Suspension upgrade firms up the ride
A bash plate for a Honda. A paint job for a Harley. Suspension upgrades for everyone else.
our yamaha r3 has served as a weekday commuter, weekend canyon carver, and as a racebike in the making. No matter the duty, our biggest complaint has been its super-soft suspension setup. Get this little R3 out in the twisties—or on a tight, quick-transitioning racetrack—and the uncommunicative suspension is a barrier between a rider and speed.
Aftermarket suspension to the rescue! Well, more like a shock from a Ninja 650, purchased from ebay for $45. The mod was suggested by Jesse Norton at yamahar3racing.com. Norton’s $30 shock-adapter kit makes installation easy, and Assistant Editor Will Steenrod, who handled the install, said that the biggest challenge was pulling the body panels off the R3. Go figure. The 650 shock is about an inch longer than the stock R3 part, so it was no surprise when the R3 rolled out of the garage a little bit taller. If it means I get a little more legroom to the footpegs and quicker steering, I’m all for it!
My first ride on the new rear suspension was a 60-mile freeway haul from Orange County to Hollywood. There was no mistaking the change either. The R3 is noticeably stiffer—thick seams between concrete slabs have left me standing on the pegs and riding the R3 like a jockey perched over a galloping horse. So our little Yamaha is no longer a soft urban chariot—but how will it fare in the twisties?
Between sweepers and switchbacks, the R3 felt a bit quicker to turn in. Even more promising, the rear end felt more planted as I powered out of turns. It’s just the confidence boost I’ll need when I head back to the track. The front end, however, remains quite soft, so consider the R3’s suspension still a work in progress.
wrist Julia Lapalme msrp (2017) $4,999
mpg 63 mods Ninja 650 shock