Understanding your shocks.
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
Shocks, if understood well, can be a massive performance differentiator. However, the flipside is also true. If you don’t understand how your shocks complement your application, how to use them, or don’t have the manufacturer’s support before, during, and after the sale, you can be left literally and figuratively in the dust by others. Please help me in helping you to understand what you have so you can get the most out of it. I hear all the time that this shock package that I have is not working or on the other hand I hear how good it is when in fact it can't be. Knowing what you have and how to use it is key to running well.
Don’t Just Follow The Leader
One common mistake that racers make is buying something just because the “fast guy” uses it. It is human nature to watch what the competition is doing and wonder what their secret is.
It has been our experience that teams who reach greatness on the racetrack have done the work to learn about their chassis, tire, aero, and shocks on a granular level. Learning how to or working with a support team that appropriately matches shocks to the set-up, driver’s feel, and track conditions will help deliver the performance required to win.
Because the racing is so competitive, any gain, no matter how small, can contribute to whole vehicle performance.
Customized For You
Another common issue experienced is that people purchase a good shock with lots of adjustment but are intimidated to turn knobs in the fear that they will “screw it up.” Or, they know where they are losing time but have no idea how to make shock adjustments to make improvements. An ill-handling car results in reduced driver/rider confidence, which makes one roll off the throttle, turn-in later, break earlier, or eat their tires.
An easy way to think about this is to relate it to a smartphone. Everyone gets the same iPhone or Android from the store. Everyone has the same memory and full capability of that product to deploy. Some choose to load up the device from factory settings with apps, reconfigure the base settings, check out the online manual, and make other adjustments that make the phone perform most efficiently for what they need it to do. Others keep the most basic apps on the phone or are intimidated to change from the factory settings. In the latter case, the user will likely not be as fast in accomplishing the same basic tasks as the person who researches the product’s capabilities and gets comfortable making changes that benefit even though they both have the same product.
Experienced Support Is Key
The investment made in shocks by people for their application is often substantial. Some shock companies view your investment as
a quick sale taken online and are just too big to care what happens once that box goes out the d
oor. Others may have friendly people on the phone you can talk to but have little or no experience with your specific application and properly dialing-in their product for you.
Are you comfortable contacting your shock company about your problems? Is there a human on the other end of the phone that is available when you need him? Have they delivered what was promised? Did the shock you ordered come already personalized and optimized for your application, track, driving style, tire construction, etc., or will you now have to send it back to the manufacturer for a service or upgrade to get it to that point? If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” you are at risk of not realizing the full potential of the shocks you just purchased, and you will
likely need to spend even more time and money getting caught up.
Avoid being tempted by the illusion of bolt-on, set-it-and-forget-it speed. It doesn’t exist. Instead, learn how shocks work, research available products for your application, work with a shock company that has experienced racers on staff who have likely seen it all, including the issue you may be experiencing. When it’s time to buy, talk to them about your concerns and fears and make a plan for following up after installation, and you are ready to hit the track. Make a personal connection that you feel comfortable calling if you are having trouble or get lost with the set-up. Choose a shock company that makes it their business to walk with you on your journey and be there for the long haul, not the quick buck.
If you commit and do these things, increased performance and success on track are virtually guaranteed, and you will stop wasting time and money on shocks.