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Re: Ohlins, Wilbers and Works, Oh my!
- Subject: Re: Ohlins, Wilbers and Works, Oh my!
- From: Ben Barkow <dr.ben@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 10:38:06 -0500
> There are lemons among cars and bikes. I consider myself lucky, after all the
> problems I read on this list. I don't think that BMW is the best bike, not at
> all, but it serves me good. When I change the preload on the shock I do feel a
> difference. By turning the dampening screw, I do feel a difference.
Bob Silas is quite right in asking the List to separate fact from fiction.
And in as much as little beyond but pious pleading has shown up so far,
here's my own pious pleading. In my case, I've read-up on the subject some
and have rebuilt my Koni's first-hand and have replaced shocks several
First, about that 4-hour curve. As any northerner can tell you, car shocks
are very much influenced by temperature. I can't understand why in this age
of constant viscosity oils (AKA synthetic) even a cheap bike shock should
have much difference with even bikerly-extreme changes in temperature. I
sure know this: human senses and human judgment sure change in the course of
a 4-hour scoot.
For cars, when it is real cold, it takes maybe two miles to warm up the
shocks (and car shocks are one of the few components on cars which need any
kind of warm-up to avoid accelerated self-destruction). The process is
somewhat self-regulating in that cold/thick oil heats faster and vice versa.
Shocks really work hard - I love watching my front wheel bounce around when
the low sun casts a shadow. But inside the shock is nothing but a couple of
high-class washer-shaped springs, not stuff that wears. In fact, in a
rebuild, these are not likely to be touched (I mean that literally, since
the rebuilder might never get them back together in the same sequence). The
rubber parts are seals and don't have a performance role except to keep the
oil on the inside. Even dirty oil, in so far as the volume is still
adequate, has no influence on performance. It should be obvious to the
serious biker when oil is coming out. Over a long term, oil will come out
I will say this, there is no mod however ineffective for which there's
nobody who will swear it was significant. And I am as delusional about my
mods as the next person. As far as I know (not all too much), if the oil
volume is adequate, the rebuild should have no effect on performance unless
the shocks have maybe 70,000 miles (more for the short-stroke Oilhead
But since Styling became King at BMW (Kent are you there?), exposed rods and
fork stanchions are the norm. Pretty insane to expose these sliding things
to dirt but gaiters look quaint. The dirt causes wear and the dirt gets into
the gizmo and the oil gets out. For telescopic forks (but apparently not
Telelevers, says The Factory) wise folks change their fork oil every year or
even sooner... and it is dirty!
Shocks are very sophisticated devices although I don't think there are many
true secrets about how to design a good one, given the incentives and a
willingness to use boxes and tanks outside the tight confines of the shock
itself. For sure, good suspension is wonderful.
Which brings me to another fallacy of self-delusion. The springs do the
springing (that's the MAIN job) and the shocks do the damping. They must be
attuned to one another and to the rider and ride purposes. Often a new shock
really is a new spring or new relationship, not a miraculous Swedish thing.
In other words, some folks might find the Works more to their liking and
some less. For sure, in Olden Tymes, people loved the stiffly-sprung and
heavily damped BMW Koni's - out of the mistaken idea that stiffness equals
Ben Barkow, Toronto... 39 seasons on Beemers, 44 as a biker,
1961 R69s/rod, 1967-1999... really sup'ed up and fast
1984 R80RT/rod, 1998- 5 extra peak ponies in a wider flatter power band,
much modified 2-into-1 exhaust, CR 9.5, Keihin PJ 34mm oval carbs,
Uni filter, dual-rate springs with cartridge emulators,
BT45/S11, Saeng fairing
1999 R1100S, 2004- Leo Vince exh, JetHot coatings