I had my 2006 Sportster about 2 years before a discussion with someone at my local Harley Davidson dealership revealed that the factory shocks on the 883L, and any Sportster for that matter, are not designed for two-up riding. Of course I was a bit upset that the salesman who sold me the rear pillion, sissy bar, backrest, rear footpegs and mounts left this tid-bit out of our conversation.
If you’ve read my motorcycle camping checklist, and more specifically viewed the picture of the VERY heavily loaded Sportster, you’ll understand why this bit of information would be good to have, and much bottoming out may have been avoided.
Coming into my third year with the bike, and having logged 25,000 miles, I was ready to upgrade the rear shocks on the XL 883L. Even though Harley Davidson makes a Sportster rear shock designed for two-up riding, a couple of the parts guys at my local Harley dealer suggested the Progressive 912 series rear shock. After doing some research, I decided that the Progressive 912 HD was the rear shock I wanted to purchase.
MEASURING REAR SHOCKS FOR FIT
When measuring for shocks, the proper way to measure the existing shocks is from the center of the top bolt hole to the center of the bottom bolt hole. I made my measurement with the OEM shocks on the bike. Loaded down by the weight of the bike and fatigued from 25,000 miles of use. The existing shocks measured at about 12 inches. Progressive suggests the heavy duty version of the shock if you ride your bike close to max GVRW. I added a half inch of insurance against bottoming out, and ordered 12.5 inch Progressive 912HD Chrome shocks.
REMOVING SPORTSTER REAR SHOCKS
I secured the motorcycle on a motorcycle lift so that the rear of the bike could be relaxed and compressed as needed. Removing the top mounting bolt from each Sportster rear shock, I used caution as the motorcycle will settle downward after the bolts are removed from the top shock eyelets. Placing a wrench on the retaining nut on the backside of the lower shock bolt, I removed the lower shock bolts from the old shocks.
INSTALLING PROGRESSIVE 912 REAR SHOCKS
Using the spacer combination’s recommended by Progressive (spacers are provided with the rear shocks), I installed the lower retaining nut and bolt on one shock. I didn’t tighten the nut and bolt completely, as I wanted the shock to pivot freely. I then rotated the top shock eyelet to the location of the top mounting hole in the frame rail to get an idea of how far off I was. I raised the rear frame by slowly jacking the bike at the frame under the engine. Periodic stops were needed to check for the alignment of the top mounting bolt hole and threaded hole in the rear frame rail. I raised the bike as needed until the eyelet hole was lined up with the frame rail threaded hole and installed the top mounting bolt. I torqued the top and bottom mounting bolts to specs then repeated the procedure to install the remaining Progressive shock.
While I didn’t anticipate any issues with clearance, I took a quick blast over some roads known to give the OEM rear shocks trouble, and was pleased with the way the 912’s responded to the challenge. The real test would come two days later, when we loaded the bike to capacity and logged 217 miles to Saratoga Falls, NY. Even at the factory set “soft” load setting, the 912 HD rear springs handled the hardest of bumps with ease. No bottoming out was experienced during the entire trip. I even noticed that the added support and half inch of height aided the front folk springs which also have a tendency to bottom out and are next to be replaced.