Ohlin A Brief History

Dissatisfaction is a great spur in many fields and the one of MX is no different in this respect especially for Swedish MX racer Kenth Ohlin. As a reasonable competitor Ohlin was unhappy with the basic rear suspension units available to racers during the early 70s so began developing his own. They were a vast improvement on the standard units he'd been using and the results were noticeable, other riders wanted the same improvement and Kenth Ohlin was in the suspension business.

Ohlin as a company came in to being in 1976

and its first major success came with Gennady Moiseev in 1978 when the Russian KTM rider won the 250cc World Championships with Ohlin suspension units fitted to his machine. With suspension now taking up more of his time, Kenth discontinued the motorcycle dealership side of his company which allowed him to devote all of his time and expertise to this side of things.

Ohlin is quoted as saying, "this was a wonderful time. I'd work all week in the factory and then head to race tracks ail over Europe at the weekend." With business growing, successes and innovations coming thick and fast. Ohlin sold 50 per cent of the company to Yamaha, which brought many advantages to the Swedish company - not least in opening up new markets. It is recorded as a happy association which lasted for 20 years until Ohlin repurchased a 95 per cent share of the company in 2007. Developments continue and the company is now in the automotive field too.

WORDS-Tim Britton PICS-Tim Britton

■ sorting suspension

Considering how many years a pivoting fork rear suspension system of one type or another has been a feature of motorcycling it's still not fully understood by most riders. Riders will often accept - or perhaps put up with - bone jarringly stiff rear ends that hardly move, to systems set so soft the back end of the bike waffles about like you're riding on marbles.

All sorts of terms are used like travel, spring rate, rebound and compression but it's a confusing world and the slightest alteration can make a world of difference to the way the suspension works. We've all ridden bikes that feel uncomfortable in use or don't do what they should when used in anger on a race track or in a trials section.

We know it doesn't feel right but we adjust our riding style to suit and 'just get on with it'. With suspension incorrectly set you're risking coming off, potential machine damage or worse - not being fast enough on the track. When it's set correctly the difference is incredible, rider fatigue is lessened, the bike goes where the rider points it and lap times decrease or sections are cleaned.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that a motorcycle suspension system as it comes from the factory is set for 'Mr Average' with possibly only the spring pre-load adjustable. Yet the same bike might be bought by a rider weighing in at 12 stone wet through or someone 18 stone in their riding kit. Both these hypothetical riders will need completely different suspension to achieve their best possible performance in whatever discipline they're riding. But how to arrive at this happy situation was the question needing an answer and regular CDB advertiser Mark Hammond - MH Suspension Ltd - provided a useful insight into the up and down world of rear suspension. >

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