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Three Cheap Triumph Bonneville Suspension Upgrades

Suspension is my Triumph Bonneville 865’s greatest weakness, so we’re going to try three different ways of improving it for only about $100 each. The three things we’ll be testing are:

  1. Used Progressive Suspension shocks from Facebook Marketplace
  2. Brand new RFY made in China shocks from Amazon and
  3. Used Bonneville T100 shocks from the liquid cooled model

I’m Adrian from YouMotorcycle. Welcome to the 7th video in my Best Mid-Size Retro Motorcycle (for me) series comparing my Triumph Bonneville 865, my Moto Guzzi V7 750, and my Royal Enfield Interceptor 650.

In today’s video I’ll show you everything I tried to improve my Bonneville suspension, and how it all worked out.

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Watch this video!

The Cheapest Shocks: Why Not Spend More?

If you’re new to this series you’re probably wondering, “Why only spend $100 on suspension?” Totally fair question!

The idea for the series was to buy three mid-size retro motorcycles that the average motorcyclist on a budget can afford, so I set a maximum budget of $3650 US per motorcycle, including repairs and upgrades.

Having the same max budget across all three motorcycles in the series, despite them having different ages and mileage, really evens out the playing field to let us know what the best bang for our buck is going to be.

Right now I only have $100 left in the budget to spend on my Bonneville though, so let’s see if that’s enough to fix her weak suspension.

Upgrade 1: Used Progressive Suspension shocks

Lucky for me I found a pair of used Progressive Suspension shocks from a seller only about a 10 minute ride away from me, for $90 USD. These came off of a Triumph Bonneville with spoked wheels, so it was probably about 1 centimeter longer than what my mag wheel Bonneville came with.

Putting on taller rear shocks without raising the front of your motorcycle changes the steering geometry and makes this Bonneville handle a bit more sharply. To be honest, I really liked this improvement, however, these shocks, surprisingly, really, really sucked. They were basically as bad as the originals that they replaced.

I dug through the Progressive Suspension box and found the original receipt was still in there. These shocks were almost 20 years old. Who knows how many tens of thousands of miles they had been used for, that’s probably why someone took them off at some point.

Luckily when I showed the seller the receipt he was a nice dude, understood the situation, and took them back and refunded me, so I decided to try the extreme opposite for my next approach.

Upgrade 2: New Cheap Amazon RFY shocks

If trying to get a second hand set of good shocks wasn’t going to work, what if we tried getting a brand new pair of really cheap 2024 shocks? Are today’s cheapo shock better than Triumph’s OEM shock from 15 years ago?

Installing these RFY shocks was a little trickier. The process is more or less the same, but these shocks are universal, not specifically made for my Bonneville, so you need to use some spacers in there to get the right fit.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that at slow speeds, these $90 shocks actually do perform a bit better on bumpy roads than my original Triumph shocks do.

BUT, my real suspension concern with this motorcycle is that when I hit some big bumps at highway speeds, my Bonneville always felt like it wanted to launch me into orbit, and unfortunately these RFY shocks are no better at high speeds, so I returned them to Amazon.

BUT, along the way I learned something. There is a guy in the US who rebuilds these nicely for you for $100, and then mails them back to you. I have no personal experience here, but some people seem really happy with it. Just Google “Chris rebuilds RFY shocks” if you want to find out more.

I didn’t go that route because it wasn’t within my budget, but also because I found these:

Upgrade 3: T100 Liquid Cooled Shocks

In 2017, Triumph gave the Bonneville a series of upgrades. Two of the most talked about improvements were liquid cooling, and better suspension. The suspension on the liquid cooled models still isn’t fantastic, but everyone agrees, it’s a step up from my old air cooled Bonneville.

So what would happen if we bought a set of used shocks from that newer liquid cooled model, and put them on my older air cooled Bonneville?

I found a seller on Marketplace asking about $110 US, and I was going to buy them until I remembered I already had a set of liquid cooled Bonneville shocks in my kitchen…

Getting these to fit is a little tricky. You’ll need to create some kind of spacer, ideally metal, but in a pinch I just used some rubber that’s made to be compressed, that’s what I did.

The liquid cooled shocks were once again a bit longer, but I didn’t mind at all. I kind of like it.

On bumpier roads they handled the bumps better. Still not really well, but definitely better. Higher speeds were still not great, but maybe on par or a bit better than the RFYs. The Marketplace seller was willing to let his pair go for $50 US so, overall, if you had to spend $50 on these, not bad.

Hagon: What about ‘em?

Of course, the sad little people who like to leave angry comments on the internet wouldn’t let me get away with making a Bonneville suspension video and not mention Hagon. They’re probably the #1 recommended motorcycle suspension manufacturer on any British motorcycle forum, and for two good reasons:

  1. They make good shocks
  2. They are really well priced in the UK.

The problem we have over here, is that in the UK, with taxes and shipping, the base level Hagon shocks cost $230 USD. But on this side of the ocean, after shipping and import duties, we’re paying about $315. It’s still not bad, but it’s almost $100 more for the same product.

I’m not saying they are or aren’t worth the money, I’m just saying that I’d recommend a lot of things if I didn’t know they cost everyone else $100 more than me.

Either way, it’s more than I’m allowed to spend based on the rules of the series, so let’s move on.

Conclusions: So What Should You Do?

So what should you do? Well, for starters, maybe don’t buy used suspension if you aren’t sure about their history and the seller isn’t willing to take them back if there’s a problem. I just happened to get really lucky and buy from someone really nice.

If you did want to try the RFY’s, you may want to do some homework on Chris who rebuilds them. Of course, you’re still paying for the shock, plus the $100 in labor for the rebuild, plus the shipping from Chris to you, so even if he does a terrific job, things are still getting expensive…

The real bang for your buck winner is the used T100 liquid cooled shocks, assuming that they’re low mileage enough and you can get them for cheap enough. It’s a small step up all around. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress, and on a tight budget, it feels like the best budget suspension upgrade of the three options.

BUT, if you really love your Bonneville, you plan on keeping it for a long time, and you aren’t on a limited budget, take some advice from your buddy Adrian: spend a little bit more money and get a suspension setup you’ll really be happy with for a long time to come.

Want to see the rest of best mid-size retro motorcycle series, I’ll link to the playlist up here.

Thanks for watching, ride safe, but have fun!

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.

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