When you are looking to upgrade your shocks for your Harley it can be a minefield, all you know is that your stock shocks aren’t doing what you need them too and you need a solution for a comfortable ride.
Well, I’ve done the work for you and come up with a list of shocks that would be good alternatives for your stock set.
First off one word of advice would be to try adjusting the preload on your current shocks, it is worth having a tinker, to see if it makes any difference to your ride.
I may be pointing out the obvious but it is surprising the amount of people that are intimidated by adjusting the preload and choose to just go with hearsay about stock shocks being terrible. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do this and it will also be in your bikes manual. If nothing else adjusting the preload will give you an idea of the kind of ride you are aiming for and therefore, what direction to look for in purchasing your upgrades.
Secondly I highly recommend talking to a mechanic that specialises in Harley Davidson’s, they are going to know all the technical ins and outs that best suit your bike and riding style.
Shocks can be very subjective in how each rider perceives them so speaking to a specialist will point you in the right direction in terms of riding style, performance etc.
Lastly the most notable difference with Harley’s is the size difference in the model range.
This is relevant when considering shock upgrades due to the different weights of the bikes, so, I have covered different models from Harley’s line up to make sure you know the best option to suit your bike.
Right, I have gathered the best information around for you to consider so without further ado, let’s get into it.
Harley Davidson Shocks Reviews:
Burly Brand 10.5” Slammer Shocks
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Ease Of Install: ★★★★★
Fit & Finish: ★★★★☆
These Burly Brand shocks are brilliant for giving your Sportster that slammed look which they naturally lend themselves to, the shocks do this by lowering the rear end by 1.5”-2”. They are easy to install as it is a simple bolt-on system that works with the stock mounting hardware. In black on a modern sportster they are going to be aesthetically pleasing matching the rest of the blacked out look (they do also come in chrome).
They are made of stainless materials so mud and rain shouldn’t worry you with these on the bike.
They are adjustable with a 5-click preload so you can get that perfect fit. It’s Worth noting that you have about 2” of travel before the shock is maxed out so keep that in mind if riding with a passenger or a lot of luggage.
Another point is you may find these shocks a little stiffer than other options, so if you ride a lot of long trips on rough roads, these may not be the shocks for you.
Burly Brand now have Slammer Shocks plus which are 11.5” and offer more travel than most lowered shocks. available for 1988 – Present Sportsters, 1991-2017 Dynas and 1980-Current Touring Models.
Progressive 944 Series Ultra Touring Shocks
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Ease Of Install: ★★★☆☆
Fit & Finish: ★★★★☆
The Progressive 944 Series Ultra Shocks are a riders favorite for those on Harley’s in the touring bracket such as Ultra-Glides, Road Kings and Street Glides. There are a huge number of customers that rate the shocks 5 stars, so again they are another set of shocks that seem to be widely well received.
The shocks were designed to give a comfortable ride at 1” lower than stock Harley shocks. The 944 Ultra Touring shocks are available in 3 configurations, from Standard Weight to Super Heavy Duty of 350+lbs. I’ve given these the title of best Harley shocks for big guys.
This allows you to select the perfect set for you and allows you to account for passenger and luggage load.
Frequency Sensing Technology in these shocks senses the frequency of bumps on the road and automatically adjusts damping. This gives you complete freedom to enjoy your ride. They are stiff enough to keep your bike stable in corners but soft enough to cushion any bumps on the road and deliver you to your destination in comfort.
The preload is adjustable by hand, there is no special tool needed, which is always a plus.
These shocks have been especially made for touring and therefore, have been developed with what riders need for comfort and control when chasing down the miles.
Progressive Suspension is a very reputable brand for suspension systems and each set of shocks passes a rigorous inspection before leaving the shop, so you will receive a quality product upon purchase.
They come with a lifetime Limited Warranty and are Made in the USA.
Progressive Suspension also does shocks for Harley Softails and are of the same quality so worth a look if your bike is from that range, model numbers 422-4035C.
Ohlins STX 36 Blackline Twin Shock
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Ease Of Install: ★★★★★
Fit & Finish: ★★★★☆
Ohlins shocks are ready for use straight out of the box with Ohlins offering free preload settings before they even arrive. The shocks are subtly styled but in Ohlins words ‘don’t let that fool you’, they are packed with quality damping performance and can be tweaked to suit you and your riding style.
Pressurized gas and oil system is of excellent quality and negates air loss hassles, that riders can’t find with other shocks. They can cope with varying weather conditions and heavy loads, which makes them the perfect Harley shocks for long distance touring as you ride far and wide, all year.
You can fine tune them to your exact requirements by adjusting the preload, spring rates, compression and rebound which is more than other shocks comparatively. Dyna’s are traditionally the most sporty, aggressive, fine-tuned and customized Harley’s and therefore require the best shocks for performance to suit. This is where Ohlins have slipped in and found their niche.
A 5 Year Warranty, and they are tested and tailored to each and every customer’s needs, which to me, makes them worth the money. To add to that Ohlins customer service is excellent, so you can expect a swift response to any enquiries or issues, which is great from a premium brand.
Best Brands of Harley Shocks
Burly is a company that was started by two brothers in the mid 90’s in California. They now design a wide range of products including fairings, luggage, sissy bars, foot pegs and of course shocks.
Progressive Suspension was founded in 1982 and is built up of a team of trained engineers who use computers, shock dynos and testing to create suspension for specific bikes and needs. They are the largest aftermarket motorcycle suspension manufacturer in the US.
Ohlins Racing has been in the motorsport industry since the 1970’s and since then they have done the work, to become the number 1 tried and tested premium brand supplying all the best motorcycle manufacturers in the world with aftermarket suspension systems.
Will upgrading your shocks improve your ride?
If you do your research and you know what you want to achieve out of changing your shocks then absolutely yes – upgrading your stock shocks can improve your ride.
Many Harley owners adjust the preload on the stock shocks and are more than happy with the suspension on their bike.
Harley’s aren’t cheap and they use premium materials comparative to other manufacturers and therefore, the stock shocks are not bad. They should certainly be given a chance before you go changing things up at least until you know where they are lacking in performance.
Things to consider when changing your shocks:
Height and Weight Adjustment
Riding your Harley should be about enjoyment and freedom. Discomfort and worrying about control shouldn’t feature in your thoughts.
The key thing for this is to consider your height and weight and how that affects your riding position and how satisfied you are with your shocks.
Do you need the bike to be a bit lower to the ground? Or are you cramped and need it a little taller? Do you feel like your bike is bottoming out when you’re riding along with an overnight bag? These problems and more can be solved with a little adjustment of 2” or so either way of the stock set up (most bikes allow 2” variation without too much trouble).
Stiffer or Softer
Next up in terms of priority for your comfort should be whether you want your suspension stiffer or softer. Stiff shocks are great for riders with passengers or luggage, whereas softer shocks might be more suited for those doing long solo tours.
A more aggressive/race orientated rider would lean to stiffer suspension for utmost control and feel of the bike, whereas a more relaxed Sunday afternoon rider would be more suited for softer shocks.
Ease of Installation
Are you going to be fitting the shocks yourself? If so you may want to consider a set of shocks depending on your experience level, shocks that use the stock hardware for mounting will be easier to fit. If you’re going to take it to the shop to fit this is less of an issue.
I hope you have gained some insight into the world of Harley shocks and the information has proved of value for you to make an informed decision in upgrading your shocks.
To sum up Burly Brand Slammer shocks for your Sporty are brilliant and really give it that aggressive look while keeping you comfortable for most everyday riding.
Progressive Suspension 944 Series with their FST are truly superior for big tourers, and for those sportster and softail riders who tend to ride that extra mile. Progressive shocks are also worth a look.
The Ohlins are expensive, but the value for money is there because the quality really is superior and from reading real riders thoughts on various forums these are the ones that stand out. There are options for all models, they seem to stand out most though with models from the Dyna range.
Over and above all else, start your search by thinking about what you need and what you want from your shocks, once you know that, it’s much easier to narrow down the choices of which to go for.