Motorcycle Repair: How to adjust the rear suspension preload on a 2009 Kawasaki KLR650

Motorcycle Repair: How to adjust the rear suspension preload on a 2009 Kawasaki KLR650

**Always follow the instructions in your repair manual when doing repair or maintenance work on a motorcycle. Manuals can be found at the dealer and online.**

Rear suspension preload is how far the motorcycle drops due to the rear suspension compressing when the rider is on the motorcycle. This drop effects the bikes geometry, which effects the performance and safety of the motorcycle. The bikes geometry change from preload can effect the bikes ground clearance, steering geometry and direction of the bikes headlight beam. The rear shock on the 2009 Kawasaki KLR650 has 5 preload settings, and each setting is labeled 1-5. The settings are changed by rotating a bolt clockwise, and the bolt is located on top of the rear shock on the left side of the motorcycle. Kawasaki recommends the #1 preload setting for a 150 pound rider, but doesn’t give any further instructions for setting the preload for heavier riders.

As a general rule of thumb the rear suspension preload should be 25-33 percent of the rear suspension travel. On the 2009 Kawasaki KLR650 the rear suspension travel is 7.3 inches, so the preload should be set so the bike drops 1.8 inches to 2.4 inches with the rider on the motorcycle. To measure the preload, pick a point on the back of the motorcycle that is part of the bikes un-sprung weight. For example, any point on the swing arm works good. Next, pick a point on the rear of the motorcycle that is part of the motorcycle sprung weight. For the 2009 Kawasaki KLR650 I chose the helmet lock. Next, raise the motorcycle off the ground so the rear wheel is off the ground, and measure the distance between the two points. Record the measurement. Now take the motorcycle off the lift and have the rider get on the motorcycle, so the rider and motorcycle are in a natural riding position, and measure the distance between the two points. The difference between the two measurements is the rear suspension preload. With the 2009 Kawasaki KLR650 the difference between the two measurements should be 1.8 – 2.4 inches. If the difference is larger, than increase the preload on the rear shock, by rotating the adjustment bolt clockwise. The highest setting is 5, so if 5 doesn’t correct the problem, than you need a new rear shock with a stiffer spring.

16 thoughts on “Motorcycle Repair: How to adjust the rear suspension preload on a 2009 Kawasaki KLR650

  1. A dealer wanted $75 to adjust the shock on a klr of my riding partner.Well we did it in 10 min.(like you said it’s better to have 2 people) Thanks

  2. very nice ,just bought this exact bike and did not get an owners manual,this was very informative and helpful

  3. That was very helpful, much clearer than the manual, and the tip on how to find the proper height specific to your weight was great. I had someone describe it to me briefly, and this helped me understand it better. Thanks!

  4. I opted to just bin the rear stock suspension and went with an aftermarket suspension designed for adults. Totally different bike now.

  5. Nicely done and thank you. I have a 32″ inseam and Im picking my new KLR up tomorrow. I’ll for sure be checking and adjusting preload.

  6. I’m having the same problems with my KLR, any recs. on a good aftermarket spring and/or shock? Thanks,

  7. Oh yes, I weigh 175, and like to take it camping. So tent, sleeping bag, tank bag with ‘stuff’, pannier bags with extra tubes, oil, coolant, etc. Then saddle bags with a change of clothes, food and water. So probably 250 lbs at the top end but the sag is terrible with the stock shock and spring. Thanks again, Pete

  8. Hi smallengineshop, In my manual is says never to do what you are demonstrating with regard to adjusting the spring pre load. “Caution – When the spring preload adjuster is at the position of the first of fifth do not turn the adjusting bolt in the opposite direction of the above procedures. The spring preload adjuster will be damaged by the shock.” i.e. when in fifth position DO NOT continue turning clockwise to first position!  Please correct me me if I’m wrong. Thanks for the video none the less. 

    EDIT: Just checked. You do need to go clockwise to get from position 1 to 5 and and then anti clockwise to get from position 5 back to 1. If you continue clockwise after pos 5 and it bangs back to 1 then you may damage the adjuster. 

  9. I’m 14 I turn 15 in a few months I weigh 159 pounds I’m big but not fat and I am about 5,11 almost 6 foot tall what number suspension should I have it set up 12345 etc.

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