Motorcycle Suspension Parts Buying Guide

Chris Waldron Chris Waldron

A properly-working motorcycle suspension can give cycle owners a smoother ride, especially on rougher roads. When riding, there is a difference between the different motorcycle types and the way their suspensions respond.

Motorcycle Suspension Parts Buying Guide

Sport bikes must make quick turns, but riders don't need to worry as much about long straight runs; whereas a cruiser or touring bike needs stability while driving down long straightaways, but making sharp turns is more difficult.

Always know the type of shocks and springs needed for a particular bike type before replacing them. Motorcycle owners should only install shocks that are meant for their particular model. It is also important to know the exact type of suspension system the bike has on both the front and back, which helps determine the number of shocks that owners need to purchase. The following sections detail the different suspension types for both the front and back end of a motorcycle.

How a Motorcycle Suspension Works

A motorcycle suspension both contributes to the bike's braking and handling, as well as provides a safe and comfortable ride. The suspension does this by isolating the driver and any passengers from any street noise generated by bumps on the road. The shock absorbers are typically mounted on the fork tubes for the front suspension and a swingarm for the rear suspension. The rear suspension has one or two shocks depending on the type.

The springs of a motorcycle suspension system are always under compression, even when they are extended fully. The springs and the forks work together to keep the motorcycle from topping or bottoming out too badly. The front forks of the motorcycle have the ability to dampen the shock from the road through air pressure within the cylinders that comprise the forks. On some bikes, this air pressure can be adjusted through the use of air valves, allowing motorcycle owners to adjust the ability of their bike to resist shocks from the road.

Types of Suspension Systems

When buying motorcycle shocks and other motorcycle suspension parts, bike owners should keep in mind the type of suspension they need and whether it will go on the front or the rear of the bike. This is in addition to the various front and rear suspension types a particular bike might use, such as a twin-shock or monoshock rear suspension. The following sections explain how motorcycle owners can determine what type of suspension they have on their bike and the products they need for replacing them.

Suspension Front End

The motorcycle front suspension is where a big amount of the shock from the road, especially when breaking or going into turns, is focused. These forces cause the most issues when trying to balance the control of a motorcycle with its stability on the road. This force, also called dive, has led to the development of suspension systems that are separate from the forks. This allows motorcycles to be driven without worry that dive might cause a rider to lose control. The table below details the most common types of front suspensions used today, including telescopic fork, front telelever, and front duolever.

Suspension Type


Telescopic Fork Suspension

Uses fork tubes to house the suspension components, including the coil and damper, within the tubes; some bike types actually have the springs exposed, such as on an off-road bike

Front Telelever Suspension

Moves the shock from the forks and replaces them with separate single shock; the shock is connected to the frame via a wishbone connected to the frame of the bike

Front Duolever Suspension

Attached via a double wishbone configuration; this double linkage allows the steering to be completely independent of the suspension system

Telescopic fork suspensions are the most common front suspension type. With the front forks constantly changing according to the bumps and holes on the road, the wheelbase constantly shortens and extends. This is one of the main problems with this type of suspension, as a shorter wheelbase can mean less control, especially when driving into a tight turn.

Suspension Back End

The motorcycle rear suspension helps alleviate the forces created when accelerating or braking. There are many types of suspensions in use, but most vary depending on their theme. The table below details the different motorcycle suspension types: the twin-shock suspension and the monoshock suspension.

Suspension Type





A basic B-rear suspension design; this type of suspension is not as effective the more weight that is present on a bike's frame



Developed from the twin-shock suspension detailed above, with one shock being removed and mounted to the swingarm in the center



A further development of the monoshock suspension detailed above, except the shock is more vertical and mounted to the swingarm via an "H"-shaped arm



The most recent evolution of the monoshock design; stronger and lighter materials, and the single-sided design makes it possible to quickly replace a wheel while on the track

There have been other developments in the motorcycle suspension field, mainly implemented by BMW, but the above are the most common types of rear suspensions.

Steering Dampers

To prevent "tankslapping," motorcycle designers came up with a system called a steering damper. Mainly used for racing bikes, these systems go a long way toward preventing loss of control of a bike. The following table covers both types of steering dampers: linear and rotary.

Steering Damper Type


Linear Damper

A long cylinder with a clamp, a hydraulic cylinder, and another cl attached to the front forks of the bike, it helps reduce shaking of the steering column, especially in a tankslapper situation

Rotary Damper

Rotary dampers sit atop the head bearing; through a hydraulic or rubber bearing system dampens any vibration in the front forks

While used on sport or racing bikes, a steering damper can be used on virtually any bike that exhibits control problems.

Motorcycle Suspension Terms

When shopping for shocks and springs, bike owners need to keep in mind certain terms to help them in their buying decision. The following table contains useful motorcycle suspension terms and their definitions.




Holds the oil and nitrogen mixture that helps dampen the energy created from the shock of the road through the use of a piston

Bleed System

A bleed system that helps prevent the hydraulic cylinder from locking up


How the kinetic energy generated from the road surface is converted into heat and dispensed through the shocks; hence, shock absorbers


How much the springs can compress, or travel downwards, before bottoming out


The rate at which the springs move upward toward full extension before topping out

Suspension Travel

The distance, in millimeters, moved up or down by the suspension

Fork Height

The height of the fork above the top yoke

Ride Height

The measurement between the tailpiece and the rear axle


The amount of tension that the springs hold


The degree of movement of the suspension once the weight of the bike is lifted off it

Loaded Sag

With the riders sitting on the bike, the amount of movement with the suspension

Steering Head Angle

The angle of the forks compared to a 90-degree angle, or from vertical

Linear Fork Springs

These springs have the same spring rate over the entire range of the coil

Progressive Fork Springs

These springs have a soft spring rate in the beginning, but end up with a hard spring rate at the bottom end to help prevent bottoming out

Being knowledgeable about suspension terms helps make a shopper more informed when buying automotive parts. Motorcycle owners should keep the above terms in mind when buying motorcycle suspension parts specifically.


A properly working suspension system makes a ride on a motorcycle smoother and safer. Stability is also important while traveling the roadways, whether to and from work or just cruising around on the weekend. Riders depend on their bikes to perform smoothly and safely while making quick turns or even driving down a straightaway. Keeping control of a bike at all times and stopping safely represent two critical areas for motorcycle riders, and properly working shocks make the roads safer, both for motorcycle riders and those around them.

Motorcycle owners should keep their suspensions in top working order and replace worn or damaged shocks and springs immediately. All of the systems on a motorcycle work together to provide a safe riding experience. Whether that is the tires, brakes, engine, or suspension, all of these systems must work in unison to provide the best riding experience possible.