While high-performance sportbikes are all about powerful engines and lightweight platforms, suspension plays a crucial role in ensuring these machines are capable of setting stellar lap times. After all, what’s the use of 200 horsepower if you can’t navigate corners at neckbreak speeds, right? Apart from all the R&D that goes into engines, frames, and brakes, enhancing the performance of suspension components is something that keeps both engineers and enthusiasts up at night.
It goes without saying that Öhlins is one of the most respected brands when it comes to suspension – be it for cars, motorbikes, off-roaders, and even bicycles. As such, it should come as no surprise that Öhlins sits at the very forefront of innovation when it comes to all things suspension. Case in point: the new SmartEC3, its newest semi-active suspension system designed for top-tier superbikes. The brand new system is by no means just a concept, either. In fact, it made its debut back in EICMA 2023 on the 2024 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP.
So yes, the Honda Fireblade SP is the first and so far the only production motorcycle to boast Öhlins’ all-new SmartEC3 system. So, what makes it so special? Well, for starters, SmartEC3 combines world-class suspension components with cutting-edge electronic controls. Take it this way, if Öhlins’ manually adjustable suspension systems are already considered some of the best in the world, what more if they could react to rider input, terrain, and braking and acceleration forces at a moment’s notice. Indeed, this is where the Smart in SmartEC3 comes in.
Öhlins’ engineers have tailored a setup that continuously optimizes damping based on the behavior of the bike and the input of the rider. In total, SmartEC3 offers four semi-active suspension algorithms consisting of Sport, Track, Rain, and Manual. All these settings can be selected on the fly, and adjust suspension performance according to the rider’s preferences.
The way it works is through Öhlins’ fancy Objective Base Tuning Interface, or OBTi. The system facilitates suspension adjustments that take braking, weight transfer, and acceleration into account. Inspired by MotoGP’s rear ride height devices, the system improves cornering grip as well as optimizes traction both under heavy braking and acceleration. More specifically, OBTi tunes weight transfer during acceleration by lowering the bike’s center of gravity. This enhances traction at the rear wheel while also preventing wheelies. Meanwhile, updated algorithms can also adjust suspension settings according to rider weight, suggesting preload and optimizing damping for improved performance.
On the hardware side of the equation, Öhlins SmartEC3 makes use of only the best parts from the Swedish manufacturer. Up front, the 2024 CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP is equipped with the Öhlins 43mm S-EC3 (SV) NPX USD forks, while rear suspension duties are handled by TTX36 EC rear shocks. For more intuitive fine-tuning, Öhlins has engineered a spool valve into the suspension system, a feature which the company claims enhances comfort via a pressure compensation chamber for quick adjustments and improved sensitivity.
It goes without saying that Öhlins’ new SmartEC3 system is the next big thing when it comes to performance suspension. Sure, the 2024 Honda Fireblade may be the first to sport this cutting-edge tech, but we can surely expect more and more bikes to feature the new SmartEC3 as standard equipment in the very near future.