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New shocks.. should I?

Dave CR

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I think I just need a little push to make up my mind. I love my 1100RT, really, I can stare at her for hours but the suspension performance is really making me have seconds thoughts on getting a newer bike... much much newer..

So I guess my question is, if I upgrade to lets say Ohlins would the difference will be that significant that will make me forget about changing her for a new one? You all know we are talking about almost 2k investment here for Ohlins which would be my preferred choice..

Is it really a day/night difference?


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Dave: Your choices are are a rebuild or replacement. I bought a used 1999 R1100RT in 2008, equipped with Ohlins, and it is — by far — the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden. However, Ohlins have a reputation for fragility, requiring rebuilds every ~20,000 miles.

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I can live with a 20K rebuilt unless you tell me there are better ones..

I guess my question is: is the difference that HUGE that I wont regret spending that kind of money? I mean it has to be huge.

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Dave, not quite the answer maybe but food for thought. I have a 98 1100RT with 53K and original shocks I think. I just bought a 2002 1150RT and it came with a rear Ohlins but not installed and bike has 24K. I had a front Ohlins for the 1100 that I was going to put on when I found a rear to match but instead I had Ohlins do a free spring swap so that both Ohlins are now on the 1150. The ride improved but to say it is "night and day" would be an overstatement and justification (mentally) for the expense. I have decided to put the front shock from the 1150 on the 1100 as it has less than half the miles on it. I am also going to buy an aftermarket shock for the rear of the 1100 as I believe there are a number of shocks just a good for less than half the cost of the Ohlins. The reason I am going that route is because I know what the difference in ride is with the Ohlins on the 1150 and I just don't think they are worth the extra money. I am sure there are others who will not agree with me but my rear end experience is more factual than other opinions. Look around and do some research on your options as you do not need to spend what Ohlins charges in my opinion.

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You can also be very happy with Works Performance shocks for much less.

Some of the the other brands Wilbur's, etc, don't seem to be as robust as Works.


I sold many many sets of Works at the BMW dealership I worked at including a set for my own '99 RT. So far, 8-9 years and no seal leakage.


This time of year Works will take 4-6 weeks to build them for you as each set is built to your weight, riding experiance and if you ride two up or not.


Winter time, you can get them in two weeks.


The Ohlins offer adjustments that most people don't understand or use anyway.

On your current shocks on the 1100, how many times have you adjusted the damping?




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+1 for the Works shocks.


I had them on my 1100RT and liked them a lot. As far as if they are worth the cost? I think that depends on how you ride. If you are a sedate rider, light weight, pack light, and/or ride solo, then you probably won't see much of an improvement. If you ride aggressively, weigh over lets say 190 lbs, pack heavy, and/or ride 2-up often, then you should see a nice improvement.


In my case......I ride pretty hard, weigh about 240 lbs, and rode 2-up quite a bit on my RT. The stock suspension was down right scary when I started to push the bike by myself, it was almost unrideable when 2-up. I put the Works suspension on it, and a month later I couldn't believe how much of a difference it made. Best money I spent on that bike, and I really miss how well planted it felt in the corners.


The stock suspension on my GS is slightly better than the stock suspension was on my RT. It also helps that I have been mostly riding solo and pack very light. That being said, I still can't ride the bike the way I want to because the back end consistently gets squirrely and starts to pogo mid corner when riding hard. I can't wait to replace the suspension with something aftermarket so I can get back to not thinking about the suspension. This time around I will go with either Works or Hyperpro

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I love my 1100RT, really, I can stare at her for hours but the suspension performance is really making me have seconds thoughts on getting a newer bike... much much newer..


The value choice clearly is to put new suspension on it. As to whether that is transformative is largely dependent on how you ride. If you really enjoy those Costa Rican twisties, your smile and love will return. It is critical that you adust the suspension - don't just bolt it on and call it done.


It's kind of like putting new soles on a beloved pair of old boots.


If you really want another bike, then all the new shiny bits in the world for your RT will likely not address that.

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Good morning,


I appreciate everybody's feedback!

The reason why I said Ohlins is because that seeems to be the brand of choice here in Costa Rica.. I guess they like it expensive...

However I will check on Works Performance and see what they offer.

I am 210lbs and most of the time ride with my son or my wife and when riding a little more aggressively on our bumpy roads the center and side stand hit the road and it really makes me nervous thus limits my confidence on the bike.

Costarican twisties are certainly very bumpy for the most part and while I see my GS friends entering them at higher speeds I find myself having to tell them to pass me by because I am leaving a trail of sparks on the road.

I would rather keep my bike than changing it.

I have put a lot of care and money into it but want to feel safe as well.



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Some of your scraping may be due to riding style, but thats another thread. A new suspension properly set up for your weight would drastically improve your handling when riding 2-up.


The deciding factor for me buying the suspension for my RT was when I was out riding with my wife on day. We went into a sharp right hand corner on some rough pavement. The bike bottomed out, my outside of my boot hit the pavement pulling it off the peg, which then hit my Wife's boot knocking it off of her peg too. I got things back under control quickly, but when I looked up we were over the center line. If there had been oncomming traffic, we would have been done. I ordered the new suspension for it as soon as we got home. After that, I could barely tell the difference between riding solo or 2-up. With the suspension set up properly and dialed in, it was always much more confidence inspiring.


If we still rode 2-up as often as we did then (my wife hasn't been on my bike in a few years), I would have ordered it for my GS a long time ago. Riding solo, I can usually compensate enough to keep myself out of trouble.

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Just in case you go the new shock route, here is some helpful information I've been saving from our friend Tool Man since 2005. It was written with Ohlins in mind, but is reasonably transferable to others. J.


It is not necessary to remove the front wheel to R&R the front shock. Actually leaving the front wheel on keeps the front suspension from drooping to far.


Removing and installing the shocks on an RT is as easy as it gets. It shouldn't take more than 3hrs from start to finish for both shocks. Steps below are for an RT but can apply to other models.


Front shock:

1) Put the bike on the center stand.

2) Remove bodywork.

3) Remove the air intake tubes.

4) Remove bolt that secures the tank.

5) Slide the tank back to expose the upper mount using caution not to kink the fuel lines.

6) Remove the nut and rubber grommet from the upper shock mount. (the front tire will slowly droop to the floor)

7) Remove the lower shock bolt and pull the shock down and out of it's upper mount.

8) Remove the rubber grommet from the old shock and install it on the new shock (if applicable)


That's it, repeat steps in reverse to install.


Rear shock: The 1150's lower shock mount is an eye mount and the 1100's are a clevis style mount but the procedure is the same. You will need some wood blocks or floor jack, or any other device for holding up the swing arm before you remove the shock.


1) Set bike on center stand.

2) Remove bodywork.

3) Remove rear tire.

4) Remove the rear muffler bolt. This will help with gaining access to the lower bolt

(some cases not all)

5) Prop up the rear of the swing arm / drive shaft with wood blocks or better yet a floor jack. This will keep the swing arm from dropping after removing the lower shock bolt.

6) Remove the lower shock bolt. You may have to wiggle the swing arm/drive arm up and down to pull it out.

7) Remove the adjustable seat mount for access to the upper shock bolt.

8) Remove the upper shock bolt and pull the shock out from the bottom.

9) Install the Ohlins shock routing the damping adjustment hose in the same location as the OEM shock.


That's it again, repeat steps to install.


Shock set up procedure....

This is easier to do with the right saddlebag removed. Since BMW's don't have a rear axle per say, you will create a datum point. Use a non-permanent marker or a peel and stick dot to create a reference point on the center of the driveshaft housing. This will simulate an axle center. This is where you’re going to terminate your measurement.


Find a location on the bike directly above your datum dot on the driveshaft arm you made. Place a piece of tape, peel and stick dot or mark the upper location. This will now be your upper datum point. You’re doing this because you must measure repeatedly at the same locations.


For the front measurement location, the underside of the upper triple clamp is a good upper datum point. The tape measure should run parallel with the fork down to the center of the axle.



Next put the bike on the center stand and measure the distance from your top datum point to the lower datum point. Write that number down, this is your "top out" dimension. Next take the bike off the center stand and holding the bike vertical, measure again. You must keep it vertical so someone will need to hold it up for you while you measure. Write that number down and call it "static sag".


Next you are going to sit on the bike with your gear on simulating the riding position. It's best to have someone hold you up with your feet on the pegs. If you don't have a third person you can lightly touch your feet on the ground to hold yourself up. Have that person measure, from your datum points and write that number down.


That number is your "ride height" Take your "ride height" number and subtract it from the "top out" number. For example: your “Top out” dim. Is 20.00” and the “Ride Height” dimension is 18.5” which = 1.5” actual “Ride Height”


Ohlin’s formula: (R1-R3) for the rear. (F1-F3) for the front.



You want your ride height numbers to fall in this range:

Rear: 1.00" - 1.625"

Front: 1.375" - 2.00"


Your "static sag" numbers should fall in between:

Rear: 3/8"-3/4"

Front: 5/8"-1-3/16"


The static sag numbers are important so that your shock supports the motorcycle and has suspension in reserve to travel upward. Remember the suspension goes up as well as down. You don't want the shocks to top out sharply. They can be damaged if a dramatic topping out occurs.


The ride height is the most important dimension to get correct. The numbers are rather a wide variable, but this is to tailor the suspension for your requirements, i.e. riding style, surface condition etc.


The damping settings are a trial and error depending on your riding needs. You want the damping to be firm but not too harsh. If it's too soft, this will cause the bike to wallow. If it's too harsh it will skate. Ride the bike and take notes on your damping settings and change accordingly. It’s a mix and match and a lot of experimenting to get the bike set up for your needs. Once perfected, you will be rewarded with a very well handling bike and a suspension tailored for your needs.



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I hear you and the situation you were involved with your wife should have been a scary one.


I will search for your recommendation and see what they can do for me.


Thank you so much.

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I replaced the stock shocks on my 00 RT at 28000 with Ohlins.

Major change, more than I anticipated by a large margin.

I've almost always upgraded the suspension on every bike I have owned, I believe doing so is the largest "smile maker" one can do to a bike, even as expensive as it is.

Because the RT was the first I did with shocks front and rear the Ohlins changed the whole arena at any speed, a tad soft two up but still stable on rough surfaces loaded with camping gear.

Still marvel at the feel when I jump on the RT after ridind another bike for the last few rides.

I have a custom HyperPro shock on a ST1300 ( 1300 dollars!) that feels great similar to the Ohlins in the rear, and even with RaceTech fork springs up front, the ST doesn't come close to the Telever with the Ohlins.

I say if you ride hard and have the money, Ohlins are the way to go, IMO.

I've put about 70k on the Ohlins, rebuilt once ( $360 ), never leaked just did it for PM, zero difference in feel when they came back.



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Hi SinNH,


Thank you so much for your input. I am in between the WP and the Ohlins.. More inclined t the Ohlins, specially because I emailed WP and they havent gotten back to me.

I am planning to keeo the bike for a couple of years so I think it will be a great investment. (Or want to believe it..)

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