A comparative analysis between conventional passive twin tube dampers and skyhook-controlled magneto-rheological fluid (MRF) dampers for motorcycle front suspensions is provided, based on single axis testing in a damper test rig and suspension performance testing in road trials. Performance motorcycles, while boasting extremely light suspension components and competition-ready performance, have an inherent weakness in comfort, as the suspension systems are designed primarily for racing purposes. Front suspension acceleration and shock loading transmit directly through the front suspension triple clamp into the rider's arms and shoulders, causing rapid fatigue in shoulder muscles. Magneto-rheological fluid dampers and skyhook control systems offer an alternative to conventional sport motorcycle suspensions - both performance and comfort can be combined in the same package.
Prototype MRF dampers designed and manufactured specifically for this application require no more space than conventional twin tube designs while adding only 1.7 pounds total weight to the system. The MRF dampers were designed for high controllability and low power consumption, two vital considerations for a motorcycle application. The tests conducted include the dampers' force-velocity curve testing in a damper test rig and suspension performance based on damper position, velocity, and acceleration measurement. Damper test rig results show the MRF dampers have a far greater range of adjustability than the test vehicle's OEM dampers. Combined with a modified sky-hook control system, the MRF dampers can greatly decrease the acceleration and shock loading transmitted to the rider through the handlebars while contributing performance in manners such as anti-dive under braking.
Triple clamp acceleration measurements from a variety of staged road conditions, such as sinusoidal wave inputs, will be compared to subjective test-rider field reports to establish a correlation between rider fatigue and the front suspension performance. This testing will be conducted on the OEM vehicle suspension, the passive MRF dampers, and the skyhook-controlled MRF damper front suspension. The results of this test will determine the viability of skyhook-controlled MRF damper systems on motorcycles for performance gain and fatigue reduction.