Bagger Front/Rear Suspension Upgrade

Your Touring bike will love you for it!

Bagger owners often overlook the importance of adequate front and rear suspension. After all, adequate springs and other integral internals play a fundamental part in overall ride quality. Everything needs to be in perfect harmony for the utmost in performance and comfort.

Factory front suspension on a Harley-Davidson Touring model could definitely use some improving. We were jazzed when The Motor Company released its Premium Ride Double Cartridge Fork Kit ($429.95). It claims to offer better ride characteristics over stock while improving resistance to a diving front end from gripping the front brake lever. H-D also claims that its new cartridge kit improves cornering while also enhancing bottoming control. Those are some serious buzzwords that definitely piqued our interests. We had to test it out for ourselves. Included in the kit are dual cartridges, fork pipes, fork bolts, new springs, and oil seals, and fits ’09–’13 Harley-Davidson Touring Models.

The yin to the Cartridge Kit’s yang comes via Premium Ride Hand-Adjustable Rear Shocks ($499.95), which fits ’09–later Harley-Davidson Touring models and features hand-adjustable preload dial to better suit your riding style. The left saddlebag needs to be removed in order to gain access to the dial, but there’s no need for a specialty wrench. These shocks feature a single tube, nitrogen-charged emulsion design, and are unique in that they offer multiple levels of ride improvement in compression, rebound, and preload departments; a stiffer rebound damping spring can be found on the left while a softer compression damping spring is located on the right shock. Larger 40mm diameter pistons and 14mm rods aid in quicker reaction characteristics to impacts. The set is available in standard ride height or lowered versions, but since we’re fans of ground clearance, we stuck with the standard height.

harley road glide suspension upgrade

If you notice, much attention to detail was paid to the Premium Ride Hand-Adjustable Rear Shocks in the style department. The front shock (left) features the hand-adjustable preload dial for making quick adjustments to your riding style.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Harley-Davidson’s Premium Ride Double Cartridge Fork Kit consists of new fork tubes, new springs, two cartridge units, oil seals, clips, and new fork caps.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Jon had the bike on the lift and got started with the rear shock swap by removing the saddlebags on each side.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

He needed to remove the air shocks from each side, so he disconnected the air lines. Quick Tip: Always deflate the air lines before removing the air shocks from the bike. This way the pressure in the lines doesn’t spray fluid all over the place. See figure 5.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

A scissor lift was placed under the frame and jacked high enough to get the rear shocks off. The rear shock bolts were loosened, and the shocks were removed and sent to the parts bin for recycling.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

The Premium Ride Hand Adjustable Shock was installed. Notice the hand-adjustable knob on the left side of the top shock body. Sure, the saddlebag dzus clips need to be removed in order to access the dial, but a wrench or shock pump isn’t necessary for adjustment.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

The same process was repeated on the right side. Notice the difference in the right and left spring coils? One is wound tighter than the other. That’s because the right side is handling the rebound duties while the left side handles the compression duties.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Once the rear shocks were installed, Jon moved on to the front-end disassembly in order to gain access to the fork tube caps and loosen them. The Road Glide’s instrument cluster was temporarily removed from the fairing area.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Once the top fork slider bolt caps had a clear path to be loosened with Jon’s gigantic ratchet, the fork bolts were loosened but not fully removed just yet.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Jon moved down to removing the front wheel and fender assembly.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

After the fender was removed, Jon fully removed the fork slider bolts so he could slide the fork tubes out. Quick Tip: Break the fork caps loose before removing the front wheel. This way the fork legs don’t spin when you’re trying to loosen the fork cap bolts.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Jon needed to dissect the fork internals in order to stuff the casings with new cartridge guts. He flushed out the stock fork oil by removing the fork drain plug by pumping the fork in a shotgun-type pumping motion. Jon then set the tubes in a catch pan to let any residual oil completely drain.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Next, Jon removed the fork caps in order to get the factory springs and damping rod setup out and replace them with the new cartridges and springs.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

In order to remove the fork slider, the retaining ring needed to be pulled off each fork leg.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Next to come out were the stock slider bushing and damping rod.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

And finally the old fork seal was removed and replaced with a brand-new one. Whenever fluid is involved, best to err on the side of caution by replacing the old with the new.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Jon used this fork seal/bushing specialty tool in an up-and-down motion in order to get the fork seals to seat evenly.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

As you can see, the new cartridges are being installed into the fork tubes.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Followed by the newer fork springs. Quick Tip: This application requires the tightly wound coils be installed downward.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

The fork oil plug was reinstalled, and then it was time to refill the forks with some new Harley-Davidson Type E Hydraulic Fork Oil.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

Using a specialty tool, Jon collapsed the slider, poured the fork oil, and then pumped the slider up and down in order to remove the air bubbles. He then used a fluid evacuating tool (Harley-Davidson and Motion Pro make great tools for this application). Once he achieved the desired level of fork oil in the newly rebuilt cartridge forks (4.76 inches from the bottom of the rod), the fork oil process was finished.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

The last step was to cap off the newly built forks with a new fork cap bolt and O-ring, which is included in the cartridge kit. Back into the fork tube holder went the fork...

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

...which was then capped off and tightened down to spec.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni

harley road glide suspension upgrade

After the forks were reinstalled we wrapped up final installation. After taking the Road Glide for a test spin we definitely noticed a huge difference in both the front and rear, especially at high speeds and in some twisty corners. What used to dive a little bit more in a tight turn was now more responsive to the riding conditions. In the rear, the new shocks were definitely an improvement over stock. Once we set the correct preload given our weight and cargo specs, we dialed in the hand knob, and the new setup provided a nice firm yet still comfortable ride. Overall, we’re definitely pleased with Harley’s new suspension setup.

Photography by Jordan Mastagni