Old age is not always a good thing. Take the shocks on your '77 Suzuki GS750 or '68 Triumph Bonneville. They might look OK, but even when they were new, the shocks on many of our favorite vintage bikes were considered junk right out of the box, with period testers peeving over poor performance and early failure. Seventies Japanese shocks were particularly bad, but there was a lot of poor product coming out of England and Italy at that time, too.
The telltale of worn shocks is a bouncy ride, with poor spring control and almost zero rebound control. And control loss is more than just a performance issue, it's a safety issue, too. That makes bolting on a new set of shocks one of the single best ways to improve the ride and handling on older bikes. Better yet, it's typically a quick, easy job, making it somewhat ironic that more owners don't look at a shock upgrade as a first point of ride and handling improvement. We appreciate the aesthetic argument — modern shocks don't always look right on vintage bikes — but there are good options for swapping out that tired set of shocks that look right, as we found installing a set of Ikon's new Albion Series shock absorbers on Tech Q&A man Keith Fellenstein's 1968 Triumph Bonneville.
Created by Ikon USA for the U.S., Canadian and South American markets (and not available elsewhere), the new Ikon Albion was specifically designed for '60s, '70s and '80s Brit bikes, although clearly they would work on a host of Japanese and Italian bikes, as well. Fully rebuildable, they feature a 12mm piston rod and are available with any one of six different Ikon Tri-Rate springs to suit different rider weights and loads and feature adjustable spring preload. Damping is fixed, but Ikon says damping can be adjusted internally to suit rider preference. Currently available in lengths from 12-inch to 13.5-inch, Albion shocks are finished in black with chrome springs for a classic vintage look. More importantly, performance is miles better than anything you could buy back when your classic bike was new.
The old shocks on Keith's Bonneville were in typically bad condition: the eyelet mounting bushings were shot; the springs were sagging; and the shocks were "flat," with no or limited rebound. The Bonneville actually rode kind of OK, but I found myself unconsciously taking it easy because of the old shocks' limited performance. Ten minutes of wrenching later, a back-to-back ride with the new Ikon Albions installed proved just how bad Keith's old shocks were. Instead of bouncing and wallowing over uneven surfaces, the back end of the Bonneville is now absolutely planted. Spring load control is linear and sure, and the Ikon shocks' excellent rebound qualities transform the ride and the rider's sense of control. The improvement is so pronounced, it's almost like riding a different bike.
Adding to the good news is the price. $350 a pair may not seem like pocket change, but considering the quality and performance, we think the Ikon Albions are an excellent buy. You can spend less, but you'll get less, and you'll never regret buying quality.