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  #1  
Old 1st March 2015
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Default 2014 XL1200T: Suspension

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I was able to finally take delivery of my bike today, so this is my first real post.

The plan is to setup up the suspension and sort out any brake modifications before any serious riding, it is still winter after all. I have just about read through all the threads on suspensions. I hope my addition can add to body of knowledge.

It may take me a couple months (working only weekends) to get all the work done, so all comments and questions are requested. I have been riding for over 36 years but I'm an engineer, so what I write makes sense to me, but might not to you - tell me if that is the case and I will try to be clearer.

The Bike: I got the XL1200T. my first Harley Davidson, because of the EFI, ABS, but most importantly, the wheels. They come is sizes that match up well with modern radial tire selections vs the other 1200 models. I am confident once the suspension is sorted out, this will be a fun bike to ride as part of my current 7 bike stable.

APPROACH:
- I'll layout some basic Background info so you know the direction I'm trying to go with the modifications.
- Baseline the bike/suspension components
- Modifications, show sufficient details as I go along good enough that someone can use the posting to do similar modifications.

BACKGROUND:
There are a number of things to keep track of when modifying the suspension. To help guide me, I had been keeping track of specific specs on new bikes since 2010 (you have to do something with the magazines). I used this info to help me with a previous retro bike project on a 1984 Honda CB700SC. That project really turned out well and hope to duplicate that success on Mr. T.

Rake and Trail. This is the most basic guide to the modifications that will follow. As you can see in the posted pic, The 2014 T has a conservative rake (31.1 degrees) and long trail (5.7 "). These numbers are greatly influenced by rearward drop of the bike. It is clear I'm going to go with taller shocks in the rear and may adjust the front forks a tad.

I'll try to get more work done tomorrow to baseline the suspension so I'll know how to make the adjustments.



Jerry
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  #2  
Old 1st March 2015
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Welcome to the forum. Let the fun begin. Start by reading the "7 Pages of Suspension" in the Suspension Sticky Index Section.

I assume the T means the Touring model. Short suspension with a lot of extra weight. One shock has adjustable preload and the other doesn't. First question is how much do you weigh and do you plan on two up riding.

Next, forget out rake and trail. Unless you going to be adding extended forks or offset steering head bearings, the rake and trail limits are pretty well set within safe parameters. The primary exception is putting on longer shocks and not stiffening up the forks. I have no idea what fork spring rate the Touring model has, but it is too light to hold the front end up on other models with short forks.

Instead of rake and trial, look at chassis pitch. You have to get spring rates and rider sag set correctly in both forks and shocks before you can move the forks up or down in the triple clamps to get a good starting point for chassis pitch. For other rubber mounts, getting the frame rails under the engine level with the floor when rider is sitting on the bike is a good starting point. Somewhere in the "7 Pages" is a detailed explanation of the difference between stability in the corners and too quick a turn in, all based on chassis pitch. Too much forward chassis pitch results in too quick turn in, and increases risk of high speed wobble due to chassis instability.

Be careful on test rides after chassis adjustments. At slow speeds, give on hand grip a slight bump and see if there is any tendency to wobble. If so, return home and find out what the problem is. If not, add 5 mph and test again.

I am not sure what kind of tires the T model has, but it really does not matter because lack of lean angle in the corners will be the limiting factor long before the tires become the limiting factor. The only effective way to get adequate cornering clearance is to go to 13 1/2" shocks and full length forks. Even then, lack of lean angle is still the limiting factor in corners.

Read up on Ricor Intiminators and better springs for the forks, start there, then decide how much money you need to spend on shocks. Especially if you want to carry two up weight, read up on Road King air shocks, cheap, easily available on E bay, and a good mid-quality shock.

Read up on making sure an over tightened drive belt does not bind up rear suspension travel. Plan on getting a fork brace.

"We" figured out rubber mount suspension a long time ago. Yours is the first Touring model I have read about and I have not ridden one, so I am assuming it is similar to other short suspension models.

And, I am no engineer, just an old dirt biker.
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Former Ricor test rider for IAS Shocks, Intiminators and Vibranators. Works Dual Rate fork springs, fork brace, Avon Venom X tires, loosen drive belt, and set frame rails level to floor. Read the "7 Pages of Suspension" thread in the Suspension Sticky Index to learn how to fix your suspension.

Last edited by XLXR; 1st March 2015 at 09:05..
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  #3  
Old 1st March 2015
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Welcome aboard, Jerry. Looking forward to following your trials.

As XLXR said, it would be good to know what you're looking to achieve: mainly solo or two- up riding? Touring comfort or scratching tool? Or all of the above and more?
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I'd ride the bike quite a bit before even thinking of making any changes.

If you make lots of changes from the get go, how will you know if any of them (and which ones) were any improvement?
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Old 1st March 2015
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Welcome to the forum. Let the fun begin. Start by reading the "7 Pages of Suspension" in the Suspension Sticky Index Section.
Done; several times over. There is a lot of good advise in this thread.

I assume the T means the Touring model. Short suspension with a lot of extra weight. One shock has adjustable preload and the other doesn't. First question is how much do you weigh and do you plan on two up riding.
190 without riding gear, yes but only maybe 15% of the time. I will set the suspension (sag and upper end) so at minimum weight (me) it is on the low end and when 2 up, I can dial in the necessary preload to keep sag in acceptable limits and the upper end from bottoming out.

Next, forget out rake and trail. Unless you going to be adding extended forks or offset steering head bearings, the rake and trail limits are pretty well set within safe parameters. The primary exception is putting on longer shocks and not stiffening up the forks. I have no idea what fork spring rate the Touring model has, but it is too light to hold the front end up on other models with short forks.
Agree

Instead of rake and trial, look at chassis pitch. You have to get spring rates and rider sag set correctly in both forks and shocks before you can move the forks up or down in the triple clamps to get a good starting point for chassis pitch. For other rubber mounts, getting the frame rails under the engine level with the floor when rider is sitting on the bike is a good starting point. Somewhere in the "7 Pages" is a detailed explanation of the difference between stability in the corners and too quick a turn in, all based on chassis pitch. Too much forward chassis pitch results in too quick turn in, and increases risk of high speed wobble due to chassis instability.
Agree

Be careful on test rides after chassis adjustments. At slow speeds, give on hand grip a slight bump and see if there is any tendency to wobble. If so, return home and find out what the problem is. If not, add 5 mph and test again.
Agree

I am not sure what kind of tires the T model has, but it really does not matter because lack of lean angle in the corners will be the limiting factor long before the tires become the limiting factor. The only effective way to get adequate cornering clearance is to go to 13 1/2" shocks and full length forks. Even then, lack of lean angle is still the limiting factor in corners.
I am going with longer shocks in the rear S model shocks that are that length. Tires do make a big difference even if you are not making the bike into a knee dragging bike. This was the case on the CB700SC project when I swapped out the wheels so I could run modern radial tires. The before and after straight line riding combined with a proper set up suspension made the bike a joy to ride.

Read up on Ricor Intiminators and better springs for the forks, start there, then decide how much money you need to spend on shocks. Especially if you want to carry two up weight, read up on Road King air shocks, cheap, easily available on E bay, and a good mid-quality shock.
I have the S shocks already. They are disassembled and have started the baselining so I should have a good idea of what spring rates I will need. Will post more this afternoon.

Read up on making sure an over tightened drive belt does not bind up rear suspension travel. Plan on getting a fork brace.
Roger on the drive belt. I am not trying to make this a knee dragging bike, so the fork brace isn't in the plan (but can be added once test riding begins). The frame and 39mm stanchions tells you this isn't a real stiff platform. The brace will help in some parts of the riding envelope but I don't know how much I will be in those spots.

"We" figured out rubber mount suspension a long time ago. Yours is the first Touring model I have read about and I have not ridden one, so I am assuming it is similar to other short suspension models.
True enough, but we can always add more info and as you say, this is the first touring model that will be documented in a single thread.

And, I am no engineer, just an old dirt biker.
No harm or foul there. Its the experience that counts.

Welcome aboard, Jerry. Looking forward to following your trials.
Thanks Steelworker

As XLXR said, it would be good to know what you're looking to achieve: mainly solo or two- up riding? Touring comfort or scratching tool? Or all of the above and more?
85% solo, 15% 2 up. Around town and an occasional touring jaunt (solo) is the main mission of this ride. If my plan mods work out like my other bike changes, the XL may become my primary in town ride. I have 2 other bikes that would be my main long distant rides.

I'd ride the bike quite a bit before even thinking of making any changes.
Folkie, Good advise. I will ride the bike enough before I make any changes. I have ridden enough bikes to know what I like and what I don't. So, it shouldn't take too long to figure out each list.

If you make lots of changes from the get go, how will you know if any of them (and which ones) were any improvement?
That is the engineer part of me - document the baseline and the changes. The graph I posted shows where the factory rake and trail is set. As XLXR correctly points out, I will be altering the chassis pitch to effectively change the rake and trail. I will show the changes as I go along so all you follow this thread will know what was done for what affect.

Jerry
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  #6  
Old 1st March 2015
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spacetiger,

Welcome to the Forum. Thanks for collecting and posting the rake/trail data.

Every test I have read about the Superlow and the XL1200T has stated something like: "This would be the best handling Sportster if only it had more taller suspension for more lean angle."

I believe the Superlow and the XL1200T:
-- Are the only Sportsters that are factory-equipped with radials
-- Have the smallest diameter tires in the current Sportster line
-- Are the only Sportsters with a fork-tube rake that is not parallel to the steering-neck rake (fork-tube rake is is steeper than the steering-neck rake)

I am cautious when making changes that change rake and trail. (In 1967, I got up close and personal with a pea-gravel and tar road at 65 mph when my Honda 305 Scrambler developed a speed wobble.)

Harley seems to share my caution.

Per the 2015 Harley P&A catalog:
-- Comfort Flex shocks (54000040)
---- Recommended for most Rubber Mounts except:
------ 2011 and later XL883L, Superlow
------ XL1200T
------ Models equipped with the Profile Low Front Suspension kits

I believe the Comfort Flex shocks are 13.25", the same length as the S shocks. Folkie will correct me if I'm wrong .

I wonder if Harley is especially cautious about raising the rear of the Superlow chassis because of:
-- the small diameter radials?
-- the steep fork-tube rake angle?
-- the Superlow is the basis for the police-model Sportster?
-- all of the above?

I look forward to following your work on the XL1200T.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spacetiger View Post
I am going with longer shocks in the rear S model shocks that are that length...

I have the S shocks already. They are disassembled and have started the baselining so I should have a good idea of what spring rates I will need.
Getting the right spring rate is 90% of the job, in my experience. If that's not right, then no amount of damping adjustment is going to make the ride plush.

The S shocks are good. Common wisdom is that the springs are too soft for a rubbermount, but, on bumpy city streets, who knows? They may not be far off what you need. With the short forks, raising the rear is going to throw a bit more weight on the front, therefore less on the rear. It's a balancing act.

Last edited by steelworker; 1st March 2015 at 21:02..
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jzink0883 View Post
spacetiger,
Every test I have read about the Superlow and the XL1200T has stated something like: "This would be the best handling Sportster if only it had more taller suspension for more lean angle."
"more taller"

I guess it goes without saying that I am not an engineer!

Last edited by Folkie; 30th June 2015 at 01:02.. Reason: Fixed quote
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Old 1st March 2015
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Quote:
Superlow T 599 lbs
Superlow 562 lbs
Wow - I did not think that the bags, seat, and windshield accounted for that much weight. Definitely factors into the picture!


source:
Superlow-1200T specs
Superlow specs
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Old 1st March 2015
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A few follow up points, first being, if you let me know what your plans are ahead of time, I can tell you why it won't work or might work, and that can save you a lot of time and money.

The 1200S shocks will not work for you. The spring rates are too light, something like 54/85 lbs/in. 190 lbs on a rubber mount is about max, and still too much weight if the springs are worn out. They absolutely will not support two up. According to the Harley website posted above, the Touring model is 37 lbs heavier than other rubbermounts. I weigh 260 pluse 30 lbs gear and tools and bottomed out way too much with the 1200S shocks I had. I sent them to Sportytrace, 140 lbs and a Nightster and they worked great for her.

The Super Low models are the only one with radial tires. The standard bias ply tires on all the other models are really bad. I have not heard any reports about the radial tires, but I assume they are much better than the bias plys. I am interesting in hearing your reports of the tires, you seem to have enough experience to be able to give a good report.

You seem to appreciate good suspension, so do yourself a favor. Start with Ricor Intiminators and Works Dual Rate fork springs. Then get Ricor IAS shocks. You will have to decide which shock spring rate to get, for 190 lb rider or one rate stiffer for two up. Contact Brian at Ricor, I do not know if recommendations on their website apply to heavier touring models. The good news is, if you decide to get longer forks to increase lean angle, you will be able to use all the Ricor Intiminators and Works Dual Rate fork springs. Note that Ricor now sells and recommends straight rate springs for the forks. Properly set up in this manner, you will not believe how good this bike can ride. Due to the inertial valving system, the Ricor IAS shocks can carrry a much broader weight range than standard shocks, and one rate heavier spring does not ride nearly as stiff as normal shocks. In addition, changing springs is fairly easy. I ride with one rate heavier than recommended shock spring rate just because I ride pretty hard and like bad roads.

I can remember only one ride report of the Harley Comfort Flex shocks. Seem to be OK. But for the money, go with Ricor.

Quote:
------ Models equipped with the Profile Low Front Suspension kits
I have no idea what this means. My guess is different spring rates and different holes drilled in the damper rod. When I saw the first Super Low at my local Harley dealer, the salesman tried to sell me one. Telling me how much "advanced technology" Harley put into the forks, most advanced shocks Harley ever put on a Sportster. I let him go on and on, not telling him how much I know about suspension. Finally, I asked him about spring rates and dampening mechanisms. He just shut up and walked away.

Quote:
I wonder if Harley is especially cautious about raising the rear of the Superlow chassis because of:
-- the small diameter radials?
-- the steep fork-tube rake angle?
-- the Superlow is the basis for the police-model Sportster?
-- all of the above?
This is interesting, apparently trying to slow down the steering rate due to radial tires.

Last edited by XLXR; 2nd March 2015 at 17:18..
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