Remember “suspension travel?”  

In this article, we’re about to dive deeper into this topic by talking about the differences between long vs. short suspension travel. 

You’ll discover:

  • Differences between long vs. short suspension travel
  • Scenarios where a short and a long suspension travel would be ideal
  • How to measure how much suspension travel your bike has right now

Prefer to get this information in podcast form? Listen to the 30 Minute Motorcycling Podcast episode about 5 reasons why your motorcycle isn’t getting any fuel:

What is Suspension Travel?

But before we dive deeper into the differences between long and short suspension travel, we need a quick reminder about what suspension travel is.

Suspension travel refers to how much the suspension can move before it is fully compressed and cannot move a millimeter further.

The more the suspension can be compressed, the more the wheel can move up and down, and the longer the suspension travel is.

However, the suspension spring can’t be fully decompressed when the rider or anything other weight is sitting on the bike.

How much travel should a shock have?

The amount of suspension travel depends on 3 things:

  1. The type of motorcycle
  2. Where you use it
  3. Your riding style

Generally, off-road dirt bikes that ride on rough surfaces will need more suspension travel than a cruiser that rides on paved streets.

Long vs. Short Suspension Travel

When would you need a short suspension travel setup?

Do you ride on the street or the track? Then, you’ll know that apart from the odd pothole or trash in the road, the road itself doesn’t have much to contend with (apart from cars, but that’s another story).

As such, you don’t need to set up your suspension to handle rough terrain. What you DO need, though, is a suspension setup that gives your bike stability and precision.

And short suspension travel is ideal for this type of riding.

On average, suspension with short travel will be set to between 80-120mm. 


When would you need a long suspension travel setup?

A common theme for long-suspension travel is “off-road” – whether it’s motocross, adventure touring, or hard enduro.

In other words, we’re NOT talking about your average gravel road here – we’re talking challenging terrain.

Here, you no longer have the luxury of a smooth paved surface. Now, you have to deal with logs, rocks, and other nature-based obstacles you have to overcome.

If you need or want a long suspension travel setup, it needs to be set to have between 150-300mm of travel.

But How Do You Measure Suspension Travel? Is It Hard?

image of harley davidson shock absorbe

I’m glad you asked – and no, it’s not hard. All you need is a rule or a tape measure.

To determine your suspension travel, you need two reference points:

  1. The top point (when the shock is uncompressed)
  2. The bottom point (when the shock is fully compressed)

Once you have those down, subtract the bottom point from the top point, and presto! You’ve got your suspension travel.

To put this in context, let’s say that the shock absorber’s top point is 400mm, and the bottom point is 200mm.

In that case, the suspension travel would be 200mm since 400-200=200.