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Straight-Rate Springs vs. Progressive Rate Springs

Over the last 20 years, one of the biggest changes in the aftermarket motorcycle suspension world has been the virtually complete switch from progressive rate springs to straight rate ones. I think it’s safe to say that there’s not a single reputable suspension tuner who advocates progressive springs. The question is why? What’s the problem with a progressive rate? Why are straight rate springs better?

One of the problems is that bikes, street bikes anyway, just don’t have enough travel to take advantage of progressive rates. The soft initial portion gets blown right through, leaving a limited amount of travel for the stiffer portion to deal with. This results in less compliance, less traction and a harsher ride. Another issue is damping; Damping rates, particularly rebound damping, need to be matched to the spring rate. With a progressive (i.e. variable) rate, that’s impossible. Damping is always a compromise and a progressive rate just makes the balancing act that much more difficult. Adding to the problem is that modern forks actually have 2 spring mediums, the steel coil and the air trapped inside. The air is intrinsically a highly progressive spring. Adding a progressively wound steel spring to the mix is just making a bad situation worse.

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