When it comes to spending money on my bikes, mountain or motor, I generally know EXACTLY what I want. I research the market, read lots of reviews, compare prices on the net, decide what I want and then spend my money with those I believe will offer a good service. I take my time to decide what those parts will be, and part of the process is in justifying the expenditure to myself. With the price of the shock running to hundreds of pounds and with a requirement for high performance, my research had taken a few days.
Most of my friends had bought Ohlins and I nearly went down that route, but having “missed” a couple of used Ohlins shocks on ebay at the start of the season which were around the £600 mark, I was now looking in a different direction. Given that any used Ohlins would likely need to be serviced and perhaps also resprung to my weight, the initial purchase cost while “reasonable” would likely end up at a figure closer to £1000, so I decided to forego the bling of a gold spring and sticker on the bike and buy something else.
With a budget that certainly wasn’t running to 4 figures, the direction I was going to take would mean not following the crowd. There’s a lot to be said for individuality, but I didn’t want cheap and cheerful either, so after lots of reading and google searches I’d got my considered choice down to 3 options, Nitron, Bitubo or Wilbers.
I discounted the Wilbers, and then it was a simple choice of the least expensive option, the Nitron, or the Bitubo, which is an Italian marque and priced in euros. The current favourable exchange rate to GBP meant it represented excellent value but I needed to get validation of my choice. My Google research had landed me at the site of TW Suspension Tech who were offering most major brands, and as it’s run by an ex BSB suspension technician Teut Wiehn, I figured he would certainly be able to point me in the right direction.
My initial enquiry for prices to him via email was responded to almost immediately, a business trait I always like, and he was extremely helpful when I rang him to discuss the options and ask which he would recommend. After understanding my riding level and expectations and listening to his advice I quickly settled on the Bitubo, with one of the positive points being it would be sprung to my weight. Teut then had a couple of questions about my weight and that of the bike. He wanted to know whether it was a pure track bike or had any road paraphanalia such as lights still fitted, and also the weight balance front to rear? I had no idea on the bike weight question so I had to make a quick trip to Argos for some cheap mechanical scales, which revealed a 52% front 48% rear split which was deemed ok. My weight including riding gear was noted, and even the fact I’d had the front springs changed went into the mix to create a full picture. Once the pro forma was received and money transferred, I just had to wait a week or two for delivery. The only downside being that as it was coming from Italy, and the country famously shuts for the month of August, the end of month trackday at Donington I’d hoped to take looked like it might not happen.
Two weeks is a long time when you’re waiting for something but Teut kept me updated on likely delivery time and sure enough 16 days after placing the order Teut contacted me to say it had arrived. One of the things TW offer is a full ride in ride out suspension set-up, and he had recommended I do this once the shock was fitted, but as it’s a four and a half hour round trip for me to his base in Preston, I asked if it were possible for him to fit the shock there and then do the set up afterwards. Luckily he had a time slot available, and so the bike was loaded onto the trailer and I headed off to Preston.
First impressions are good. Teut is a really nice guy, gave a great welcome, and took me into his workshop to show me the box below containing my new shock. It’s a Bitubo XXF31V2 with hydraulic preload adjustment, rebound, high and low rebound compression, and shock length adjuster. It had looked good in the pics on the internet but is even better in the flesh!
I was offered a cup of coffee and then work started on removing the old shock, then the new one was fettled and made ready to be installed. Here Teut is about to add 3mm to the shock length vs standard, as one of the things I always felt the R1 needed was a higher rear end to promote faster turn in.
As he worked his phone rang a few times as racers and track day riders called in to ask advice on changes to make or give updates on performance, with one guy over the moon he’d dropped 5 seconds off his lap times! Teut has worked with the like of Buildbase in BSB and is a mine of information, and recounted countless stories of riders he has worked with and their successes, and the more time I spent listening, the more certain I was that I’d brought my bike to the right place.
Before the old shock was removed he had checked the overall set up and wasn’t too impressed. The rear wasn’t putting enough heat into the tyre, the spring was confirmed as being way too soft, and even the front wasn’t felt to be great, with too much compression and too little rebound leading him to ask if I’d really been riding it this way?!
Above and beyond the call of duty I thought, here Teut is cleaning off my old shock so I can refit if required when I have the new shock serviced.
Teuts wife kept a flow of coffee coming and even provided a bacon sandwich as it’s lunchtime now. Many thanks, what a service!
Once fitted and the technical bits start. Teut religiously measures and notes all the settings, but surprisingly doesn’t take any rider sag settings. Knowing that both front and rear have the correct weight springs means it’s not necessary, so he concentrates on setting the static sag instead. A little more preload is added and then the bike is bounced to check rebound settings. Again tiny adjustments are made until he’s happy with the feel. Then he makes a couple of small changes to the front too to make the balance between front and rear correct. The beauty of this set-up is that he provides a spec sheet showing all the settings which can be used a baseline. He doesn’t expect that I’d need to change the preload setting but suggests as I get used to things I might want to make some small changes to either the compression or rebound, but not to worry I’ll mess things up as I can call him anytime when on track, explain what I’m feeling from the bike, and he’ll advise what changes to make. He does say that perhaps in time I may start to find that the front is now not performing to the same level as the rear, and that ultimately the spring change won’t be sufficient and that a cartridge kit for the forks will be the way to go, but for the meantime he recommends I stick with the slicks I have on now, go back to a track I know, and see how it feels.
So now it’s mounted I have no excuses and am about to book my next trackday. I have to give a big shout out to Teut and TW Suspension Tech. It’s great to find genuinely knowledgeable people with such a passion for their work, and a real nice guy to boot. It was a pleasure to meet him, the job was done efficiently, every detail explained and nothing was too much trouble. Add -in coffee and bacon sandwiches and what more could you ask? I’m really looking forward to seeing what difference the set up makes, but knowing there is a back up just a call away is a big plus.
Thanks to Teut, and watch this space to see how I get on!