Here at Öhlins, we think every type of rider, on every type of bike, deserves top quality suspension. With our passion for bikes we spend a lot of time perfecting our shocks and forks for the bikes make suspension for, and our new ‘Blackline’ range of shocks for Harley Davidson is no exception. Öhlins principles of super-high quality components, improved ride and ultimate damping performance apply to every bike Öhlins make suspension for. And with the new 'Blackline' range, there's an even greater focus on the Harley-Davidson family...
Öhlins has built suspension units for Harley-Davidson bikes before. But the Blackline shocks are part of an all-new range of suspension, specifically designed for Harley – the bikes, the owners, the lifestyle.
The first job was to identify what's important to Harley owners. So Öhlins spoke to Harley riders, builders and dealers in the US and worldwide when planning the new range.
Then the R&D began in earnest. Rather than just 're-badge' an existing product line with new aesthetics and logos, Öhlins started from a blank page, redesigning suspension cylinder heads, all-new setting baselines.
In terms of performance, the emphasis for the engineers was clear: providing a smooth ride and great comfort, together with the ability to handle the loads normally encountered. And all that, while giving great handling, consistent high performance, and superb touring abilities, in all conditions. The ultimate aim – improve the Harley-Davidson riding experience even further, complementing the looks and styling of Harley, while retaining the striking detailing Öhlins is famous for.
The Blackline range is based around two main designs: the classic 'divided-piston' STX36D, model and the STX36P piggyback version. There are also various adjustability options, with ride height and damping adjustable options across the range. Want shocks with a wide range of customisation? You got it. Want a set of simple, classic, top-quality shocks? We can do that too. All shocks are also available with a wide range of spring rates, so you can tailor-fit the shocks exactly to your needs; rider weight, pillion, luggage, additional accessories.
There's also a wide range of fitment options for all the main Harley models – the Touring, Dyna and Sportster range, as well as the V-Rod. Öhlins is currently also developing products for the Softail, and has plans for expansion into the Hinckley Triumph Classic range: Bonneville, Scrambler and Thruxton.
It's not just rear suspension where Öhlins can help though. Replacement fork damping cartridges can transform the performance on FLH/FLT Harley models, and Öhlins also offer a range of replacement fork springs for a huge range of applications.
Robert Brinkmark is the product manager for motorcycles at Öhlins. He told us about the Blackline development process.
“Developing Öhlins shocks for the Harley Davidson market has been an important focus for us and we are proud to launch the Blackline shocks, the first of many products for Harley-Davidson. Our focus has been on riding comfort and high quality for these shocks to further improve the ride feeling. The new striking design is also a result of our increased focus for the custom market.”
"I've worked in the aftermarket industry, taking a special interest in Harley-Davidson, for more than fifteen years now. So it's a great personal pleasure to expand the Öhlins presence in this vital market, allowing Harley riders the chance to experience Öhlins' top performance, high quality, classy design, and superb aftersales service!" (box end)
Charlie Stockwell is the in-house design guru at legendary Harley dealership, Warr's of London. He’s played a big part in the thinking behind the new Blackline shocks, and he used a prototype Blackline set on his Urban Racer Sportster build, which won the Harley-Davidson King competition earlier this year.
So how did a dyed-in-the-wool custom Harley-Davidson designer come to be working with Öhlins?
“It goes back a few years actually. I started with Öhlins because of my love for MotoGP, and H-D customisation. I first caught the attention of the guys in Sweden when I built a Softail with a pair of FGR800 full superbike-spec forks on the front. Öhlins got in touch, and said, basically, ‘we think you’re an idiot - but we think this is really pretty cool at the same time! We’d like to do some more work with you…’
"In the past, I’d use HD143 or 141 piggyback shocks on my Sportsters and other H-D builds, but I’d have to strip them down completely, and have everything redone in black. I’d take the shocks apart, make sure the travel, ride height etc were all right, and if those needed adjustments, Öhlins could do that. Then we’d send all the components off to be powder-coated, or anodised black. So during the development of Blackline, that was part of the inspiration.
"Now, with the Blacklines, I don’t have to go through all that process of custom-making each set, I can just get them off the shelf. It’s nice to have been associated with the design process behind it all too."
Urban Racer – Warr's bike The Harley-Davidson 'Battle of the Kings' competition ran in January this year, and each Harley dealer in the UK was asked to enter a bike.
The biggest hurdle was the budget - there was a strict limit on what could be spent, meaning designers and builders had to be very smart with their choices. Charlie Stockwell’s Urban Racer won the competition, and Charlie made sure he made room in the super-tight budget for some Öhlins Blackline shocks.
“We had to be really clever with what we had on the bike. Fifty per cent of the parts budget had to be spent on original HD parts. The rest we could spend on what we wanted. I try to use Öhlins on everything, so had to use those, even though it used up quite a lot of the budget...
“The thinking centered round Warr’s tradition of racing Harleys. One of our popular designs is the Urban Racer, which is like a café racer, with the 2-1 exhaust, seat unit, but still using forward controls, so it's comfortable. I spoke to Öhlins about the Blackline’s - I knew they hadn’t been launched, but I asked if I could have some to fit. So we got some prototype units to fit, and they’re a brilliant-looking shock.”