KLR-650 Progressive Fork Spring Review

Short answer, buy them, they're worth every penny. If you don't know what progressive springs are, read THIS for more information.

Here's a slightly longer answer...

I find that progressive springs make my '90 KLR650 much more controllable in tight-woods riding. I picked up a set and, after tuning them a little, was very impressed with the improvement in handling. They feel softer than stock, as you would expect, but they still resist bottoming, again much better than stock.

Here's a little story that might give you some insight into the benefits of progressive springs. It happened about a year after first installing them, so they were well tuned to my riding style, which had also adapted to the springs.

I was running the 2003 Mystery Creek Dual Sport event and having a great time. The bike was running great and I was really in the grove, just flying along. Anyway, there was this particular stretch of road, in bright sun, that dropped into a tree-covered area. So, as my eyes adapted to the shade, the first thing I saw was this truck, coming from the other direction, parked behind a big washout; the guy was out front, staring down, looking for a way through. By this time, I had probably slowed to about, oh, 60-70km/h. Then, I noticed that there were, in fact, two washouts, one in front of the truck, up the road a ways, and the other right in front of me. Oh Shit! I had no time to stop, turn, slow, or even scream. This was a metre (3-4 foot) drop to jumbled rocks on the bottom and squared off banks about 2 metres apart. I had time to shift a bit to the right, just enough to aim for one of the larger rocks in the bottom and where the far bank was a little bit worn down, probably from other bikers going through. So, I hit this at speed, with the gas on, bounced off the rock, and slammed into the far side. I hammered the suspension down, front and back, and drove the skid plate into the far bank before bouncing off, up, and over. I'll always remember the sound that plate made as it smashed into the far bank.

Anyway, somehow, I managed to stay on the bike, which bounced back to the ground, and in control enough to casually scoot through the second washout at a more reasonable speed. I waved to the truck driver and carried on. He must have thought I was crazy; I thought I was damn lucky to still be alive, let alone still riding.

In hitting the far bank, I had completely bottomed the front suspension, which somehow still managed to roll over the edge rather than just tossing me over the bars. I credit this to those progressive springs, so, yeah, they probably saved my life that day. I'm pretty sure the stock springs would have bottomed sooner, and harder, and just tossed me off the bike. The rear suspension bottomed and then bounced off in true stock fashion, thankfully not enough to toss me at that point. In between, the skid plate took the brunt of the hit. It's an after-market 2mm (about 3/16") aluminium pan. This once flat plate is now form-fitted to the bottom of the bike, you can see where the frame rails are. Yeah, it was a hard hit.

So, if you're thinking about progressive springs, do it. Even if you don't ride in tight woods for fun, the one time you really, really need good suspension, when you least expect it, you'll be happy you did the upgrade. I know I sure am.

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