The Honda CRF230F is a great trail bike – but it has pretty lousy suspension. I decided to upgrade the suspension on Jamie’s bike during the winter of 2011. I wanted to install better forks, but they were out of my price range. After a lot of Internet research, I finally settled on a Works Performance rear shock, and Race Tech valve emulators in the front forks.
Works Performance Shock
Works Performance offers two shocks for the 230 and 150. I opted for the more expensive one with more adjustments. When you order the shock, you tell them the rider weight and their riding style. They take it from there. They send you back a shock that has been custom adjusted for your specifications. All you need to do is install it. They even set the sag properly.
As you can see from the photo, the WP shock is much higher quality and it has a separate reservoir.
You have to disassemble a fair amount of the bike in order to route the reservoir tube, but the instructions were clear and easy to follow.
Race Tech Cartridge Emulators
The front forks on the 230 are the old fashioned push-rod style. Higher performance shocks use cartridge valves that control the rate at which the oil flows from chamber to chamber (do a google search if you really want to understand it). The Race Tech cartridge emulator is a fairly low cost way to improve the performance of a push-rod fork.
The first step is to remove the forks from the bike.
Be prepared for a real mess. Disassembling the fork gets oil all over everything if you are not careful.
It was a good thing I performed this service. The oil in one of the forks was pitch black (it was originally red). It was far overdo. I had no idea fork oil could get that bad. I guess 8 years is too long between service!
Notice the black oil residue on the left fork, with red on the right (as it should be).
Here is the gold valve emulator installed on the push-rod.
I destroyed a few sets of fork seals before I figured out how to do it properly – even with the proper tools and after watching YouTube videos. Once I figured out a few things, it wasn’t so bad.
So, the real test was Jamie’s first ride on the bike. I asked her what she thought. Her answer – “what did you change?” She couldn’t tell the difference. How disappointing.
But, I suspect it has made a difference, she just didn’t know what to look for. I think it rides smoother and is less likely to bottom out on small jumps (the stock shock bottomed out very easily). Some day I need to have her trade off between her bike and our spare 230 with the stock suspension. I suspect (hope) the difference will then be very obvious.
Update: We finally took some time to let Jamie switch back and forth between our updated 230 and our stock 230. She could easily tell the difference. The updated suspension felt much better to her.