Front Fluid Quantity and Suspension Response

By Brian Curry
November 1998

My latest K75RT, a 92, had Showa forks. This is the first I had Showa's. The front of the bike was scary under braking. It dove like crazy. I thought I needed new Progressive Springs.

As part of the prep for running it to the West, I drained and refilled the forks. For some reason, I checked the amount of fluid that came out of the first fork, ~360 cc's. Odd number it seemed. The Non-Showa RT's took 280 cc, and the non-sport suspension was supposed to take 330 cc and the drained amount was more than this.

I checked the owners manual. It said 280 and 330 cc's. Hmmm. I checked the manual version date. It was old... and pre Showa... Time to call the dealer.

Lee Kundrat, of Otto's BMW Cycles, told me Showa forks were supposed to take 410 cc's.

OK, I tried that and put 410 cc's of BMW 7.5W oil in each leg.

Then I rode the bike. Even I, the suspension idiot, could tell the difference. :):) It was a night and day difference. The dive was much reduced!! The front end suspension felt much more composed.

Then I thought about it a bit. The new, proper, larger fluid volume, reduces the air volume above it, compared to the way I got the bike. This means that when the fork compresses, the air PRESSURE increases much faster than when the volume is larger. Increasing air pressure acts like a rising rate spring. Effectively, putting more fluid in the fork increased the spring rate a lot when the fork tried to dive. (Some time back, HD had a brake dive reduction scheme, by isolating an air chamber that connected to above the fork oil. It gave a "higher" spring rate, when you were on the brakes and the fork air volume was cut off from the chamber.)

Having the proper amount of fluid in the forks IMO, eliminated the need for a spring transplant and made the CC jaunt much more pleasurable.

So, if you want more "cushiness" and "plushness" although with more dive, put in less fluid. If you want more "control" and "firmness" and "less dive" put in more fluid. Remember there is a limit on how low or high you can go. If you go too low, you can hear the transition from air to fluid as the fork valving compresses. Shock "absorption" will vary a lot depending if there is air or oil going through the restriction orifices. If you go too high, the fork tube pressure will go REAL HIGH. The suspension may appear to be "solid" or "locked". You might be able to blow the fork seals or O-rings out. Either are not be good things. Remember, when you deviate from the BMW factory values, you are on your own. Travel with care.

BWM specified fork oil quantities/capacities have varied over the years. Here is a table of values:

Fork Oil Quantities/Capacities

Model            Leg      Change       Disassemble

K75 Showa        L        410 cc        420 cc
K75 Showa        R        410 cc        420 cc

K75 BMW          L        330 cc
K75 BMW          R        330 cc

K75 Sport        L        280 cc
K75 Sport        R        280 cc
(Has an "S" stamped on the aluminum plug on top of the leg.)

K1100LT          L        350 cc        400 cc
K1100LT          R        400 cc        400 cc

K1100RS          L        350 cc        400 cc
K1100RS          R        400 cc        400 cc

K1, K100RS       L        380 cc        400 cc
K1, K100RS       R        380 cc        400 cc

K100             L        330 cc
K100             R        330 cc

RS/T/LT          L        360 cc
RS/T/LT          R        360 cc
(Sport)          L        280 cc
(Sport)          R        280 cc
(Has an "S" stamped on the aluminum plug on top of the leg.)

R1100 Oil Change only if disassembled
                 L                     450 cc
                 R                     450 cc

R100R            L        410 cc       420 cc
                 R        410 cc       420 cc

R100GS/PD        L        410 cc       470 cc
                 R        440 cc       470 cc

>88-R100RT/RS    L        320 cc
                 R        320 cc

>85-R65/R80      L        300 cc
                 R        300 cc

>85-R80RT        L        320 cc
                 R        320 cc

R80GS            L        220 cc
                 R        220 cc

R80ST            L        190 cc
                 R        190 cc

>84-R65/LS       L        190 cc
                 R        190 cc

R100CS/RT/RS     L        220 cc
                 R        220 cc

R60/7, R75/7, R80/7, R100/7, R100S, R100RS, R100RT
R60/6, R75/6, R90/6, R90S
R50/5, R60/5, R75/5
                 L        265 cc        280 cc
                 R        265 cc        280 cc

R50US, R60US, R69US (1968-1969)
                 L        265 cc        280 cc
                 R        265 cc        280 cc

PRE 1968 Model Twins
                 150-170 cc Both Legs

There is a Service Instruction 31 026 92 (2547) which is supposed to have additional information.

A ">" indicates that the data is correct for models up to that model year from either start of production, or an earlier date when the value was different.

This data is was correct as of Oct 4, 1993. After that, you are on your own. But it may be some help. Why does the amount vary from the Left to Right leg? Don't know. BMW says it does.