Titanium shock springs and fork springs have been around for a while. In the past, titanium shock springs were typically only found on works bikes.
What is the allure of having such a costly shock spring?
Weight. Titanium shock springs are much lighter than
the production steel springs that came on bikes in years
past. Factory bikes have always been fitted with exotic
lightweight components, CNÇ-machined parts, titanium
bolts and carbon fiber mufflers, as well as titanium shock
springs. In the never-ending effort to make race bikes as
light as possible, a titanium shock spring is a big step in
that direction. All the titanium nuts and bolts and other
lightweight parts may add up to grams or ounces saved
on a bike, but a titanium shock spring can save a pound
Manufacturers have also struggled with trying to get
the best performance out of their bikes without raising the
cost. Yamaha put titanium shock springs on its production
bikes for several years to save a big chunk of weight.
Our Pro Circuit race bikes have run titanium shock
springs since back in the two-stroke days. We, like most
other factory teams, reaped the benefits of saving weight.
But, for us, there was an even greater reason to have
those springs on our race bikes—performance. They outperformed the steel springs by so much that if our riders didn’t
know we were installing a titanium shock spring, they
Jim “Bones” Bacon has tuned the suspension of
the biggest names in motocross, including Jeremy
McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Adam
Cianciarulo. If you have a suspension question, send it
TITANIUM SHOCK SPRINGS VS. STEEL BY BONES BACON
would think we had changed the linkage or a shock setting. When Grant
Langston first raced for our team,
he disliked titanium shock springs
because of a previous bad experience. So, while he thought we were
changing the damping settings when
we had the shock off his bike, we
were actually putting a Ti spring on.
When he took the bike out again, he
thought the rear of the bike was calmer and had more traction and that it
took less effort to jump obstacles. We
had also gone to a lighter rate in the
titanium spring, which is standard
procedure when going from steel to
titanium. Typically, once the correct
spring rate was found for each rider,
they all shared the same opinion on
performance improvements with the
We later told Grant what we had
done, and after a brief period of
disbelief, he decided he indeed liked
The reason titanium shock springs
can outperform steel is something
that engineers disagree on, but it is
related to the mass of the spring.
In non-engineering terms, there is
basically less weight (mass) to move
and change directions as the spring
is compressing and then returning.
As the shaft speed of the shock gets
higher, and the shaft as well as the
spring have to change directions more quickly, having less
mass can be a distinct performance advantage.
It may sound like a titanium shock spring is a must-have.
Not so fast. A new crop of steel shock springs has made its
way on to production bikes, as well as factory race bikes.
High-strength-steel (HSS) shock springs are now lighter
thanks to a thinner coil diameter and a shorter overall
length. HSS material has proven to be durable enough to
put onto production bikes. It costs less than titanium, and
the performance seems to be just as good, if not better.
Titanium springs still have a slight weight advantage, but
the cost difference makes up for that.
In the old days, some factory teams used steel shock
springs with fewer coils. This made them lighter, but durability was horrible, and they would sack out after a couple
of races. Technology has now introduced lightweight,
affordable, durable, steel shock springs that are quickly
becoming the go-to choice for both factory bikes and production models. ❏