Progressive Suspension 444 Shocks: Install and Review

Triumph Bonneville Project -- Suspension Upgrade

2002 Triumph Bonneville rear

Andrew Cherney

It's been a couple of months between upgrades (the last installment had us swapping out the chain and sprockets ) so the 2002 Bonnie was ripe for some real tweaking -- stuff that would immediately impact comfort and ride quality. To that end, I researched some rear suspension options in the hopes of shoring up what, at this point, were 12 year old, price-point shocks. Not blown just yet, but close. Zimmerman had gone with Hagons for his Bonnie but after speaking with Dave Zemla at Progressive Suspension, I opted for a pair of their 444 units - -mainly because they were lighter-weight than the stockers, and easily adjustable.

Progressive Suspension 444 shocks

Andrew Cherney

When the shocks landed on my doorstep a week later, I headed over to my local good-guy moto shop, Cycletune PDX (check them out here) so that master mechanic Chris Vandervoort could work his magic while we shot film. The first thing Chris did was comment on our lazy maintenance schedule -- the tires looked quite a ways out from optimal pressure. A couple of PSI later (OK, so it was more like 8), and voila -- the Bonnie's ride quality was already vastly improved, and we hadn't even spent a dime yet. Word to the wise: Tire pressure matters. A lot. (More tire tips here).

Tire pressure matters. Don't be lazy

Andrew Cherney

The 444s are traditional shocks in that they slide over a stud on the frame and are held in place with a bolt. Progressive touts these as their "best" shocks (in the range of good, better, best), and although the spring and rod are still made of steel, the shock bodies are aluminum, and sport a new sleeker look, with a one-piece rather than a welded eyelet, and less weight (Progressive says 4 lbs less) than previous versions. Inside is Progressive's new FST technology (Frequency Sensing Technology -- everybody's acronym-addled these days) which according to Progressive, "dynamically adjust[s] damping as you ride" to help separate wheel movement from chassis movement. (Check their website for a better explanation than we could possibly give here). Our pair came in black, but the shocks are available in chrome, too, and in 1/2 inch increments for sizing.

Removing the old stock shock

Once Chris jacked up the bike until all weight was off the rear wheel, it was time to unbolt the shocks and remove them from the mounts. Normally it should slide right off, but in our case -- this was the first time the shocks were off - corrosion can create problems, so a few additional minutes of wrestling and choice words were required before the thing came off. The same process was repeated on the other side. Because these shock eyes use a rubber bushing (the new shocks came with additional bushings to match different diameters on the mounting lugs) Chris used some silicone spray for better lubrication before slipping the new 444s onto the mounts and tightening the bolts.

Progressive Suspension 444 shocks installed

Andrew Cherney

Before I went anywhere, Chris made sure to check the shock's ride sag, by first measuring the shock fully extended - without weight on it -- and then having me sit on it and compress the shock. Progressive has a good video here: video Shocks usually come with the preload set to the softest setting, but it's always good to double-check.

Check your sag (ahem)

Andrew Cherney

As I mentioned, this shock features hand-adjustable preload -- just rotate the threaded collar at the top of the shock by hand if you need to adjust for passengers or other extra loads -- so you don't need to use a spanner at the bottom. It doesn’t take a lot of effort with those fine threads, and there are index marks on the shock body so you can reference your settings. Also, the 444's come with a lifetime warranty, which always helps our peace of mind. We've only ridden the Bonnie on a couple of short trips since the install, but the difference is insane. The bike is far more composed, tighter and more tolerant of road warts. On smooth asphalt, the 444s yield a softer ride, while on more rippled back roads, they stiffen up and reel in the rear wheel to a degree the stock price-point all-steel shocks could never match.

The 444s are easily adjustable by hand

Andrew Cherney

Of course, putting extra air in the tires never hurts, but we're pretty sure the new Progressives made a huge difference in the Bonnie's now much-more modern ride quality.

Next, we'll do the front fork springs, and for that we've obtained a Progressive spring kit as well, so stay tuned.

Progressive Suspension 444 shocks: from $624

www.progressivesuspension.com

http://www.progressivesuspension.com/product/1423/444-series-shocks

CycleTune PDX

www.cycletunepdx.com