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Sportster Motorcycle Suspension, Frame, Forks, Handlebars, Fuel Tank, Oil Tank, Fenders Discuss Sportster Motorcycle Suspension, Frame, Forks, Handlebars, Fuel Tank, Oil Tank, Fenders problems, advice, and/or how tos.

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  #11  
Old 6 Days Ago
45Brit 45Brit is offline
Senior Chief Harley Engineer 2nd Class
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 1,642
Sportster/Buell Model: XL
Sportster/Buell Year: 1992
Sportster/Buell Model #2: 1978 XLCH project
Other Motorcycle Model: Sportster XLH
Other Motorcycle Year: 1975
Reputation: 771102
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My ‘92 XL came to me with 11.5” shocks, short forks (I think, from a Hugger) and a Biltwell seat which felt like sitting on a milk crate. It actually handled quite well, and had no clearance issues (once I fitted the high level 2:1 exhaust; the original SE pipes were like riding a Shovelhead!).

However the ride was very harsh, and damping was very poor. I fitted 13.5” rear units (cast-offs from an older bike, cheap from a local chopper shop), stock XL length fork tubes from the same source, Hagon springs and Ricor Intiminators. That transformed the bike. Now I’ve got Hagons (originally fitted to a Dyna) and they’re pretty good, too. Avon Cobra tyres were a good investment, too.

I fitted a Sportster seat (£20 on eBay) which helped; right now I have a different one, a “touring” seat from a past HD catalogue and that’s better.

Right now I’m looking at either fitting a 1960s type seat, or a Motone or similar flat track seat, and possibly, low rear-sets.


You have to understand that the original Sportster represents the ultimate development of the cycle parts of the bike as a conventional “performance motorcycle”, which by 1950s standards, it was. The riding position, with buckhorn bars and the 1950s/1960s bench seat was “just right”, the Showa forks were state-of-the-art (also true of the “banana calliper” disc, because the drums were poor even by contemporary standards) and the 19”/18” wheel sizes were also state-of-the-art. The later, all-welded, triangular-rear frame, derived from the XR750 was similar to then-current Japanese practice, or what BSA had done with the A series frame years before.

Anything which deviates from that, makes things worse. Lowering the seat (a fashion trend from the early 1970s onwards) does nothing to improve handling or comfort. Same goes for forward controls, short forks, short shocks and all the rest of the ballyhoo. The rubber-mounted engine (basically derived from the Norton “Isolastic” system, along with the diaphragm clutch when HD employed the same designers in the early 1980s) adds weight, comprimises handling and masks the vibration which, as they are now realising, could have been designed out long ago.

The Norton Commando was a tall bike, seat height 31” and so was the original Sportster. Riders back in the day, just dealt with this; I’m 5’8” and rode a Commando, the pogo-seat Shovelhead was also pretty tall with the “white sofa” seat so I had a police saddle for daily use, and put the white one on for trips.

The closer you get to the original layout, the better the bike is. It really is that simple.
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  #12  
Old 1 Day Ago
Jerry P Jerry P is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 36
Sportster/Buell Model: XL1200C
Sportster/Buell Year: 2005
Sportster/Buell Model #2: 2005 XL1200C
Other Motorcycle Model: Yamaha Classic V Star
Other Motorcycle Year: 2005
Reputation: 10
Jerry P is an unknown quantity at this point
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Rubber engine mounts are still good after 15 years and 14K miles, thankfully

Am trying out #3 setting (225 lbs & solo) shock pre-load setting

Front tire (21") 30 psi & rear (16") 36 psi (for solo rider under 300 lbs)

Got quality Mustang replacement seat

Seems to be getting more comfy......Any more suggestions? Thanks everyone.
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  #13  
Old 1 Day Ago
45Brit 45Brit is offline
Senior Chief Harley Engineer 2nd Class
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
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Sportster/Buell Model: XL
Sportster/Buell Year: 1992
Sportster/Buell Model #2: 1978 XLCH project
Other Motorcycle Model: Sportster XLH
Other Motorcycle Year: 1975
Reputation: 771102
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Personally, I don’t believe that any 500lb-plus Road-going motorcycle, anywhere, should be running on a narrow 21” tyre, although modern 21” tyres are much better than the older sort. I’ve got an Avon AM26 Road Rider on my Yamaha XT500 and it is not bad.

Front springs on Sportsters repay attention. If you don’t have modern progressive springs, they are a good buy. Ricor, or similar cartridge emulators, or cartridge forks, they are a good investment. The upside-down forks on the XR1200 are far superior to anything else, on any other Sportster, anywhere.
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  #14  
Old 18 Hours Ago
Sportyman13 Sportyman13 is offline
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Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 16
Sportster/Buell Model: XL1200C
Sportster/Buell Year: 2013
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Jerry, I ride a 2013 1200C with the 16 in wheels, 36 PSI F & 40 PSI R. I replaced the fork springs with progressive standard rates & added 1/4 inch more preload. That fixed the excessive front end dive and bottoming out. The stock 11.5 inch shocks on the 4th setting were both harsh and barely rideable. My back couldn't take it and I picked up a set of progressive 412's standard spring in the 13 inch length. I am 200lbs (gear on) and run these shocks on the stiffest setting to get the sag correct. The ride is MUCH BETTER than I thought it could be and my spine no longer provides 50% on the suspension. You may want to look into these with the heavy rate springs F & R as a lower cost option. You can do the front for under $100 and the rear for @$300. Hope this helps.
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  #15  
Old 16 Hours Ago
TowPro TowPro is online now
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Sportster/Buell Year: 2006
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I just bought a 2006 1200xl C with under 3000 miles. I weigh 265 on a lite day.
the bike rode like crap, busting my back every chance it got. Being new to HD I thought "them meant to do that" but reading here I found that the sportster can ride nice.

I went with Progressive HD front springs and 13" progressive 412 shocks with HD spring option.
Progressive said to use factory recomendataon for from spring preload,
and to set rear preload for 11.75" center to center measurement on shock with me on bike.
I am on 3rd highest spring setting from low (could probably run setting 2).
I still have a couple notches of preload eft for when the wife gets on bike.

the ride is day and night different.
the front stock was running compressed with about 1" travel left.
Now I think its riding about 2" higher in front.
The rear was bottoming out every little hit on low, but crank them up and it still hurt.
I would drag crossing normal speed pumps.

I no longer cringe every time I hit a bump. before it hurt my lower back just looking at a bump, now its fine.
From the input I received from here I bet the Air shocks would be fine, but mine is now done with new progressive 412's and I don't regret it.

I think I am just over $250 in shocks, $100 in front springs and maybe $20 in 1 LT of 15w Bel-ray fork oil

I had to so the same thing on my 2017 Moto Guzzi (new) but I went with Icon (old Koni company) that has rebound adjustment. I think they run $100 more for the HD.
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