Griff, I’ve not had the range of experience you’ve had with suspensions, but I have to agree that most motorcycle suspensions are too stiff. But, from reading journalist reviews and owner’s comments on forums, that seems to be what many people want, or think they want.
I read time and time again criticisms that “the springs are too soft and the shock is underdamped.” But, an important factor usually missing from the review is the weight of the tester. If the tester weighs 250 pounds, it probably is a little soft, but if you’re a 160 pound rider, it’s probably just right. You mentioned that the CRF1000L was plush enough, but what did the media say? Too soft.
My CRF250L Rally is soft, and I like it. People criticize the fork dive and add a second spring to the front end. Well, people, if you have 10 inches of fork travel, then yes, it’s going to dive. Why have 10 inches of travel and then stiffen it up so much it doesn’t move?
Another factor is the smoothness of the roads you often travel. With ultra smooth highways, sure, let’s have a stiff suspension so we have a well mannered chassis. But if you frequent rough or unpaved roads, you’re going to want a suspension that actually moves to soak up the bumps.
I have to wonder if manufacturers sometimes set the suspension stiff to cover up the fact that the suspension designs and components are simple and cheap.