Having installed a custom suspension set from TFX Suspension Technology on my Suzuki DR650 this year, I took the bike across Europe doing sections of the TET and taking part in enduro training weekends, a Hungarian Baja race, and the Dinaric Rally 2021. While the bike is a little maimed and mangled after the last rally race, the one thing that has saved my skin multiple times was the suspension: TFX built me a custom, fully adjustable suspension that works in three different scenarios – traveling on road with a fully loaded bike and riding graded off-road trails as well as doing single track or rally races on an unloaded bike.
When I first installed the TFX shock and fork springs, I felt like I got a whole new bike instead of a suspension upgrade: it handled much better both on and off the road, cornered much better, and took on gnarly off-road sections with new agility I never knew it possessed. Fascinated by the dark magic that TFX had performed on my old beat up DR, I wanted to know more about them: who’s behind TFX, and how do they design and build their custom suspension sets? As luck would have it, I got a chance to tour the TFX Suspension Technology lab in Weert, the Netherlands, just last week.
Here’s what happened.
Magic Carpet Philosophy
Judging by the sleek design of my shock and the elegant logo of the company, I expected TFX headquarters to be housed in a brand new, shiny, glass-walled office building or a large bustling factory. Instead, founders Hans-Dieter Fischer and Alex Meijs greeted me in front of a nondescript industrial place on the outskirts of Weert, a small Dutch town; first order of business was lunch – a meal of fried cheese and fries smuggled right across the Belgian border a few minutes away – and an introduction to Hans’ home-brewed beer with Alex explaining the inns and outs of nearby Belgium’s lunch cuisine.
Despite being on the fast track to become an internationally acknowledged brand, Hans and Alex still hang out in the same office, design the products with the help of just one engineer and two mechanics, and even package finished suspension sets themselves: after a decade of existence, TFX Suspension is still very much a two-man show with an obsessively personal take on every set of shocks they design. “We started TFX as a brand new company after my former employer, Technoflex, folded. What we wanted to do, and what we’re still thinking about on a daily basis, is building a suspension so perfect that the rider would feel like he or she is floating on a magic carpet rather than riding a bike. That’s our mission. I think every rider deserves a suspension that is custom built and adjusted for them; we test every new product under extreme conditions such as racing, but we believe every single rider out there needs to have a bike that’s fully adjusted to them and their style of riding”, Hans told me as we finished lunch and got up to take a look around.
Inside the TFX Suspension HQ
Everything at the TFX HQ is organized with Dutch flair, Belgian cool, and German precision: the workshop looks cleaner and more organized than a conference room, the spaces where custom orders are being revised, parts stored, and suspension sets assembled are more lab than factory-like, and it seems TFX had worked out a fairly smooth process that allows them to build a custom suspension for virtually any bike, quad, or SSV in just five days. “If we put a rush on it and if it’s not a highly rare, project bike, we can do it in 24 hours”, Hans said.
“When I stated at Technoflex over twenty years ago, I was supposed to be in sales, but to be able to sell shocks, you need to know exactly how they work, so I started on the production line as a mechanic at first so I could learn everything about the process. When Alex and I started TFX, I remained the head designer and engineer, and the way we work is this: whenever a new bike comes out, regardless of make and model, we get one to our workshop, take it apart, and look at the suspension. Then, we completely rebuild it, ride the bike, test everything out, and add it to our database, and when a customer orders custom suspension for that make and model, we already know what needs changing and factor in the rider’s weight, height, luggage weight if it’s an ADV bike, the type of riding they do, and so on. Then, we get to work”, Hans explained. TFX currently has over 1,500 motorcycles in their database and can build a custom suspension set for just about any bike – and if the bike requested isn’t in the database, they’ll go and find one or do an entirely custom job.
“The main difference between a custom shock and a stock shock is that stock is made for The Average Person, and the thing is, that person doesn’t exist. We believe that a bike’s suspension should work in a certain way, it needs to keep the bike in balance at all times, regardless of the rider’s weight, riding ability, added luggage, or added pillion passenger. So with a custom suspension, all of that is factored in, and as a result, the bike is more balanced and stable, handles better, and gives the rider more control and a feeling of ease when riding. For me, the most exciting part of building custom shocks is hearing how riders get a completely new feel of their bikes. I get to work with riders, racers, and travelers from all over the world, and that’s an awesome feeling”, Hans explained.
What was supposed to be a quick visit became three hours of hanging out and chatting with Hans and Alex, and if there’s one thing I took away from the experience – aside from the glorious Belgian lunch and beer tips – was that TFX truly is obsessed when it comes to custom suspension. If I ever lay my paws on that dream KTM EXC 500 someday, it will definitely have TFX suspension; and in the meantime, I’ll keep putting the fully TFX-ed DR through its paces and see where it leads.