Unless you’ve got money to spare or are as fast as Cole Seely, odds are your Honda is still outfitted with the stock Showa SFF Air suspension system. A few years old but still revolutionary, the Separate Function Fork (hence the “SFF”) puts the dampening components in one tube while an air pressure “spring” fills the other tube. While at the races one weekend, we talked with Showa Suspension Technician Ryo Okuda about working with Seely to fine-tune the system to his liking, duties of a race day, and tips for the average racer.
I'm busy on race day readjusting air pressure when the temperature goes up and knowing what guys would like to change. I will get on the calculation sheet and fine-tune things for the track and rider.
When we are in the closed pits and stadium, the air temperature stays the same. We don't worry about that too much.
We have a base setting from our testing in California, then come to the race track with that setting and will make small changes. We don't make big changes on race day, just fine-tune for the track and conditions the riders see.
When Cole comes in between practice on race day, he doesn't change much. He usually says how the bike is, but if it's not totally off-balance he won't say much. We will watch film together and decide what to do.
The things you have to be careful with on the SFF Air Fork system is when you check the pressure in the morning. Say it is 50 degrees but throughout the day the sun comes up and it raises the temperature to 70 or 80 degrees, the pressure in the fork will go up. That is the only time that the Showa fork pressure will go up. It doesn't go up during the moto, because it stays consistent through the single-function.
SFF system separated the dampening and the air spring. One leg has the dampening while the other leg has an air pressurized spring system. When there is no dampening in the fork, there is no heat created in itself. It only depends on the air temperature.
At the races we fill the fork with nitrogen, only because it is more consistent than oxygen. Nitrogen stays more consistent through heat.
If you are on the Showa SFF system, I recommend checking the pressure at the track before you ride and later in the day when the air gets warmer. One thing you have to be careful of when putting the gauge on the fork to check is that the gauge has to take some pressure away from the fork to fill-up. So if you see a little lower number than you first set it, don't freak out because it is not an air leak.