Wear and tear is one reason for replacing parts, time along with miles will break things down eventually. Matching performance upgrades is another reason.
When you start to upgrade one aspect of your vehicle, in this case my 1996 Sportster you have to consider it’s affect on other components of your bike. I started with a stock 1996 XL and over the years have done certain things to better the performance of the bike. The first being headwork, the better the flow of the air/ fuel mixture into and out of the engine will make it run more proficient. With my bike running great the braking needs to work that much better. So, It was then time to upgrade the braking system on the bike, I opted for PM calipers and rotors. When I purchased the bike it was already equipped with a set of Progressive Suspension 418 series shocks. I honestly loved the way my bike handled and never thought twice about the suspension, until this last riding season. Out on a ride I noticed how uncomfortable I was, my back was getting jarred, my knees were feeling pressure and the bike was taking hits in the road pretty hard. After getting over the fact that I wasn’t the only one getting older I realized my bike is 14 years old now and more than likely due for some upgrades. Where the hell did the last 14 years go??? After trying to figure out where I have been and what I have done for the last 14 years I decided to focus on the suspension. This bike still has the stock fork springs and the 14 year old 418’s. I decided on the Progressive Suspension 430 series Shock, a high pressure gas mono tube shock, this paired with the progressive front fork springs is going to be a set up to make my bike handle the way it should; smooth!
I want my suspension performing at it best since a motorcycle’s suspension is critical to its handling, and components like forks and shocks will make all the difference in how your bike will respond on the road. Once I got my springs and shocks I put my bike up on the table lift and went to work. Changing out the rear suspension is probably the easiest job you can do, well at least on an exposed shock chassis like an XL or Dyna. First things first, you need a service manual for your model bike, this will have all your torque specs listed and fluid capacity’s for the front forks. If your not comfortable doing this type of work yourself, bring your bike to your trusted mechanic. I have a K&L table lift and that makes this type of work so simple, you don’t need a table lift to do this job, you can use a floor jack, since you will have to lift the rear wheel slightly off the ground. A table lift makes the job much easier; I’m able to work at standing height, and not have to be bent over, kneeling down etc. Once situated, I started with the rear, removed the top and bottom shock mount, cleaned the threads off on my bolts, added anti seize and used a multi purpose lubricant on the spacers supplied with the shocks and mounted the 430’s on the bike and torqued to spec. The Progressive’s come with an install sheet and give you all the information for setting the ride sag and spring pre-load adjustments. I took advantage of the shocks being off the bike and cleaned my rear wheel, it gave me plenty of room to reach the caliper mount bracket and the pulley. Next I moved up front. Since my bike is already up on the table lift I only needed to lift up the scissor jack under it to take the load off the front wheel. I drained the fork oil from the drain plug and I followed my service manual instructions for removing the fork springs, NOTE the fork cap nut is under extreme tension so wear eye protection and remove the fork cap slowly with caution. I removed the old springs and inserted the new Progressive springs along with the supplied spacer. My Service manual showed the fluid amount to place back into each fork leg. I used Spectro 20 weight fork oil as this was the recommended fork oil weight by Spectro for my model. Again I took advantage of the time and removed my front wheel so I could clean it thoroughly. The fork cap nut was then torqued to spec and I was ready to test the new suspension out.
On a perfect Fall night I took the sporty out for a ride and the second I pulled out off the curb I was smiling. The 430’s are so superior I could feel them catch the movement and carry it out so smooth. I did not “bottom out” once on any bump, or pot hole, it was a smooth ride that I was impressed with. The front end felt strong and did not “nose dive” when I came to stop with my front brake. The ride was perfect, October rust colors all around me, the smell of fresh earth and fall fires burning, the bike was running strong and riding smooth, only problem it didn’t last long enough. I’m waiting for another repeat of that night for another perfect fall ride with my perfectly “set up” bike!