Fast Bikes - - FEATURE -

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.

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