How do I adjust my motorcycle suspension?
March 20, 2010 6:31 AM   Subscribe

I just purchased a 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250R. I need to adjust the rear suspension to accommodate my girlfriend. Do I need to take the bike to a shop?

I bought the bike from my cousin, and he hasn't yet been able to find the owner's manual for me to reference for things like this (I will likely buy a new one from the Kawasaki website this week). I would like to be able to adjust the suspension myself, but I know very little about such things (though I do have sufficient inclination to "figure it out" if I have a guide of some sort).

Unfortunately, I didn't even think about the suspension and my girlfriend and I rode around for a couple of hours, during which time I would occasionally feel the underside of the tailpiece touch the rear tire when going over some of the bigger bumps in the road. I later discovered that this was happening more severely than I'd initially thought, as much of the plastic on the underside of the tailpiece (which I imagine is to protect it against exactly this) had been worn away, and there was a small hole now that I could get a couple of fingers into to touch a wire of some sort. Not good.

I read somewhere to "check the owner's manual for the manufacturer's suggested suspension setting for a passenger". My girlfriend only weighs about 110, so she should be just fine on the back of this bike despite its size. Is this an easy enough adjustment to make myself? I'm happy to take it to a shop if need be, but having given them a call already, I'd prefer to save the $40-$70 this would cost me.

If this is a fairly easy adjustment, are you able to recommend any reference material or to offer instruction in some capacity? I have the toolkit that came with the bike, which would hopefully contain the right tool for the job.

Thanks, mefi!
posted by austere to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
I should also mention that I intend to take the bike into a shop for a proper tune-up in the coming weeks, but as we're in for a really nice weekend here in Virginia, I'd love to be able to sort out the rear suspension myself so that my girlfriend and I could go for a nice ride tomorrow, so long as the stability of the bike is not affected by my winging the adjustment. Thanks again.
posted by austere at 6:36 AM on March 20, 2010

The adjustment is probably pretty easy, but you might need a special spanner wrench to do it. The rear suspension is a coil-over-shock setup, and there is a ring that you turn that puts more or less compression on the spring as you turn it.

My advice is to find a forum that caters to your family of motorcycle. That is, find one that is specifically for Ninjas (or even Ninja 250s). They will have lots of tips on how to do many basic and advanced maintenance tasks (like tune-ups) that are specific to your bike. If you are going to be doing any of the more involved maintenance on the bike yourself, I would also recommend buying the official service manual.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:05 AM on March 20, 2010

There should be a spanner wrench that looks similar to one of these in your tool kit which is used to adjust the cam up or down. The wrench fits into notches at the base of the shock absorber. Move the cam up one notch, ride it for a bit with her on the back and, if it isn't enough move it up another notch. Its a very easy adjustment to make, no manufacturers recommendations required.
posted by squeak at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2010

The Ninja 250 has one of the best community forum resources out there for motorcycles. You'll find that most motorcycles that have a cult following, like Goldwings, V-Stroms, SV-650s, BMWs, etc, have some pretty amazing forums.

Search over there, or just ask the same question in the forum, and someone will give you the procedure. You definitely don't need to take it to a shop. Suspension preloading is meant to be something that you can change on your own.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2010

If I'm thinking of the right bike, there isn't' a preload setting on the stock shock. So no, you can't adjust it.
posted by anti social order at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2010

anti social order is right. Here's some information on what to adjust on the Ninja's rear shock, and how.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2010

The original Ninja 250 had a completely non-adjustable shock, but the new (2008 and later) version (per Kawasaki's website) has a shock with 5-way adjustable preload.
posted by asterix at 10:21 PM on March 20, 2010

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