Progressive suspension for Virago - how-to

  1. If you have a feeling that your bike goes unstable at higher speeds, forks bottom out on rough road and/or while braking - then go on, if you think that you don't have suspension problem then stop wasting your time :).
  2. Obviously, you need replacement springs first. More than one manufacturer makes after-market replacement springs, but we are talking about Progressive Suspension here, an USA based suspension specialist company. You can either buy them from motorcycle shop near you or mail-order from Motorcycle Accessories Warehouse as I did. My springs for Virago 750 cost $30 plus $18 groundmail shipping to Estonia. Good thing about Virago replacement is that you can use stock spacers. Anyway, you will get the installation instructions with springs which explain what kind of spacers you need.
  3. Once you have the springs, you need:
    • tools what you normally need to change front fork oil. On my Virago I need Philipps screwdriver for oil drain screws, small flat-blade screwdriver to remove chrome caps from allen bolts on handebar mounts and fork tube caps, 10 mm wrench to loosen the fork tube cap, 7 mm allen wrench to remove handlebar and 17 mm allen wrench to remove fork caps.
    • wooden block for putting under engine to lift the front end
    • new oil (you will need a little bit less than factory spec). I bought 1 litre of Statoil's mineral 10W30 from gas station.
    • piece of wire or wooden stick you will use as dipstick, I used removable radio antenna from my car :)
    • couple of meters of strong rope
  4. Put the bike on centerstand and lift the front wheel off the ground by placing wooden block under engine. Make sure the bike is stable as you need to pump the fork by lifting the front wheel.
  5. Remove fork caps and drain fork oil as as usual. On my Virago I have to remove the handlebar to get clear access to fork caps, if you usually don't then keep in mind that this time you have to pull out the springs. As usual, pump the fork by pulling the wheel up until you have expelled all oil. Put back the oil drain screws.
  6. Now, fully compress the forks and use a rope to tie them up into this position. Just cross the rope over top of forks and under end of fork tubes on both sides and tighten it, then wrap ends around ropes and fork to make sure it's really tight.
  7. Your stock springs should now be about even with upper end of fork tube so you can easily pull them out. Keep the rag handy because they will be dripping with oil unless you were patient enough to wait for hours for oil to drain out.
  8. Now it's time to pour in new oil. As explained in instructions, you have to measure the distance from top of fork tube to oil level. Make markers on your dipstick, the absoulute maximum that you can use is 14 cm from the top of tubes. Carefully add oil in small amounts until you get correct (and equal) amount in both tubes. I used little less, somewhere between 15-16 cm. Take notice that the measurement is meant to be done with vertically positioned tube, but yours are tilted. If you have a feeling that you need more damping, you can use thicker oil, but I used 10W30 and am happy with it.
  9. Now, untie the rope to lower the front wheel and put in the new springs with more tightly wound part up. You will find that the new spring has more pre-load than stock ones, so you have to use a little bit more force to replace the tube caps.
  10. Put all the stuff back in place, make sure everything is secured and go make a road test to feel the difference :)

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