Suspension is one of the most critical motorcycle components, and yet it is one of the most misunderstood. A lot of riders don’t fully understand how to maximize the potential that a fork and shock can offer, and the same even holds true for some aftermarket companies. After all, to get into the suspension tuning business, all you need is a few tools, an assortment of shims, some oil and a nitrogen tank, and a “technician” can do the work out of their garage. Then there is the other end of the spectrum: Race Tech. Founded by Paul Thede in 1984, the company has taken an analytical approach to suspension tuning. They are on the cutting-edge of technology with shock dynos, special computer software designed in-house, and other secret gadgetry. They create their own valves, springs, bottoming cones, complete shocks, tools and many more parts. They are the real deal, and seat-of-the-pants testing isn’t enough for this group of hard-core riders.One of Race Tech’s best-kept secrets has been Phong Diep. He is the company’s design engineer and he’s one of the main reasons Race Tech is one of the most respected names in suspension. Diep graduated from the University of California Irvine with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. More importantly, he’s a perfectionist with a passion for solving problems that others wouldn’t even attempt.That’s why we turned to Diep a few months ago when our Bonneville Land Speed Record project began posing some technical challenges. We needed someone who could hand-build a new shock, relocate its mounting points, and engineer a sleek linkage system for our fleet of Hondas. Using sophisticated computer programs and full-scale models, Diep managed to lower our bike 10 full inches, and give us more room near the air box and header. This extra room is critical for some of the secret parts that our motor guys need for this project. We recently sat down with Diep inside Race Tech’s new building in Corona, California, and found that he is a wealth of knowledge.Dirt Rider: What do you find so interesting about the world of suspension design?
Phong Diep: I’ve always had an interest in motorsports and suspension is one of the major areas of a vehicle. Working at Race Tech [gives] me the opportunity to be at the forefront of suspension design and technology. What’s your primary job at Race Tech?
Researching and developing new products. What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to suspension design?
My biggest challenge is trying to achieve functionality with simplicity. However, this is [also] one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. What does the future hold for suspension development?
Data acquisition! It will greatly aid suspension tuning by giving the rider a better understanding of the motorcycle’s response, and ultimately improve their riding skills. What’s the biggest mistake most customers make with suspension setup?
Misinterpreting the response of the suspension and making wrong adjustments. Such as thinking they’re not having enough rebound damping and too much compression damping or vice versa. This is where the data acquisition can be extremely helpful. Have you ever worked on anything so unusual as our Honda CR125R?
I built a formula car using a 600cc motorcycle engine with classmates at UCI. What’s been your biggest challenge with the Bonneville project?
Making the time and effort available for it has pretty much been the challenge, but I really enjoyed working with everyone on it.Speed Week at Bonneville’s famous Salt Flats is coming soon—August 14 – August 20. Check back on Dirtrider.com for info on the Honda CR125R speedster, and updates on Dirt Rider’s land speed record setting attempt.