For the past two seasons, (2008 and 2009), I have had rubber fork gaitors mounted to the front forks of my bike. I like them from the standpoint of the protection they provide to the forks and seals.
But I have learned, they significantly reduce the suspension performance of my bike due to my style of riding.
Last year, as I was riding the Route du Nord, (250 miles of dirt road between The James Bay Road and Chiboumagau), I thought my motorcycle was going to completely vibrate apart!
Scott and I were trying to move at a fast clip. The Route du Nord is a fairly well maintained road, (we passed two road graders working the "kinks" out of the dirt surface), but there are some nasty "washboard" sections. Scott on his big GSA BMW, with his cantilever front end suspension, could cruise smoothly across the rough stuff. I on the other hand, spent most of my time standing up on my footpegs, trying to keep my teeth from rattling out of my head! One casualty that did occur was that my GPS sheared right off of its base, (However, I do need to mention, at that time, there were already about 50,000 miles of abuse on that GPS base).
Still, I felt something was wrong. It felt like I was getting "short changed" on my suspension.
This past winter, while doing this year's bike modifications, (The full build thread is HERE
), I decided to do some research on the issue.
I jacked up the front end of my motorcycle and removed my fork caps. Using a ratcheting strap, I pulled up the front wheel just as far as I could go; compressing the fork gaitors just as much as I could. This is what I saw.
Next, I dropped my forks, pulled the fork gaitors off of the fork tubes and shoved the forks back up; again, compressing the forks as much as I could. This is what I saw.
I then took a ride on the bike, with an electrical zip tie wrapped around one fork tube. I rode on a fairly rough, dirt road, at a fast clip, intentionally hitting potholes; trying to recreate the Route du Nord experience.
I didn't take a photograph, but my dust wipers left the zip tie just under 1" below the bottom fork clamp.
I calculate, by having the fork gaitors mounted, I end up losing about 1 1/4" of fork travel. That could have helped me out a lot on the Route du Nord.
I have sinced removed my fork gaitors from my bike. I need the extra travel.
Food for thought.