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Budget Sport ATV Suspension Buyers Guide

 

400ex_budget_project_2008

Older ATVs and many current models have non-rebuildable shocks that must be replaced when they wear out.

If you are riding around on an ATV that is more than a few years old, chances are that your suspension’s performance is beginning to suffer. If your suspension is rebuildable you can simply pull it off, box it up and send it off to your favorite suspension tuner for a cost effective rebuild that will have them performing good as new. Unfortunately, only the newest, priciest sport machines on the market come with rebuildable shocks at both ends. If your shocks can’t be rebuilt and they are wearing out, they need to be replaced. 

If you have priced today’s top of the line race shocks then you might be considering selling your ATV. It makes no sense to buy shocks for your machine that cost more than your entire machine is worth, but honestly that isn’t necessary. There are several companies on the market offering aftermarket shocks that are very reasonably priced. These shocks often cost the same or less than stock shocks, offer a superior ride and are rebuildable for future maintenance. These shocks can often be upgraded as your budget allows with additional features in the future such as nitrogen reservoirs for superior cooling, plus compression and rebound damping adjustments. 

 
Budget Pricing

What is a budget shock to one rider may be very expensive to another. After talking with all of the various shock builders on the market we decided to limit the cost to $700 for the fronts and $800 for the rear. Shocks above these price points usually went beyond using high quality components, offering additional adjustability at increased cost. 

Is my Suspension Worn Out?

Many late model ATVs have shocks that cant be rebuilt of modified. An affordable set of aftermarket shocks can make a big improvement in ride quality.

As you ride your ATV, the oil inside the shocks is constantly circulating through check valves. The oils passage through these valves provides the damping force that resists your shocks springs from compressing and expanding uncontrollably. As the oil circulates through the valves it heats up. Overtime the oils viscosity breaks down, essentially making it thinner, providing less resistance against the spring, resulting in poor working suspension. 

On the outside, other forces such as dust, dirt and rocks are constantly working as abrasives on your shocks shafts and seals. If you have ever seen an ATV where some or all of its suspension travel feels like a pogo stick, or is un-dampened, then chances are its seals are leaking due to damage to the seal, shaft or both. If your shocks are leaking or just have lots of miles on them and feel worn out, they are in need of repair or replacement. 

Are my shocks Candidates?

450cc class machines and a few select other sport models come with high dollar rebuildable suepsnsion stock.

If you have a 450cc class machine or other late model ATV with rebuildable shocks at both ends, then you can skip the rest of this article and check out our upcoming Suspension Rebuild Buyers Guide. If you ride a machine under 400cc or that was produced before 2005, chances are that at lease your front shocks are non rebuildable. Many popular machines fall into this category such as Honda’s 300 and 400ex, Yamaha’s Raptor 125, 250, 350 and the front shocks on older Raptor 700s, as well as older Z and KFX 400s and many Polaris models. If you aren’t sure if your suspension is rebuild-able or not, ask your dealer. Keep in mind that some models have rebuild-able rear shocks even if their front shocks aren’t. 
  

The Shocks

Works Performance
Front, A-T Steelers, $445
Rear, Quad Star, $605.00 without reservoir $659.00 with reservoir
 

Works Performance has been producing cost effective, custom-built ATV shocks longer than anyone. Works Performance builds each shock for your weight, riding ability, preferred terrain, and ATV setup. Works uses the same mathematical equations for their entry level shocks as they do on their top of the line Black Widow shocks making sure that you have the ideal setup, regardless of shock price. Their A-T Steeler front shocks’ feature ½ inch diameter shafts while their Quad Star features a 5/8-inch shaft. These shocks feature preload adjustment on most models and they can be upgraded with reservoirs, compression and rebound adjustments. Works did inform us that purchasing additional features at the time you buy your shocks is a bit more cost-effective then adding them later on. While Works does offer their Quad Star rear shock without a reservoir, they highly recommend the reservoir for aggressive riders, adding only $54 to the cost of the shock.
 
  

Race Tech's GS-3 shocks can be ordered with a preloaded or zero preload setup and can be upgraded as your budget allows.

Race Tech
Front, GS-3, $699.99
Rear, GS-3, $749.99
 

Race Tech’s Todd Davis tells us, “Race Tech is serious about having a price point for every rider”. Race Tech builds their shocks for your weight, riding ability, preferred terrain and ATV setup. They offer two series of their GS-3 ATV shocks; Sport and Race. The difference is either a preloaded or zero preload spring setup. Race Tech shocks feature 5/8″ diameter shafts and their trademark Gold Valve piston kit which was designed for maximum oil flow helping to prevent high speed or mid-stroke harshness. Both the base model front and rear shocks are non-reservoir equipped and feature preload or ride height adjustment and the rear shock features rebound adjustment. Since the base model shocks are constructed with the same components as their top of the line shocks, reservoirs, compression and rebound adjustments can easily be added later on.
  

 

Elka Suspension
Front Elka, Stage 1, $495
 

Available for most popular sport ATVs, Elka’s Stage 1 shocks are custom built for your weight, riding ability, preferred terrain and ATV setup. The components used in the Stage 1 shocks are the same high quality components Elka uses in their high-end race shocks According to Elka, “You get the same performance and benefits as with our racing shocks, only with less adjustability.” The front shocks feature 36mm bodies with 16mm shafts, are preload adjustable and are upgradeable with reservoirs, compression and rebound adjustments. 

Elka does not offer a true budget rear shock. The lowest priced rear shock they offer is their Stage 3 which features preload, compression and rebound adjustments and retails for $895
 
  

HLS believes you don't need a bunch of adjustments if your suspension is built correctly.

HLS
Front,  Essential Series,$495,
Rear, Essential Series, $695
 

HLS Owner Lazarus Sommers believes that if you build a shock correctly you don’t need all those expensive adjustments. HLS shocks are custom built for your weight, riding ability, preferred terrain and ATV setup. HLS front shocks feature ½ inch shafts, which they claim flows oil more efficiently than larger shaft front shocks allowing for a softer ride and greater bottoming resistance. Laz Sommers pointed out, “This is the same size internal shaft used on Fox’s high dollar Podium X Evol shocks and is one reason they work as well as they do.” HLS shocks feature high flow pistons, are ride height adjustable, and can easily be upgraded with reservoirs, compression and rebound adjustments.

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2 Responses to “Budget Sport ATV Suspension Buyers Guide”

  1. Racer says:

    You may also want to check out ZBroz Racing. Great custom shocks.

  2. Joe says:

    Agreed! ZBroz’ dialed in a set of Axis shocks for us on a Honda 450R project we worked on a few years ago. ZBroz builds the Exit, line of shocks Exit does offer a less expensive model shock, but its retail price kept it out of this story.

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