Inverted Shocks Vs. Regular Shocks in Dirt Bikes

by Harry Havemeyer
An example of a regular shock with the upper fork tube sliding into the lower fork body.

An example of a regular shock with the upper fork tube sliding into the lower fork body.

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Dirt bikes have iconic profiles, with the triple-clamp suspension fork adding to that rugged image. Manufacturers fabricate these suspension forks using two different styles. The regular shock design features upper fork tubes that slide into the lower fork bodies. Inverted shocks, also called upside-down forks, are easily identifiable because the lower fork tubes slide into the fork's upper portion.

Weight Distribution

Inverted, or upside-down, shocks are constructed so that the weightiest portion of the suspension assembly is at the top of the fork. The inverted shock design allows for the most possible weight to be supported by the suspension system, minimizing unsuspended weight. A dirt bike with less unsprung weight offers its rider a more nimble ride, and a bike that is easier to handle through technically demanding terrain. However, the design of a regular shock offers a lower center of gravity.

Rigidty

Inverted, or upside down, shocks offer more rigidity than comparably built regular shocks. This rigidity is advantageous to motocross riders, who need to carve precise lines around berms and through other cornering maneuvers. Forks with less flex offer more precise cornering and handling traits, but a little bit of flex is not always a disadvantage on a dirt bike. Trail riders find an advantage in the regular shock's slightly less rigid structure. A bit of forgiveness can soothe the numbing effects of rock gardens and extended sections of tree roots.

Damage

Inverted, or upside down, shocks place the sliding action on the lower portion of the fork assembly, leaving these tubes susceptible to damage. While this is not of particular concern on most dirt motocross tracks, it can be a significant consideration for trail riders who encounter tree limbs and rocks. Trail riders prefer regular shocks for this reason. A plastic guard can be placed on the lower end of the inverted shock to minimize this damage, but these guards can become an extra complication and may not prevent all dents to the fork tubing.

Maintenance

Due to the upside-down design of inverted shocks, the seals on these shocks tend to acquire more dirt and debris, requiring more shock maintenance to keep proper performance. If a rider blows a fork seal while riding a dirt bike equipped with an inverted fork, the suspension fluid is likely to drip down onto the front brake, essentially rendering it useless.

About the Author

Harry Havemeyer began writing in 2000. He has written articles for the "San Antonio Express-News" and the "Tulane Hullabaloo." Havemeyer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and philosophy from Tulane University.

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