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Riding on Air

Jesse Jurrens leads Legend Suspensions, a Sturgis business specializing in smooth rides.

You could say that Legend Suspensions got its start on the dirt bike trails of Codington County. Jesse Jurrens grew up outside of Watertown, riding and modifying bikes. He continued tinkering after he got his first Harley, but when it came to the suspension system, he looked far and wide for an air spring system similar to what was being used on hot rods. “When I couldn’t find it, I decided to make my own,” Jurrens says. “That sent me down the path of fabricating prototypes, thinking in the back of my mind that maybe there was a market for it.”

The ultimate result was an air suspension system that has become the bedrock product for Legend Suspensions. Made using state-of-the-art rubber, the system provides a smoother ride, increased load capacity and adjustability mid-ride. The systems are now in use around the world, but it took a lot of time, testing and patience.

Jurrens began in the basement of his parents’ house in Watertown in the mid-1990s. He soon met Dan Dolan, now a professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, who specialized in vehicle dynamics. “I wasn’t a student but he was intrigued by what I was trying to accomplish,” Jurrens says. “He helped me to emulate a million miles of testing on that first product, which took quite a bit of time, but it was important to build that safety if I thought I was going to sell these in the future.”

The key came when the Gates Rubber Company agreed to share its Aramid fiber rubber air spring technology. “Aramid fiber is almost like a bulletproof vest,” he says. “When we run a lot of air pressure into these air springs, they can only grow about a millimeter at most, because it’s such a tight compact area underneath these bikes. The rubber has to stay its size and be able to handle extreme use. This is the only material that holds up. It makes our product work.”

Legend Suspensions now employs around 35 people at its headquarters in Sturgis. Parts are machined at a plant in Watertown and other components come from smaller companies in South Dakota and around the Midwest. In addition to air suspensions, they also produce high-end coil and front-end suspensions. “No matter what the customer is looking to do with that motorcycle, we’ve got an option,” Jurrens says.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the September/October 2021 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


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