You may have heard of gas-powered motorcycle shocks, also known as gas-charged shocks. They have several advantages over standard, non-gas shocks on a motorcycle.
If you’re thinking about buying a new motorcycle, or upgrading the suspension of your current motorcycle, it’s a good idea to know what the benefits of gas-powered or gas-charged shocks are before you make your decision.
The four main benefits of gas-powered rear motorcycle shocks are improved stability and control, performance consistency, reduced heat buildup, and advanced customization.
Yesterday I wrote an article on the differences between the Kawasaki Z900, and the slightly more expensive Kawasaki Z900RS. One of the key differences was the use of the gas-powered rear shock. I decided to share some information on gas-charged shocks (whether we’re talking about a single shock, or dual shock) to help other motorcycle riders out.
Improved stability and control
Gas shocks use pressurized gas to help maintain a more stable and controlled motorcycle ride. There are two benefits to this.
Firstly, the pressurized gas helps the shock to avoid losing it’s damping ability under heavy loads (heavy rider, passenger, gear, etc.), or during aggressive riding such as through winding mountainside corners which put a lot of stress on the suspension.
Secondly, the pressurized gas helps the shock be less likely to bottom out. That means it’s less likely to run out of suspension travel and causing a harsh banging that could jar the rider and lead to discomfort or worse consequences.
Gas shocks tend to maintain a consistent level of performance over their lifespan relative to non gas-charged motorcycle shocks. Your motorcycle’s shocks are under constant pressure, even when your motorcycle isn’t being used. During use, the shocks obviously receive even more stress and strain, and over time the internal components of your motorcycle shock will wear out over time. As this happens, your shock will lose its ability to absorb and dampen effectively.
Gas-charged motorcycle suspension typically lasts longer and wears better than non-gas charged shocks because of a number of factors including reduced heat buildup, consistent damping, better built quality and componentry, and more. Because of this, you’ll experience the same level of performance and damping control from a gas-charged shock throughout its lifespan.
Reduced heat buildup
Because nothing is perfectly smooth in real life, your motorcycle’s suspension is designed to absorb the vibrations and impacts. Absorbing the imperfections of the road generates heat in the shock. The heat buildup can be amplified considerably during high-speed or high-intensity riding.
Heat buildup is both a concern for your immediate safety, and for the long term longevity and performance of your motorcycle shock. Excessive heat can cause the oil inside your shock to break down, leading to decreased damping performance, and wearing out the internal components, or wearing out the seals, of your motorcycle’s suspension. Too much wear can lead to reduced performance or complete failure of the shock.
The pressurized gas in a gas charged motorcycle shock helps to dissipate heat generated during use. This means that a gas-charged shock will be less likely to overheat and lose its damping abilities than non-gas shocks.
Customization and rebuilding
Gas-charged shocks typically offer more adjustability, customization, and the possibility for rebuilding.
They typically have adjustable damping settings for preload, rebound and even compression damping. Many non gas-powered motorcycle shocks do not offer compression damping.
Many gas-charged motorcycle shocks are designed to be rebuildable, allowing riders to service or replace components within the shock unit as needed. This can also help riders tailor their shock to fit their needs and use different valve settings, springs, seals, or other suspension components.
If you aren’t sure what you’re doing, or you haven’t done too much do-it-yourself work wrenching on your motorcycle before, modifying or servicing your suspension probably isn’t a good place to start. If your suspension isn’t dialed in correctly, it can make for a very unpredictable motorcycle ride that can be very dangerous to you. You should probably start on more easy work, like changing your oil. I have a ton of content that will easily walk you through that.
If you decide you want to go ahead and modify your suspension yourself, I have one more tip: Do one side at a time. If you upgrade or even just service both your front suspension and your rear suspension at the same time, and something feels ‘funny‘, it will be difficult to know for sure what exactly went wrong. Instead you should service either the front or the back first, ride for a week or two to make sure everything feels right, make any adjustments necessary, ride for another week or two until everything is perfect. Only then should you move on to the other side and repeat the process.
Gas-powered rear motorcycle shocks, or gas-charged shocks, offer several improvements when it comes to increased performance, control, longevity, customization, and serviceability. A gas-powered motorcycle shock may cost more, but if you stick with a reputable manufacturer, like Ohlins, you get what you pay for. The benefits don’t just make for a more confident, and more comfortable motorcycle ride, at any speed, but they might just save your life.