Shock and spring tuning

UTV Shock & Spring Fine Tuning Day

Another test day at Little Sahara in west/central Utah…. it is hitting mid 70’s, the sun is out, and it is the start of Easter weekend.

It’s Friday morning, and it has been raining hard for most of April.  The sand is hard and wet, showing all signs of dark water streaks – it shows that a couple of inches down the sand is soaked with moisture. We were hoping that it would dry out with the spring sun but it barely got to the top 2”.

We always like coming out this weekend because it is a show by itself – because of the virtual city that is created for just this weekend.

This day has become another big test for the “Flash”, the nickname I have given to my 2017 Polaris XPT 2-seat side x side.

My riding friend, Pat, is co-piloting today because he has a new set of wheels and tires for his Polaris on order, and they did not get sent in time to go out today. It’s nice to have a passenger to help see everyone else riding, to make sure to stay clear, because that seems to be where most accidents happen.

The good thing now is that I will be able to test and tune my shock & spring combination, which I have purchased from Shock Therapy. It is the dual rate spring and collar set. I have already initially tested this once before.

Polaris Side X Side

2017 Polaris XPT ripping at the dunes

UTV riding in the sand dunes

Polaris Turbo testing and adjusting dual rate springs and shocks

The last time we came and tested there was no passenger with me, and the springs and shocks felt and worked pretty well. Not thinking there would be a whole lot to adjust on them today, but boy was I wrong.

We worked our way to the rear side of Sand Mountain, which is my preferred riding area.  It has the bigger bowls to just give us a blast, riding up and down at great speeds.

Not too long into running the large bowls with plenty of g-outs in the hard-wet sand, we could feel the rear of the UTV was bottoming out and making it a little uncomfortable.  So, the first time we got out and took a short break, I turned the shock compression knobs in 4 more turns – this slows the oil down to help support the shock longer.

One of the things I love doing while taking a break is looking out at the massive sand dunes and desert for miles, and realizing there are 20,000 people and machines out front, and wondering how we are back here alone!

Looking out at the campers ready for Easter weekend

After we get back in and start riding again through the many sand bowls, back and forth, and up and down,  the Polaris is still hitting the g-outs hard in the rear – enough so I started taking it slower and easier to make sure I did not hurt my friend as I have in the past.  So, the fine adjustment on the shocks really did nothing for improving ride quality for this particular problem.

It is noon, so this means lunch break to me. Pat & I hop out and grab our grub out of the Yeti cooler in the back of the RZR, and I get more comments on the Yeti than I do my Polaris XPT LOL!

After eating lunch and watching some herds of side x sides making their way through the dunes, it is time to make some spring collar adjustments, hopefully enough that will make a difference. Knowing the rear shocks are bottoming too quickly on the G-out, I want to activate the heavier lower spring sooner, so there will be more supporting the UTV with the heavier lower spring activated.  I fumble through my tools and find the spanner wrench needed.  I then loosen the lock collar and move the lower collar down 10 threads on both rear dual rate spring assemblies.

Now the test – we hop back in, buckle up, helmets on, radio test, and off we go! We both knew after the first few sand bowl runs, that this adjustment had solved the problem of bottoming out.  It was the adjustment needed that would change our ride, so noticeable in fact, that we now could run the machine harder, longer, and faster because we were no longer bottoming the RZR out hard on the g-outs and quick transitions.

When you tune your spring and shock combination to what your side x side is telling you, this improvement will make you a better driver. It will be much more comfortable and safer for everyone inside of your UTV.

These adjustments coincide with the exact feeling I would get in my race car on test days. When tuning shocks and spring combination, especially on your dual rate set up, your spring adjustments are your big noticeable change and settings. Your shock adjustments are for fine-tuning.

Shock adjustments will not fix your spring problems. You must first get your spring and collars set up properly, and then when you have this setup and working in balance, you now can make the shock adjustments to fine-tune your side x side.

  1. Tune your springs and collars for proper set up including weight, riding, etc.
  2. Tune your shocks for the smaller changes needed after you know your spring set up is correct.
  3. Shock tuning will not overcome a poor spring and collar combination.
  4. When you get your UTV suspension set up correctly and working in balance, it will be such a major improvement, you will be excited to feel the results. Everyone riding with you will have lots to talk about.

When you take the proper steps to make your UTV suspension and shock set- up work to the very best for all of your own conditions, it will be very educational and will help you understand why you will try and adjust more than just your compression and rebound adjustments.

It takes some time and thought to do this suspension tuning, but the rewards and learning the feel in the seat of your pants is so worth it!  You will be glad you did this.

Every time I ride high speeds in the sand dunes, I learn something new about my UTV or the sand changing conditions, and this makes the trip so much more meaningful to me at the end of the day.

Until we ride again.