How to Adjust the Shocks on a Sportster

How to Adjust the Shocks on a Sportster

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To ride a Harley Davidson Sportster comfortably, the dampers controlling the shocks must be adjusted using one of the pre-load settings. A correctly adjusted shock not only makes for a comfortable ride, but makes it easier to handle the bike on rough roads. There are three settings: light, mid and heavy. Whether riding solo or with the additional weight of a passenger, it is worth the time to adjust your Sportster's shocks.

Items you will need

  • Adjustable spanner wrench (if needed)

Sit on the Sportster and bounce up and down on the seat, watching how far the front and rear shock compress. Gauge whether the front shock needs to be stiffened or softened to get the compression within a one-inch range, and do the same for the rear shock.

Adjust the front and rear shocks by hand-turning the pre-load setting ring at the base of the shock (just above the bottom bolt hole and below the spanner adjustment area) forward to stiffen the shock or toward the rear of the bike to soften it. Listen for the lever to click into the next setting. Test the shock compression again.

Turn the pre-load setting ring one click to the rear to the next "soft" setting if planning to ride with a passenger.


  • Don't ride with a passenger with the shocks set to accommodate only one rider's weight. If the shocks cannot absorb the weight on rough pavement you can lose control of the motorcycle.


  • Use a spanner wrench to customize the compression setting of the shock without using the three pre-load settings. Put the tongs of the wrench in the spanner holes on the disc just below the pre-load ring. Push the wrench forward to stiffen the shock or pull it toward the rear of the bike to soften it. Listen for the click indicating that the shock has locked into one of the eight available settings.
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