Motorcycle suspensions are designed to keep the bike stable and handle well at all speeds and under all conditions. When you lower the suspension, you change how the bike handles. While there are pros and cons to lowering motorcycle suspension, it is ultimately up to the rider to decide if the handling benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Before we begin, know that lowering motorcycle suspension will lower the center of gravity. The more you lower your suspension, the lower your bike’s center of gravity becomes. A low center of gravity is good because it helps to reduce lean angles during cornering.
Pros and cons of lowering a motorcycle
There are several benefits for lowering motorcycle suspensions:
- Stability at high speeds
- Reduced risk/sensation of “head shake” due to road conditions or braking aggressively on non-level ground
- Keeps front tire flat on the ground during cornering (reduces “fading”)
Now let’s take a look at the problems with lowering your bike’s suspension:
- A certain amount of lean angle is needed to clear obstacles (le, rocks, curbs) while off-road. If you lower your bike’s suspension, it will be far more difficult to clear obstacles while riding off-road because the front tire will not be able to lean as much (if at all).
- Since motorcycles steer by leaning into turns, the reduced cornering clearance means that turning becomes more difficult. This is especially true when riding off-road where objects are often encountered while leaning.
How does lowering motorcycle suspension affect handling?
As we stated earlier, the more you decrease the height of your suspension, the less lean angle your tires have when steering through a turn. The following chart illustrates what happens when you lower different parts of your suspensions:
when you lower your bike’s front suspension (lowering clip), the front tire has a less lean angle. This is good because it reduces “fading” during braking. However, since motorcycles steer by leaning into turns, the reduced cornering clearance means that turning becomes more difficult. When you lower your rear suspension (the lowering block), the rear tire has a less lean angle which also makes turning more difficult. While this may be great on a supermoto, it will not help much if you plan to take your bike off-road occasionally or aggressively lean into corners at high speeds.
How does lowering motorcycle suspension affect the speed/stability of your bike?
Lowering motorcycle suspensions also affects how quickly your bike can change directions. Here are some comparisons showing how much less lean angle there is at certain amounts of lowering:
When you lower your front or rear suspensions by 2 inches, you reduce the amount of lean angle between 20 degrees and 30 degrees. When you lower it by 4 inches, you reduce the amount of lean and around 40 to 45 degrees (almost half!). This means that when you make big changes in direction (e.g., hitting potholes while cornering or riding off-road), your bike’s handling will be impaired because it takes longer to take a sharper turn without scraping parts on the ground.
In order to see how much of a difference it makes, try riding your bike and turning the handlebars from side to side. This will simulate what you will experience on a normal ride where you take turns at various speeds. The more you lower your suspensions, the greater the effect of this phenomenon becomes.
Is it bad to lower a motorcycle?
Lowering your motorcycle too much without changing any other components can actually be bad for your bike. For example, imagine riding off-road with a very little lean angle to clear obstacles during turning. If you brush the top of the tire against an obstacle (e.g., rocks) it can potentially cause damage (especially if you are at high speeds).
Is there a way to adjust motorcycle suspensions so you can lower them without making handling worse?
Yes. If you want to lower your suspensions without sacrificing too much comfort or speed, use lowering links (instead of lowering blocks or lowering clips). The more you decrease the height of your suspension, the more likely it is that your bike will scrape parts on the ground. Using
lowering links is a good way to partially lower your suspensions since they allow you to do it gradually. They also absorb some of the impacts in case parts start scraping against the ground.
Does lowering a motorcycle affect the trail?
No. Trail is the distance between where the front tire contacts the ground and where that point projects to on a line parallel to the steering axis. As you lower your motorcycle, this distance does not change.
This means that:
- A) For a given steering angle, there is always a corresponding lean angle and
- B) For a given lean angle, there is always a corresponding steering angle.
Does lowering a motorcycle improve handling?
Yes. Lowering a motorcycle makes it easier to turn because you have less weight on the front wheel and more on the back wheel which means that it takes less effort to balance your bike when you lean into turns.
Lowering motorcycle suspensions has both pros and cons. Lowering your suspension improves handling by making it easier to turn but it also makes taking sharp turns more difficult because there will be less lean angle available. If you want to lower your suspensions without sacrificing comfort or speed, use lowering links instead of blocks or clips if possible (the latter can damage your bike). If you do get a lowering kit, remember that it’s not just about how low you go – the main thing is that you adjust all other components accordingly so that you don’t lose too much stability at high speeds or control when turning.
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