The stock fork on many motorcycles uses a damper rod design that is OK for daily riding, but shows its limits during spirited riding, no matter what type of motorcycling you favor. My rough-and-ready BMW F 800 GS is no exception; in spite of the marque and price, the stock damper rod fork was just adequate. My search for improved control and a more comfortable ride led to Traxxion Dynamics in Woodstock, Georgia, and its AK20 Axxion Cartridge Kit. After discussing the upgrade with Dan Andrews at Traxxion—who told me that some Gold Wing owners ride to Georgia for the fix—I de-forked my GS and let UPS handle the transport.
Cartridge forks use stacks of shims on separate compression and rebound damping pistons in the cartridge to control damping instead of forcing oil through fixed-size holes in a damper rod. Tweaking the shim stack allows Traxxion to set up each customer’s Axxion cartridges for their riding style and weight, plus the weight of any luggage or passengers. The kit includes adjusters for compression and rebound damping, plus spring preload, allowing you to tune your fork for different loads and riding conditions. Also in the kit is a set of Traxxion’s Omni fork springs chosen for your anticipated load. A quart of fork oil completes the package.
Traxxion Dynamics sells the AK20 kit, as well as a set of fork tools ($110), to do-it-yourselfers, but cautions that the installer should be quite familiar with working on fork internals. Other options are to have a local technician do the work or send your fork legs to Traxxion for a professional job ($200). My fork was back on the bike in about three weeks after shipping them from California.
The first ride with my “new” fork was pure pleasure. I headed straight for my testing ground, a ratty dirt road a few miles up the mountain. The approach is over pavement that starts out smooth and twisty, becoming rough and tortuous before the tarmac peters out—perfect for an all-over test. On smooth, tight pavement the GS was more planted in the corners and didn’t dive as much under braking. The AK20’s advantage was even more noticeable in the dirt. I had much better control of the front end and a smoother ride, especially in the rougher stuff. But the ultimate test was crossing high Colorado passes paved with loose rock chips or knife-edged cobblestones stuck fast in the roadbed, or dotted with muddy, sharp-edged potholes. With 32 psi in the front tire to prevent snakebites, the AK20s let me ride the choppy stuff in second gear without beating myself to death, and soaked up the impact of the hardest hits. I tweaked the adjusters looking for the best ride possible, ending up within a few clicks of Traxxion’s original settings.
Pricing is $999.95 to $1,299.95 for most kits (see Traxxion’s website for applications and other suspension products). It seems like a lot until you realize that the AK20s transform a motorcycle into a much more pleasurable and entertaining machine. The Axxion kit has made my GS perform like it is supposed to, giving me more confidence in the front end, better control on all surfaces and a wider grin when I ride it.
For more information, call (770) 592-3823 or visit traxxion.com.