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How to Install Shocks on a Softail Motorcycle

by Kyle McBride

Softail motorcycles from Harley-Davidson combine the clean lines of a classic hardtail motorcycle frame with the comfort and safety of modern hydraulic suspension shocks. The swing arm is designed to have the look of the hardtail frame while concealing the shocks under the transmission. The swing arm pivot shaft and bushings are camouflaged by the design as well. The result is pleasing to the eye and lends the motorcycle a dated look. The shocks provide the same road-hugging and motion-damping benefits as traditional external shocks.

Step 1

Raise the bike with a bike lift. Place the lift toward the rear of the bike frame so it will lift the rear tire off the ground. Place a small jack under the swing arm to support the weight of the swing arm and rear wheel and also allow for adjustment for lining up the shocks.

Step 2

Install the frame end of the left shock first. Ensure that the shock eye and frame holes are clean and free of debris or oil. Lightly grease the smooth portion of the shock bolt, but leave the threads clean. Install the washer and spacer onto the shock bolt, and apply Loctite to the threads. Put it through a shock eye and into the frame hole. Torque it to factory specifications for your year Softail.

Adjust the height of the rear wheel with the jack until the swing arm end of the shock lines up with its frame holes. Apply grease and Loctite to the bolt, then torque it to factory specifications for your year Softail. Repeat the process for the right shock.

Items you will need

  • Bike lift
  • Jack
  • Grease
  • Blue Loctite
  • 1/2-inch torque wrench
  • Socket set

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