Terms Do Matter

I’ve coined two phrases relating to motorcycles, neither of which I expected to catch on. The first term “multisurface motorcycling” was too technical for the casual motorcycle rider, but it defined the capability of any given two-wheeler intended to be used on paved surfaces and beyond. The more savvy and experienced “go anywhere” riders seemed to be comfortable with the term.

The other term I coined and wrote about years ago is “Suspension Triad.” This term refers to the three components of a motorcycle that greatly affect comfort and handling safety. They are the seat, the shock absorbers and the tires.

Let me explain by example. My highly modified DR650SE multisurface motorcycle is equipped with a Seat Concepts off-road seat which comes equipped with the best shock absorbing foam rubber I’ve ever had in a saddle. The rear shock absorber is a PPS/Ohlin’s custom unit built to my specs by Stig Pettersson. The rear wheel is equipped with a heavy duty moose tube inside a Pirelli MT-21 knobby (don’t forget the rim lock, balancing and slime, installed in that order). Off-road air pressure is set at 12 psi rear and 14 psi front. If Pauline is on board I will use 16 psi front and rear. I won’t go into detail about the front end, PPS suspension and my wheel set-up at this time. But basically the front wheel assembly consists of Metzeler 90/90/21 Unicross tire, an ultra-heavy duty Michelin off-road tube and a rim lock. In attempting to make my case concerning the importance of completely developing all three legs of the suspension triad, permit me to relate a personal experience.

I recently took my first 2 day 210 mile test ride since refining my suspension triad setup. There were 45 miles of off-road on this trip and I was astounded at the improved comfort I experienced. The firm but resilient Seat Concepts seat foam and the MT-21 tire with the Michelin ultra H/D tube containing 12 psi made all the difference while running over rough and rain damaged Baja dirt roads. Even though I’m 80 I can still stand on the pegs for long periods of time, but my suspension was so plush that I merely tensed my quads thereby unpacking the seat foam somewhat and transferring 60 or so pounds of body weight to the foot pegs.

Upon arriving at Hostel Sauzal near Ensenada I realized I had traveled a tick over 100 miles including 25 miles of rain damaged rocky roads with considerably less fatigue than I would have expected. After a  good night’s sleep and one of Maria’s great breakfasts at the hostel, I was set for the ride home, which despite another 20 miles of damaged dirt roads, was “almost” a piece of cake.

The point is all three legs of the suspension triad must work together and therefore must be set up carefully. As good as my DR’s dirt triad is, I could screw it up easily. For instance, I could put my old stock seat back on my bike, or put street air pressure (22 psi or more) in my tires, or ask Stig to over-dampen and over-spring my shocks. When you understand the term “suspension triad” and the concept behind it, you will be able to make better decisions setting up your motorcycle. We at Top Gun ride mostly Baja-ready multi-surface motorcycles which are always properly serviced with suspension triads that are “spot on!”