Wilbers Shocks -
by Kenn Stamp, Editor, 2WF.com
Edited by webBikeWorld.com
Photos and Text Courtesy
and Wilbers Suspension.
Used with permission.
Motorcycle Shocks and Suspension Page
BMW puts a lot of thought and effort into building
bikes with a lot of active technology packed into them:
ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), ASC (Automatic Stability
Control), ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), RDC
(tire pressure monitoring), to name a few. While all
these things can enhance your riding experience (and
possibly save your life), they aren’t perfect.
The ESA system in particular is a point where
improvements can be made. Like any factory suspension
effort, quality must be balanced against overall cost.
While the ESA system itself is high quality, the
suspension bits it controls are typical
middle-of-the-road OEM parts. Not horrible, mind you,
not on a BMW, but they certainly leave room for
improvement (as do all OEM suspension parts).
Unfortunately there has been a minor problem; the ESA
system only works with the stock suspension parts...or
Rick contacted me a few months
ago about doing a review on a new system from Wilbers
called WESA (Wilbers Electronic Suspension
Adjustment). I said sure and in the typical rapid
fashion (rapid as compared to the age of the earth)
emails started flying like mad between me and Herman
of Wheels and Wings, LLC.
Herman is the local Wilbers dealer and one of only two (at the time this
goes to press) people in the USA authorized to not only
sell the WESA system but also install it. More on Herman
later though; for now let’s talk about the parts
The Wilbers Electronic Suspension
Within the BMW motorcycle riding community, Wilbers
has made a name for itself by building some very high
quality shocks and other suspension components. Ask any BMW rider which
suspension bits he or she wants on their bike and Wilbers will probably be the brand you hear most often.
It only makes sense then that Wilbers would be the
manufacturer to overcome the ESA issue and build a
suspension set-up for ESA-equipped BMWs that not only
performs better than stock but is also fully compatible with
the BMW ESA electronics.
Before we get into how the Wilbers WESA system works, let’s look at what
electronic suspension is in general. Using
a button mounted on the left handlebar, the rider can
change the suspension and damping characteristics of the
front and rear shocks (struts is a more accurate term I
There are three steps to this process (on the R
1200 GS): one step adjusts the dampening to suit the
rider’s particular riding style (Sport, Normal, and
The second step adjusts the actual suspension
itself at the spring mount and base for pre-load for
solo riding, two-up riding, solo with luggage, two-up
with luggage. On the GS, step three takes it one
further and adjusts ride height based on the terrain you
Add all those adjustments together and
those of us that get excited pressing little buttons
(it’s a disease, I know) can spend more time adjusting
While the system works very well to adjust or
compensate for prevailing conditions, the suspension
bits themselves are where the standard BMW comes-up short. On the stock
system, there really isn’t that much difference between
the Sport and Comfort settings. This means that the
setting might as well take a long vacation.
all OEM suspension parts, the spring rates are set for
the median size rider and passenger and not for the
actual rider and passenger. All the electronic
adjustments in the world won’t make up for softer or
harder than needed spring rates and under/over-damped
This is where Wilbers comes in.
Wilbers ESA Front and Rear Shock - Details
Wilbers builds their shock bodies from seamless
formed piping that is heat treated and anodized. The top
and bottom mounts are made from high-grade 7075 aircraft
aluminum which is also anodized; this offers the best
combination of light weight, strength, and durability.
can attest to the light weight part, as I personally
weighed a stock rear shock vs. a Wilbers shock, and a
stock rear spring versus a Wilbers spring. This
was done on a scale with TONS of cool little buttons to
shock itself weighed 2 pounds less but the Wilbers
spring weighed 1 pound more; netting a loss of 1 pound
over stock. The aluminum makes the difference in the
weight loss of the Wilbers shock while the higher grade
and beefier build of the Wilbers springs accounts for
their weight gain.
Wilbers custom-builds their shocks to suit each
individual rider based on information concerning the
rider’s weight, load typically carried, passenger’s
weight and other factors. Being the owner of a motorcycle with
upgraded aftermarket suspension, I can tell you that
having your suspension matched to you makes a huge
One last bit of magic that Wilbers can offer are
shorter-length shocks, which can lower the motorcycle while
still retaining the functionality of the ESA system. For
the BMW R 1200 GS, this comes in two flavors: 35mm lower
and 65mm lower. Wilbers achieves this by cutting the
stroke of the shock while maintaining the ride quality
by using stiffer springs and modified dampers.
The BMW R
1200 GS With the Wilbers Electronic Suspension
I met with Herman Eshuis on a cold Florida morning
(40 degrees is cold for these parts) to sample the
Wilbers WESA set-up for myself. Herman has a 2009 R 1200
GS set-up with the 65mm lowering kit as a demo for
interested customers to ride.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Herman,
should you meet him, is that he is passionate about
anything with a motor in it; car and motorcycle posters
adorn the office walls while out in the hanger (he is
based at an airport) you’ll find a few of his other
business items sitting around -- super-formance cars.
this day he had two Shelby Cobra MK III fully licensed reproductions
(not kits) of the original mid-60’s version sitting
there; one for service and one awaiting completion for
shipment to its new owner overseas. Herman is a
man after my own heart when it comes to all things
powerful and fast!
Knowing these things about Herman is important if for
no other reason than that it shows his desire and
commitment to motorsports. Herman was involved in the
motorsports business for 15 years in the Netherlands
before moving to Florida. As mentioned before, he is
only one of two (at the time this is being written) Wilbers distributors that are authorized to sell AND
install WESA components. I always try to deal with
enthusiasts whenever possible and Herman is certainly an
While I don’t have a huge amount of seat time on
the BMW R 1200 GS line, I have had enough to learn two
important things about the bike:
I don’t like the stock R 1200 GS seat. If I wanted to
sit on concrete I’d just plop down on the sidewalk.
The stock BMW suspension has a tendency to feel
like someone put dirtbike shocks on a 500 pound
motorcycle; floating and wallowing over bumps isn’t my
cup of tea.
But after riding the Wilbers WESA-equipped demo bike,
I’ve come to the following conclusion:
The Wilbers suspension does absolutely nothing in
regards to the comfort of the seat.
The Wilbers suspension does make the bike feel more
like a motorcycle and less like a parade float.
Being a moto-journalist isn’t all glamour, champagne,
and starlets. In reality being a moto-journalist
sometimes involves riding on cold days in search of some
of the roughest roads possible.
Once those roads are found you have to ride them back
and forth, judging, evaluating, and constantly thinking
about things like “How does this setting feel? Or this one?
Is there a quantifiable
difference between the two? What do I feel like
lunch? Is it getting colder? Will the muon-to-electron conversion experiment (MECO)
actually come to pass and will it find lepton flavor
What? You mean don’t think about things like that while riding?
Ride Report: Wilbers Electronic
After multiple passes up and down the same stretch of
rough road and a satisfying lunch I was ready to put my
thoughts about the WESA system in some sort of order. Quite simply, it works and it works well.
The ride is
controlled over every type of surface irregularity I
could find. Whether it was a hard-edged bump or a dip,
the Wilbers suspension was well damped and never
exhibited the sometimes abrupt rebound tendencies of the
stock BMW suspension.
Single Rider - Comfort Mode: Riding with the suspension set-up for “single rider,
comfort” seems to slow down the suspension action to
give the rider the softest ride possible. The best way
to explain it would be to think about the suspension
operating in slow-motion thereby offering a controlled
yet smooth ride.
Pushing the bike hard into corners on
this setting gives the big Beemer a softer than ideal
feeling during mid-corner bumps due to the slower
response time of the damping and bound/rebound;
definitely the setting of choice though for those long
distance highway rides. Luckily, suspension settings
more in tune with sport riding are but a button push
Single Rider - Normal Mode: Switching over to “single rider, normal” allows a
little more feel to be transmitted through the bars and
seat without feeling harsh. This setting also allows you
to tackle twisty roads at a decent pace without feeling
like you are tying the suspension up in knots. I
actually found myself using this mode more than any
other simply because the damping worked well enough in
corners (at a sane pace) without sacrificing very much
in the way of rough surface damping.
Single Rider - Sport Mode: Final damping setting in the “single rider” category
is the “sport” mode. Once again the Wilbers shocks serve
up a well-damped ride albeit one that transmits a
noticeable amount of road surface information to the
In “sport” mode there is less squat under
acceleration and less dive under braking (not that there
is much to begin with). While the bumps and dips on the
road are still well-damped, you can feel the suspension
reacting to them and compensating for them in this mode.
Feedback on road surface conditions, braking, and
traction limits increases while overall ride smoothness
decreases. This certainly is a “sport” setting and the
ride quality is much closer to “sport bike” than it is
to “adventure bike”.
No matter which master setting I put the bike in,
“single-rider”, “dual-rider”, “w/luggage”, etc., the
three damping settings worked exactly the same. The only
difference was a little harsher ride as the pre-load was
adjusted to compensate for weight that wasn’t there.
Off-Road Mode: Changing the mode into the “off-road” settings showed
pretty much the same results. Even with the bike raised
up into its “mountain” mode, the ride differences
between the three damping settings was consistent;
“comfort” = soft but controlled ride, “normal” =
controlled ride with better feedback, and “sport” =
least amount of squat and dive and most amount of
While I didn’t have the opportunity to do any
real off-road work with the bike I was able to put it
into “mountain” mode and then and run up and down a dirt
road that had swales and ridges in it from rain and
On this dirt road, when in “comfort” mode and being
ridden at about 30 mph, the Wilbers suspension reacted as
I expected; after a few good bumps and dips the
suspension seemed to start lagging behind.
just a little too slow to keep up with the constant up
and down motion. When ridden at 20mph or slower, the
“comfort” setting was spot on. Placing the suspension
into “normal” mode gave a well controlled ride at 20mph
and below and quickened the rebound settings enough to
handle the road at 30mph.
Putting the suspension into “sport” mode made the
ride above 30mph smoother but only if I rode the bike
“over” the dips and bumps and not “through” them. Below
30mph the “sport” setting in “mountain” mode, while
still being controlled, was a bit too rough for my
One nice side-effect of the 65 mm lowered WESA kit
from Wilbers is in the slow speed handling department. Because of the lower center of gravity, the usually
top-heavy BMW felt much lighter and was more nimble
during slow speed turns.
One thing to keep in mind about
the lowered suspension is that even though in the normal
modes you may be able to touch the ground comfortably,
putting the bike into the off-road modes raises it up an
appreciable amount; I’d guess somewhere in the 30 mm
I actually showed a vertically challenged friend
of mine the system and while he could touch down with
the balls of both feet comfortably in the normal modes,
he was on the very tips of his toes when in the tallest
off-road mode. You should have seen his eyes as he asked
me if the bike would be getting any taller. Priceless.
A good suspension makes all the difference in the
world on a motorcycle but if replacing the stock
suspension removes some functionality of the bike, what
is the point?
With the Wilbers’ WESA you get to keep all
the button pushing fun associated with BMW’s ESA system
combined with the class leading technology and
ride/handling improvements Wilbers is known for; all for
a reasonable price of $1,349.00 plus shipping (more if you
want Herman to install them on your bike). You’ll even
get to keep your original shocks in case you want to
reinstall them to sell the bike.
You can learn more about the WESA system at
More on Wilbers Shocks and suspension parts on the
website, along with a worldwide list of authorized
As a last bit of information, Werner Koch and Benny
Wilbers wrote a book titled “Motorcycle Suspension
Technology in Detail” which you can also get directly
I was given a copy of the book which
everything from how suspension works to why it sometimes
doesn’t, how to optimize your forks, frames and swing
arms, how the chain drive impacts suspension, to tire
It also covers ways to safely lower your
motorcycle and tips and tricks to setting-up your
suspension for track duty. It is an incredibly detailed
book that covers not only Wilbers suspension but
suspension in general.
I highly recommend this for
anyone who works on their own bike or who just wants a
more in depth knowledge of how bike suspension works. The book retails for $25 and can also be found at HermanUSA.com.
Editor's Note: Herman is also the
North American distributor for the
Acebikes Steady Stand front wheel chock we reviewed.
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From "D.E." (3/10):
"A factual error:
"It only makes sense then that Wilbers would be the
manufacturer to overcome the ESA issue"
WorksPerformance has been moving the ESA controls to
their shocks for well over a year now, and Hyperpro also
has an ESA solution available. I believe Ohlins
also has a solution in the works or available.
I found it rather odd that the *exact* same article,
with photos by the shock vendor is to be found (on the
It's also not made clear in either article - but it
appears that Wilbers is doing the same as Works and
Hyperpro - moving the ESA control units from the BMW
shocks to their own shocks. It doesn't appear that
Wilbers actually makes their own ESA control units.
This might be useful info for people, since it does
mean that the original factory shocks are rendered
useless when the control units are moved to the
aftermarket shock. Ditto for the Wilbers shock if
the control units are moved back to the factory shock if
the factory shock is replaced on the bike when it's
I also have to assume the Wilbers shocks do loose the
high/low speed compression damping adjustments they have
on their normal shocks?
Other than that - it's an interesting article."
Editor's Reply: Yes,
2WF.com and webBikeWorld.com are co-publishing
motorcycle reviews, as we noted when this project
started a couple of months ago. This was announced
on December 1, 2009 on our
Motorcyle Reviews index page.
Co-publishing gives us both a wider readership and
lets 2WF.com use the number of visitor stats from the
larger webBikeWorld audience of 10 million per year to
"convince" the manufacturers to lend them more bikes to
test. Then we both get the benefit of having more
interesting bike test articles to publish.
By the way, Kenn Stamp, the 2WF.com Editor and the
author of the article (as noted in the masthead at the
beginning of the article) only had about 1/2 day with
the bike, so it was difficult to conduct a full review,
thus the article is rather light on details compared to
both the webBikeWorld.com and 2WF.com normal reviews.
Herman Eshuis Responds: "Wilbers
is building a total new shock with settings at customer
weights and with the base spring also calculated to the
weight of the customer.
Inside the Wilbers shock is a combined needle which
changes rebound and compression once you change your
setting, that's why it drives so much better than the
stock suspension from BMW! You're right, no
separate high / low speed compression adjustment, it's
all internal adjusted.
Another advantage is that Wilbers is offering 2
lowering options with complete shock bodies and not only
a shorter spring.
And indeed we then are mounting the BMW controls to
the Wilbers shock, this leaves you with a complete set
of original BMW shocks, which you can keep as a spare
set or do whatever you want to do with it.
Wilbers does NOT make their own ESA control unit !!
As far as I know ( but I need to check with Mr. Wilbers
) Hyperpro is only making a electric control box with
extra settings. No new shocks !!
We do not know the quality of the Works system and
how they are fine tuning the suspension, we know that
they offer a ESA conversion too."