HUSQVARNA NORDEN 901 SUSPENSION UPGRADE - STAGE 1
By: Chad de Alva
Husqvarna Motorcycles describes the Norden 901as an adventure touring motorcycle that excels at every adventure, whether that means riding on road or across rugged terrain. The marketing folks are correct – the Norden is comfortable and capable, making it a great bike for traveling and exploring – as long as that means mellow offroad riding. Try to smash through some whoops, or jump the bike like you’re riding the Norden’s orange cousin, the KTM 890 Adventure R, and you’ll quickly find the limits of the Norden’s stock suspension. The Norden is built on the 890 platform, which means that there are a number of WP Suspension OEM options for seriously upping the Norden’s offroad performance, while retaining the attributes that make the bike great in the first place. This is the first serving of how you can have your Norden off-road performance cake, and eat it too.
Stock suspension on the Norden 901 consists of WP Apex forks with 220mm of travel and adjustable compression and rebound. Out back, the Norden has a WP Apex shock with 215mm of travel and hand adjustable pre-load and a rebound clicker. These parts do a great job on the road, and they are more than capable of soaking up gravel, corrugations, and the small bumps and obstacles found in the dirt. Yet as soon as the rider starts to push it off-road by hitting G-outs, jumps, whoops, larger trail obstacles, and just riding the bike like it’s a big dirt bike, (which is something you very much want to do) the Norden’s stock shock will quickly prove to be the limiting factor. The effect is even more pronounced when you add luggage to the equation. Thankfully, WP Suspension makes something called a Xplor Pro shock, and it’s one of the most impressive parts you can install on a motorcycle.
If you’re familiar with KTM, you may have heard of WP’s “Pro Component Suspension.” If not, know that Pro Components are as good as motorcycle suspension gets. The suspension KTM, Husky, and Gas Gas use on their factory rally bikes? Pro Components. The suspension Chris Birch rides on his 890 R? Pro components. The suspension that riders who want the best parts money can buy use – you guessed it: Pro Components. What’s neat about Pro Component suspension is that both the shock and forks can be configured to match the Norden’s stock lengths, or set up at extended lengths for even more off-road performance.
While any WP dealer should be able to get a Norden owner set up with a Xplor Pro shock, we opted to go with the industry leader: Solid Performance. These guys handle more WP parts than any other dealer in the country, and they are the guys that show up to events like the KTM Rally to provide official WP support for the event. The point is – Solid Performance knows WP suspension.
Getting a Xplor Pro shock, or any WP suspension parts or service from Solid Performance is straightforward. Start by filling out the suspension service form on the website, shooting them an email, or giving them a call. Where some suspension shops only have you fill out a suspension service form before working on your suspension, the Solid Performance process has you corresponding directly with the master tuner who is actually going to build your suspension. The end result is that working with Solid Performance feels much more personalized than transactional, and their additional communication and information gathering clearly translates into suspension that’s better set up for you as a unique rider.
When you first crack open the box containing your Pro Component suspension, you can’t help but hear a little “aaaahhhh” choir note in your head, like you’ve just opened a box containing the holy grail. Pro Components are truly something to behold – Notice the machined body, the red anodized bits like the compression adjusters and the preload collar. Once you’ve managed to recoil your tongue and close your jaw, get the shock installed on your bike – the hardest part of which is tetris-ing out the stock Norden shock. With the new shock installed, get all geared up and ready for a ride – then check your sag.
I have to give Solid Performance credit here. They absolutely nailed the preload setting on my Pro Component shock to within 1mm of spec, which is more than I can say for any other suspension service I’ve worked with. Sag matters. If you want to get the most out of any bike, take the time to get fully kitted up and ready to ride before stepping on the scale to determine your rider weight, or checking sag on your bike. Give your suspension tuner the best possible information to get the best possible suspension.
The difference the Pro Components shock makes in the Norden’s suspension performance is profound. The Apex shock is decently plush, but the Pro Components shock is on a whole other level of plush and compliant. Where the Apex shock smooths out bumps and takes the edge off of orange-sized rocks, the Xplor Pro shock makes them all but disappear. You’ll be surprised to feel your bike not respond to rocks and other obstacles you thought you were going to hit with your back tire. The truth is that you did in fact hit the obstacle, but the Pro Component shock works that well - and that’s not even the best part.
It’s when things get rough, or the bumps get big where the Xplor Pro shock will have you saying “worth it!” Now you’re able to ride whoops without your back end bouncing up and down like a stapler, fly into G-outs and actually jump the bike without the shock bottoming out hard when you land. If you’re going to load the bike up with luggage or a passenger for any ride, now you have the adjustability in the shock to compensate for the additional load. Properly configured suspension also makes for a safer bike. The bottom line is that in any riding situation the Xplor Pro shock makes the Norden better.
The only downside to upping the Norden’s shock by such a significant margin is that it highlights the limitations of the stock Apex forks. The Xplor Pro shock will give you so much confidence that you have to remember to respect the limits of the Apex Forks when it comes to big hits or jumps. Some Norden riders may not find the limits of the Norden’s Apex forks, and in that case the Xplor Pro shock is all they need. For riders who want their forks to work as well as the Xplor Pro shock, there are WP Xplor Pro forks, which are what we’ll be installing and extending the suspension travel to 240mm front and rear for the next part of this series.
The Husqvarna Norden 901 is a great bike that has a number of travel specific optimizations that make it a unique variant of an 890. In stock form, the bike targets a mix of comfort and capability over outright off-road performance like the 890 Adventure R. By adding WP Pro Component suspension, Norden owners can seriously up the performance of their bike while retaining the Norden’s unique attributes. A Xplor Pro shock is a game changer for the Norden, and a gateway drug into the world of Pro Component suspension. Even if you are a Norden owner who has no desire to ever touch dirt, having a shock you can fully adjust to compensate for luggage or a passenger is still a great upgrade to make to your bike.
Solid Performance has absolutely provided top shelf suspension service, and their work speaks for itself. Give Solid Performance a call at (484)593-0095 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.solid-performance.com. For stage 2 of the Norden's suspension upgrade: CLICK HERE