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Three for the win: the suspension system of the Vespa

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Being relaxed on a well-built road in bright sunshine with sunglasses on the Vespa is probably one of the best feelings for Vespa riders. Unfortunately, the reality often looks a bit different.
Sometimes uneven roads or potholes make the ride more of a slalom course than a relaxing ride. This was already noticed by Corradino D’Ascanio, the engineer of the first models, which is why he had shock absorbers installed. Even though the dampers of that time have little to do with the now ultra-modern suspension systems, the basic design remained the same. But more on this below.

The interaction of three components

The reasons for the respective suspension systems initially reflect the initial considerations for the components installed. The primary goal is to absorb vibrations and shocks caused by road irregularities and to provide riders with a comfortable ride. This is achieved through an interplay of three simplified essential components.

Front telescopic fork: The front telescopic fork consists of a telescopic leg connected to the handlebar. They absorb the unevenness of the road and allow the front wheel to bounce vertically to minimize the impact on the steering.
SIP Scootershop offers high quality telescopic forks with fast delivery.

Swingarm Suspension: The swingarm suspension, also known as the swingarm or rear suspension, is a suspension unit that connects the rear wheel to the frame. It allows the rear wheel to move up and down and contributes to the stability and control of the Vespa.
A selection of swingarms for a variety of Vespa models is available online from SIP.

Shock Absorbers: Both front and rear, all Vespas are equipped with shock absorbers. These dampers reduce the effect of shocks and vibrations by absorbing the energy generated when riding over bumps. They consist of a combination of springs and hydraulic damping systems.
For the perfect damping for each model, SIP has a large number of shock absorbers always in stock.

Structure of the shock absorbers

The most important part of the three components are, of course, the two shock absorbers, whose basic structure is similar in most cases.

A cylinder is connected to the wheel suspension, while inside it there is a piston connected to the other side of the suspension by a piston rod. Inside the cylinder is oil, which must flow from one side of the piston to the other as the piston moves in the cylinder. This is made possible by holes in the piston.

Because of the force required to push the oil from one side of the piston to the other, the movement of the wheel is damped compared to the rigid frame of the scooter.

The effect of damping can be varied by the size of the holes. The holes only allow the oil to flow in one direction. Different diameters of the holes for the in-spring and out-spring movements can affect the damping to different degrees.

In addition to the oil, there is a chamber in the cylinder that is filled with gas. This chamber is separated from the oil by another piston or a “separator”. The chamber serves to equalize the volume of the piston rod as it enters the cylinder. When the piston rod enters the cylinder, it occupies volume in the cylinder that was previously available to the oil.

This compresses the gas in the compensation chamber. When the rod moves out of the cylinder, the gas in the chamber expands again. This leads to an effect that can be observed when compressing a disassembled shock absorber: The shock absorber moves apart again. The strength of this effect can vary with different shock absorbers. Therefore, the pressure in the gas chamber also has a significant influence on the behavior of the chassis. This closed system is framed by a spring, which offers good possibilities for adjusting the system to individual needs.

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It’s all a question of adjustment

This tuning can be done in various ways. However, this adjustment should only be carried out by experienced and knowledgeable mechanics, since an incorrectly adjusted suspension system can quickly lead to danger.
A first starting point is the spring preload. This is adjusted via a nut that limits the length of the spring in the unloaded state. The rebound damping can also be fine-tuned on the damper. This is usually adjusted via the adjusting wheel at the end of the inner damper rod. The rebound stage determines how high the force is that counteracts the rebound movement. Also a proven means of adjustment is the compression stage, which determines the force with which the damper counteracts the compression movement. It is usually adjusted via a wheel on the shock absorber’s reservoir.

In addition, there are numerous other options depending on the chassis or damper.

Since the standard shock absorbers still have room for improvement in terms of ride comfort and durability, the Vespa experts at SIP Scootershop offer a wide range of high-quality sports and premium shock absorbers, which further increase the previously mentioned adjustment options and thus ensure excellent adjustment.

Basically, the suspension system of the Vespa is also a complex, albeit very important system that should always work. After all, only when the wheels have even contact with the ground can they optimally transmit negative, positive or lateral acceleration and compensate for shocks. Therefore, it is recommended for all Vespa riders to take a close look at the installed system and possibly opt for higher quality parts. Because then the slalom course mentioned at the beginning will be a thing of the past and the next ride can start with peace of mind.

Good to know

How to recognize a broken shock absorber?

Severe jerking and bouncing while driving is a sign. More severe bouncing and jumping when going over bumps in the road can indicate that the shock absorbers and struts are not working properly. After going over a bump, the Vespa should smoothly come to balance without much wobble.

Is it possible to repair a shock absorber?

In the event of a defective shock absorber, a replacement part should always be obtained as quickly as possible and properly replaced. Due to road damage, a shock absorber can take quite a beating and should therefore be checked regularly and replaced if necessary.

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