Lowering Links: Be Careful!

Rod Morris, proprietor of Multisurface Motorcycle Products on this website, recently told me about a customer who had lowered his KLR650 with three inch lowering links, and could not understand why the rear tire was hitting the inner fender. Maybe it’s because there is far less than three inches of clearance built into the rear wheel/fender well juncture at full bump. You must first carefully measure how much clearance is built in to both ends of the bike by the factory. If you push the front forks up and lower the rear more than the factory clearance allows you are entering dangerous territory.

Here at Top Gun we are astounded how much liability some companies are willing to accept with their dangerous products, especially items such as raising and lowering links, which at a minimum can change handling, and in a worst case scenario can cause dangerous interference between chassis and wheel components. The fact is, a motorcycle can be lowered safely, but one may find it necessary to modify suspension components and give up wheel travel in the process.

In our 60’s and 70’s Pauline and I rode tandem off-road on KL650A’s (1989 through 2005). Our A7 (1993) has 125,000 miles on the odometer and is now being converted to a pavement-only bike. The 750 pounds gross weight finally got to us in the sand and shale washes, rocky uphills, and water crossings. Our temporary solution is to move to a lighter DR650SE for two-up multisurface riding, and to convert the KLR to our pavement sports-tourer.

To lower the KLR for street I will use a thinner seat and one inch lowering links as well as having “Stig” at Petterson Pro Suspension shorten the overall length and stroke on our Ohlins rear shock. I will shorten the overall fork length and stroke with some spacers machined by MacDonald Products (San Marcos, CA). I’ll also use a smaller diameter 19 inch front wheel to complete the job. The finished KL-A will have stock rake and trail, lower center of gravity, and approximately six inches of rear wheel travel. The only down side will be the loss of some lean angle clearance, which can be dealt with by moving the foot pegs if necessary.

I told Rod Morris that his suspension guy, Ed Runnels, could shorten the overall length and stroke of the stock suspension components, but that would require shipping and having the bike down for a short time. Even though Rod is super-fast on turnaround time, he doesn’t believe many people would avail themselves of the service.

The main point I’m trying to get across is this: lowering a motorcycle can be done safely, but if not done correctly, you can put yourself in grave danger! Unfortunately, some lowering link manufacturers either don’t know how to safely lower a motorcycle or don’t care about doing it properly.