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Shotgun Shock: A smooth ride

By PJ Hyland

Softail version: $1,550

Bagger version: $1,750

www.shotgunshock.com

From the moment I heard about Shotgun Shock’s bagger version I couldn’t wait to get in the saddle of a bike equipped with the little beauties and experience the ride so I could let my bagger-riding buddies know about, what I hoped would be, a significant improvement on The Motor Company’s offerings.

Bagger shock with compressor

Bagger shock with compressor

When I went to the manufacturing facility to have the Softail version of JD’s suspension wonder installed on my bike he offered me his personal bike, a silver 2000 FLHT Electro Glide equipped with the new Shotgun Bagger Shocks, to take out for a test ride. Before I took off he worked the control switches, which were fastened to a polished stainless steel bracket that shared its mounting bolts with the horn cowling, to demonstrate the three inches of vertical travel available to a rider. Then he explained that by working with the spherical Heim eyelet connector that joins the shock to the swing arm at the axle he could locate those three inches of play to be between 9 ½ inches and 12 ½ inches and 11 inches and 14 inches or anywhere in between those parameters over the course of the shock’s extension potential. Next he gave me a brief tutorial on the operating possibilities designed into the shocks and set the height and the rebound characteristics to a point that he described as a “normal riding setting.” Then he told me where I could find a choppy stretch of surface road so I could get a feel for how the shocks reacted to potholes and uneven surfaces. I noticed that while the ride was a distinct improvement over what I was accustomed to with OEM models it could have been better at dealing with the longer, deeper potholes, some of which measured more than two feet in length and around four to five inches in depth. So I pulled over and as per instruction I held the front switch up, for a few seconds, while I bounced the rear end up and down until I could feel that the suspension was just a bit more rigid. When I went back and ran over those same potholes the suspension did a much better job of smoothing out the ride. When I say “much better,” I’m comparing the experience to the already superior performance of the Shotgun Shocks as compared to the stock Harley model.

JD had mentioned that because his shocks controlled both the rebound as well as the compression it made for a more stable ride by helping to eliminate the “pogo effect,” which is primarily caused by ineffective rebound damping. Sure enough when I got the bike up to speed I was not only impressed by how comfortable it rode but I was also able to confidently carry more speed than I typically would have, in a given situation, because of the added stability factor. This increased stability also gave me the confidence to take corners a bit faster than I normally would.

Shiny anodized compressor and Softail Shotgun Shock

Shiny anodized compressor and Softail Shotgun Shock

Jessica Kennedy is JD’s lady. She coordinates the communications effort for the company and generally functions as a “Jill-of-all-trades” around the place. Although she owns and operates her own black-with-pinstripes 2013 Harley-Davidson FLSTS Softail Slim, she has been known to occupy the passenger seat on JD’s bagger to get a feel for how the Shotgun Shock experience compares to OEM shocks. Having spent countless miles on the passenger seat of Harleys in the past, Jessica is ultimately qualified to opine on the subject. She told me she was immediately aware of the improved comfort level and within a few miles, on the road, she was able to notice how stable the bike felt. When I asked her if she would recommend installing Shotgun Shocks to riders who want their passengers to feel safer and be more comfortable in the passenger seat she responded with an emphatic, “Definitely!”

When I threw a boot over my 2008 Softail Custom, after the Shotgun Shock had been installed, I noticed that because the Softail version of the Shotgun Shock is a single unit its rigid construction combined with its ability to effectively control compression and damping significantly improved the comfort as well as the stability of the ride. During my first experience on the freeway with the shock mounted on my bike I noticed that I was passing everything else on the road. When I checked my speedometer I was doing almost fifteen miles per hour faster than I would normally go over that stretch of roadway. Plus, the gusting crosswinds didn’t seem to have as much effect on my bike as they usually do.

Because Mr. Braun is not only the owner/inventor of the Shotgun Shock but also the one responsible for the manufacturing process, he has immediate and complete knowledge of the whole shootin’ match. And because Jessica Kennedy does such a great job of helping to coordinate factory goings on and responding to correspondence in a timely fashion, issues get dealt with in an efficient manner — much to the satisfaction of Shotgun Shock customers. When I said Jessica was a “Jill-of-all-trades” earlier, I wasn’t just messing with ya. She was the one who laid down on the creeper, produced a couple of ratchet box wrenches, and removed my old Softail shocks and replaced them with Shotgun Shocks. Jessica’s daughter, Stacie, who also works at the factory as the wiring specialist, pitched in and JD helped out a bit but I got the impression that Jessica was perfectly capable of completing the job by herself.

The Shotgun Shock factory features two CNC milling machines and a CNC lathe. Jessica told me her nephew, Nick Kennedy, has an artist’s touch as a CNC machine programmer. JD went on to say that it would be difficult to turn out the high-quality product they are so proud of without the 25-year-old’s expertise.

The Shotgun Shock crew will be doing installations at their booth located at 956 Lazelle St. across from the Easy Rider Saloon in Sturgis from July 26 through August 9. Drop by and say hi to JD and Jessica.

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