Riding on Cloud 9

B&T; Softens Up Our Sportster

Our stock shocks have served us well, but it came time for a new look and feel.

The Smooth Rides are available in lengths ranging from 11 to 13 inches (in half-inch increments) and we chose a set that was shorter by half an inch, so the short guy who rides it can touch both of his feet to the ground when stopped. The seat was 29 inches off the ground before we made the change.

In order to make the conversion, we recruited our Cruz Tool kit.

The toolkit had the blue Loctite and Allen wrench we needed but not the 19mm wrench necessary to hold the Nylock nut while we unbolted the shock at the bottom.

Unlike the OEM shock above it, the Smooth Ride unit uses an internal spring and dampening system. This beautiful shock has a much cleaner appearance than the stock one.

look up close and personal revealed the air valve used to adjust the pressure in the Smooth Ride. The shocks come pre-set and charged at 100 pounds of pressure. B&T; recommends this setting for the break-in period. In any event, a quick blast of air from a common compressor or B&T;'s Smooth Ride Shock pump lets you set the preload (the compression or extension in the shock spring when the bike is stopped with no extra weight on it) between 40 and 150 psi.

Mounting the shocks was a pretty straightforward deal. We removed the old pipe-side shock first and installed the new one in its place using the included Allen head bolts, spacers, and Nylock nut, then repeated the process on the other side. Thankfully, B&T; had the foresight to include extra spacers since we needed two at each end to make sure that the shock on the right side of the bike cleared the belt guard.

Okay, time to check the new seat height. It measured 28-1/2 inches, so our new shocks brought us half an inch closer to the ground, which will help our short staffer keep both feet firmly on the ground when necessary...

...and they also changed the appearance of the back half of the bike. Now we just need to knock out the 50-mile break-in period and then we can set our preload to suit our needs.

In its dual career as test platform and commuter bike, our '02 Sportster logs many a mile under its tires, and up until now, we've used the stock shocks to take the bone jarring out of bumps in the road. Although we haven't had any problems with our OEM shock absorbers, we thought we'd check out the grass on the other side of the fence by trying out a set of B&T;'s Smooth Ride shocks. They feature air adjustability to compensate for different loads and riding conditions by changing the air pressure inside them --and as a bonus, they look great!