What are my options for replacing the shocks on my RT?

I started noticing that my RT was not handling well at around 20,000 miles. The rear end felt bouncy, especially if there was compression in a turn. Victor M. Kimura <victor@cats.ucsc.edu> noticed the same thing and posted the following "After 15,000 miles on my R11RT I’m noticing some sloppiness in handling, although I’m not certain it’s coming from the front or rear. (It feels like the rear has some additional and unwanted movement.) At what point do you know that your shocks, either front or back, are "going belly up?" What negative handling/riding characteristics does the bike display? In addition, which shock is most likely to need to be replaced first (i.e., front or back)?

Kenneth Ahrweiler <Ken_Ahrweiler@webtv.net > Had the same issues: "First let me say that up to now the handling has been great. It has tracked true and has always been very secure in the corners. As of late I have noticed that when I hit a bump of any size while leaning in a corner or even on a straight road I am noticing a deflection of the front wheel, a sort of a twitch or a slight wobble that then corrects itself until the next bump. This has only started lately. While I am no suspension expert I suspect the BMW shock has lost it’s dampening powers.

John F. Caramagno <crags@a.crl.com> responded to Victor Kimura’s comments that the bike’s suspension was going bad because the bike felt like "deflection into a wobble" by stating that "It is usually a lack of rear damping. It causes the rear to pogo up and down which changes the geometry at the front and creates the wobble."

There appears to be only a few solutions for replacing the stock shocks:

  1. Purchase new BMW Shocks — this is not recommended as they are almost as expensive as the aftermarket ones, do not last as long, and are supposedly not rebuildable.
  2. Purchase Íhlins Shocks. http://www.ohlins.com
  3. Purchase Works Performance Shocks http://worksperformance.com
  4. Purchase Penske Shocks http://www.penskeshocks.com/
  5. Purchase Fox Shocks. (see your local dealer) or call USA Tel +1 408-365-9700
  6. Rebuild your stock shocks at Lindeman Engineering. USA Tel +1 408-371-6151

Everyone on the list has positive things to say about the Íhlins and the Works Performance Shocks: Ken Robb <kenrobb@4dcomm.com> Said "I put hlins on my R1100R at about 20,000 miles and it made a HUGE difference. Smoother over sharp bumps, more control over big whoops and a more "planted" feel overall. Very easy to adjust preload and damping in seconds with no tools. I should have done it sooner but I waited for signs of fading in the originals before I spent the big bucks. " Ken has also used Works shocks before as well and noted "I have had good luck with Works Performance on other bikes but they didn’t have them for this bike when I needed them."

Erik Miner <axeis@pluto.njcc.com> Said "I have several friends who have replaced the stock shocks on their RT’s with the Íhlins units. They are expensive but the improvement is HUGE. The other good choice is the Works Performance shocks which are also very good quality but not quite as much money as the Íhlins. Both are rebuildable unlike the stock units. Frankly I’m surprised that you got 35k out of the originals. BMW shocks usually go in about 20k or less.

Gary Prickett: BeemerGary@aol.com says "Reputedly the best, and certainly the most expensive, are the Íhlins. They have a lot of adjustability and everyone I have talked to who has them seems to be very satisfied. Because of cost, I chose to go with Works Performance. Part of the ordering process with this company is for you to specify certain aspects of your size and riding style, which enables the shocks to be somewhat tailored to your specific needs. With a little bit of fine tuning by you, you can end up with a very satisfactory set up.

Eric Rosenquist <ericrosenquist@compuserve.com> has had some experience with Works Shocks and noted that "I have Works Performance on two non-BMW’s and when the GS needs new dampers, I will give Works a call - I have been very happy with their performance and price." Jim Wilson <jimwilson@iname.com> has had his Works Shocks rebuilt: "I’ve also been happy with their overhaul service (K100RT rear shock) – I had a seal leak after about 4 years/40K miles. It took a couple of weeks including mailing time to get back a refurbished shock."

Jeff Pack <jeffpa@MICROSOFT.com> said that he went with Íhlins; "I got my Íhlins through Circuit One, in Portland Oregon, @10% above cost. Not much markup in shocks anyway. Price was roughly 1500$ for the pair."

Their URL is http://www.circuit1.com

"I did NOT get the preload adjustable shock, since I don’t carry a passenger, Nor more than a few pounds of baggage. I am very pleased with the shocks, this bike finally handles well. I installed the stocks myself, its quite easy, the front being the most work (gotta loosen tank mounts, and slide back a bit...) BMW quoted me 3-4 hours labor, I did both in well under 2 hours, taking my time."

On the other hand, Ken Robb <4dcomm.com!kenrobb@lll-winken.llnl.gov> says that he has the pre-load adjustable Íhlins on his R1100R and often changes the setting several times a day. "Soft on the freeway to the twisties, jack it up to keep stuff from scraping in the twisties, back it off for some very rough "paved roads", back to medium for the slab again. He wrote about a ride "from San Diego to Sequoia with full bags then left the luggage in the room for some sporty riding Saturday. It is nice to be able to change the suspension settings this easily. If I had to use a punch or spanner I probably would pick a not-so-happy medium and stick with it most of the time. I don’t think there is much difference in cost if you opt out of the remote adjuster with Íhlins.

Ken Robb got his Íhlins from Brattin Motors in San Diego. He said that "Parts manager Blair Balsam took good care of me. I don’t remember the part # but Blair has a good catalogue and could order you the right one. They made a huge improvement in ride and handling—more compliance over small sharp bumps and better control over bigger bumps and dips."

Julio <imjulio@shore.net> said "San Jose BMW sent me a front Íhlins for $600 + $24 overnight shipping. I called them on a Monday and the shock arrived 2 days later. Of all the places I called in the US, they had the best price."

Kenneth Ahrweiler <Ken_Ahrweiler@webtv.net> Ordered his Íhlins from overseas. He says "After 25,000 miles on my RT I noticed my front shock going belly up. Seeing all the good press on the list about Íhlins but not to thrilled about the price. About $750 each from list reports, I decided to search the Internet, and the only one to come up is the one below."

"Íhlins web site is at http://www.Íhlins.nl/. And the company that I ordered the shocks from is called Wim Kroon in the Netherlands. The e-mail address is, Wim.Kroon.Import@inter.NL.net"

"I asked them a few questions about which one I needed, cost, and any shipping charges. Next day reply, US $521 front, $580 rear, shipping for the front via UPS $87, Total $608, and no state sales tax. I ordered it and in 8 days it was at my door.. The price they quoted me was $608 Including shipping for a front 1100RT shock. About a week after I received the shock I received another bill from UPS in the amount of $9.50 for US duty. Then I received my VISA statement showing a charge of $647.88 for the shock which makes the total cost $657.38. I sent a E-mail to the seller complaining about the misquote in price and asking for a credit. Their answer was VISA used a different exchange rate."

Yours truly, S. Cary Littell Jr. <littell@pacbell.net> Got a chance to see the new Fox Shock for the RT at the California BMW Triumph Oktoberfest. "The Fox rep was there and displayed Fox’s newest shocks for the R1100RT. The Front and Rear are US$450.00 each, making them about one-half as much as the Íhlins. They offer a variety of springs, and the shocks can be built to order based on your weight, type of riding etc... The shocks can be rebuilt, but the recommended service interval is just 40 hours. That’s a bit frequent for me, having put almost 20k miles on in a year. I think that is probably one of those legal things, or a standard for professional riders and the shock probably works great for a much longer period. Anyway, the other downside is that there is not a reservoir/adjuster for the rear. Its necessary to use a tool to adjust compression at the base of the spring. Rebound is adjustable with a set-screw."

Julio <imjulio@shore.net> noted that with fox, "The problem I’ve found with Fox is availability. Before heading out to Biketoberfest, I replaced the front shock on my ‘96 RT with an Íhlins, only because I couldn’t find a Fox anywhere. Yesterday, I ordered a Fox unit for the rear. The counterman called Fox in Cal. and was told they didn’t have any on hand, but were planning a run in about a month. If it was summer, I’d have to buy another brand. BTW, I was sold the shock for $400."

S. Cary Littell Jr. <littell@pacbell.net> confirmed this "I tried to buy a pair, but I was told that there would be no actual production of the RT shocks until 1999 – They are retooling the factory."

Daniel Huntsinger <danhunt@hooked.net> got a good deal on his Íhlins by buying from Canada: "I purchased my Íhlins front and rear for my RT from http://www.wolfbmw.com/. Front was US $620 and Rear was about US$673. Any order over CND$200 is free shipping, and of course there is no sales tax. Delivery was definitely not overnight, The first shock took about 2 weeks, and the second one was back ordered because the Canadian supplier was out and they had to order it from Íhlins. That one took about 6 weeks.

Even though BMW stock shocks supposedly cannot be not rebuilt, there is a place called Lindeman Engineering that does it. Bob Ranney <rjranney@uswest.net> had them do a rebuild on his GS stock shock: "I have around 5k miles on a Lindeman rebuild and its a good improvement and you don’t lose the remote preload....there was minor Dremel surgery on the upper shock mount with my R11GS because Lindeman Engineering adds a Schrader valve." Bob does not mess with shock’s settings; "to be honest, I set it and leave it....haven’t dicked with it since summer so for all I know its fine...preload feels right…." Bob says it was pretty inexpensive too: "It was $180 from Lindeman Engineering since they felt the spring was fine...I weigh around 200lbs and I carry around 40-50 pounds in my aluminum panniers."

Lindeman does not have a web page yet, but here is the contact information: Lindeman's Engineering, 520 McGlincy #3, Campbell, CA, 408-371-6151. (San Francisco Bay Area)

Another option is now available from Penske Racing Shock. Jon Diaz < jdiaz@mc.net > writes:  Penske Racing Shocks of Reading, PA. When I was looking for new RT shocks in early 1996, Ohlins had no product, so I consulted Penske about designing a custom pair of shocks for the Oilhead application. They expressed interest in doing the project, as long as they could see an Oilhead in the flesh to evaluate fit and plumbing restrictions. My friend Richard Bernecker rode his R1100GS to their shop, and after scamming $300 worth of free stickers and hats from the Penske staff :), managed to convince them they could do it. The Penske product intrigued me because they offered remote reservoirs, full control of the compression damping circuit, and also were willing to let me tell them what I wanted. I didn't have to choose from a bunch of predefined options like the other guys. Yes, there was a little risk involved, but I was willing to do it to get what I wanted. I worked exclusively with Penske tech Bruce Kleckner on all facets of the design, including spring rates, damping, plumbing  for the remote reservoirs, and so on. All of his engineering and machining time was included in the final price. The finished product was ready several months later (about the time that Ohlins finally released something), and they worked great on my RT. Final cost was around $1500.