Understanding suspension mods, more ground clearance?

Discussion in 'Parallel Universe' started by CC Ryder, Nov 5, 2013.

  1. CC Ryder

    CC Ryder Adventurer

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    Im really at a cross-road with my 2012 F8 "Trophy". I spent a lot of time researching the bike and the 990 before buying it.. The fit and feel, or ergonomics of the bike felt great to me.. Im 6' and 175lb. This is my first Adv bike. I have years of 450 experience.. What I didn't know getting into this new sport, was the level of off-road riding I would be, or could be doing.. I didn't really think I would ride this thing fast on dirt.. As it turns out, just 8 months later, I'm really hammering on this thing in the dirt.. and I love it! I dont want to give that up.. I want more. At this point the bike is still stock (suspension). This last week we did a big ride trip. I was riding with a buddy on 990 and another on a 990 super-enduro.. I could hang until the terrain became more rocky and bigger hits.. Then, it was bottoming to the point of me thinking, "im going to break a wrist or break a wheel". You know, you are bottoming it hard when you can hear the front end clap out loud when you hit, and your feet are hitting the ground. At the end of the day, both fork seals were blown.

    Yes, I have spent considerable time reading about suspension mods on these bikes.. No, im not suspension savvy. But, maybe ive missed the part where someone addresses the ground clearance and overall travel. It seems the 990 has 2" more ground clearance..? I've read a lot of the pages on the shriver fork upgrade and the elka shock.. This seems to be the best upgrade I could do for how I'm riding the bike. I want to know if I break with $$ for suspension mods, will/can I get another inch or two of travel and ground clearance? I dont mind if the bike is an inch or so taller.. The bash plate on my bike looks like the surface of the moon! Also, I don't understand the "spacer" that is used? Does this not take away travel?

    I'm at a cross road with the bike because, as I see it, I need to spend another $4k on it to continue to ride it hard off road.. $2-3k in suspension and 2k or more for new wheels. So, what would you guys do in my situation?

    As I see it, I have 3 options:

    1) sell it before spending more $$ and buy an older 990, more off road capable and easier to setup for hard off road riding.. Could move my pegs, luggage and some other extras to the 990 and spend $6k on the bike and be up a couple grand after.. but could be a can of worms, as I have personally seen with friends who own them.

    2) spend $4k or more on this bike and really be upside down, but have a bike I know and feel comfortable on and still have 2 years of factory warranty.

    3) sell it and instead of spending the $4k on the F8 add it to the $10k I may be able to get for my bike and put it towards a new 1190R.

    I can't be the only one in this situation.. I'm obsessing over what to do. So, Im wondering what you fellas would do.. or are doing.. or have done, and enlighten me a little on suspension, specifically ground clearance.

    Jason
    #1
  2. fnatic

    fnatic Been here awhile

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    Hey Jason

    In same situation mate, got the F800gs as well and looking at upgrading suspension and maybe wheels in future. Don't have an answer for you apart from selling and changing bikes always has risk of getting someone elses problems. Least with your F800 you know what it needs to improve it and its history.

    I'd go wheels and suspension upgrade but thats my 0.02.


    Eager to see which way you go and how it turns out either way.

    :lurk
    #2
  3. Pangia

    Pangia Been here awhile

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    Jason, it sounds like you have done your homework...here is my 2¢

    Ask Alex at Konflict Motorsports about ground clearance (ADV Rider Vendor section) Link: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=606971

    I have the shriver conversion (Alex did mine), but don't think it added 2 inches. It is also good to understand more about bike geometry as 2 inches will dramatically change bike geometry and my guess is that it would negatively impact handling characteristics (I believe it is called "rake"). There are some good threads on advrider about bike geometry - I would check them out before altering the geometry. Do a google search for geometry and ADVrider.com.

    I have a 2013 F800GS and splurged$ immediately with the shriver conversion by Alex and also wheels by Woody's including an 18" rear and I am totally happy that I made the investment. I live in New Mexico and ride 50%+ dirt with a lot of rocky sections. When I can, I blast up to Colorado for more off road riding. I am 5" 11" 170 lbs and run TKC 80's. I rode the F800GS stock forks just to try them and hammered them several times on my first ride. I consider myself an intermediate rider and my riding partners include the following bikes XR 650 / KTM 640 / KTM 990 / Husky 610 / KLR & KLX 650 / Super Tenere / 1200 Adventure / F800GS (not all on the same ride).

    I think KTM makes outstanding machines - having said that, my KTM buddies are always eying my F800GS. Most of my riding buddies are faster than me, however - of the two KTM riders I ride with, I am faster off road than one of them...so it is the rider, not the machine.

    If you want to save some $, you might research this option: Touratech Progressive Fork Springs Link: http://www.touratech-usa.com/Store/316/PN-048-5839/Touratech-Progressive-Fork-Springs-BMW-F800GS-2013-on
    I don't know a thing about these springs, but it sounds like an option that might at least keep you from bottoming out...maybe. Also you might want to ask Alex what he thinks about this option - he is usually very willing to explain details and share his opinion if you catch him when he has time or post a message to him in the vendor section.

    If you can afford it, I say go for the fork and wheel upgrades you described - I am very happy with them both. The forks perform great both off road and on road and I have not dented a wheel yet and have hit more rocks than I should. One other upgrade that I think makes the bike respond better for me in the dirt are Fastway Adventure Pegs; here is a link to Jengel415's write up on ADVrider: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=917564

    When you get a moment, update your profile so we know more about you...like where you are from...(do it before Loutre finds out :evil)

    Hope this all helps.

    Cheers - Pangia
    #3
  4. CC Ryder

    CC Ryder Adventurer

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    I've thought about putting the progressive springs in right now, as the BMW shop will do it for no cost when I take it to them to fix the blown seals. But, im hesitating doing that as I think its just wasted $$.. But, maybe if I were to sell the bike in the next year, it might be worth a minimal investment. Honestly, I bottom the rear out more often. I've done better at changing my riding style (moving your body weight just right, different throttle position etc) to bottom less, but it ultimately slows me down doing this.. My buddy on the 990 just honks thru it all.. like a dirtbike.. I will consult with Alex, I didn't realize that he is doing the Shriver conversion start to finish? So, you sent him your forks and he does the complete conversion, re-valves it for your riding ability, weight, etc? Must be expensive! I know others that have done it themselves have spent $900-1200. It would be worth paying more to not have to source any of the needed parts, and do all the legwork. Definitely going to contact him.

    I do have the Fast-way ADV pegs.. I love this company! I've talked to them about using my bike for R&D purposes of developing a steering damper for the F8.. If they commit to it, it may be the decision maker in me keeping the bike. I love the pegs, it was a good selling point that they can move to my next bike. I have them on the low setting, I know that is part of my problem of constantly taking my boots into the ground, but the stand up position feels spot on.. until I take em into the ground.. Yes, I have bar risers.

    Knowing what I have and having a factory warranty is definitely a big consideration.

    Pangia- what rear shock did you go with? Ground clearance is an important consideration for me in this investment.. something I missed in my research before buying this bike.

    Thanks guys.
    Jason
    #4
  5. itsatdm

    itsatdm Long timer

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    If you are staying with your KTM buddies, I am impressed. If you are bottoming your rear shock, you better check the top shock mount to see if you bent it. Add a brace to your list of costs. Letting it go will result in a bent shock frame mount.

    My experience with the front turned out that a lot of the felt impacts was not the fork bottoming, but the inability of the cartridge valving to absorb square edge hits. Put a zip tie on the fork tube and see what yours is doing.

    If you are going to eventually change the cartridge tube for the improved valving, used a straight wound spring. No tuner will want to try to match valving with a changing spring weight.

    If you look at the DIY cartridge transplants, one of the mods was to limit travel of the donor cartridge. Within reason you don't have to do that. Ohlin's makes a very expensive extended travel cartridge for these forks.

    I have 10.25" of ground clearance without a rider on my bike. That's with no preload front or rear, so a little more is feasible. What do you have?

    Just a respring will be an improvement. It lessons sag while preventing bottoming. I have an Ohlins front spring with a Bitubo cartridge insert. Forget about it, but it is longer than the stock one. A longer spacer will do the same. I have a Hyperpro rear spring.

    I have only managed to bottom the front a few times and not the rear.

    My suspension is not that good, but it is so much better than stock. I can't imagine what some of these options that are now available would feel like.

    Before you start thinking you can make a dirt bike out of it, read Johngil's trials and tribulations. Before I would go hard core, I would buy a KTM 950SE.
    #5
  6. BC61

    BC61 Long timer

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    Doesn't sound like you need more ground clearance, just better suspension. You are blowing through the stroke with the aggressive riding. Having the bike sprung and valved for you and your style of riding will transform the bike. Keep in mind the F800 is still a dual sport bike with more of a street orientation.

    If you choose to upgrade your suspension check out the Ohlins cartridge kit and rear shock as others have suggested. It is worth the money if you use it and it sounds like you would. I did some of the development testing for the Ohlins USA kit. You won't be disappointed. I was amazed at what I could hit and how hard. Call Joe Subrizy at Ohlins USA, he can give you the details. I believe they are offering two version of valving, general all round riding and more serious off road.

    Good Luck
    #6
  7. Lion BR

    Lion BR I'd rather be riding

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    Great info being shared here. Comments such as the above and the OP general question, triggers my question:

    If someone works on the wheels and $u$pen$ion of the F800GS, front and back, by either one of these suspension developers mentioned in this thread, we are talking here top notch work, designing it for off road riding for the rider's weight and riding style (of course considering $$$$ is not an issue here), would the re-worked F800GS still be inferior to a KTM 990 for off road riding? By off road, I'm talking about dirt roads with the odd whoop here and there, ruts and some rocky sessions, things you can't quite avoid because you are going too fast to pick a line.

    Thanks
    #7
  8. Loutre

    Loutre Cosmopolitan Adv

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    Suspension wise I'd say the GS would be superior to the KTM. But at that point I think it depends more on the rider than on your bike. Only two mods I could think of that would be missing are an accelerator module and some strong rims.
    #8
  9. Loutre

    Loutre Cosmopolitan Adv

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    Pangia what kind of dictator do you think I am :lol3

    I didn't do any major upgrade to my forks since I live in europe and the import tax after sending my forks to Alex would be a deal killer to me. I simply used the TT/Hyperpro kit and even that helped wonders in terms of preventing to bottom out/ diving whilst braking. It's far from perfect but a cheap bang for the bucks. If you plan on keeping the 800GS I could see why investing the extra 1k into the front forks and seriously I'd do it too but I hate giving 200€ to my government just because I want some good work done in the US.
    #9
  10. Bill-66

    Bill-66 Hencho in Kansas

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    You can't really increase ground clearance without a MAJOR compromise somewhere else..

    You will never gain the 2" to make it like a 990, not without changing the forks and/or triple trees..swingarm and wheelbase..at that $$..what's the point..

    You can, however get what travel you do have, under control..and there in lies the magic..using high and low speed compression valving to keep from blowing thru the stroke, without bottoming out..while maintaining PROPER preload to keep handling as it should be, both off road and on..

    As always, the very first purchase for any bike, should always be suspension..
    #10
  11. Bill-66

    Bill-66 Hencho in Kansas

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    Stock to Stock? :huh

    You couldn't spend enough on the BMW forks, to even come close...nor with the nearly vertical rear shock on the 800..you are losing all the rising rate effect gained from linkage (which is increasing your spring rate as you come closer to bottoming) or from a more angled shock as in KTM XC's and all older KTM's. (Dirt Bikes)

    The BMW package is an utter compromise (made even worse with ESA IMHO)..and it takes some aftermarket work to make it rideable really..where as the KTM...not so much..
    #11
  12. itsatdm

    itsatdm Long timer

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    What I found was the stock suspension can handle whoops (its the landings), ruts and sand, if you weigh 170lbs or less. Even then it will wander and run wide on turns.

    What the stock cartridges absolutely, positively can't handle, is high speed compression. Rocks, big pot holes, some types of washboard. Springs alone won't cure that. It will address most of the issues in the first paragraph if you meet the weight requirement.

    Look at the frame geometry of a KTM and compare it to a F800. They are pretty similar, so why wouldn't good suspension make them too close to call?

    If you can afford it, you can match the suspension travel. You still need another 20HP and address that snatchy throttle.

    It is not that unusual for even a KTM owner to address some suspension shortcomings. For the type of "Dirt" you are describing you don't need more travel or ground clearance. You just need some decent adjustable suspension that is sprung for your weight. Lucky you, that there are now some good choices. Even my patched together suspension will do what you are describing.
    #12
  13. Bill-66

    Bill-66 Hencho in Kansas

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    The BMW site lists the 800 as having MORE travel than the KTM 990, so it would seem all we need to do is make it quality travel..

    And yes..KTM fork harshness is well documented and finally has been dealt with in new models..

    The BMW motor will outlast the KTM 2:1 easily..

    Myself..I'd put money in the suspension on the BMW..and not have a water pump as a yearly maintenance item..:dunno..

    The horsepower thing is tough..but a AefXid will make a world of difference in rideability..and would help offset a can and intake work..
    #13
  14. ebrabaek

    ebrabaek Long timer

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    I am absolutely convinced that the current travel is enough on the 8GS, just sprung, and controlled badly.
    #14
  15. Bill-66

    Bill-66 Hencho in Kansas

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    Yep..it has an inch more in the front..half or so more in the rear..just spend some time making it work correctly..should be solid!

    My wifes 650 has Ricor front an drear on it..the bike had about 90 miles on it when we did it..the boingers on that bike are SUPREME!!best working bike I've ridden..and it isn't sprung for me.
    #15
  16. CC Ryder

    CC Ryder Adventurer

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    Good stuff guys. Thanks one and all here. This is just what I want.. People with experience chiming in, and offering up their opinions and expertise. To respond to a few of the comments and or questions.. A little more about the bike and how its setup.

    I measured 9.75" to the bottom of the skid plate where it jogs out near the brake pedal/exhaust.

    I do have Fastway ADV pegs and love them.. and that company!

    Ground clearance.. I know if I am bottoming the bike, the belly and my feet, hit the ground.. I realize, if the suspension is set up well, that won't happen (hopefully!), but, the clearance issue im talking about is in rock gardens and more technical areas.. coming down very rocky ledges etc.. I've been hung up more than once when my KTM bros have not. I know there are many variables here.. line, speed, suspension, etc, etc.. I haven't measured what the ground clearance is on the 990, but it is visibly higher.. A little more clearance would help.

    Wheels? Yeah, mine are not looking so good anymore.

    LionBR, asked the question that I was trying to.. If you spend the $$ on wheels and suspension, will the BMW still be inferior as an offroad machine in comparison to the KTM? Thats pretty much the bottom line.

    Yes, I agree from what I've seen and read, the BMW will outlive the KTM in motor longevity, and the water pump, fuel pump and other common issues definitely deter me from the KTM.. Damn, its hard to know what to do here. I sway in different directions several times a day!

    I read Konflicts thread.. That is awesome what they are doing, definitely worth a few hundred more for the convenience of sending them in and knowing that you will be able to put them back on and have everything right. Im considering looking into the "try before you buy".. but, I don't think I can get a good understanding without doing both front and rear. Tough call here folks!! Im not going to rush into anything, going into winter.. I have time to learn and hopefully make the best decision.

    Thanks again for all the input.
    Jason
    #16
  17. Bill-66

    Bill-66 Hencho in Kansas

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    Just did some searching..the ground clearance difference is listex at about .7" more for the Katoom.. sure if .5 is the difference between scraping or not..then .7 is the same as a foot..real world..it's not enought to start over with a bike..with a 30k motor in it..

    My $.02..worth every dime you paid for it..
    #17
  18. Konflict Motorsports

    Konflict Motorsports KM TUNER

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    I just came across this thread, some very valid points getting thrown around. I just wanted to mention that KTM Adventures and Super Enduro's still need a bit of suspension work to be able to handle all the terrain and situations you are mentioning appropriately. Yes the components might be there (adjustable compression and rebound) and having a serviceable rear shock helps in the $$ factor but they still need proper setup. KTM Adventures come under sprung severely, the new 1190's are similarly sprung as well, and the valving is just as light.
    The BMW's have things they excel at better than the KTM's in certain scenarios, and vice versa. The F800GS's previous to 2013 had junk internals, sealed cartridge etc. But in 2013 they did make some serious improvements in the forks, aside from going to the 43mm. The forks can now be modified with a revalve though the cartridge is still lacking in design with such as small cartridge rod, and small cartridge but those can be fixed to a degree with a proper setup.
    The main concern with the factory 43mm cartridge is the bottoming circuit is lacking severely. This is why the 2013-2014's are blowing fork oil seals on the showrooms. At the BMW MOA Rally held in Oregon this year I helped 7 guys with 2013 F8's with blown seals, most bikes had less then 1500 miles on them.
    I am currently in the R&D stage of a fix for that though, should know in a few weeks.
    What I'm trying to say in my opinion is its hard for manufactures to cover such a broad spectrum that covers all situations and riders. It doesn't matter if its KTM, BMW, Kawasaki, or Ducati, everything can benefit from the proper setup.
    #18
  19. CC Ryder

    CC Ryder Adventurer

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    Thanks for chiming in Alex.. Seems there are many satisfied GS800 owners on here, thanks to you. So, thanks for doing what you are doing. I agree with what you are saying about a "stock" KTM needing work.. Just not nearly as much work. work = $$. It's tough to cough up $2-3K needed to make the suspension suitable for the kind of riding im doing.. Versus, less than half that to setup a KTM. Another factor in spending the money on suspension is, I really wonder what the re-sale gain if any is..? I think in many peoples eyes, it says, "wow, he really beats that thing off road, ill pass on that one".. Which I do. I think a large percentage of BMW buyers are fine with the suspension and most will never do what I'm doing with mine... If I spend the giant $$ to get the suspension right.. Then, the wheels must be dealt with! Paying a lot of money for BMW's short comings. I know there are other trade offs with the KTM.. It is a really tough decision.

    As for the ground clearance comparison. Im really surprised to hear.. learn that. However, there are other variables. My buddies bike is a "S" model, has suspension work done already.. rider sag. I'm curious now to measure the two without rider, and report back..
    #19
  20. Bill-66

    Bill-66 Hencho in Kansas

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    How MUCH do you ride..really..I love everything about the KTM 990, looks, performance, sound...however..I ride 20k a year..two years of miles and a KTM is worn out..motor wise. They just don't last in the motor dept..

    Cruise thru Orange Crush..yes, people love them...but it's nothing to have the motor out at 30-40,000 miles..Hopefully, for KTM the 1190 changes that.
    #20