 'feels' right at the moment, but I'm going to read Mike's (at Supertune) writeup again, and toy around with those adjustments to feel the differences.
I didn't race down this road as my goal was to assess the Ohlin's for improvement. As a final thought, I'd sum it up this way: The addition of good suspension components inspires more confidence in my ability to sense how the bike is reacting to my input and external forces on the bike itself. I'm not riding any faster, but I felt my 'driving' input had better feedback. This is still a big touring bike, but with these Ohlins the bike is more balanced on front and rear springs, and now has damping adjustments that control the energy transfer for differing conditions. I feel more in touch with predictable handling characteristics, and I now know better how the bike responds at corner entry (off throttle & brakes), max lean and loading (apex), and corner exit (on throttle). Money well spent.
I finished off my ride at a leisurely pace, and snapped a few more spring photos along the way. At this part of the South Platte river, you can see the water has begun to rise from the spring run-off that has started.
Another beautiful day in my backyard. I'm lucky to have such a fantastic riding environment just a gallon of gas away. Folks if you get up this direction, I'd be happy to take you on a tour. I'd love to share the area with you. And next week, I'm taking my new rod and reel with me to test it as well. Here fishy...fishy...
Until the next time...
So, if you're thinking those old Showa shocks feel a bit sloppy, or you weren't really as comfortable throttling up out of the last turn, borrow someone else's bike with a good set of Ohlin's on them and experience the difference...