Öhlins Brings Semi-Active Suspension to the Masses

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Enticed by the idea of having semi-active suspension on your motorcycle? Then the latest tech from Öhlins Suspension might be the thing for you, as the Swedish company has developed an electronically controlled mechatronic shock for existing motorcycles, starting with the 2011-2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

Developing the system first in the  World Superbike Championship, Öhlins is the first suspension manufacturers to bring the technology to the masses, though companies like Bitubo, Marzocchi, and WP Suspension have similar units that will be available next year as well.

This technology is nothing new in the automotive world, though 2012 marks the first time that semi-active suspension has made its way to the consumer-end of the motorcycle industry. Featured on bikes like the BMW HP4 superbike and the current Ducati Multistrada 1200 sport-tourer, the semi-active suspension designs come from a multitude of companies, but function in a very similar manner.

Reading inputs from the motorcycle, semi-active suspension units make rapid and minute changes to the damping settings on the suspension. The result is a more dynamic range of suspension performance, which adapts to the road and rider conditions. Essentally, suspension settings are no longer static, hence the “semi-active suspension” nomenclature.

With the Öhlins unit, a modified TTX36 MkII shock absorber is plugged directly into a proprietary Öhlins ECU, which then connects to the ECU on the motorcycle. Reading signals from the bike’s ECU, the Öhlins ECU then makes adjustments to the rear shock.

For now, only owners of current-generation Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R will be able to use the new Öhlins semi-active shock, though Öhlins intends to bring other semi-active suspension kits out for other makes and models. It is also important to point out though that Öhlins is not offering a set of semi-active forks at this time, only the semi-active shock.

Presumably a feature that will carry-over to other motorcycles, what is of note is that the Öhlins system detects which user-selectable riding mode the ZX-10R is operating in, and adjusts the suspension to meet that category as well (“sport” modes get stiffer suspension, while “road” modes get softer settings).

As the technology improves, Öhlins says that upgrade possibilities for the programming will be offered. Like all Öhlins shocks, the TTX36 MkII mechatronic shock is serviceable at Öhlins service centers worldwide, in addition to being completely rebuildable. Pricing starts for the Kawasaki ZX-10R unit comes in at $1,625.

Source: Öhlins USA