I’ve had ‘upgrade suspension’ on my list for six months now. I’ve wanted something beefier than the stock shocks. The bike bottoms out quite a bit on some of the roads around here. It’s New York City – we’ve got some bad infrastructure.
I spent the last six months researching the major options available: Öhlins, Progressive, Hagon, TEC, IKON, Yadayadayada
I seriously entertained – for a moment – the idea of plunking down $1000 for a pair of Öhlins. I thought that it would be amazing to experience them but then I awoke to the realization of how much money that was. Furthermore, it’s like Del-Boy (Del-Boy’s Garage) likes to say, “you’re putting Nike trainers on your grandma.” The Öhlins are simply much more than the Bonneville can exploit. (BTW, he has a superb ‘how-to’ video on youtube.)
I finally went with the choice that I found myself always coming back to – gas reservoir shocks from TEC Bike Parts USA, tecbikepartsusa.com. I have their 2-1 exhaust already (see Bonnie Mod #6) and am quite pleased with them, especially for their price. The TEC shocks provided the same temptation – they’re less than $200. That is a pittance compared to the other brands out there. I see a lot of good feedback in forums and Del-Boy is a big fan so I did the deed and ordered a pair.
I’m 6’2″, so I wanted to put some height into the bike and I ordered the Thruxton version. Quick spoiler – they perked the bike right up. More on that later.
The day that they were to ship out, Dave from TEC Bike Parts emails me and tells me that the day before they had just received their newest shock – the same Alloy Gas Reservoir unit BUT with adjustable damping, and lucky me, he would send those to me instead. Aside from him, I was to be the first person in the US to have these. Talk about a score! I never win anything. So, of course, now I was super excited and super impatient.
They arrived in a reasonable amount of time, coming from California to New York. I had issues with the delivery of my last order (no fault of TEC) so this time I had the box delivered to the neighborhood UPS Store (for a nominal $5 surcharge) and picked it up after work. Easy peasy.
As before, the contents were very well packed. (BTW, I also ordered a center stand to help facilitate swapping the stocks; ie, lifting the rear of the bike off the ground.) Included with the shocks was an adjusting spanner and a bottle of Blue ThreadLocker.
So naturally, I proceeded to rip the package apart…
I was very impressed with these – they look very well made and the price is OUTSTANDING! Honestly, I’m surprised they don’t charge more but I’m glad they don’t.
Okay. The weekend finally arrived and it’s time to install. To spoil any schadenfreude, overall this was a very easy install.
The first thing I did was to attach a center stand to the Bonneville. I suppose that if you were swapping shocks that were the exact same length, you might be able to get away with using the kick stand but I suspect that it would be very difficult. The swing arm will collapse the rear end once the shocks were removed. I personally haven’t tried it so I can’t really say. What the center stand does is lift the rear of the bike off the ground, so much so that the rear tire is 2-3 inches off the ground, and then once the shocks are removed, the swing arm will drop the tire to the ground. Obviously, a lift or jack will work. I even know people who have used milk crates.
Once the bike is lifted it’s extremely straightforward to remove the shocks. Four 12mm bolts (two on each shock, top and bottom) is all that you’ll need to remove.
How easy, however, all depends on your exhaust system. On the right side, my TEC 2-1 silencer sweeps upward and interferes right where I needed to put a socket wrench.
This was fairly easy to rectify by simply removing the buddy peg and releasing the silencer from its hanger brackets. I’ll show you a better shot of that in a minute.
By the way, have I apologized for the state of my bike? I commute on the bike almost every day and in this weather lately, it gets hammered a lot with road dirt and salt. I actually washed the bike the morning of this install, if you can believe that. Anyway, I digress…
Oh, before we move on, take a look at the two shocks side by side.
I would guess that the TECs weight about a 1/3 less – not tremendous but definitely noticeable. Compared to the stock Bonneville shock, the Thruxton-length TEC is longer and the spring looks to be much more progressive and not bottom out as easily as the stock shock. The TEC also has an adjustable ride height/spring pre-load at the top and adjustable damping at the bottom. All of this will be real-world tested.
Now go and remove the shock from the other side. You’ll need to remove both shocks in order to free up the rear end to put in the new shocks. Unless your new shocks are exactly the same length, you’re going to need the free play as you seat in the new shocks. Be careful when removing the second shock. It is supporting the rear at the moment and as soon as you remove it, the weight of the tire will bring the swingarm down and drop the tire to meet the ground. Don’t worry, nothing life-threatening or spectacular happens. It just drops a couple inches. Propping up tire while removing the second shock might make things a little easier.
Putting the new shocks on is simply a reversal in process. Hold on to the 12mm bolts. You’ll need to reuse those. In terms of bushings, TEC supplies new ones with their kit so no worries there. Make sure to use a bit of lithium grease (or such) on the posts. This will make it easier to slide the shock’s eyelets on. I highly recommend having a rubber mallet handy to help seat the shocks. I don’t have one and found myself wrapping a heavy tool in a towel to make a soft hammer. It wasn’t a pretty sight but it worked.
The above photo shows the one bit of difficulty that I had. The Thruxton length version is quite a bit longer. Remember, the tire has already dropped a couple of inches and there is still an extra inch needed to seat the shock. (All in all, I’m guessing that this mod probably lifted up the rear end a good three inches.)
At this point, this became a two-person job. A guy in the garage helped me out. He lifted the rear end enough for me to be able to seat the shock. Make sure to have the bottom of the shock only partially seated while you seat the top. If you seat it fully on the bottom first, you’re going to have the top angled outwards making it difficult to push the eyelet onto the post. Once the shock is anchored in enough, grab your rubber mallet and knock the top and bottom a few times till the shock is fully seated. Grab two of the 12mm bolts, spread a bit of ThreadLocker on them, and torque them in at around 25lbs.
Pretty simple, right. If you look at the photo above, you’ll see where I needed to drop the exhaust down in order to access the bottom of the shock. For me, this involved removing the buddy peg which also served to secure the muffler hanger and then also releasing the intermediate pipe hanger from the frame (not shown). Your set up may vary. I would imagine with the stock peashooters, this would be a super easy mod since they don’t angle up and get in the way. You’ll have to let me know.
Now that one shock is done, the other one will be easier as you won’t need a friend to lift the bike anymore. That’s it. Pretty easy. Just a couple tools and a tiny bit of brute force.
I know that your next question is, “Well, how do they ride???” I don’t know. I installed these on Saturday and our weather here in New York City has been nasty the whole time. I’m hoping to be able to start riding these tomorrow. I plan on playing with the adjustments quite a bit to see how they function and how they alter the ride. Still tuned, I will post my findings in a follow-up. I will say, though, just sitting on the bike in the garage is very exciting. I love the extra height. My stance feels more natural. I suspect the bike will be a bit more responsive in the front. I also think the bike looks aesthetically much better with its rear up, but that’s just my opinion.
Center Stand or Jack
TEC Bike Parts, USA
$199 + Shipping
UPDATE: January 13, 2015
I finally got a chance to ride these shocks. The temperature has been seriously frigid so testing conditions are not good but I’ve got to say… These things are ahhhMAZING! I can really tell a huge difference in the feel of the suspension. The bike sticks really well when traveling over bumps. The big bumps in my path that were bottoming me out before no longer do so.
Once I’ve ridden these in better weather and fiddled with the adjustments, I will post my findings. In the preliminary meantime, a DEFINITE thumbs up!!!
UPDATE: April 12, 2015
A reader wrote me asking about the sizing of the reservoirs. His concern was whether he would be able to fit his saddlebags. This was a very good question. I shot a couple shots with a ruler and felt that this might be a benefit for others. So let me post them…