Some people are crazy. They run double marathons, bungee jump and eat Ukrainian food. But riding a performance ATV without a steering damper? That’s just nutty. A steering damper takes something that is intrinsically difficult–holding on to a 40-horsepower ATV while it’s doing wild things–and makes it much easier than it should be. And recently, one damper has come to dominate ATV racing at the highest level. The Precision Racing Products Steering Stabilizer is currently being used by AMA champion Dustin Wimmer, GNCC champ Bill Balance and most of the other top riders.
The Precision was built with ATV use in mind, whereas the Scotts, GPR and WER were all adapted from motorcycle applications. ATV use puts very different demands on a damper for a number of reasons, the most important being the amount of force that it has to endure. When a rock or root hits the front wheel of a quad there’s a kind of reverse mechanical advantage that can amplify the impact through the steering linkage, and by the time it gets to the handlebar, it can be as much as 1600 psi. Motorcycle dampers never have to contend with that type of impact. So the number one design parameter for the Precision was durability. The company started off in the aerospace industry and is used to working with close tolerances and good materials. In fact, through the use of exact tolerances, the damper actually uses no seals.
Precision’s damping system uses two veins rather than one. Aside from durability, the two veins allow two different stages of damping; one from center to about 20 degrees, and another from there to the stops. This works well for ATV use because we spend so much time with the wheels turned–much more so than a motorcycle which actually has the bars straight even in mid-turn. That’s why motorcycle dampers like the Scotts free-bleed back to center; the idea is to get the bars straight as quickly as possible. But in order to deal with impacts encountered in the middle of a turn, a free-bleed feature would be counterproductive on an ATV. The two stages of damping on the Precision allow you to separately adjust the damping for turns and straights.
We tested Precision’s newest model, called the Pro. This unit is the next evolution of the original. The Pro actually has an internal reservoir and a floating piston like a Decarbon shock. George Athanasiou at Precision found that Pro ATV racers ride so hard that they can heat up the oil in the damper to extreme temperatures. This causes the oil to expand, and the floating piston is able to accommodate that issue. The Pro also has tougher linkage and, not surprisingly, a higher price. We mounted the Precision Pro on our cross-country Honda 450R initially, then got a different mounting kit to try it for motocross on our Suzuki QuadRacer 450. In both applications, the advantage was obvious. The damper makes a big difference anywhere, but in rough conditions it’s night and day. We would ride a section with the damper installed normally, then disconnect its linkage and ride the same section again. You only need to do that once before you’re a believer. Without the damper, riding is much more demanding and less fun. We expected for the damper to make our hands and arms last longer, but we didn’t realize the advantage in other areas. Your shoulders get less tired and even your back seems to do better.
Our test riders were less unanimous about different damping set-ups. Some simply didn’t care about the damping in the turns and only wanted light damping going straight forward. Others were the exact opposite. In either situation, you don’t feel much resistance to turning. The nature of all hydraulic damping is to offer more resistance as speed increases. In other words, there’s no drag when you move the bars slowly, but you can’t jerk the bars rapidly. George showed us a demonstration where he held on to one side of a set of handlebars with two fingers while someone else pounded the other side with a sledge hammer. The bars barely moved.
The price of the original damper is $485 with a mounting kit. The Pro model is $559. Both come with a three-year warranty that has very little fine print. From now until the end of August, Precision Racing Products is offering 20% off all rebuild services for thier steering dampers. Precision can be found at: 2499 S. Stockton St. #3, Lodi CA, 95240. Call them at (209) 365-1850 or visit www.precision-rp.com!