PERFECTING SUZUKI’S LT-R450
Back in 2006, when Suzuki introduced the nearly track-ready LT-R450, it was a winner from the word “go.” Suzuki had guys like chassis guru Wayne Hinson and championship-winning racer Doug Gust working with them during the development process. We loved nearly everything about the machine, except the suspension. The shocks were stiff, and the overall ride was rigid. While the stock shocks were adjustable, we could never find settings we were happy with.
Last month we told you how the Suzuki LT-R450 was such a good buy on the used market at $3000–$4000. We wanted to see if, by installing a set of top-of-the-line shocks on a relatively stock Quadracer, it would be as good as a stock Yamaha YFZ450R or a KTM.
Elka Suspension sells a Stage 5 shock package for the stock Suzuki A-arms and swingarm. Those arms are good equipment and are made of strong steel. The shocks have a retail price of $1795 for the front pair and $1295 for the single rear shock. All three shocks are full of features and include high-and low-speed compression adjustments, a rebound dial, and triple-rate adjustable pre-load springs.
Not only do the Elka products look solid and are well-built, they are very lightweight. Any time you can save weight on a sport quad, that’s a good thing, especially in the suspension department. Each Elka piggyback reservoir-equipped front shock weighs 5 pounds 12 ounces, and the rear remote reservoir shocks weigh a bit more at 9 pounds 9 ounces. For comparison’s sake, the stock Suzuki shocks on our LT-R450 weigh 7 pounds each up front and an even 10 pounds out back. Fox claims their Float X Evol air shock weighs 4.6 pounds. Discount ATV shops sell them for around $1500 a pair.
Installation was simple. The front pair bolted right in the stock position, and it only took five minutes to install. The rear also installed in the stock location, with the addition of the remote reservoir that we mounted to the subframe using the Elka-supplied billet aluminum bracket.
Adjustments are made just as easily. By twisting the spring collars, we set the ride height at a recommended 7 inches off the ground (measured at the frame between the A-arms and under the frame between the foot-pegs). The rebound adjustments are made at the bottom of the shock with a small screwdriver dial.
Things are just as simple for the dual-speed compression adjustments. Two knobs are found on the top of the shocks that control high- or low-speed damping. They are easy to turn, and the detents in the clicks are very noticeable, so there is no guessing, whether you have made a click or not. To simplify things even more, Elka places a small instruction sticker near the clicker, telling you which way to turn the knob to make things stiffer or softer.
Right out of the box, the Elka shock made our old Suzuki night-and-day better. Before we installed the Elkas, we did one practice session at our local MX track (www.avmotoplex.com). It’s full of big tabletops, doubles, triples and a huge whoop section. In stock trim, the Suzuki was decent most of the way around the track. Where it fell short was on two doubles that we were casing on a tabletop that we had to flat land and on the square-edge acceleration and braking bumps. In the whoops, the stock shocks are controllable and predictable but act very harsh. They do corner well and provide good lift when hitting the jumps.
With only a few adjustments, we were able to get the Elka-equipped Suzuki working flawless through the whoops. We could float the front end over the moguls and drive the rear tires over the tops of each bump. In this long section we gained two seconds a lap. Plus, at the end of the section, the rider wasn’t worn out from holding on. The shocks helped launch the quad more forward off the jumps instead of bouncing it high. We could actually jump about a quad length further with the same throttle input. That feature helped us clear some of the larger doubles and land much smoother. On the huge tabletops that we still couldn’t clear, the high-speed compression damping gave us cloud-like cushion with- out the jarring through the handle- bars and footpegs that we felt before using the stock equipment. They work so well, we think it would be hard to get much more of a performance advantage by replacing the A-arms too. However, we would expect a little more strength and possibly some turn-geometry advantages.
Elka’s Stage 5 shocks may be on top of the price scale at over $3000 for the set, but for any serious racer, it’s money well-spent. We improved lap times, lightened the machine and made it much more comfortable to ride. If you want these advantages on your sport quad of any brand, order the Stage 5 Elkas from your dealer, or give them a call directly at (800) 557-0552. Online, Elka Suspension can be reached at www.elkasuspension.com.