So, my riding buddies have been asking me this question for awhile. I will tell you why I think it’s important to have dirt bike linkage protection and how to reduce the headache of linkage maintenance and replacing the suspension on your dirt bike.
First, why are more bikes being made with linkage suspension? Well, that’s an interesting question and let’s talk about how linkage works. Linkage moves the shock at an ever-increasing speed by compressing the shock at progressively greater amounts (for the same amount of rear wheel travel). Since the shock moves faster and farther at the end of the stroke than it does at the beginning of the stroke, its damping increases. Therefore, rising-rate linkages change the rate (read speed) at which the shock travels as the rear wheel moves. I have found that when racing my 300XC, I do not have to think about how to approach an obstacle – like a rock, log or jump face – I just hit it! Also, the “high/low” speed refers to shock-piston speed, not necessarily bike speed. The faster the shock needs to respond, the better the linkage works because it assists the shock.
Second, how long does the typical linkage last? Depending on how much you ride, your linkage suspension should last anywhere between 2 to 5 years, if you maintain and grease the linkage bearings on a “fairly” regular basis (2 or 3 times a year). With poor maintenance and a lot of riding, you can plan on the linkage bearings wearing out within a year. If you greased your linkage after each and every ride (yeah, right), conceivably your linkage would never wear out. It is a known fact that most, if not all, dirt bike riders dread greasing and maintaining their linkage. Out of sight – out of mind!
So, I know you’re wondering “Obie-Wan, what is involved in the maintenance and greasing of your linkage – I’ve never cleaned it before?” Glad you should ask. First, you’ll need to tear off the linkage suspension, the bushings and pins – check out this YouTube video on lubricating your linkage. Did I mention this is a messy job? You might think it’s intimidating, but don’t . . . it’s really not that bad. After you’ve gotten the linkage off the bike and apart you will need to do an assessment of the parts. Are they worn out and in need of replacement? Can you tell if they’re worn out, or do you need your know-it-all buddy to come over and inspect the parts with you? If the bearings and bushings in the linkage are worn out, you will need to buy new parts, which typically run about $150 – $200, depending on whether you want to buy OEM or aftermarket. I prefer to use OEM – as Obie-Wan would say, “they will last longer and the Force will be with you.” (or something like that). If the bearings and bushings are in decent shape, clean them up with a solvent and reassemble. When reassembling, be sure to hit the bearings and bushings with a good waterproof grease. All this sounds pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, it is messy and time-consuming (it can take anywhere between 1-3 hours depending on your dirt-bike-mechanic abilities). But, done on a regular basis, you will find that the linkage will last a lot longer and you will get better, overall performance from the bike.
Finally, I know you’re wondering, “What does the Obie Link Guard do to prevent wear and tear on my linkage, how does it help me from having to do maintenance on my linkage on a regular basis, AND is linkage protection necessary?” One of the more important aspects of the Obie Link Guard, beyond the fact that it protects your linkage from damage from rocks and logs (and helps the rider with gliding over these obstacles), is that it also protects the linkage from dirt and grime entry into the linkage seal bearings, which in turn allows for less maintenance and cost of repairs. No more having to pressure wash the crap out of this area.
So, to reiterate, the Obie Link Guard protects your linkage against damage from rocks and logs, assists the rider with gliding over rough obstacles, and it protects from dirt and grime entry into the linkage seal bearings, which then allows for less cleaning, maintenance, cost, hassle and headache. Hmmm, sounds pretty darn good, Obie-Wan!