Tech Talk: Telelever suspension
BMW’s decision to introduce telelever on the R1100RS in 1993 was revolutionary in terms of the reaction it got on the dealer’s showroom floor.
THe TeleleveR system was far from perfect as an alternative to conventional motorcycle forks. Take the factor of unsprung mass for example. Back in 1993, putting telelever on a motorcycle meant nearly 2kg more mass than you had on a telescopic front end (alongside the R1100RS were the K series bikes that had conventional forks but the same brakes and wheel in the front – weight difference was 1.8kg).
These days the telelever set-up isn’t quite as clunky as the original forms of the idea, but it’s still a given that if you go for telelever over conventional forks on a motorcycle then you’re going to have more unsprung mass up front – and in terms of handling then that’s not what you want on a bike.
If it wasn’t then you’ve got to think that a clever company like BMWwould have this sort of funky front end on the bikes it makes where handling on the limit is of paramount importance – the S1000RR or HP4 Superbikes, for example.
But that’s not to say that telelever doesn’t have benefits. The system separates the two functions of wheel guidance and damping/suspension, significantly improving ride comfort on smooth (ish) roads.
The function of wheel guidance is still performed by the actual fork, consisting of two struts with sliding and fixed tubes. This design with the greatest possible overlap ensures a high level of stability.
A trailing link attached to the front of the frame supports the fork and front wheel. A central strut is responsible for suspension and damping.
Further benefits of this design, with telelever stanchions smaller in diameter than conventional telescopic forks, are the weight advantage and an extremely responsive performance. The low unsprung masses and the quick reaction of the suspension make for excellent road contact over bumpy surfaces.
The telelever system allows geometries that minimise diving during sudden braking, giving the rider improved feedback.
So, no brake dive is a big benefit to most road riders and with the advance of electronics in motorcycle braking (think of ABS for example) the beauty of telelever is that it can be much more fine tuned than conventional forks.
The electronic brain that looks after the antiblocking system (ABS) can be more finely tuned and even though when the ABS system is activated it causes lots of pulsing brake movements there are no pitches forward.
The telelever is the mechanism that works the wishbone-bit sited behind the front forks.
Out and about on the telelever and you can feel the minimal front dive working.
The system works from a central single shock, like a rear set-up.