Why do shocks on bikes last 1/5 the time they do on cars and cost eight times more? - K-Bikes.com - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old Mar 8th, 2013, 10:56 am Thread Starter
Beemer01's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Lake Forest, Il, USA
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Why do shocks on bikes last 1/5 the time they do on cars and cost eight times more?

I'm really curious about this. I suspect many of us ride around on shocks that are past their prime and we just don't notice. When faced with replacement - often because they have started to leak in my case - we're told to go with the 'good stuff' in the aftermarket world and face a $1700 tab...or even more..to replace and upgrade two shocks.

A set of two shocks and two struts for my BMW cage can be done for $400 installed! And the OE stuff on my car will easily last 100,000 miles.

Can anyone shed light on this?

"What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either."

Robert Persig - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old Mar 8th, 2013, 12:30 pm
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First price, Now Im not saying that the likes of Ohlins etc dont think of a number and double it.

But in their defence there are a few factors, supply and demand, the more they make the cheaper they get, doubt Ohlins Wilbers or any of the bike shocks make anywhere near the amount of shocks of say Boge, Bilstein or whoever.

Second, tolerance and weight.
Because of the much lighter vehicles(Motorcycles), things like stiction, rebound and compression circuits need far greater accuracy, that costs.

Environment. A motorcycle shock has to respond to accelaration/ braking that very few cars do, and there is only one at the back.

There is one other point, people dont change car shocks that often because it doesnt really matter to them and in a car its far more difficult to tell when a shock has gone off, but I bet that in reality the same thing happens.

Thats my view, there maybe other points Ive missed such as, I bet if you wanted to you could spend shed loads on car shocks too, but few do.

You can buy cheap Motorcycle shocks too, but be warned if you do go and buy a decent custom Ohlins or Wilbers or whatever, your doomed for life as an OE shock will always seem pretty poor afterwards


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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old Mar 8th, 2013, 4:55 pm
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I am not too proud to admit I am sad case in the shocks department. I would consider any shock leaking oil to be dead, but that has never happened on my bike. I got my '97 KRS with oem shocks and I had never ridden a beemer before. For my type of touring riding as long as the front/rear went down and came back up riding over a hole in the road, they were doing what I expected.

I suppose I just got used to them. It was when I had the front lifted up a few days then finished some work and took the bike for a ride that I noticed the front shock was a lot more responsive. Then a week later it was back to how it was before and with 35K on them.

So in an idle moment I dragged out a brand new pair of oem takeoffs - never ridden on. After fitting them the bike felt really good and different. Two weeks later they felt like the 35K shocks I took off.

Now perhaps Ohlins like motor tuning gives you something different that makes you feel the switch was worth the money or your riding habit is more aggressive and needs what the Ohlins can give.

Personally, I think perceptions about shocks like riding on this and that tire can be more down to the individual, their weight and how they ride. The K's are such a heavy bike that I wonder just how far you can fine tune an expensive set of shocks.

The biggest improvement to my ride was softening the seat with gel pad inserts which were a lot cheaper than new shocks.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old Mar 8th, 2013, 8:46 pm
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Well put my friend. I have never changed oem shocks-but , then again I have never had a bike (26 over the last 40+yrs) more than a few years. I'm not saying that a set of Olins wouldn't feel really nice, but, me thinks that saying " I have Olins on my bike" isn't a real factor.

Marin Phil
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old Mar 9th, 2013, 1:08 am
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Ive been here before and Its pointless argueing, for many, the OE shocks will be adequate. Especially if you are an average weight, carry average loads, and more importantly,ride averagely.

Move any of those parameters significantly and its like making do with shoes a size too small or large, yeah you might make it to the shops, but try running.


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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old Mar 9th, 2013, 5:07 am
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With the exception of my XT660X I don't do stock suspension,I've a friend who has a thing about VFR's yea yea I know ,I'd been onto him for years about taking the blinkers off and find out what he was missing to no avail,and in the end thought if he doesn't care then neither do I,thats shocks not bikes

Couple of years ago he phones up,can you sort me a rear Wilbers out,I reverse rolls,no no I say you should carry on riding around on that production junk!!!!,we go to the importers which isn't very far away and get one sorted,two weeks later shock turns up and instead of me having to fit it he's got a shop to do it as he's already realised he may well have egg on his face having seen it in the box and how good it looks.

Day after I get a phone call 'I've a complaint he tells me' yea whats then I say 'You should have been trying harder to convince me how good they are!!!,it was said tongue in cheek,but I've heard that from everyone thats fitted them,I never realised how much difference they would make,so you end up with two factions there's the 'My stock shocks are fine' mob and the 'I've had aftermarket fitted and can't beleave the difference' lot

If folks want mediocrity thats fine by me,but don't tell it's any good cuz it ain't.

Where things get really complicated is after suspension you look at wheels in all honesty you only need the front, the rear is bling,I pack my VFR man off to Dymag and they very kindly make him a front wheel,he tells me the difference is a great as the Wilbers shocks and I have to say he rides the wheels off the thing,which is a little worrying at the pace he runs at falling off might be an issue at 76 years of age,but we do have some laughs when sitting at the Cross Gates cafe in Wales mid week when bikers we have passed roll up and they see an old boy on his VFR.

Now of course not everyone wants either to ride like that or are after so much improvement on their bike, because in reality they potter along and don't need it,but thats a separate issue from the fact after market is so much better need it or not.
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