Andreani Upgrade to the Showa Big Piston Forks
 

 
The stock XR forks never quite did it for me.  I ran them on the road and for a bit of offroad riding, and their lack of adjustability meant harsh riding under some conditions and excessive dive under others.  Once I upgraded the rear shocks to Ohlins, the deficiencies in the front forks became even more pronounced.  One of the easiest upgrades available was to switch to the adjustable Showa Big Piston Forks (BPFs) which now come on the XR1200X.  An excellent upgrade, I still felt like the front end could use a bit more help.  The BPFs are good but under harsh conditions and for a heavy rider, I could not get the level of adjustment that I had hoped for.
 
Enter Andreani.   Andreani is an Italian suspension company that is well known in European circles.  Their piston upgrade is allowed within the European Trophy Series and the U.S. Vance and Hines XR1200 series.  The kit includes two-ring pistons, vice the one-ring pistons in the BPF's, and more precise control over oil flow.  Coupled with a set of Ohlins progressive fork springs, the kit should take the front end to the next level.  For riders who want a cost effective front end upgrade and want to keep a fairly stock appearance to their XR, it seems a good choice.
 
I ordered the parts for the installation from Dave Behrend at FastBikeIndustries in Hendersonville, NC (coincidentally, also the home of Ohlins-USA).  Fastbike offers installation of the kit, if you prefer not to do it yourself, but short of taking a ride to their shop, this would still require removing the forks from the XR and shipping them to the shop.
 

 
The Andreani-Ohlins Parts
 

 
Here is what I installed in the Showa BPF's.  This is the Andreani piston upgrade kit for the XR1200, Ohlins progressive rate fork springs, and Ohlins front fork oil.
 

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The Kit

 
The Andreani piston kit is very nicely manufactured.  Even the packaging reflects quality.
 

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Packaged

 
The pistons and miscellaneous washers and parts are packaged in stacks for each fork.  (The coils are piston rings.)  The pistons and their corresponding shims and spacers should be left as shipped until it is time to transfer them onto the piston rod assembly, so that they remain in the proper order.
 

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Inside parts

 
(The red pieces are just packing clips.)
 

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Inside parts

 
And a closer look at the metal pistons.  These metal pistons with two rings, replace the plastic one-ring stock pistons.  When installed, the triangular shims shown above, cover the three, 3-holed chambers in each of the pistons.
 

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The piston

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The Piston

 
To further improve the front end, Ohlins springs will replace the OEM ones and I'll top it off with this high-grade Ohlins front fork oil.  (The Ohlins oil is 15 cSt, while the stock oil supposedly has a viscosity of 10.)
 

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Ohlins Fork Oil

 
The Tools
 

 
Working on the BPF's is straight forward.  A couple of special tools make the job even easier.  Click here to see some of the special tools needed for this job.
 

 
Fork Rebuild Kit
 

 
And for good measure during the parts swap, here are the miscellaneous fork seals available in the HD Fork Rebuild Kit.  (This includes the single piston ring seal for the OEM piston, that won't be used with the Andreani upgrade.) 
 
But, in general, unless the fork is showing signs of wear, the parts in the rebuild kit will not be needed during the dis-assembly/re-assembly for the piston upgrade.
 

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HD Fork Rebuild Kit

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HD Fork Rebuild Kit

 
If the forks are showing signs of leakage or other wear and require a rebuild, one kit is used for each Big Piston Fork leg.
 
And here is a closer look at the parts...
 
 

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Seals

 
The lower left ring in the above picture is the piston ring for the OEM piston.  This would not be needed with the Andreani piston kit.
 

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Bushings

 
Proper installation of the oil seal and larger metal bushing in the above picture, requires a 43 mm seal driver such as the MotionPro 08-0124.
 
If the end of the upper fork leg is heated until warm, the oil seal, intermediate washer, and metal bushing can be easily driven into place with a couple taps of the driver.  A little oil on the outer edge of the fork seal will help it slide into place easily.   This driver will seat the oil seal perfectly, but for work rebuilding the fork legs I made a short extension out of a piece of PVC pipe that I split, to fully seat the bushing.
 
Also, the rubber fork seal and dust cap are more easily installed using a Fork Seal Bullet like the MotionPro 08-0275, but tape and some care can be used in place of this.
 

 
**Installation**

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To break this page up, I've put the piston installation pictures on a separate page.  Click here to see the Andreani piston installation in the Showa BPF's.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
The Preload Adjuster
 

 
The Andreani-Ohlins upgrade will affect the feel of the compression and rebound adjustment.  Selection of the proper fork spring based on your weight will help also.  This is good because the OEM preload adjuster is not modified. 
 
Just FYI, the below picture shows the preload adjuster in the bottom of the Big Piston Fork.  There is not a lot of adjustment range here, so the upgraded fork spring should be a big help.
 

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The plastic cup at the bottom of the fork end is effectively a "screw jack".  It is shaped to mate with the spacer at the bottom of the fork spring.  It  is raised and lowered by turning the adjusting wheel on the side of the fork bottom.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
There are 16 full turns of preload adjustmant in the XR1200's Showa BPF.  That equals 0.170" or about 4.3 mm.  That means that lock-to-lock, there is less than 1/2 cm of preload adjustment.  Each 1/4 turn click of the wheel therefore, adjusts preload by about .08 mm.  Just FYI, for those who think there is a big change in feel from adjusting the preload a few clicks...
 

 
Conclusion
 

 
First,  I've got to give huge kudos to Dave Behrend at FastBikeIndustries for his excellent service and support.  I had the Andreani pistons and Ohlins springs within about two days of ordering.  Andreani provides its instructions in picture form.  Having done this once, their instructions would be easy for anyone with any fork experience to follow.  But, it was my first time in the BPF's, so I had a few questions over my weekend install.  I texted and e-mailed Dave, and he responded almost immediately.  I found out later that the reason I couldn't reach him by voice was that he was on the road between Canada and North Carolina, plus had a sick family.  And, he felt guilty about only being able to answer my questions after a 15-30 minute delay.  I would say that Dave goes above and beyond!
 
The install was not trivial, because the forks need to come off the front-end, in order to drain and clean them, but it was not a difficult procedure.  Anyone comfortable with a wrench, and with following mechanical instructions, should be able to comfortably do this install.  There are a couple of special wrenches needed, but beyond that, this is simple bolt-on work.
 
Also, this is an excellent time to inspect the forks for any damage.  The lower sliders should slide smoothly in and out of the upper fork tubes, throughout their full range of movement.  If they do not, and especially if they stick at any point, the forks should be carefully inspected and repaired.  There is obviously more that can be dis-assembled and worked on with the BPFs, but that would need to go in another write-up.
 
As for the ride improvement, I'll have to wait a few days to post about that.  I had time to do the install, but have not had a moment to get a feel for the suspension improvement.  I am expecting great things!
 
 

 
Epilogue
 

 
Although it costs a couple dollars to view the whole thing, a nice video from OntheThrottle of servicing the Showa BPFs can be viewed here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlspX4dQ5Dg - It's not XR1200 specific but it gives a great look at what is in a Showa BPF.
 

 
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To Take a look at Installation of the Andreani-Ohlins upgrade, click here.
 
To see some of the Specialized Tools needed for this work, click here.
 
To return to the XR1200 Tech Info page, click here.

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