Regular readers may recall that one of the first things I changed-out on the Road King was the rear “sport shocks” for a set of Bitubo separated WME’s. Reports from CVO owners who used the Bitubos were consistently good, but that was also true of the Progressive 440 HDs that I first fitted to our Wide Glide.
Well, apparently I didn’t learn my lesson well enough on the Wide Glide. Like the Progressives on the Wide Glide, the Bitubos were better than the stock H-D Sport shocks, but nowhere near to where I thought they should be. I made some adjustments to the spring pre-load and rebound adjustment, but there just wasn’t a sweet spot between being too harsh or simply bottoming out. In fact, every ride would start with a jolt as we’d leave the driveway, and of late Debbie started to point that out to me. The Progressives had the same characteristics and I eventually went back to my long-time, favorite shocks – Öhlins – when I discovered that Howard Messner of Motorcycle Metal in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, was tuning Öhlins shocks for Harley’s.
Talk about a breath of fresh air! The minute they were on the Wide Glide with the Öhlins it was transformed from a wanna-be hardtail into a motorcycle with a modern suspension that actually worked, i.e, it suspended the motorcycle chassis and riders to ensure the rear wheel stayed in solid contact with the ground while isolating the riders from road shock and vibration. What a concept! Like I said, the Bitubo’s never achieved that level of performance, but then again I really never took them back to Traxxion to let them have a shot at getting them dialed-in a bit better. It was always something I meant to do, but I think in the back of my mind I knew it would just be a matter of time before I did exactly what I should have done in the first place: gone with the Öhlins.
The tipping point on the Road King’s shocks was reached last week when Miss Debbie joined me for a nostalgic ride on the Wide Glide when the potential sale fell through. Simply leaving the driveway provided all the motivation I needed to find an Öhlins solution: it was sublime. Really, I thought the rear tire had to be nearly flat as there was absolutely zero “shock” when we hit the quasi curb exiting the driveway and Debbie was quick to say: that’s what I want on the Road King!
With that in mind, on Monday I sent off an Email to Howard to see if he’d be able to rework the Öhlins he tuned for the Wide Glide so they’d be suitable for the Road King, or if we’d simply need to start from scratch. I’d already decided that most of the potential buyers for the Wide Glide probably won’t appreciate the value that the Öhlins represented so I might as well take them off and re-use them on the Road King if at all possible. I may slap the Bitubos on the Wide Glide as they’ll still be a vast improvement over the stock shocks and will definitely sex-up the bike with their beautiful chrome springs. But I digress.
Howard replied later in the day and confirmed he’d be able to rework the shocks. Moreover, since we were both headed to Daytona (or, at least that was the plan up and until Monday) he’d be able to work the shocks over at his vendor set-up near Daytona Int’l Speedway while we waited or visited with other local vendors.
I pulled the Öhlins off the Wide Glide Monday night and re-installed the stock shocks and hardware: it’s amazing how light the Öhlins are vs. the stock shocks and how good those black springs looked. I’d thought about cranking up the preload and mounting them on the Road King for the trip down, but decided it’s be easier to leave them loose so I can drop them off with Howard if he’s slammed when we arrive. No sense in getting the bike tied up in a long queue if we don’t have to. The Bitubos will be “good enough” to get us back home if need be as well; Lord knows, we’ve put nearly 4,000 miles on them; another 450 highway miles won’t make much of a difference.
It goes without saying, I’m anxiously looking forward to giving Miss Debbie the comfortable ride that she deserves! She’s so good about sharing my love of cycling and motorcycling that I owe it to her to make sure she’s as comfortable as can be. Of course, once I have the rear suspension sorted out it won’t be long before I do something with the front forks. Hell, if Howard has a solution in the box down at Daytona we may just let him have at it!