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Girder Forks making a Comeback?

Girder forks were the standard motorcycle front suspension through the 1920s and ‘30s, before being superseded by telescopic forks after WWII. Since then, telescopics have become almost universal despite their widely acknowledged flaws.

But now it looks like the girder fork could be making a comeback, albeit in more sophisticated form than the pre-war original, based on designs by British engineer Norman Hossack, who developed a modern girder fork in the 1970s. BMW’s Telelever front end has been well established for about 30 years, though on a shrinking number of models, now only fitted to the K1600 tourer, while more recently Honda has fitted a similar system to the Goldwing. Now Chinese manufacturer CFMoto – is following suit, patenting a girder fork system for its own big touring bike, the V-twin 1250 TR-G.

This uses a similar set up to the BMW and Honda, with a single fork suspended by two wishbones with a monoshock. The benefits include a lack of fork dive – because a girder fork separates the steering and braking forces, it can be relatively soft without suffering from dive under heavy braking. A single shock is also easier to make use of adaptive damping and electronic pre-load adjustment than forks.

CFMoto is already well established in western markets with its 650cc V-twin – currently, the 1279cc TR-G is only available in China.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said: “Interesting that this type of fork seems to be featured on big tourers, there have been other applications. The Britten racers used them 30 years ago, still one of the most innovative designs ever, from New Zealand, along with a stressed engine, no frame and mostly constructed out of carbon fibre.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Kevin Gunstone