Although the stock suspension on my 1994 VFR750FR was fine for general use and the freeway, my more sporting aspirations were suppressed by the vagueness of the fork and shock. Rather than send the fork out to a service, I purchased a Race Tech Gold Valve kit for the front fork. The kit cost approximately $135, and included the valves, pretty good instructions, and all the little pieces needed to custom valve the fork for someone of my size and ability (190 lbs., reasonably advanced rider but no expert). Taking apart the forks was a good time, and the rebuilding of the cartridge was very easy: the Race Tech philisophy is to flow more fluid through the valve stack and let the valve stack do the damping work. You immediately see a difference between the stock valve and the RT item, which has both larger and rounder profile passages for the fluid to reach the valve/washer stack at the bottom of the cartridge. After rebuilding the valve stack according to the instructions (I went two setting higher than the baseline to adjust for my weight and enthusiasm in corners), I put the legs back together using their Ultra-Slick 5wt. fluid and a set of Race Tech straight-rate springs. The springs are about $80, and replace the stock progressive winds no sweat, same spacers and all. Again, the RT theory is that progressive springing was designed to meet the limitations of non-cartridge damping systems of 20 years ago. If your damping is well built, then the progressive/anti-bottoming value of the spring is unneeded, and a straight-rate spring lets the fluid do the job over the bumps. I also sent my shock to RT for rebuilding, the mods being basically the same as for the forks. The major change to the shock is the installation of the Gold Valve in the shock, an anti-corrosion finish applied to the interior and the piston rod, and the addition of a Schrader valve at the top of the shock which allows you to let out the gas charge yourself, facilitating home-grown rebuilds later on. The shock work came to a total of about $300, which is far less than any available aftermarket shock I could find. The effects of these changes seem well worth the money spent: the bike sends much more feedback to the rider in all conditions, and rides through mid-corner bumps without any upset at all. Under mid-corner acceleration, the rear just squats and thrusts, a very satisfying feeling. The forks are much more responsive feeling, and the good thing about the RT setup is that if you don't have the valving just right, you can take the forks apart and revalve them yourself--no need to send them off for another servicing somewhere. I will add further riding impressions as I pile up miles, but the fork changes are really noticable and a major improvement over stock. email@example.com (David Allan Feller)
Race Tech Fork Springs
Because of the spongy, divey nature of the stock VFR springs, I recently installed Race Tech fork springs in my '94 VFR750F. Race Tech's web site has an interactive section to select the right springs for the rider weight, and riding style.
Honda's standard front fork spring rate is .7, and I needed a 1.0 spring. It has made a nice difference. front end diving under braking is now MUCH less, handling is the same or slightly improved with a firmer but not harsher feel. It is a simple replacement job, and much less expensive than the Gold Valve kit .
It's a simple, effective mod! (Mark Trinske - firstname.lastname@example.org)
The stock shock on the '86-'87 VFR's are notoriously weak and quickly used up. Fox sells the most popular of the aftermarket replacements for it. I ordered my Fox Twin-Clicker on Jan 26, and received it (as promised) on March 12. Fox Suspension Components can be reached at (408) 365-9700. The shock arrived an inch too long!! Apparently they put the wrong body together during assembly. They owned up, and quickly replaced it with the correct part. Installation was fairly easy, and took about 3 hours. You have to loosen and pull back the mufflers, unbolt the gas tank, unbolt the front bolts of the rear subframe, tilt the rear subframe back, and it really helps to have the Honda Service manual. You will need a center stand of some kind. I also used a small C-clamp to compress the O-rings of the top shock eye so I could get the shock between the ears of the top shock mount of the chassis. The new shock is about 0.15" longer than stock in it's shortest position, so ride height is increased about 1" or a bit more. If you can barely straddle your VFR, this is not good. The Fox shock is fully adjustable, and MUCH nicer than stock!! It soaks up bumps, and the ride feel is wonderful. Now the forks feel less planted by comparison! 3 bits of advice: Buy the Fox shock with the spring to save effort in changing springs. Always measure an aftermarket part before trying to install it!!! Preload the spring as recommended by Fox before you install the shock; it's a ROYAL pain to turn the preload ring when the shock is installed. Finally, Fox plans to take this product off their list soon. If you have an '86-87 VFR and want a new Fox shock for it, don't wait too long. email@example.com (Andrew Mutz)
I read Andrew Mutz's comments on installing a Fox Shock on his VFR, so I thought it appropriate to add mine. I recently installed such a shock on my '91 VFR. First, I agree that purchasing the Fox shock without a spring is going to complicate your life. It adds to the cost of installation (the $445 you see quoted in the Fox ads is for a shock without spring), and it's plain dangerous to remove/refit the spring to the new body without a proper press. Second, the body free length is adjustable, so start out by matching that of the stock unit, exactly.. '91 standard free length is 186 mm, I believe (see the VFR shop manual). Measure before assembly, to be sure. I've owned a lot of bikes over the years, but I've never seen one as sensitive to shock length and preload variables as a VFR. Lengthening the free (unloaded) length will give more front-end bite, but the price will be straight-line stability,. Fork rake will decrease as rear shock free length increases. Maybe this is the Faustian price for chassis development, folks. The shock that I purchased has a ring adjuster tool that snaps into a 3/8" ratchet. This allows you to set up the spring preload. This may be something that Mr. Mutz didn't receive. Nonetheless, it looks to me like you're faced with pulling the battery & battery box to get enough room to swing the tool. OK, it's not so good, but then a) what else do you have to do on a rainy Sunday?; b) have you tried this on a ZX-11? In general, it's important to dial these values in pretty much right the first time, because while preload and compression adjustment are small hassles, rebound damping and free length are both adjusted from the bottom of the shock body. Because the bottom of the shock passes through the swing arm, these two adjustments are plenty difficult to make after assembly. The twin-clicker shock comes equipped with a separate reservoir to control compression damping. So, the immediate question is: Where do I put it? Fox gives you nice rubber spacers and two adjustable steel clamps to strap it to the rear sub-frame rails, but I advise against this. Using the rubbers causes the reservoir to foul against the rear sidepanel body work. This spells money. Better to use thinner rubber, say, from an inner tube, and then use nylon tie-wraps to snug it up against the frame rails. This will clear the body panel, just. And you can adjust compression damping by just loosening the body panel. Note that you're limited to a large extent in your placement by the length (approx 20 in) of the steel-braided hose from the shock body to the reservoir. For owners with high mileage VFR's, the cost of this conversion is worth every penny. While a Fox is not an Ohlins (truly a machinehead's work of art), it still makes a tremendous amount of difference for about 2/3 the price. The bike will be much tighter through twisting, uneven roads, given that you now have some modicum of rebound damping where you used to have only compression damping. The only problem is that the VFR owner, now in possession of a completely rejuvenated and even improved machine, now has absolutely no reason to sell it, ever. GIlling100@aol.com (Gavin Illingworth)
I recently installed an Ohlins Type IV shock absorber on my 95 VFR. This unit allows for remote preload, compression and rebound adjustment. As expected the Ohlins unit has dramatically improved rear damping and provided increased stability overall. The rear tire stays more planted in bumpy corners, and the bike feels more in control in corners with larger depressions that always seemed to upset the VFR's chassis. The Ohlins unit is slightly longer than the stock shock body, which raised rear seat height slightly, and in turn has placed a noticeably larger burden on the VFR's other liability, the front forks. Not a major concern, but definately not a positive side effect and one that just accelerated the front end rebuild I had planned anyway. The Ohlins unit retails for $980 and takes about 2 hours to install. I've always been pleased with Ohlins products, and I'm very happy with the performance of this shock, however I'm not sure if it's worth the extra $$ over a Fox shock. (P. Wheeler)
Ohlins Rear Shock for 1991 VFR750F
This is not product review as such because I have not been able to source one of these for my 1991 VFR750F. Discussions started with my local dealer and Ohlins direct in January. After much talking they both confirmed that my shock was planned in for production in early March and would be shipped and with me by the first week of April. I duly paid a 50% deposit to get confirm my order. Come mid April, no shock. Further lengthy calls to the distributor and Ohlins reveals that production of my shock has now been put back to August!! No apologies and who knows when I would have found out. Suffice to say I am now looking at alternatives from Fox and Maxton and trying to get the deposit refunded. I am based in Thailand but as all products are manufactured through Sweden the same should apply everywhere. I only hope their products are better than their service but then I'll never know. (Andy Davies - Andy.Davies@th.tesco.com)