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ST3 Suspension upgrade/Cogent Dynamics

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OK, I've posted a few times in the last couple months that I would have Rick at Cogent Dynamics rework my suspension, and last Sunday (finally) was the first time that my schedule, the weather, and the planets would align properly and allow me to go. What follows will run across several threads, most notably Sport Touring pictures, Supersport pictures, ST3 suspensions, and ST3 vs. Supersport handling impressions.....more on that later. What I went down for was pretty nuts-and-bolts: A fairly exotic suspension upgrade to my '05 ST3, and the chance to test it out on whatever roads I could find. What I got so exceeded my expectations that it's really hard to corral my thoughts into a single post -- but I'll try. Since there's so much material here, I'll be adding to this thread over the next day or so, but in a nutshell it'll cover the installation of a Penske 8987 shock, a guided high-speed romp over 140 miles of some of Rick's favorite roads to dial in the shock, the installation of a Penske Superbike kit on the stock Showa forks, and the opportunity to ride both Rick's '99 900ss, and also to have his wife Joyce's '98 900ssFE to use as a loaner to go play on some 'goat trails' in the mountains. This was, without question, the most fun I've ever had with my pants on, and I hope you'll find this both entertaining and informative.

Last Sunday I started out on a crisp (42 degrees), sunny day at 7 am., with intentions to make it as far as Knoxville, TN. From my home in suburban Detroit that would make it a 500 mi day, a good day ride. Since slabbing it through Ohio is sheer boredom (at strictly-enforced posted speeds), Kentucky came as a welcome relief, and the roads (finally) start to get some character. By the time I got to Tennessee my body had assumed a comfortable cramp, (I'm 52, and I don't care who you are, after more than 8 hours in the saddle something's gonna get tired), and I'm wondering if it's going to be a layover in Knoxville. But more curves+more elevation changes= more energy, and by the time I get to I-40 heading into Asheville, I've forgotten all about any physical concerns and I'm riveted by the road. I-40 turns out to be an absolute hoot with sweepers, twisties, and tunnels (note to self: don't wear sunglasses in tunnels :eek: ); and I found myself leading a caravan of 4 cars at, shall we say, "above posted speed limits", with slower traffic for the most part keeping to the right, and the local authorities keeping to themselves. At this point I'm making last-minute observations about my stock suspension handling characteristics, the better to be able to notice specific changes in handling once the new parts are installed. By 7 pm. I'm rolling into my hotel near the Biltmore Estate, having logged 11 hours riding time and 652 miles for the day....Sweet dreams till tomorrow morning.

Day 2
I call Rick and he gives me directions to meet him at a gas station near Cogent Dynamics World Headquarters. Having only spoken to him on the phone, and read his posts here, I really only know that he seems like a very nice guy who's apparently very knowledgeable about motorcycles and performance suspension engineering. As far as what he looks like, I really was expecting to meet this iconic Ducati-enthusiast, probably decked out in Corse track leathers atop a tricked-out 996.....yeah, that's it......Here's what I saw when I pulled in





Let's just say that I wasn't exactly blown away.....Gym shoes and bluejeans??? But hey, this could just be the 'Clark Kent' side of him. He winds up a conversation with a few guys at the station, shakes my hand, and tells me to follow him. We take off and the first thing I notice is that he rides really well.....and he should, these are his roads. The next thing I notice is that these roads we're on are different than most of what I usually ride: They're narrow two-lane blacktop roads in excellent condition with LOTS of curves....I mean, LOTS :D And whenever we'd come up on some kind of sand or gravel in the middle of a curve (often with a slope), he'd slow and drop his left foot to signal me to watch out -- very cool :cool: A few miles later, after executing some interesting low-speed maneuvers down a 40degree sloping hairpin drive, I pull up to his shop. He takes off his helmet and says, "Well, you passed the test!" We go into the conference room and I meet his wife Joyce (Cogent Dynamics Chief Operating Officer), and take a look at today's project:




I should mention here that it's very rare for Rick to do installations himself, and normally he doesn't. Not that he can't -- it's just that he's got his hands full with tending to all the different divisions of Cogent Dynamics. And what's really rare is that he doesn't farm out his work. This is his passion and it really shows. The original plan was to have Myers Ducati, an excellent area Ducati / Triumph dealership, do the shock installation. But since they're closed on Monday, (and since it's Monday :rolleyes: ), Rick generously makes an exception. The next thing I notice is that Joyce is pretty regular with announcements that somebody wants to talk to Rick on the phone.....I mean, the man logs some serious phone time....and he's unbelieveably generous with his time....which, I discover, means that he works long days. I'm self-employed also, and unbelieveably passionate about what I do, so I get this.



The installation is pretty straightforward, leaving me with this:



Then Rick asks me if I want to get some lunch. Sounds like a plan, and I suit up. So does Rick. And now I get my first glimpse of the man behind the 'Clark Kent' persona: On come the well-worn Vanson leathers, boots, and gloves, and out comes the '99 900ss -- hello Superman....Joyce suits up too and off we go to this funky rib joint near downtown Asheville.



After lunch Joyce leaves us and Rick asks me if I want to ride with him on some of his favorite roads and get this new shock dialed in. I resist the urge to urinate on myself and nod yes. I really didn't expect this -- the opportunity to get a guided tour AND expert suspension tuning -- but off we go.

We start off at a comfortable clip down another well-maintained 2-lane blacktop road, that would soon start to offer as much of a challenge as maintaining my pace with Rick. I would later discover that there are literally hundreds of these roads in the area, some with numbers, some with names, and many known only to the locals, with the names of the mountains that they're cut into. I soon discover from watching Rick's line that the trick here is to find a comfortable gear to stay in, and concentrate on line, lean, and throttle control. Next I notice that Rick isn't just a good rider, he's great. This goes way beyong home-field advantage and knowing where all the dangerous curves and sand/gravel deposits are (which he seems to have a photographic memory for). Nope.....he rides smoothly and efficiently, and I soon learn to trust his line completely.

Now a word about these roads: I've ridden on all types of roads in my 34 years of sport-touring, but I've never, EVER seen so many perfectly layed-out, wildly varied, technically demanding, beautifully conditioned, never-ending roads in my life. Rick would tell me later that there are so many great roads on the western border of North Carolina that it takes him a whole season of riding to get through them all -- and he's still finding new ones. If you're a canyon racer out in Cali or if you're lucky enough to live in the mountains anywhere, this may seem ordinary to you....I apologize in advance. In Michigan, I'm a virtual flatlander, and can only dream about this stuff. And if you're in the regular habit of going to different tracks and really know the thrill of flicking your bike through a decreasing-radius off-camber hairpin turn, I'm sure this is nothing new. But here's what I negotiated that day: 12-14' wide 2-lane 'goat trails' with virtually no shoulders, hundred-plus foot dropoffs, completely blind turns, insane grade changes (30-35 degrees into and out of hairpins),no guardrails, no runoffs, no flagmen, .....nothing but my sherpa, Rick, who's line I trusted completely.

Mercifully, this pace only keeps up as you go up, then down, the mountain. Then you'll reach a valley where you get a short break before you get to the next mountain. After 30 minutes of this I was actually feeling pretty good that I was able to keep up with Rick. He's riding hard, and I'm right on his tail.....yeah, right.....I round a turn just in time to see Rick coming out of a turn with his front wheel in the air, diving into the next turn and out of sight. OK, OK, I get it....But you know, I'm not doing too bad either ;)

We pull up to a nice scenic turnout on a more sane road





...and Rick asks me what my impressions of the new shock are. I've been having so much fun I forgot to think about it....In a nutshell, I tell him that the bike feels "planted", but I'm hard-pressed to say anything more because the front end is so squishy. He smiles and says that's as good a reaction as he could expect at this stage, then asks me if I'd mind if he rode my bike for a while to see what he felt.......uh.....that would mean he's ok with me riding his bike for a while.......oh, HELL yes..... :D :D :D

It took about two turns for me to discover what all you superbike riders know: These freekin' bikes are a riot!!!! The first thing I noticed is how light and 'flickable' they are, and right behind that is how well they turn....Great googaly-moogaly, I've GOT to get me one of these!!!! In minutes I became a better rider on this bike. My MotoGuzzi 850 LeMans III is the closest I've been to this kind of handling, and frankly, there's no comparison. This time I stayed stuck to Rick, while trying to figure out how I can possibly explain to my wife why I really, really need one of these bikes :eek:

Another rest stop and we switch bikes back and compare notes.




I've gotta make some dinner now, so I'll get back to this later this evening to try to make it to the end of Day 2
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Thad, sounds like you had a pretty good week on the bike. Rick and Joyce are pretty good folks. Good friends and good riders, I've spent some great afternoons chasing Rick and or Joyce around corners.
I would highly recomend that you have Rick replace your fork springs and put in some Gold valve cartridges. This will absolutly change the front end of your ST and it is a pretty cheap upgrade.
Glad you had a good time riding in NC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Butch, Rick speaks very highly of you. Sorry I had to leave before the get-together at Mt. Airy for Ducs along the Blueridge. Didn't mean to write a book, but I'm not done with the post yet. Upcoming is Rick's installation of a Penske Superbike kit on the forks. I'll tip my hand now by saying that the combination of the new shock and the rebuilt forks makes this a completely different bike that rides at any speed like it's on rails :D
 

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Thad, Your post is what I've been day dreaming about for two years now, ride out to Rick's and have upgrade my 04 ST3 suspension. I didn't know he doesn't usally work on customers installs, so sweet deal for you, not to mention he offers to test ride himself.

I've got two maybe three shallow clicks left on my rear coil and compared to my friends 99 ST4 my is mushy. I'm 200 lbs and ride foothill/mountain rds all the time. It's taken me 2 1/2 seasons and 45K+ miles and I am still novice in trying to carry corner speed thru a turn (most other riders can get thru much quicker than I). The bike's been pogoing (sp?).

Other big problem is I'm shy on cash to upgrade:(

I'm so addicted to riding it frustrating not to go further with track instruction and maybe trying other bikes etc...guess I'll tough it out for now!

Thanks again dangling the carrot sticks (nice pictures and all). I'm a sucker for more punishment so I'll look forward to your part II.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Apparently I'm not supposed to make such long posts, because for the second time since I started this, I hit a key by accident and erased three hours worth of writing w/ pics. So here's the shortened version:

My forks got removed during Day 3, and I got Rick's wife Joyce's 900ssFE for the day as a loaner. I decided to start off on the Blueridge Parkway and just take in another sunny, mid-70's day at a leisurely pace. This was a '98, the last year for carbs, and with the K&N's it sounded very much like my old LeMans, but with MUCH better handling.





Note to self: You really have to remember not to wear sunglasses in tunnels.
I got back in the late afternoon, and Rick started to work on my forks. I actually got to watch him do the install, and I'm glad I did because it gave me a real insight into how much effort he puts into his work. First off, I was amazed at how much work is involved in rebuilding forks. In my case, it involved actually re-machining the damping rods in order to fit the new Penske Superbike kit on it. Rick's shop is completely decked with all the necessary equipment to mill, lathe, drill, fabricate, etc., and I felt like I was watching Oz behind the curtain. The other thing I notice is how patient he is. He's got the brain of an engineer and the curiosity of a child, and there doesn't seem to be a limit to what he'll expend to get the exact finished product he set out for. For proprietary reasons, there won't be any pics of this install, but suffice to say that I didn't leave till 10 pm. We make arrangements for me to take Joyce's supersport back to my hotel, and the forks to be delivered to Myers Ducati for the install tomorrow am.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Day 4
I've still got Joyce's Supersport till Myers Ducati installs the forks, and decide to spend the day trying to capture some of the magic that happened when I rode with Rick on Monday. There was a road I was looking for off the Blueridge that I apparently passed twice without seeing it, and I was determined to find it this day. Bingo! The first thing I discovered when I got close was a collection of some of my all-time favorite signs: (Note the shotgun holes....we are in the mountains, doncha know ;) )







As opposed to the aggressive pace I rode behind Rick, where I had to pass up all kinds of opportunities for great pics, today I was free to try and capture the character of this road down a mountain.

I decided that since I had this road to myself, I was gonna get to know it like a track, curve by curve, and even stopped in all the hairpins and kicked away any sand or gravel......Then I just raced it up and down for 2 hours :D :D :D Some of the best fun I've ever had on a bike.
























Next up comes the fork install and rider impressions....
 

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Seriously, I'd love to move to that part of the continent one day. Man, those roads are freaking beautiful, but like the pictograph sign above shows, no room for error. :) When I road the BRP etc last year, there were times when I expected to see "Elves" on their march out of "middle earth" as it can appear like a real enchanted forest at times. Gotta watch for the numerous critters though, and I'd like to say the dear on the BRP etc are the smartest I've ever encountered, as they all seemed to run *away* from oncoming traffic purposely. Great pics and write-up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Afternoon of Day 4
OK, here's the wrap-up to this mini-saga. After getting the call from Myers Ducati that my rebuilt forks had been installed, I reluctantly gave Joyce her 900ss back, and Rick drove me to pick up my bike. The first thing I notice is....I don't recognize the ride :D ....and I mean that in the best possible way. With the rebound on the stock setup I cound feel the bounce from the expansion joints on a slab highway in my shoulders. With the rebuilt forks, I could only feel a 'flutter' that never got higher than my wrists. In sweepers the bike feels like it's on rails, and I know that's an overused expression. But I can't think of a better way to say it. I've never been on a Sport Touring machine that felt this solid. I did notice that I had to put more effort into making turns, and that was my first indication that I needed to get some tweaking done. I rode back to the shop at Cogent Dynamics, and Rick asked me if I'd mind him taking off for a while to get his impressions so we could do a proper tuning of both the front and back. (Yeah, like I'm turnin' THAT one down :rolleyes: )

When he got back he told me to get a pad of paper and a pencil, and he went over all the adjustment controls again, and how they'd affect the ride. I forgot to mention that he had initially set the rear sag when the shock was installed, but now it was time to check the rear sag, set the front sag and talk about everything from the front and rear pre-loads through ride-height adjustment. Here's my setup specs:

Rear sag (loaded): 35mm
Front sag (loaded): 40mm
Pre-load/Forks 3rd line

High-speed, low-speed compression damping, and rebound damping were set for Rick's recommendations for my weight/riding style. Ride height was left the same as stock for two reasons: The stock seat height is near the limit of my ability to rest my boots flat on the ground (I'm really jealous of SBK riders), and also, that's the very last thing I want to add to this equation because though it helps tremendously with turn-in, you also sacrifice highspeed straightline stability. First thing I'll be experimenting with is tightening up the rebound damping, then adding a couple more lines to the fork pre-load.

To all these variables Rick also suggested that a switch from my Pilot Roads to Pilot Powers would also help noticeably in the turns. I should also mention that Rick decided to leave in the stock 85kg spring, which some might find unusual. He's come to this idea lately, and it has to do with the standard notion that a lot of people have that stiffer front springs are better. Not necessarily. The stock spring on my '05 ST3 is a good 'linear' spring, meaning it's wound at a constant rate from top to bottom....that's as opposed to a 'progressive' spring, that's wound at two different rates, generating a certain resistance for the first two-thirds of fork travel, and then stiffening more for the last third. For my purposes and my weight, Rick didn't think it necessary for the stiffer 95kg spring, or for a progressive spring, so we stayed with stock. If I want to change it down the road (no pun intended), he said he'd do it no questions asked.....(ya gotta love this guy)

My ride home was without incident, if you don't count the three hours of rain in Tennessee and Kentucky, or the 40mph gusting winds in Ohio. The suspension upgrades were worth every penny, knowing full-well that it'll take weeks of tweaking before I'm completely familiar with the controls and till I get the absolute best dial-in. I'm still getting used to how sensitive I've become to the suspension. The only adjustments I've ever made on any of my bikes was for two-up and/or loaded bags.

Lastly I want to thank Rick Tannenbaum, his wife Joyce, and their family, including Rocky the Wonder Dog



for taking me into their lives for four of the most enjoyable and memorable days of my life. I'm forever indebted, and I'm counting the weeks until I can come up with an excuse to get back down to Asheville that's plausible enough to look my wife in the eye and utter with a straight face ;)
 

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Thanks for the write-up Thad, very informative and useful. How much do you weigh when fully geared up and how much does your tankbag typically weigh?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Mike said:
Thanks for the write-up Thad, very informative and useful. How much do you weigh when fully geared up and how much does your tankbag typically weigh?
With gear I'm at around 190, and my tankbag only holds more than 8lbs if I'm touring....normally just a small tool kit, extra gloves, water, baseball cap, phone, etc.
 

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Thanks for sharing your setup with us. It's good to hear about what is working for others.

I also have the Penske 8187 shock and upgraded forks on an ST3.

I weigh about 175 plus about 10-15 lbs of gear when I tour.

My setup is as follows:

Rear:
Spring rate: 700#
Rear sag (loaded): 30mm
Rear ride height: rear wheel touching ground
Rebound: -9 from full
Hi Compression: need to check
Lo Compression: need to check

Front:
(998 lowers / ST3 upper - GP Suspension internals)
Front sag (loaded): 35mm
Forks: raised 10mm thru top triple
Pre-load/Forks: top of last line showing
Note: This pre-load leaves about .250-.375" of "normally" unused fork travel when checked with plastic tie around lower tube
Fork Spring Rate: .95Kg
Rebound: -6 from full
Compression: -5 from full

With both the rear raised and the front dropped I do not experience any high speed instability, or corner exist issues under full throttle.

Keep sharing!



 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ducati23 said:
With both the rear raised and the front dropped I do not experience any high speed instability, or corner exist issues under full throttle.
.....Interesting....I'm still going to make ride height my last adjustment, but I like what you're telling me, and I absolutely know that that adjustment influences turn-in more than anything else.

Thanks for the input.
 

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Wow! Thad, thank you for all the kind words! I really enjoyed meeting and working with you. I get to learn so much when I have the opportunity to work directly with a client and their bike, it is something I really enjoy. I wish we could have spent more time riding but I think more opportunities for that will present themselves.

It is interesting to see some variations in bike setup, I have a great deal of respect for GP. Thad's bike also has a 700 lb/in spring on the 8987 and after riding it I felt that the .85 front spring with the damping calibration we used in the fork would best match the front to rear suspension response. Thad is the best judge of this but from what I could tell riding the bike after it was done, the balance and ride quality match very well. If we wanted a firmer setup, I would recommend changing the rear along with the front. To me, the ST should be a very capable bike in the sporting mode yet it still should provide a nice plush ride for comfort on trips. I think Thad's ST3 provides that compromise. I have a "test road" here that I ride most bikes I work on and even at my 215 lbs, I was not able to bottom the suspension and the bike really ate up the undulating twisty road to the point of really impressing me. If it were my bike, I would go just a little stiffer to support my fat butt. Keep in mind that the setup change of a spring rate or two is as much to do with rider preference and the bikes usage as anything. One setup is not necessarily better than another.

I should post a video of the "test road":)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
NCRick said:
I should post a video of the "test road":)
Hi Rick! Yunno, that's not a bad idea. For all the pics I've taken of your roads down there, there's really not one of them that can do justice to anything more than a single turn.....a video would be 'shock and awe'. And having ridden your test road I can vouch that it's one of the sickest stretches of road to be found, and one that I think all forums would be interested in.

Thanks again for all your help,

Thad
 

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Thanks for sharing your setup with us. It's good to hear about what is working for others.

I also have the Penske 8187 shock and upgraded forks on an ST3.

I weigh about 175 plus about 10-15 lbs of gear when I tour.

My setup is as follows:

Rear:
Spring rate: 700#
Rear sag (loaded): 30mm
Rear ride height: rear wheel touching ground
Rebound: -9 from full
Hi Compression: need to check
Lo Compression: need to check

Front:
(998 lowers / ST3 upper - GP Suspension internals)
Front sag (loaded): 35mm
Forks: raised 10mm thru top triple
Pre-load/Forks: top of last line showing
Note: This pre-load leaves about .250-.375" of "normally" unused fork travel when checked with plastic tie around lower tube
Fork Spring Rate: .95Kg
Rebound: -6 from full
Compression: -5 from full

With both the rear raised and the front dropped I do not experience any high speed instability, or corner exist issues under full throttle.

Keep sharing!




I am in the middle of buying S model forks, but before I pull the trigger, I need some help with which way to go...

I have set of stock ST3 forks & they suck compared to my Ohlins rear shock.

I am very interested on your fork mod. Who rebuilt them for you? I am not looking to spend $1000, but by the time you have done everything that is what it cost. To rebuild with new springs is $650. I understand that you can not install clickers on the stock forks just something like the Ohlins 20mm kit.

Thanks,
Mark
 

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A 700 lb/in spring on an ST3? Am I reading that right?

The stock Ohlins on the 3S is 540 lb/in! Is the linkage different between a 3 and 3S or something?
 
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