One Size Does Not Fit All. Nor Should It.
Words: Kyle Callen
Photos: Elizabeth Leal & Brandon Bunch
As UTV vehicles themselves are getting faster and faster, the UTV market is growing at a similar trajectory. Fast.
We, as a media outlet, hear your feedback. The complaints that a vehicle off the showroom floor doesn’t ride or handle like you the driver thinks it should, are heard but we are here to let you know there is a good reason for that. The thumb of the government is pushing on the OEM’s to make these cars meet their mold. This forces the OEM to set the shocks up to pass specific tests that the government requires.
Additionally, this means each individual driver has a blank canvas to paint, including tuning the shocks to their liking. Different driving or riding styles and terrain require a different shock set up.
Additionally, the weight of the vehicle plays a huge part in a proper set up. Every part you bolt on adds weight. The end result of weight changes makes a difference in ride quality. To perfect the ride, it is impossible to buy the stage 3 package and know its the right set up for you. The industry has been misled by the marketing efforts of a few top “shock tuners” trying to fit everyone into a specific package that they sell.
In our opinion, this is just not right. It possibly will make the car better in most cases, but for the same money or cheaper, you can find a shock guy that will perfect the ride to your liking. Usually, it’s not that hard to find a qualified shock tuner. However, they all have their own methods and ideas, so be prepared to work with them to get you where you need to be.
When we took delivery of our 2019 Polaris RZR Turbo S Velocity, we knew this was the perfect platform to prove that a shock guy can make the car ride beautifully through the bumps.
I found George White roaming the streets of the Mint 400 contingency row a few years ago. I would have never known a man with a southern drawl would be such a decorated and accomplished shock guy. George’s company, Double E Racing, has provided the ride to many champions over the years and said all the right words to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
On a trip to the west coast, White dropped by the UTV Sports Magazine shop and measured the car. He didn’t do things the way the usual west coast guys did things, but I trusted him as he explained his methods that seemed like madness. A few weeks later, a spring package arrived. George had put this package together based on his measurements and a 10 mile ride in our home terrain. The drive time gave him a good idea for the type of terrain we consistently ran on and how bad of a driver I may or may not be. Having the tuner drive the vehicle is not needed in most cases, but it can help speed things up.
Once armed with the springs and all the measurements needed, installation only took a few hours in the garage. This shock upgrade is completely doable with basic tools and a rented spring compressor from your local parts house.
The results from just the spring change were staggering. In addition to picking up speed through the rough sections of the test loop, it made the tooth shaking chatter bumps go away. If the shocks are this good with just a spring change, what would happen if we got into the internals?
Months after our basic spring change, the Turbo S Velocity was due for an overhaul. It was time to make this car as good as we could make it. Another call to George and he was on board to bust into the shocks. Eight bolts later the shocks were off, springs disassembled, and they were in a UPS truck headed east. While the shocks were being dialed in, we went to work on the rest of the car including the cage, seats and doors. All of the typical stuff to make this car safe and comfortable while performing at its highest level. A short two weeks later, the shocks arrived and were reassembled. George went all out. The stock Walker Evans Velocity shock is a good piece, but can be made to be a great shock. It comes stock with an adjuster that controls the slow speed compression bleed. With off the shelf parts from Walker Evans, George added a high speed compression adjuster so the shock will be ultra tunable. He changed the entire valve stack to work with his spring set and our aggressive driving styles. The addition of a bigger bottoming bumper was noticed, and a few other secret tweaks that he won’t divulge. This is the kind of setup you get from someone who truly loves what they do, instead of someone trying to sell as many kits as possible.
Knowing the car would be better, Brandon set out on the test loop. After just a few runs, and a couple clicker changes, the car was dialed. Speed and confidence increased with every bump, as the Turbo S now handled better the harder it was driven. Gone was the notorious bucking bronco action that so many UTVs are notorious for. It stayed flat through the corners, could skip whoops and resisted bottoming out like nothing we’ve ever experienced. With performance this high, our Turbo S Velocity now lacked a little low speed comfort and compliance, but could be tuned back in with a simple adjustment of the high and low speed compression adjusters. The performance increase as a result of this simple modification absolutely makes this the best bang for the buck modification you could make on your UTV.
The best part of the whole project was getting to know George at Double E Racing. The level of customer service was incredible, and he is always willing to come out and test, or have us ship the shocks back for changes.
At this point you might be thinking that this wasn’t a very technical article, and you’re right. It’s not.
The point I am trying to get across is; don’t believe the hype that shocks are scary and you don’t have many options to make them better. No matter who you are, your driving style, terrain you drive in, your needs are different than the next person. So when stages 1 through 3 just aren’t good enough, get a custom package built for you, all for the same price.