Traxxion suspension

For a long time my co-worker Mike and I have joked with each other about getting the Traxxion suspension upgrade for our Goldwings. He said I should get it because I like to modify things and I said he should get it because he's had his bike for longer than I have and would be a better judge of the new suspension.

From the factory the Goldwing suspension isn't bad. The bike handles well for a large bike. But like most mass-produced items compromises are made for whatever reasons. The right fork of the Goldwing contains a cartridge-based suspension system that some complain is poorly setup for the Goldwing. The left fork is empty except for an anti-dive setup to keep the bike's soft suspension from nose-diving during hard braking. There are as many opinions of the stock Goldwing suspension as there are riders.

Traxxion Dynamics primarily develops suspensions for offroad motorcycle racing but they also have systems for some street bikes. For the GL1800 they machine the empty left fork and put their own suspension components in both forks. They also offer a different rear shock for those who ride 2-up a lot and/or pull trailers, and other smaller components like a fork brace. The downside to the Traxxion suspension is the cost.

Finally one day Mike called Paul Bihm from Midwest Custom Cycle Works. He is the Evansville, IN distributor for Traxxion suspensions. Mike scheduled a test ride on Paul's Traxxion-equipped bike. The following Monday I asked Mike how he liked the Traxxion. His eyes lit up and he talked about how nice it was and described it. Mike is more pessimistic than me when it comes to modifying things so his positive experience was a glowing endorsement to me. He said he would probably get the Traxxion least the front forks. Hey...all for one and one for all. I decided to, too.

We debated for awhile about sending the stuff directly to Traxxion in Georgia or taking it to Paul in Evansville. Paul offered some price discounts, but he also has to charge Indiana's newly-increased 7% sales tax (that was supposed to lower property taxes, but mine increased again...grrrrrr...but I digress). Eventually we decided to go with Paul since the bike would only be apart for a day at the most. Also, it is Traxxion's policy to require a signature when they send the forks back. That is a pain in the ass for me. I emailed Paul and was able to get in the upcoming Saturday. My initial plan was to ride the bike down and pay Paul the extra $100 for him to remove/reinstall the forks. However, rain was forecast so I removed the forks and drove down.

The forks removed. Just took an hour or so.

I loaded the forks in the Jeep in preparation for the drive down in the morning. Saturday morning (7/12/2008) I fired up the Garmin 2610 GPS and left around 8 am. It rained off and on for the first half of my trip down. I'm glad I took the Jeep. On the way down I took US50 then turned on SR57 south at Washington. I arrived at Paul's at 10 am on the dot. (Mapsource data) There was a beautiful burgundy red and chrome GL1800 in the driveway. It belongs to Mike from Columbus, Ohio. He had ridden in the day before and Paul had installed front and rear Traxxion upgrades. They had just finished prior to my arrival.

Those are my forks in the vise draining.

Mike and Paul were saying their goodbyes as I carried my forks into Paul's shop. It is a nice, clean, well-organized, air conditioned shop. Paul went through the box of parts I'd brought and laid everything out. Paul's phone rang. It was Mike. He said his bike had a wobble at some speeds above 40-45 mph. Paul said to bring it back and he'd look at it. When the bike came back Paul took it for a test ride. His verdict...loose steering stem bearings. Mike said his local Honda dealer had installed All-Balls roller bearings earlier that year. Paul said he could check the bearings but he would have to charge his normal hourly rate since he didn't install the bearings. Mike seemed a little hesitant so Paul made him a deal. He could pull the bike into the shop and do the disassembly/assembly himself with Paul offering assistance as needed.

Mike pulled his bike inside and started taking it apart to access the steering bearings. Paul started working on my forks. I lent a hand to Mike as needed and checked out his bike. Paul is a wealth of Goldwing information. I enjoyed listening to the tips and information he gave Mike. When they got down to the steering bearings the problem was obvious. The bearings were WAY too loose. They were either misinstalled or possibly they were torqued to the much lower Honda spec for the factory ball bearings. The bearings were torqued to 30 ft-lbs to seat them, loosened, then torqued to 25 ft-lbs. The bike was reassembled and Mike left a happy camper. Nice to meet you, Mike! I thought is was very classy of Paul to help him out.

I settled in to watch Paul install the Traxxion suspension. It was enjoyable to watch. He carefully disassembled the forks, modified the left fork, cleaned everything, and meticulously reassembled the Traxxion-ized forks like a surgeon. Along the way he gave tips about Goldwings and Traxxion. I normally do 99% of my own work for two reasons: (1) I'm cheap, and (2) I don't trust most others to do as good a job as I like. I'll take my parts to Paul anytime. All too soon it was time to leave and I was off to my next destination.

My next task was to get a tire mounted and balanced. I called West Side Honda and got their address. Then I did something I hadn't did before. I entered their address in my GPS and let it take me there. I was happily surprised when it led me straight to them with no run around. I waited at the service window for 20 minutes only to be told they didn't have time to mount the tire. I strongly suspect it was because I answered 'no' to the "Did you buy the tire here?" question. They were nice enough to direct me down the street to Steve's Cycles who mounted and balanced the 70-series tire in no time.

I had Traxxion-ized forks, a new rear shock, and a mounted tire. It was time to head home. This time I went US41, I-64, US231, US50, finally turning onto SR450 in Shoals. SR450 is a nice curvy road. Too bad I was in the Jeep.

My Traxxion-ized forks. Paul spent a lot of time cleaning them prior to reassembly. The marker shows the orientation of the bushings.

The frontend is back together. I bought a set of the Traxxion fork covers while I was down there. I think the brushed aluminum looks good. They look better than my modified factory covers.

The Traxxion rear shock.

The hydraulic actuator has to be transferred from the factory shock (shown) to the new Traxxion shock. Traxxion sells a $60 tool for this but I used my press. The actuator has to be pressed down so a retaining clip can be removed. The red piece of C-channel is scrap from my motorcycle trailer build. I like to save my scraps.

The installed shock.

I've just hit a few aspects of the installation. For information on removing forks and shocks check out Fred Harmon's maintenance videos.

This is the suspension a $20K+ touring motorcycle should have from the factory. There is no 'sinking' or 'wallowing' in turns. Bumps are soaked up and the ride is plush. The bike is an order of magnitude more stable. You don't realize how poorly the bike handled before until you ride one that has been properly set up. I notice when I ride up my gravel driveway or ride through my yard the ride is much more controlled...I'm not plowing anymore. About 200 feet west of my driveway is a 90-degree curve. Pre-Traxxion a quick trip through this turn felt 'loose' (to use a racing term)...the bike felt like it was sinking and drifting. Now the bike feels like it is on rails.

On the forums people ask about doing a less expensive upgrade using Progressive springs, a fork brace, and All-Balls bearings. Now that I've had both set ups I would rate it like this...if the stock suspension was a '0' and the Traxxion was a '10', I'd give the Progressive setup about a '3 to 3.5'. Compared to stock the Progressive springs will handle better and ride a bit smoother on the normal stuff, but on abrupt uneven surfaces it is jarring.

The Traxxion suspension is custom, and expensive. If you were to have Paul install 'everything' (fork rebuild, rear shock, All-Balls bearings, fork brace, fork caps, fork covers, and labor) it would cost ~$2631. Since I did my own labor I spent just over $2200 on parts. One of the reasons I bought a used bike is so I could spend money to customize and upgrade it for what I plan to be long term ownership. Even with all the upgrades I've done to my bike I've still spent less than the cost of a brand new bike.

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