For the rider who takes the quality of their ride seriously, there’s really no better substitute than taking advantage of the quality suspension upgrade kits currently on the market. One manufacturer in particular that caught our attention recently is JRi Shocks. Aside from the huge selection of shock kits it offers for performance cars and off-road vehicles of all kinds, it was the fork cartridges and rear adjustable shock kits for Harley-Davidson baggers that stole our attention. With JRi having such a commanding knowledge of performance suspension for so many other platforms, we just couldn’t help but want to test its extensive research and development as applied to the motorcycles we are so fond of.
JRi boasts that its suspension packages promote optimum ride quality for a cushier, more enjoyable on-road experience. Simply translated, their kits are designed to make you wish you had nothing else but riding planned for the rest of the month (and then some). The JRi fork cartridge kit is the latest offering in their motorcycle catalog but is quickly becoming one of the company’s hottest-selling products.
Constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum components and strategically placed Teflon coating for better anti-friction performance, these things are no joke. The exclusive piston design allows for improved control throughout the rpm range while bettering overall stability control on surface streets and highways. At the rear are JRi’s adjustable shocks that are set based on information provided by the rider upon ordering, such as bike model and an estimated weight of the intended rider with gear. But even if further tweaks are necessary, the shocks offer 40 clicks of dampening adjustment for the smoothest and most controlled ride possible.
To see firsthand what all the fuss was about, we ordered both front and rear kits from JRi and stopped at Quaid Harley-Davidson in Loma Linda, California, to have the packages installed by a professional H-D expert technician. Follow along as we rip into this bike, a 2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special, to forever change the way it rides for the better.
Before the show got on the road at Quaid H-D, our test subject was carefully secured on the lift. After installation of JRi’s front and rear shock kits, there won’t be any external evidence to speak of; however, slight cosmetic upgrades to the forks will soon accompany the bike’s newfound agility and handling prowess.
The morning started off with the opening of JRi’s packages. The first one to be ripped open contained the front cartridge kit. These units are impressive straightaway and will soon be replacing the factory fork internals. The cartridges feature Hyperco fork springs and have been designed to lower the fork with one component if the rider wishes to do so in the future.
JRi’s rear adjustable shocks are sent out preset based on info provided by the rider upon ordering. But to fine-tune the rides, 40 clicks of dampening adjustment are available for the best feel possible.
Red Barton, master technician at Quaid H-D, began at the rear since swapping out the factory shocks for JRi’s new adjustable units would be a quick process. The bags on both sides were unfastened and removed from position.
The top and bottom shock bolts were loosened and removed, and the factory shocks were then taken away.
After the rear factory shocks were plucked from position, we wanted to get a side-by-side comparison with JRi’s version. Right away the beefier build of JRI’s shock is instantly apparent.
In a matter of minutes, Red had JRi’s shocks bolted to the rear end, completing half of the installation job in no time flat.
Moving to the front, Red first removed the lower fork bolt then unbolted the fender mounting points and carefully removed it from position.
Next, the calipers were removed…
…and the front wheel soon followed.
QUICK TIP: To avoid any unnecessary damage to the calipers and/or brake lines, Red hung them from the frame with a bungee cord. The dangling weight of the calipers could potentially cause an unforeseen issue. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
With that out of the way, the fork was then removed.
Red then removed the lower folk bolt and allowed the fork oil to drain out. The factory fork seal ring was also removed, allowing the fork tube to be removed from the leg.
QUICK TIP: Not included in the JRi package is an H-D fork rebuild kit for Touring models, which will definitely be something you want to order alongside the JRi cartridge kit. The reusing of delicate seals should be avoided, and the new kit is definitely worth the low investment.
The fork tube was then placed in a vise so Red could remove the fork bolt. He placed a pan on the ground underneath to catch the remaining fork oil inside.
With the factory fork components removed, Red then dropped in the JRi top-out spring.
JRi’s fork cartridge was then installed into the fork tube.
Since the forks were going to be removed anyway, the perfect opportunity to make some cosmetic changes to the front end presented itself. The factory upper fork slider was removed and replaced with a set that Quaid H-D sent out for custom powdercoating.
The factory fork leg was also tossed aside for one with a freshly painted, blacked-out appearance.
Red then finished tightening up the fork leg—the modified front suspension was nearing completion.
Five ounces of H-D Type E fork oil was then poured into the fork leg. This is a precise measurement based on JRi’s new cartridge specifications and should not be altered.
The JRi top mount was then screwed into the fork leg with the help of JRi’s provided tool.
The fork assembly was now ready to be reinstalled. The difference in ride quality and the appearance over stock specs will be night and day.
With the fork assembly now back into position, Red tightened the upper pinch bolts to seal the deal on the fork reinstallation process.
With both forks complete and secure, Red then replaced the wheel and fender, buttoned up the calipers, and tightened up the lower fork bolts as well.
A nice, subtle touch after the JRi cartridge installation is seeing the upper top mount peeking through the fairing. The bike’s increased ride quality will be a constant reminder of the JRi suspension upgrades, but the added visual is certainly a welcome sight.
After installation, the bike was taken out on the highway to get a better feel for the upgraded JRi suspension packages. As expected, the front fork cartridges and rear adjustable shocks made for a firm yet smooth ride that didn't bottom out under load. Certain stretches of Southern California freeways can be a nightmare with the stock suspension setup, but control and handling were noticeably better at all points. The rear shocks are set to a pre-adjusted baseline, and setting the desired sag is based on rider dimensions. After a further period of extended riding, fine-tuned adjustments will be easily made in order to unlock the true maximum benefit of JRi’s shock package. The increase of better ride quality is undeniable, and the installation took roughly two hours, which left the rest of the day open to further “testing” of JRi’s suspension systems.