Published on May 4th, 2011 | by Joe0
Sport ATV Suspension Revalve Buyer’s Guide 2014
Get a Race-Ready Ride and Save a Grand!
Racers and highly-skilled recreational enthusiasts often wind up replacing their ATV’s stock suspension in search of a higher level of performance. With manufacturers attempting to come up with spring rates and valving that will work with a wide range of rider weights and ability levels, it’s hard to come up with stock suspension that works exceptionally for any one person. During our 450cc Motocross Shootout last year and throughout many of our high-end sport model tests, we often wind up pushing the limits of the suspension’s adjustment to one extreme or another. On stock shocks, we usually wind up going to full soft on many settings looking to make the ride plusher on small- to medium-size bumps. We have also seen stock machines with suspension at the opposite end of the spectrum–– that is too soft.
If you are in need of an upgrade in suspension, you have two choices; well, maybe you have one. If your machine doesn’t have shocks that can be rebuilt, you will have to purchase aftermarket shocks. If you are a casual to serious recreational rider and want to keep cost in check, check out our Budget Suspension Buyer’s Guide for options. If you are looking to get serious into racing, check out our upcoming Racing Suspension Buyer’s Guide.
If your shocks can be rebuilt, then you are in luck! Most shocks that can be rebuilt come standard with nitrogen reservoirs to keep the oil running cool at a race pace. They often feature compression or high and low-speed compression and/or rebound adjustment. Having your stock suspension revalved and resprung specifically for your needs, should yield a shock that will work just as well for 95% of the riders out there as purchasing a complete set of aftermarket shocks, only at half the price. Purchasing a full set of aftermarket shocks can cost between $2500 and $3000. The most expensive revalve kit in this buyer’s guide costs half as much. You get custom-built race shocks for the price of non-adjustable entry level aftermarket shocks.
For this buyer’s guide we wanted to focus on complete shock conversion packages for serious rider competitors looking to get the most out of their suspension. Along with offering complete shock conversions, most companies will sell you spring kits and other components separately, allowing you to upgrade your suspension in stages as your skill level and budget increase. Some shock tuners offer different coatings to either protect the shock or enhance performance. A few stock shocks can even have their travel extended. Make sure to check with your suspension tuner of choice for availability.
Companies and Services
Manufacturer: Race Tech
Options Available:Race Series and Sport Series Conversion,$1000-$1380
Race Tech’s Race Series features a zero preload setup, which allows you to lower the machine for MX racing. The Sport Series features a threaded preload and ride height closer to stock. Race Tech says this is a good choice for desert racer sport riders who need maximum ground clearance.
Race Tech’s Race and Sport Series shock conversions are said to, “…transform your stock shocks into high performance, state-of-the-art, racing suspension, for a fraction of the cost of new components.” Race Tech can transform your shocks at their headquarters in Corona, CA, or your local Race Tech center can do the conversion for you.
Race Tech disassembles and inspects your shocks, then begins a complete rebuild including fresh Low-Friction Seals, Ultra Slick Shock Fluid, and nitrogen. Race Tech then chooses the proper spring setup and valving based on your weight, riding style, and machine setup. Along with installing new valving, Race Tech replaces the stock piston with their Gold Valve. The Gold Valve is designed to offer unrestricted oil flow to the shim stack preventing any unwanted damping at the piston, which can lead to a harsh feeling on high-speed impacts. Race Tech also offers the option of having your shocks’ bodies hard anodized along with travel extension kits (where applicable).
According to Race Tech’s Todd Davis, “Our shock conversions will easily meet the needs of 90% of the riders out there.” We tried Race Tech’s Race Series shock conversion on our Can-Am DS450 MX Project with outstanding results.
Options Available: Sport Package (starting at $699) Pro Package (starting at $1299)
Unlike most other suspension tuning companies, Hygear is married to the art of suspension tuning. They don’t even offer their own line of aftermarket shocks. Hygear offers their Sport and Pro Packages, providing two different levels of performance and affordability. Both are set up specifically for your weight, riding style, and machine setup.
For a minimal investment, the Sport package addresses the essentials of customizing your shocks with their Twisted Spring Kit and custom internal valuing.
Their more feature-packed Pro Package starts with their Twisted Spring Kit. Hygear then replaces the stock valve stack with their Pressure Balance Valve, which is said to increase adjustability. On models with only high-speed compression adjustment, Hygear installs their Hylo Valve, which adds separate high and low-speed compression damping. Extended Bladder Caps are installed on the end of the reservoirs increasing nitrogen capacity for greater cooling and the shock bodies are hard anodized both inside and out for reduced friction and contamination of the oil.
Manufacturer: Derisi Racing
Options Available: XC and MX Kits Starting at $725
Owned by former Pro GNCC Racer, Santo Derisi, Derisi Racing has been in business revalving suspension since January 1999. Derisi racing was one of the first companies offering revalve kits for the 2004 YFZ450. According to Santo, “Modern suspension offers a much wider range of adjustment compared to older rebuildable shocks.” The Yamaha YFZ450R’s Kashima-coated KYB shocks are especially good, and offer longer oil life due to less pollutants from shock wear. Derisi Racing offers revalve kits for rebuildable OEM shocks, found on most modern sport ATVs, as well as popular aftermarket shocks. Derisi also offers travel extension kits for some OEM shocks increasing wheel travel. They also offer aftermarket rear linkages for some models to improve the action of your rear shock.
Derisi’s MX Revalve Kits features a zero preload setup, lowering the machine’s center of gravity for motocross. The front shocks are converted to triple-rate springs with one adjusting ride height with the two additional spring offering progression throughout the travel. The rear shock is converted to a dual spring setup.
Derisi’s Cross Country Kits utilize dual rate, front shock springs and a single spring rear shock setup. Their SC kits utilize a standard threaded preload style setup and around ¾ inch taller ride height compared to their MX kits. Santo Derisi feels that the softer setup needed for cross-country racing works better with a bit more positive wheel travel. Plus, running the machine’s ride height a bit taller helps keep the machine from framing out in deep ruts.
Derisi Racing’s website has an order form requesting basic information on your weight, riding style, and machine setup. After receiving the shocks, Derisi Racing contacts the customer further inquiring about the rider’s riding style to come up with a truly custom setup tailored to the rider’s needs. After receiving the shocks, Derisi racing notes the customer’s current shock settings to see what they are trying to get out of the shock. The shocks are then torn down, inspected for worn items, and all of the internals are cleaned prior to reassembly. On a few models, Derisi switches out the stock piston for a high-flow piston, but feels that modern shocks offer good enough flow through the piston. Next, Derisi builds a custom valve stack and selects the proper spring rates, completing reassembles with fresh fluid and seals.
Manufacturer: Rocket Ron Racing
Options Available: From entry-level packages up to their Pro Package––starting around $950.
Ron Elmore has been an automotive master mechanic for 25 years. He started racing dirt bikes in 1979 and switched to quads in 1986. Having worked on his own dirt bike’s suspension, Ron immediately realized how much ATV shocks needed serious attention when he started racing them in 1986. Ron started Rocket Ron Racing in 2000. Hitting the market when the 400EX was big news, Ron claims to be one of the first manufacturers to build a rear linkage for the 400EX with an accompanying revalved rear shock. Ron tells us, “Most modern suspension is good enough that it can be set up to work well for riders of all skill level. Modern OEM shocks use good quality components and offer a wide range of adjustment. We can make them work well enough that there is virtually no need for the expense of purchasing a full set of aftermarket shocks.”
Rocket Ron offers kits to match most any budget that they tell us will enhance the ride of your machine. The kits all optimize the shock’s internal valving, but offer different spring rate setups from single to triple rates on the front shocks and single or dual rate on the rear. Ron points out that they can achieve a better ride with multiple springs as it allows them to create more progression as the shock goes through the travel. Rocket Ron feels that most stock, modern shock pistons work fine, although they do custom port the piston on some models for better flow.
On the high-end, Ron offers his Pro Package, which brings all of their spring rates and valving options together, along with different shock bodies. Ron uses aftermarket bodies on some models to optimize, or extend, wheel travel. They also recommend replacing the bodies if they are highly worn. Models like the LTR450 and original YFZ450 use soft aluminum bodies that wear quickly.
Rocket Ron asks their customers a battery of questions regarding their desired setup including machine, chassis setup, riding style, weight, and ability level. They also work to gain an understanding of what their customers like and dislike about the performance of their stock shocks in order to work up a shock that delivers the exact type of ride the rider wants and needs. Upon receiving your shocks, Rocket Ron cleans the shocks, disassembles them, and checks for worn or damaged parts. Ron then builds a custom valve sack and selects the proper spring rates to suit the rider’s needs. Upon reassembly, any worn parts are replaced, along with fresh fluid and a nitrogen charge. Next, the shocks are dialed in on the bench with base line settings; then, are stickered up and sent back to the customer. Should a customer have any issues with the performance of their shocks, Ron will revalve them for free.
Options Available: PEP Conversion, (starting at) $800
PEP has been one of the biggest names in ATV racing suspension at the national level for years. According to Mark Baldwin of Baldwin Motorsports, right-hand man or PEP founder, Wayne Maridian, “We should be doing a lot more revalves than we are, but we never market it.” In case you weren’t aware, you can have your rebuildable shocks setup with different springs and valving using the same mathematical calculations PEP uses in their full aftermarket shocks. The end result is said to be nearly as good as a full aftermarket shock at a fraction of the price.
PEP modifies the stock shock piston for better flow, then installs PEP spec valving and spring rates based on your weight, machine setup, and riding style. Front shocks are either equipped with a dual or triple rate spring setup depending on the length of your shocks, and they offer travel extension kits for certain models.
In the past, we have had PEP perform a rear shock conversion for our 400EX project with excellent results.
Manufacturer: Noleen J6
Options Available: Noleen Race Setup $755
Noleen J6 owner, Clarke Jones, asserts, “A majority of our customers who purchase our Race Setup are recreational riders and local racers who want the most for their money.” Clarke compares Noleen’s shocks to stock, using the good old one to ten scale He rated stock shocks a four; stock shocks with Noleen’s Race Setup a 7.5; with their J6 aftermarket shocks setting the benchmark at 10.
With their Race Setup, Noleen revalves and resprings your stock suspension for your weight, machine setup, and riding style. The front shocks are given a true dual rate spring setup providing good progression.
Noleen also offers travel extension kits for certain models and high flow piston kits for front shocks for an additional $100. You can purchase their high flow piston separately for $150, which includes a custom valve stack. Noleen also offers shock body anodizing which cuts back on shock oil contaminants.
Noleen’s Race Setup brought a new level of plushness to the suspension of CT Racing’s Project Kawasaki KFX 450R, which we tested a while back.
Manufacturer: Works Performance
Options Available: Heart Transplant and Spring Kit, (Starting at) $795
Works Performance has been building and servicing ATV suspension since the late 80’s. According to Works Performance’s Ned Owens, “About half the stock shocks we modify these days are from customers who have purchased extended length, standard travel aftermarket A-arms. They often purchase these arms because their stock shocks are the proper length to work with them. Stock suspension doesn’t have the proper spring rates and valving to deal with the extra leverage produced by wider A-arms. We offer spring kits and Heart Transplants to outfit a customer’s shocks for stock or aftermarket length A-arms and swing-arms.
Upon receiving your shocks, Works tears them down for inspection. They then go to work performing their Heart Transplant and install the appropriate spring kit, using triple rate springs up front. Works Performance’s Heart Transplant replaces the stock piston and valve stack with their check valve and ball piston system. According to Works, their damping system provides greater damping tune-ability for various impact speeds. Their piston is said to eliminate any interaction between the compression and rebound damping, allowing them to be tuned totally independently. They finish off the rebuild with fresh shock oil and a nitrogen recharge.
Works will also sell their performance parts in stages, allowing you to purchase spring kits and heart transplants separately, which, in turn, you can install yourself or send to them.
Works not only has setups for the latest machines to hit the market, they have a lot of experience with older machines with rebuild-able rear shocks.