I ride a touring bike because I like to ride distance. Get out and go. See the country. My current mount, and one I'm planning to hold onto for awhile, is a Road Glide Ultra. I've logged about 18,000 in ten months on it. Work gets in the way sometimes...
I should preface all of this by saying that I am not a racer or a mechanic or an engineer. Don't even play one on TV. I'm just a rider, but I know what I like.
I put a few miles on it before I decided that she needed a better exhaust (and the rest of a stage 1). I came to the same conclusion about the windshield and handlebars, so I did my homework and replaced the OEM parts.
I had been thinking about upgrading the suspension components for some time now. I wanted to separate the front from the rear - for a couple of reasons. One, so I could lessen the financial sting, and two, so I could evaluate the difference that each made. Well... batting .500 would be pretty good, right?
I separated the parts acquisition, but the work was all done within a week. So much for self- control.
This thread will just be about the upgrade to the rear suspension - the Ohlins shocks to replace the OEM air shocks. I'll do this in two parts: the first after just logging 300 miles on them; the second part after a thousand or so miles.
I understand why the MoCo uses the air shock setup on the touring class. They are the least expensive way to provide a cushy ride, and a good many riders of these scoots are looking for just that. Nothing wrong with that, from either end of the equation.
I think they also use them because they have a wide latitude in 'capacity'. Many of these scoots are ridden two-up and with luggage. Have a look around and you'll likely notice a wide range in the weight being carried. No disrespect, just a fact.
I have experimented with the air pressure in my rig and discovered that there wasn't really much of a difference whether I ran 10 pounds or 40. But that's just my experience - yours may be different.
So, my research began.
Most of what is offered for baggers are replacement air suspensions. Not what I was looking for.
The MoCo now offers an upgraded rear shock themselves. It's an emulsified shock (the nitrogen and oil are in the same cylinder, the emulsion). What I didn't understand about this setup was in the product description:
The compression and rebound damping is split between the two shocks: compression on the right and rebound on the left. This design balances the load of each shock; stiff spring with rebound damping on the left and soft spring with compression damping on the right. This doesn't mean I think they're a bad design, just that I didn't understand it. No one could explain it to me in a way that made sense (to me, anyway).
I talked with other riders and did some online research. It didn't take very long until I discovered a common thread - a recommendation to talk to Howard Messner at Motorcycle Metal. I exchanged emails with Howard over a few weeks. He answered my questions without wrapping it in any sales pitch. I never felt like he was handing me any bullshit either.
But what impressed me more than his obvious knowledge of the subject or his enthusiasm was the manner in which he approached his business. He wasn't just taking my order. He wanted to know details about me and my riding style. Then he made a few recommendations. More discussion followed. He made himself available any time I wanted to continue the discussion.
I finally decided on an emulsified shock, his model #2~#2(B). They differ from the next step up (#3 series) in a couple of ways: the #3s have a piston in the cylinder separating the nitrogen and oil, as well as having adjustable rebound and damping. The #2 series just have adjustable preload. But, they are completely rebuildable when the time comes.
I'm sure the #3s are superior, but given my objectives I decided to go with the emulsified design.
I placed my order, paid my money, and in just a few days this was on my bench:
They arrived on a Friday, waiting for me after work. Although I had a PGR mission the next day I couldn't resist putting the Glide up on the jack and getting them installed.
Howard told me to read the instructions, and other documentation he sent, and to call him when I was ready to install them and he would assist me over the phone.
He's on the east coast and I'm out west, so I didn't expect him to stay on the phone for the install on a Friday night. I called to tell him the shocks had arrived and that I would call him on Saturday if I had any questions, after the install. Nope... he told me to remove the OEM shocks and call him back when I was ready to start with the Ohlins.
He also offered a great suggestion for storing the air shocks, should I ever want to re-use them. Get a 5-gallon bucket and lid at Home Depot or Lowe's. Stand the shocks up in the bucket and wedge something around them so they don't fall over and make an oil-spill mess - and render the shocks unusable. Once upright, remove the fitting that the air lines attach to and replace with a cap. Put the lid on and store out of harms way.
I called Howard back and he stayed on the phone while I installed both shocks, always right there to answer any question that came up. The right side went pretty quickly. The left was a little more challenging because it was necessary to adjust the jack so the upper mounting holes aligned. This required a few trips back and forth. Howard hung in there throughout.
After I got them on I took a quick photo and then out for a test ride:
Did I mention that I'm not a mechanic? I was pleased that nothing broke and the short ride was uneventful.
What I did notice was that they felt stiffer than the air shocks. Depending on how fast I exited down my driveway and onto the street, I would occasionally bottom out the air shocks. Not so now.
I read thru the process for adjusting the sag, but being alone in my garage that wasn't happening just yet. Put the tools away and clean up and pour a little Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey in a glass and call it a night.
The next day Howard called to see how it went. We talked about it and about adjusting the preload. He told me a little single-handed shortcut, but said that they would be pretty stiff yet. He recommended waiting until I put about 500 miles on them first. Then checking and readjusting, if necessary, at 1,000 miles.
My PGR mission was across the valley, mostly on the interstate. Not much in the way of twisty roads, but speeds of 80 (or so) on sometimes bumpy roads awaited me.
I logged a couple hundred miles, mostly noticing that the ride was firmer than before.
Since then I have only logged another 150 or so, but those on roads selected for my 'testing'. The ride is firmer. I feel that the scoot really feels tight in the turns, feeling well planted under the throttle. I think I'm gonna really like this upgrade!
I plan to get a couple buds together and adjust the preload this weekend. I'll report back after I've logged a few more miles on them and get them dialed in.