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DR650 FAQ - Suspension

Q:

What would be the correct fork and shock springs for my DR650?

I would like to order fork springs and a shock spring for my 2009 DR650 but have a few questions before I do. First off, I'm 225 lbs without riding gear. I wear heavy boots, riding pants, jacket, etc. I also have an IMS tank and always run my Wolfman Expedition Racks and Saddlebags with quite a bit of stuff. Not exactly sure how much this all weighs, but it's not light.

I ride 95% street, and 5% dirt roads. Not a lot of heavy off-road riding. I use my bike as my main form of transportation, and like to load it to do weekend camping trips. The last time I went camping, it was loaded down and felt like a chopper!

What rate rear spring do you recommend based on all of that information? For the front should I go with a straight rate, or progressive wound spring? I'm concerned that if I go progressive wound, that it might be too soft and have excessive brake dive.

Another question is how long do I cut the spacer for the fork springs? That is one of the reasons I've been hesitant to upgrade my fork springs, I'm not sure how long the spacers need to be. If I cut them too long will that make the forks too stiff?

Last but not least, what are your thoughts on adding an ounce or two of 10 wt fork oil to what is already in the forks? (I don't want to blow out any seals!)

A:

Based on the information you provided, I would recommend the 8.3 shock spring and the .55 straight rate fork springs. I am recommending the straight rate fork springs to you mainly because of the total weight on your motorcycle (you, gear, luggage, etc.). The progressive spring is lighter in the first part of the travel. With you, all the gear and the big tank, you would overwhelm the first portion of travel with the progressive spring. The .55 springs will hold the front a bit higher in its travel and dive slightly less.

As for the spacers, they are really very simple. Cut them so that they are flush with the tops of the fully extended for tubes. That will give about 3/4" of preload which is a great starting point. You can fine tune this later by shortening the spacers (less preload) or adding washers (more preload). Individual bikes and springs vary somewhat so it isn't possible for us to cut them accurately ahead of time.

Ideally, the springs should be just stiff enough that you occasionally use the full amount of travel available in the suspension. This would mean - or use full travel on the hardest bump you would purposefully take. Springs that are one step too stiff probably wouldn't feel 'stiff' you just would not ever use full travel. This summer I set up a pair of DRZ400SM inverted forks for my DR. Based on some new Race Tech calculations I went with some .54 springs. They feel fine - not stiff or harsh in any way, but the forks never get down into the last two inches of travel - even when pounding through nasty big rocks and hitting stuff hard enough to bend my rim.

Adding oil works well if you need to do it. What the additional oil does is decrease the volume of air trapped in the top of the fork tube. Less air volume helps the forks resist bottoming by making the suspension action more progressive. If you find the comfort of the fork springs is good but you occasionally bottom out then adding additional fork oil will help without making a wholesale change to the fork setup. If the springs are just right and you rarely or never bottom out then adding oil will just decrease the amount of suspension travel you can use. There's no good reason to do that.

Q:

What is the difference between Emulators and Intiminators in the front forks?

Sorry to pester you with all these questions but you guys know the answers and have been good at getting back to me!

A:

The Race Tech Cartridge Emulators and Ricor Intiminators accomplish suspension control in very different ways. Both products work very well and are a huge improvement for standard damper rod forks. Choosing between the two will mostly come down to personal preference and riding style. Experienced aggressive riders tend to prefer the feel of the Emulators. Less experienced or more casual riders tend to prefer the feel of the Intiminators. There is a lot of crossover between the two groups.

The Ricor Intiminators will provide a smoother ride and more resistance to brake dive. Intiminators separate suspension compression into 2 actions. They allow the wheel to move upward freely (soak up a bump) but resist the chassis moving down (brake dive). Since they don’t rely on spring stiffness to resist brake dive the Intiminator design can work better with softer springs. Intiminators don’t have any adjustability built into their design. Installation is simple and only requires removing the fork springs and changing the fork oil.

The Race Tech Cartridge Emulators control suspension with more traditional valving. They are much more tunable to rider preference. Installation requires complete fork disassembly and some drilling of the damper rods.

Brake dive is not necessarily a bad thing. Allowing the suspension to compress under braking decreases rake and trail and allows a motorcycle to turn much better. This is probably why experienced aggressive riders aren’t as comfortable with the Intiminators – they can make the bike feel difficult to turn while braking. Of course too much brake dive can be a problem. You don’t want braking forces to use up all the available suspension travel. The forks still need to be able to absorb bumps while hard on the brakes.

The Speedo drive eliminator allows a rider to completely remove the speedometer drive. Lots of folks who installed the Vapor wanted to get rid of the drive altogether rather than just plugging the cable attachment hole.

Q:

Which fork springs to use with Intiminators?

When I ordered the Intimidators the parts rep suggested using the stock front springs back in my forks for use with those.  In the past I had ordered your Progressive Springs for my bike to help the forks, and they were much better than stock.  I would like to still use those forks if that is okay, and it will not interfere with the way the Intimidators are supposed to work as the stock springs were not very good at all. 

What is the maximum length of preload I could go with and have the Intiminators work correctly with my weight? If I remember correctly if I leave about 3/4” sticking out of the extended fork length with washers and spacer on before I install the cap I should be close. Let me know if this is a good starting point.

A:

Ricor’s general recommendations are to use lighter springs than would otherwise be used with conventional suspension setups. Our experience is that the Intiminators work just fine with Progressive springs.
Most folks end up happy with about ¾” of preload. That would be spacers flush with the tops of the extended tubes. Back when I had stock forks on my DR I was running about 1-1/4” of preload. That’s about as much as you can have and still get the fork caps on. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Your actual preload won’t have any effect on how the Intiminators work.

Q:

How do I change my shock oil?

I have been searching for some information on how to change the oil in my stock rear shock on my 2007 DR650 and haven't been able to find much. I know it is serviced with Nitrogen when you are all done, but don’t know how much pressure or how much oil and what type!

A:

Changing the oil in your shock will make a big improvement in how the rear suspension works and it is not that hard to do. The shock oil is changed by removing the bolt at the top of the reservoir, where the shock body and reservoir connect. Once removed, you drain the oil and refill it with 10 wt. SHOCK oil (be sure it is SHOCK oil, not fork oil or anything else!). There is no correct amount. You fill it to the top! Be sure to work all of the air bubbles out, top it off again and then replace the bolt. You will need to have the nitrogen refilled at a local shop to 175 psi.

I ask you to study this answer carefully though prior to doing this messy task and ask yourself if it wouldn’t be better to go ahead and install a Race Tech Gold Valve kit at the same time you change the oil. We have a complete step-by-step pictorial on our website to show you how to do this and you will be amazed at the results. Click here. We have a Shock Solution Kit available on the website that includes a ProCycle straight rate shock spring of your choice, Race Tech Gold Valve kit, detailed instructions and a bottle of quality shock oil to complete the job. Everything you need to transform your mushy stock shock into suspension that really works. For a top notch rebuild or revalve of your rear shock use this high quality replacement seal head. This is a complete assembly, ready to install into the shock body. It has air bleed holes to help remove air from the oil reservoir during installation and a double-lip oil seal design that keeps out dirt and keeps friction low. The kit includes the aluminum body, dust seal, bushing, oil seal, O-ring, internal guide bushing/washer, snap ring, and top-out bumper.

Q:

What USD fork should I use on my DR650?

I am contemplating doing a fork swap on my DR650 for more rigidity and better suspension. I would like to install a more modern upside down (USD) fork. What do recommend and why?

A:

When I decided to put a USD fork on my personal bike, I used the front end off of a DRZ400SM. These went on almost like they were made for it. The stock DR650 brake caliper bolted right on. I used the DRZ400SM front hub, brake rotor, brake hose and headlight brackets because it would have been too much trouble to use the DR650 front hub. Different axle sizes and so on is the reason for using the DRZ400SM hub.

Q:

Lowering and raising questions!

My DR650 was improperly lowered at the dealer when I bought it, they slid the tubes up in front and did not even flip the collar around on the rear shock. A while back I flipped the collar myself and adjusted the pre-load correctly as the dealer had it way too soft. About two weeks ago I installed the 7.5 shock spring from ProCycle, which seemed to raise the rear ride height a bit. I decided today to return the bike to the stock height, so this morning I lowered the front tubes back down, and I moved the rear shock back to the bottom hole. I then reinstalled the stock black side stand. My question is do I need to remove the rear shock and put the collar back to the stock position? I was trying to figure out why this would matter if the preload is still set correctly. Does the collar position affect the length of the shock (and therefore the ride height)?

A:

The collar limits the suspension travel. In the original ´tall´ position it has 11.2" of travel. In the ´lowered´ position it has 8.9´ of travel. I am sure you will enjoy the suspension with the new rear spring.

Q:

Should I install a set of ProCycle lowering links?

I was curious about your 1" lowering links for the Suzuki DR650. What is the advantage of that over the lowering option on the DR's linkage? I have a 2009 DR650 and would like to improve my suspension. I have the Sargent low seat and with your low pegs it feels pretty good. Will do a bar riser kit soon also. I ride 80% on the street and although I can plant my feet, (not flat) at 5´ 9" I am thinking about dropping it down for a lower CG and better cornering. Any tips? (Don't want to Supermoto it, because fire roads are still a blast.)

A:

We had so many requests for lowering links by folks who wanted something lower than the factory low setting, that we began making our own. This is most suitable for guys who ride mostly on pavement or gravel. If you combine the links with a lowered shock and too little spring preload (too much sag) the tire can contact the inside of the fender.

Q:

What do yo think are the best suspension upgrades?

What's your opinion on suspension upgrades? I am going to drop the bike to the lower setting, ride mostly around town and light off-road stuff. I weigh 185 pounds in ride gear. I don't want to get too crazy on price. Also, your 15% faster throttle tube makes sense. Does that require a new throttle cable?

A:

At minimum the DR needs stiffer fork springs. Race Tech emulators also make a nice improvement depending on how hard you ride. The harder you ride the more you will benefit from the emulators. I’ve also had good results with changing out the stock shock oil with a good 10 weight shock fluid. The only down side is after a couple of hours of hard riding the heavier oil heats up and the shock loses some of its damping. The Race Tech Gold Valve kit is a great solution for the shock as well. Again, it depends on how hard you ride. The harder you ride the more you need the better upgrades. The quick throttle works with the stock cable. You do have to loosen up the cable adjustments to install it though.

Q:

Fork issues - Part I

Some time ago, I purchased your "Fork Solution Kit for DR650SE 1996-2009" for my 2006 DR650SE. I recently got the kit installed with some help of an experienced Race Tech friend. I am sorry to say that I am not pleased with the performance of my forks now. I opted for the Eibach springs in your kit. Since I installed the kit, the forks are extremely hard and when I force them to compress while holding the front brake, the forks do not rebound easily. I am asking for some advice on how to fix this problem.

A:

I have no doubt that it feels stiffer when compressing the suspension at a stop. How does it behave while riding? (See part II of this question below.)

Q:

Fork issues - Part II

(Second part of question, from above.) Thank you for helping me. While riding, the front wheel just ‘bounces’ over most bumps. While the bike dove down and felt way to soft before the ‘Solution Kit’, it now seems way too stiff. But the most disturbing thing is that it will not rebound easily. I have increased the preload on the rear shock almost to the maximum, but when I bounce up and down on the bike sitting still, I can't get the forks to compress at all. The forks and shock used to work in unison, like every bike, now, the only way they will compress is under heavy braking, then the forks stay compressed as they did at maximum braking until I accelerate hard until they will expand.

I have recently purchased a KTM 450EXC and now I understand what superior suspension feels like. KTM really knows what they are doing! I have so much confidence on and off road with that bike. I am now considering trying to unload this DR because it is no longer fun to ride. But I don't think anyone would want to buy it with the forks working so bad.

A:

Something is not correct in your forks. The Race Tech valves do not have any effect on rebound damping. The rebound is controlled by the stock damper rods, while the Emulators control compression damping only. Could they be installed upside down? What weight oil did you use? (See part III of this question below.)

Q:

Fork issues - Part III

(Part III of question from above.) I postulated that same problem to my friend who did most of the work on installing this kit. I guess that there is no easy way to check without taking everything back apart? Could I get a diagram of the proper assembly of the forks with the Emulators installed as a reference?

A:

Nope, there’s no way to know what is happening without looking inside. Click here to see a diagram and photo of the emulators in a V-Max (They install the same on any bike). (See part IV of this question below.)

Q:

Fork issues - Part IV

(Part IV of question from above.) One more thing that I remember is that there are (three?) different settings on the Emulator. The instructions were not specific to the DR application. Is there a recommended setting for use in the DR?

A:

Settings are up to personal preference and riding style. The emulators are shipped with about 4 turns of preload on the compression spring. That setting will give good control but some people find it to be slightly harsh feeling. On my own forks I set the preload on the compression spring at 2.5 turns which I felt was a good compromise.

Q:

Suspension questions - Part I

I have several questions regarding the cartridge emulator’s that I just received for my bike.

A:

Here are the answers to your questions.

Q:

Suspension questions - Part II

(Part II of question from above.) I still have still a couple questions.

A:

Here are a couple more answers for you!

Q:

Best solution to suspension woes front and rear?

I'm in the process of buying new front and rear springs for my DR650 and was hoping to get some suspension advice first. I have a dirtbike background and ride my DR fairly aggressively. In addition I weigh 220 lbs without gear. Do you suggest the straight rate Eibach springs or the Progressive springs for the front? Also, when I'm replacing my springs, should I also replace the fork oil? If so what type/amount of oil do you guys suggest?

I was also curious about the rear spring. I'm assuming I want the heaviest rate spring (I believe its 8.3 kg/mm) to hold me plus gear. Or, should I go with a lighter spring? Then, can I swap out the rear spring myself or do i need a spring compressor? If I understand correctly, a good 10w oil in the forks with the new springs will make a decent difference. Is there anything I can do with the rear shock while I have it off aside from switching out the spring?

A:

For the front, the Progressive springs will give a little smoother ride on pavement than the straight rate Eibach springs. If you spend the bulk of your riding on good roads the Progressive springs will be a better choice. Straight rate springs will work a bit better off-road or on rough roads. Both choices are significantly stiffer than the stock springs. For the forks, Use 10 weight FORK oil. Set the oil to the stock level - 140mm from the top with no springs and the fork completely collapsed. Then expand the forks and slowly put the springs in the tubes. If you really want to see a major improvement for both on and off-road, I really recommend the Race Tech Fork Cartridge Emulators as well. These make a huge difference in how well the fork functions.

You won't need a spring compressor for the rear spring, the preload collars will back off enough to allow the spring to come off easily. Several people have have good results changing the shock oil with 10w SUSPENSION fluid (NOT Fork Oil!). I think of it as the 'poor man's revalve'. It won't be as good as a Gold Valve installation or a revalve done by a pro suspension shop, but it will make a big improvement over stock. if you want the biggest bang for your buck, install a Race Tech Rear Shock Gold Valve kit yourself and then install the 7.5 kg/mm spring. All of this is doable in a home shop. After you are done you will need to find a shop that can refill the nitrogen, but that is no problem.

Click here's to see a shock rebuild pictorial. If you are just doing the oil you can skip over the parts about replacing the valving.

Q:

Are my fork springs too short?

I've recently ordered the fork spring kit you sell for the DR650 and have a question for you. Before installing them, I measured them and they are 513 mm in length. The service manual says the service limit of the fork springs is 548 mm. These are not compatible, they are too short. I'm not sure what to do!

A:

The aftermarket fork springs will not be the same length as the originals. There are spacers included to make up the difference in length. To calculate the correct height of the spacer, follow these simple steps to arrive at a spacer that will give you 3/4" of preload when the fork is assembled.

  1. Insert the new spring into the fork tube with the tube held fully extended and then measure the distance from the top of the spring to the top of the fork tube.
  2. Then SUBTRACT the distance that the fork cap goes into the tube.
  3. Now ADD 3/4 of an inch to get the correct length of your spacer.

To follow this logic, lets say the spring is 3 inches below the top of the fork tube, then fork cap goes 1/2 inch down into the tube. So, you are going to need a 3-1/4 inch spacer to get 3/4 inch of preload. Formula: 3" - 1/2" = 2-1/2". 2-1/2" + 3/4" = 3-1/4".

Q:

Do I really need to drill out the compression holes?

I am getting ready to install the gold valve emulators (purchased from you) in my DR650. Did you drill out the compression holes on yours and add the extra to make the total six or was the DR650 a drop in and go operation?

A:

Yes, you need to drill out the holes to make a total of six. Otherwise the stock compression holes will limit the ability of the emulators to do their job.

Q:

Best way to upgrade rear shock - Part I

I want to upgrade my stock rear shock. I want to go the Cogent route but I don't want to have my bike down while waiting for them to complete my shock. Will simply upgrading to a stiffer spring make a noticeable difference or is paying the dollars for the Cogent shock the way to go? I only have Intimidators in my front forks. Thanks again.

A:

The stock spring is definitely too wimpy for any rider over 120 pounds. Upgrading the spring will help and you can do it right away and it will still be beneficial after getting the shock redone. We do have the Race Tech Gold Valve option for the shock which is about half the cost of a Cogent rebuild. (See part II of this question below.)

Q:

Best way to upgrade rear shock - Part II

(Part II of question from above.) OK, so if I were to buy the rebuild kit with the straight rate spring would this essentially be the same thing a suspension shop would do plus add their labor? My weight is 165 plus maybe another 15 for gear. However, I load up 45 lbs every now-and-then to go camping. Would I get a 7.5 rate spring or go up to the 8.3? If you ever want to make adjustments to your damping do you have tear apart the reservoir every time to do it or is it a one-time thing? Let me know if this is all on Thumper Talk/AdvRider somewhere on a thread and I will save you the time and read it.

A:

For your weight you definitely want the 7.5 spring. You would have to be carrying at least another 50-75 lb before you get into 8.3 spring territory. Compression damping is still adjustable with the screw at the top of the reservoir – same as stock except with the Race Tech valving the screw actually does something. If you wanted to make a change in rebound damping (unlikely) you would have to pull the shock apart and change the rebound valve stack.

Q:

Do springs 'sack-out' over time?

I don' know whether they've weakened over time or what but my suspension definitely feels less plush than it was when I first installed the springs. I've decided to chuck in some more preload but how much can I add before I'd start to bind the springs? I'm estimating here but I believe I've got approx 2.5" spacers in the front forks which equates to maybe an inch of preload. And I'm not sure about the rear end but I've just jacked the preload up quite a bit more and it's definitely firmer. Hoping I can get it to track a bit straighter and hurt a little less on heavily rutted sections and whoops.

A:

The limiting factor won't be coil bind. What will determine the max preload is your ability to actually put the fork cap on while fighting the spring pressure. Springs can 'sack out' and get shorter but the actual spring rate won't change. They will never get softer but old springs could require a bit more preload to make up for any loss of overall length from sacking out.

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