Look back at any review of a Harley-Davidson touring model (and any other model than the Pan America), and there’s a good chance you’ll find a sentence or two about Harley’s weird choices when it comes to suspension. Specifically, the rear shock(s). It seems as though, in order to bring the seat height as low as possible, Harley has sacrificed ride quality in the back by putting on a shock with hardly any suspension travel. Sure it works, but it doesn’t do the human spine any favors.
Fortunately, the aftermarket is littered with shock options to dramatically improve the ride back there. The aftermarket also has several different fork improvements, but that’s a topic for another time. Depending on your budget we’ve got options here from mild to wild, with basic damping improvements, to full adjustability to suit your exact style.
Table of Contents
Drag Specialties is synonymous with V-Twin performance parts and these shocks are no exception. These modest shocks won’t break the bank, and give you the ability to adjust the ride height half an inch. Plus you can adjust the spring preload as well. The nitrogen-charged steel monotube damper bodies are made with hard chrome-plated shafts and dual-rate progressive wound springs that offer a smooth, comfortable ride. These are available in either chrome or black, are sold as pairs, and are meant to be direct replacements for your OEM shocks.
You might know Fox from its long history with all things off-road, but it has a sizeable presence in the Harley-Davidson scene as well. The IFP-R QS3 shocks represent some of the best shocks Fox makes for Harley touring bikes, whether you ride alone or fully loaded up with a passenger. An internal floating piston separates the nitrogen gas from the shock oil to maintain consistent damping control throughout your ride. A three-position Quick Switch Rebound setting is paired with main piston valving that’s been ride-tested to work perfectly in any of those settings.
The FOX IFP-R QS3 rear shocks were designed to give you the comfort and control needed to keep you (and a passenger) happily eating up the miles and taming the twists and turns. With an internal floating piston to separate the nitrogen gas from the shock oil, the IFP-R shocks will maintain damping control no matter how long you ride. The main piston valving has been reconfigured and extensively ride tested in a full range of conditions to work in harmony with the new three-position Quick Switch Rebound (QSR) settings.
Three distinct rebound settings make it easy to dial in the correct rebound for different riding situations: comfort on bumpy backroads, “any road” balance of control and comfort, and a “glued to the asphalt” feeling on smooth twisty roads. FOX’s IFP-QSR three-position rebound adjustable design – combined with vehicle-specific damping and linear spring rates – gives you a confident connection to the road while soaking up the bumps mile after mile.
If the QS3 is more than you need, Fox also has two other options – the IFP-R and IFP – that still provide better damping than stock, but won’t hurt your wallet nearly as much.
There’s another option if you want a low seat height but better ride quality than stock – air suspension. This kit from Legend gives you all the benefits of traditional air suspension, but each kit is designed for a specific model to make it easy to bolt in the required air compressor. After that’s mounted up, a switch on the bars lets you fill the shocks with however much air you want. This works great whether you’re riding alone or fully loaded up to provide just the amount of comfort you want.
Some people really prefer to have traditional coil spring shocks over air suspension. Legend hasn’t forgotten about those riders, and presents them with the Revo-A coil shock. Legend’s method for providing a better ride with traditional shocks is to use a soft spring rate, but winding it a few inches longer than the standard spring. Once it’s compressed and put into action, the little added travel makes a huge difference in terms of ride quality. With an all-aluminum shock body and the ability to adjust rebound damping, the Revo-A is an excellent alternative to stock or air suspension. Oh, and did we mention that they’re made in the USA?
If you’re at all involved in other forms of motorcycling, then you’ll be familiar with Öhlins’ customary yellow springs. However, if not, you’ll be glad to know that the world’s premier suspension manufacturer also offers springs in black. It makes sense, since missing out on the huge Harley market would be a mistake for the Swedish manufacturer. With the S36DRL shocks, Öhlins brings its suspension expertise to the V-Twin market.
These shocks keep the gas and oil separate for long-lasting and consistent performance without any fade. It’s similar to technology used in sportbikes that race around the track at break-neck speeds, so if it’s good enough for them, well, you know. The R in the name stands for Rebound, as in, you’ll have rebound adjustment with these shocks. But the last letter, L, is not to be overlooked. Standing for Length, the S36 allows you to alter the length of the shock without affecting its stroke, giving the discerning rider ultimate control over the bike’s pitch and attitude.
If you don’t have the want or need for the S36DRL shocks above, then these shocks from Öhlins provide the things you need and nothing you don’t. The hard anodized and precision CNC machined components exude quality – which is what you come to expect from Öhlins. Low friction eyelets and piston rod minimize any stiction that may occur as the shock moves up and down, while preload adjustability is built into the shock itself. There are a wide range of spring rates you can choose from when you purchase the shock, so you have a ride tailor made for you. These shocks are fully serviceable and repairable, so those of you who rack up lots of miles can rest assured the shocks will always perform (assuming you maintain them of course).
Who says a lowered motorcycle has to have compromises? Okay, we did, but Progressive doesn’t think so. At least not with its 944 FST Ultra shocks. Specifically designed to give a comfortable and compliant ride at a lowered stance, Frequency Sensing Technology (FST) allows the shocks to sense the frequency of a bump and automatically adjust damping for superior ride quality. Equipped with progressive rate springs specifically for Touring models, these shocks also have a manual preload adjuster you can use by hand. No special tools needed. There are different types and different sizes of shock to best suit your weight and riding style.
Harley-Davidson Shock FAQ
Is a longer shock better?
It depends. Depending on the bike longer is not always better, but when it comes to Harleys, we tend to think so. Mainly because, historically, Harley has sacrificed rear ride quality to put the seat as low as possible. A longer shock will raise the seat higher, but if done correctly, will give your Harley a better, smoother ride.
Which shock absorber is best?
Once again, it depends. It depends on the kind of riding you do and what you’re after with an aftermarket shock. That said, there are many aftermarket companies making great shocks for Harleys – and Harley’s own catalog of parts is really good, too. So, consult with your preferred tuner or dealership for the best shock for your needs.
What types of shocks give the smoothest ride?
See the question above. It really all depends on your wants and needs. Any reputable suspension company can make a shock to your specifications.
2015 Harley-Davidson Premium Dyna Suspension
Suspension Buyer’s Guide
New K-Tech Suspension Mods For Harleys And Custom Classics
The Missing Linkage
Adjusting Motorcycle Suspension
Why Is My Suspension So Stiff
MO Wrenching: How To Adjust Suspension Damping
MO Wrenching: How To Set Suspension Sag
Top 10 Misconceptions About Motorcycle Suspension
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.
Become a Motorcycle.com insider. Get the latest motorcycle news first by subscribing to our newsletter here.