K-Tech was formed by Ken Summerton and Chris Taylor when the pair ran their own suspension businesses and were looking for spring suppliers. They met while already working with road and off-road race teams, and brought decades of experience in the engineering industry.
Ken had been an aircraft engineer for 20 years, and also worked as a motorcycle mechanic on, among many other things, the cranks from Barry Sheene’s race bikes. The first K-Tech springs were made in 1994, and by 2001 the company was making front fork piston kits. The following year saw the introduction of complete racing fork cartridges, which took Fabien Foret to theWorld Supersport Championship. In 2005, K-Tech developed its first complete fork – the KTR-2 – and in 2007, after listening to the needs of Superstock and Supersport race teams, created the pressurised fork damping systems that would win the 2009 BSB championship.
In 2010, K-tech suspension helped Padgetts and Ian Hutchinson win all five IoM TT races on their Honda CBR1000RR with the KTR3 forks. In 2013 the Harley-Davidson and custom bike project began expanding the company’s product range. In 2014, Bruce Anstey set the fastest lap at the TT, and Guy Martin’s Pikes Peak Challenge was supported by K-Tech. Hutchy dominated all three road-racing events in 2015 on K-Tech, and in 2016 won the Supersport 600 and Super Stock 1000 races with Ian Hutchinson, among many other podiums.
“We’re still only 20 people, but we’ve got around 60% of the paddock in BSB alone,” said Ken. “But we’re now doing far more than race kit, and our shocks include twin- shocks, and the new Bullit air-shock units.”
While there’s a network of dealers (like JHS Racing) supplying, fifitting and adjusting K-Tech kit, the company is still approachable and happy to help – there will always be a workshop at the factory for people who need some help or advice. K- Tech develops and builds road and race suspension for most bikes, but also carries spares for – and offers servicing of – almost any brand; Öhlins, WP, Showa, Kayaba etc. OE suspension can often be rebuilt ( the cheapest has peenedover canisters that can’t be opened) and K-Tech will service it. Ken explains: “You’d put new engine oil in your bike after a year, but people forget that as many times as your engine’s internals are moving, so are the components in your suspension.
“On a road bike, I’d recommend servicing suspension every two years – changing the oil alone makes amassive difference. At the end of the day, it’s oil and a few rubbing parts – something’s going to wear out.”
strong enough to support the weight of the bike and its rider. Then the damping needs to be set to control the force of that spring, and to give the level of comfort and performance needed for the riding conditions. Put simply, the spring dictates the position of the bike, the damping controls the speed at which it moves.
ELECTRONIC SUSPENSION: There’s still a spring and damping arrangement, but sensors analyse the way the bike moves to allow servos to adjust the damping based on varying conditions. Many racers opt not to use it as a track doesn’t have the hump-back bridges (besides Cadwell Park), pot-holes and other imperfections that make a road surface unpredictable, but it’s also not allowed in closed-circuit racing at national and international competitions as it’s banned by the controlling body. And they won’t be carrying a pillion or loading the bike up with luggage. Semi-active will adjust the suspension after it’s felt the road surface (so after you’ve been through a pot-hole); active suspension reacts to the surface as it happens. Theoretically, a well-programmed active system could be the perfect set-up with no compromises.
Tweak at your leisure...
So is it essential to change your bike’s suspension? Not at all – if it feels great to you, then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, good suspension can make a world of difference to a bike’s comfort and handling. Is it worth the money over, say, a new exhaust? Let’s put it this way – if you buy that exhaust and make your bike more powerful and, therefore, faster, your suspension will react slightly differently, meaning you should (really) adjust or upgrade it to compensate for the extra load thereby making the bike feel similar (or better) to what you’re already used to.
Likewise if you’re going on track, you’ll be putting far more load through the bike’s chassis (by going and stopping faster) than you would on the road, so adjusting the suspension can seriously improve the handling and by proxy, how you’re able to handle your bike yourself. A better handling bike on track equals you having a far more enjoyable time. On the road, and like BJ found out with his Yamaha MT-10 longtermer, simply having the stock suspension adjusted can make a huge difference.
It was not only more progressive over knackered road surfaces, and easier on the botty on long motorway runs, but also far sportier and more flickable. Whether using OE or aftermarket suspension, you can make your bike handle better in some (or all) scenarios – but if you don’t at least give it a try, you’ll never know, will you?
Ken and Co. are the go-to guys in the BSB paddock.
Jakub Smrz loves to sing out his suspension changes.
Get your setup right and you’ll have the confidence to ride your bike harder and faster than ever before.