As a first stage in improving your forks, the progressive springs should be removed and replaced with linear rate springs. " This reduces the dive under braking, meaning the bike doesn’t pitch forward so much and it
remains more stable when the brakes are used hard. The forks are also less likely to bottom-out, all of which improves wheel control and hence grip, plus stability. It’s not expensive, either, with a pair of Ohlins springs costing around Ł68 a pair. On many bikes, such as Honda’s FireBlade and SP-1 or Suzuki’s GSX-R600, fitting them is easy, too, and well within
the scope of the home mechanic, though on others, such as the R1 and GSX-R1000, Brendish describes it as " a pig of a job! "
This already makes a big improvement, which is noticeable on the road and which many riders say transforms their bikes on track days. But there’s more which can be done.
Stage two is to change the original 5W damping oil for a heavier 10W oil (these ratings apply to specialist fork oil). According to Brendish, this is effective on a lot of road bikes, especially the R1, but it’s not that easy on inverted forks, which have to be removed and then turned upside-down so the old oil can be pumped out. It should then be replenished to
the recommended level.
" With the linear springs, this will bring the damping adjusters back to the middle of their range, " said Brendish. " Otherwise, a lot of riders find with the 5W oil they have the adjusters wound up fully, right on the limit of their damping for the forks to work properly. "
The damping action can be improved further using revalving kits. The damping works by an internal piston forcing oil through a stack of shims at each end of the fork. Ohlins produces kits to replace the pistons and shim stacks with more finely-machined and calibrated ones. The firm won’t sell the kits on their own in the UK because fitting them is such a specialist job – the potential for damaging the forks is considerable. But the cost is still not excessive.
Take your forks to an official Ohlins centre and for most superbikes the cost is around Ł350 (with a two-day turnaround time), though R1s and R6s cost around Ł400 as they also need to have a rebound piston holder fitted.
The pistons used are the same as those fitted to the 1997 Ohlins superbike racing forks, while the shim stacks are carefully calibrated by Ohlins technicians. You’ll then have forks identical to many used on the current Superstock race bikes, which means front-end control and grip is transformed.