by Elden Carl
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Springs and Things
The two best vendor reps I ever dealt with were Mike Henderson formerly of Progressive
Suspension (I've lost track of him) and Garry Gallagher formerly of Metzeler Tires and
now our go to guy at EBC brakes.
Back in the 80's Garry taught me almost everything I now know about motorcycle wheels
which to this day helps me make good decisions relating to which tire goes on which rim
and how handling will be affected. If it hadn't been for Garry, I may never have known,
among other things, that the front 1.60 rim found on KLR650's is, according to world
standards, too narrow to be used for a 90/90 tire (the DR650 has a 1.85 rim for their
90/90 X 21 front tire which is not perfect, but acceptable). Thank you Mr. "G" for helping
to make the second half of my 55 year motorcycling experience safer and much more fun
than it would have been.
Let me get back to Mike Henderson, for many years the chief motorcycle R&D spring guy
for Progressive Suspension. Way back in 1990 when I first took my 1989 KLR650-A3 to
Baja I instantly realized it was not only poorly dampened but woefully undersprung. The
first thing I did was to call Mike about springs for both ends. Mike, who was always
completely honest with his customers (there's a switch), told me the only rear spring
available that fit the rear KLR shock came from a car and was far too heavy for a 200
pounder and that the front springs didn't fit well and were also too heavy a spring rate for
a little 200lb guy like me.
I solved the rear spring problem later after Stig Pettersson built my one-off beautifully
dampened Ohlins rear shock in 1992. Experimentation led me from the wimpy 5.05 KG
stock spring to 6.6 kg, now standard for guys my size. I assured Mike that Progressive
would sell a "zillion" sets of front KLR fork springs if they made them fit with a proper
progressive spring rate for the KLR650 and that I would be his first customer. Well, Mike
Henderson did a great R&D job and "Progressive" has sold hundreds of sets of 1151's
I have had progressive #1151's in both of my KLR-A models since their introduction, but
ironically after all these years I'm going to return to stock with a slight bit of extra preload
on our dirt bike (along with a slight change in fork fluid level and viscosity). The result
will be a softer ride over the rough stuff. The 1151's will stay in the street forks. The
Progressive springs are needed to counter act the heavier braking provided be the
oversize EBC disc and DR650 master cylinder.
As to rear stock shock spring for the KLR650 (all models); Top Gun has the best quality,
best priced spring available in three spring rates starting at 6.6kg. I'm particularly proud
of my part in developing both the springs and the "Chain Master" upper chain control
The former keeps your butt from dragging (yes, more travel and proper rake & trail) and
the latter protects your low hanging air box while giving you maximum chain life (15mm
less chain slop on the up side). Both are necessary items for serious riders and both are
available on this website at MMP.